Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spirituality vs. Religion at The House

For those who could not make it out to The House in Toronto last night, a bold topic was explored. Is religion killing Judaism? The guest speaker was Rabbi Michael Skobac, education director and senior counselor for Jews for Judaism.

The meat and potatoes of his answer was more a combination of responses on the two sub-topics of why people prefer spirituality over religion and why religion is seen as a crutch for those who need it.

"We don't always hear the music," Skobac said, and sometimes, "we hear the wrong music." The statment meant that religon is often viewed as a list of do's and don'ts, rules and laws, is bureaucratic and divides. So many people tend to look at religion in a negative context. Keep the sanctity of the sabbath, don't mix milk and meat - one a commandment, the other a dietary law – that are upheld by many yet prove difficult these days for those more assimilated to live by.

That last part about how religion divides was Skobac's own outlook on Judaism when he was a teenager. That outlook has obviously softened in the context of his rabbinical work. His most snackable tidbit from last night's discussion, in retrospect, was the Rabbi's twin analogies of comparing religion to reading a menu and spirituality to consuming the meal; Spirituality then being preferred over religion, as it's more filling than just reading what the belief system has to offer.

The final takeaway from the night's lesson was that, when taken on its own, religion may have a looming expiry date if it's only deemed applicable to those leaning on it to solve life's problems. The way I see it and with reflection on some of the lessons imparted by Rabbo Skobac, is that the solution to resolving various matters in one's personal life is to work on tikkun hamidot, meaning bettering your character traits while learning in tandem from the precepts of Torah.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canadians to root for at the Grammys

The 2012 award season is in full swing. The Golden Globes were presented last week, and on deck the Screen Actors Guild will offer up their top honours in Film and Television on January 29. The 54th annual Grammy Awards, then showcases the best in music Feb12, before the Oscars are handed out Feb 26.
Once again, as in year's past, Canada will be well represented at the Grammy's. In late November, Drake and DJ/producer Deadmau5 each received a trio of nominations. Hip-hop and rap sensation Drake, who is Jewish, is up for Best Rap Performance ("Moment 4 Life" with Niki Minaj) and best rap/sung collaboration (DJ Khaled's "I'm On One" and "What's My Name" with Rhianna). Known for DJing with a foam mouse-head upon his shoulders, Joel Thomas Zimmerman a.k.a. Deadmau5, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ont., and is also Jewish (at least according to, has toured and mashed-up tracks around the world. He’s nominated in the categories of best dance recording, best dance/electronica album, and best remixed recording.  

Toronto's Melanie Fiona and Montreal's DJ A-Trak, round out the known Canadians vying for the golden gramophone. You can watch the Grammys live on Feb. 12 8 p.m. on Global and CBS.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can't stay silent

Dear Ella,

I’m not sure how much longer I can stay quiet. My daughter is falling apart and I’m standing by watching helplessly.

Sandi and Allen seemed to have a healthy marriage. They both worked hard and had a good mix of independence and togetherness. It appeared to all that they had everything.

Throughout her pregnancy, Allen treated Sandi like a princess. She had a rough few months, and Allen ran around doing whatever she needed. Then Asher was born, and it was like Allen became a different person.

Sandi is up with the baby all night, and she does her best to clean the house, shop for groceries, do laundry, make meals, all while she is breastfeeding and caring for an often-screaming child. Allen comes home, puts his feet up, says he had a stressful day and asks, “What’s for dinner?”

I can see the physical and emotional toll this is taking on my daughter. She doesn’t complain, but last week she burst into tears and let it all out. Her husband was no longer being a partner. She felt like she was drowning in a sea of chores with no help.

I’ve always prided myself on not interfering in my children’s lives, but I’m worried about Sandi, and I can’t stay silent any longer. Any advice would be appreciated.

Time to Meddle

Dear Time to Meddle,

I’m not sure “meddle” is the right word. Perhaps “help” would be a better way to phrase it. Who better to help than someone who is doing it out of love and concern? But you have to be smart.

Sandi is probably exhausted and can’t think straight. She is caught up in a circle of chores and doesn’t have the time or energy to figure out how to fix this. This is where you come in.

Make a plan. Tell Sandi you want to have a talk with her. Tell her you will come over for the day and babysit with Asher while she sleeps, bathes and regroups. Once she’s refreshed, she’ll be more open to listen to suggestions.

Tell her your observations and give her some practical solutions. Allen doesn’t sound like a bad guy. He’s adjusting to a new life and unfamiliar emotions, too, but Sandi has given him the luxury of doing it in his own time.

Here are some suggestions for you to give to your daughter: 1. Get a housekeeper to clean once a week. With two incomes, that should be attainable. In between, learn to live in a messier house. 2. Make meals easier. Have sandwiches, eggs or cereal for dinner. If Allen wants beef stew, he can make it. 3. Give Allen a list of reasonable responsibilities. He can certainly do grocery shopping, take out the trash and take over a feeding or two in the evening. 4. Offer to babysit on occasion so Allen and Sandi can have a couple of hours to themselves. It will do wonders for them, and give them time to talk.

Allen has to realize that Sandi is not sitting home all day watching soap operas. Her job is just as hard as his is. Only she can show him the light. Bringing a new baby into a marriage is a huge adjustment on everyone’s part.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tzedakah through life saving missions

When communities around the world are hurting, Israel, Canada and the Canadian Jewish community are among those first to respond with organized aid missions.

Over the last 26 years, IDF (Israeli Defense Force) aid missions have sent 15 delegations to countries afflicted by various natural disasters. As you can see from the video below, IDF doctors in field hospitals dispense medical care to more than 2,300 people in affected areas, 220 of whom were saved from certain death according to the IDF.

Many of these missions have been tracked by our reporters of The Canadian Jewish News, who shine a light on the tikkun olam work performed by the IDF and Jewish individuals around the world.

For more, see the following recent related stories on