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Story Archives

Strength Story

Moshe Kasher

I took a breath.
Realized I wasn’t twelve.
Realized I wasn’t ruled by those demons from my past.
Realized I was a grown-up.
Realized it didn’t matter if they knew I was different.
Hell, I was different.
I took off my hat.
My hair spilled down onto my shoulders like Samson.
I got my strength back.
I knocked down the walls of my past with my bare hands.
I became a man.

How can you boost your inner strength?

Here-and-Now Story

Mary Oliver

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
 

What is one thing you can do this week to live a more engaged life?

Facing Fears Story

Jenn Maer

There are only three things in this world that I’m truly afraid of: sharks, dolls that come to life in the middle of the night, and dying alone.

The first two I blame on a childhood spent consuming American media. I was four when Jaws came out. For some incomprehensible reason, my parents had a copy of the “literary adaptation” with a cover that matched the movie poster. I would sneak up to their bookshelf and peek at the image, then run to my room to hide from it.

Then there was Poltergeist. This movie ruined clown dolls for me forever (Not that they’d ever held much appeal in the first place. But still.).

My third fear came to life much later. And it crashes over me like a rogue wave every time I visit my grandmother in her nursing home. She’s one of the lucky ones in the facility; my mother lives close and visits her regularly. But my grandmother’s neighbors? I often see them alone in their separate rooms, nodding in and out of consciousness, TVs blaring, with photos of family members taped to their doors. I try to make eye contact with each person I pass, say hello, and smile. Is that all there is?

This thought terrifies me more than all the sharks in the ocean and all the evil dolls in my closet.

How can you confront what you fear?

Decisions Story

Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!

How do you engage with, or avoid, political conversations?
 

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Childhood Story

Gail Ghezzi

By Gail Ghezzi

I remember the Halloween costumes I wore in my youth: witches, vampires, clowns, and hobos. There were also costumes based on popular TV characters, like the Flintstones or the Jetsons. One year I went as a younger version of myself. I carried a stuffed animal from door-to-door.

What piece of your childhood do you carry with you now?

Gail Ghezzi is an art director and artist living in Bergen County, NJ.

Soul Music Story

David Holzel

By David Holzel

Recently, a colleague brought to my attention a rock and roll trivia discovery with an excellent Jewish angle hidden within.

The Guardian extracted the lyrics of each of the Beatles’ 300 or so recorded songs and then ranked the individual words by the number of times the Fab Four sang them.

So here’s the Jewish angle – “Love Me Do,” “All You Need is Love,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” – The L Word appears 613 times. That’s the number of mitzvot the Torah is believed to contain. Neat, huh?

What is a new discovery you’ve made, with something you already know well?

David Holzel is Managing Editor of The Washington Jewish Week.

Inside/Outside Story

Adam Pollack

By Adam Pollack

The Outdoors allows me to listen to the world around me. I become a part of it. What’s that sound? Am I safe? Wow, that was beautiful! I realize that I’m a natural being, not invincible nor all that important, like our modern society teaches. My life is put into perspective. When I let my senses and instinct work as designed, I give myself an opportunity to learn, to let new ideas in, and to remember, “for dust you are, and to dust you will return."

How might you incorporate more opportunities into your life where you encounter your primal nature?

Adam Pollack is a social entrepreneur, living in San Francisco with his husband, Nathan, and dog, Stewie.

Atonement Story

Robin Becker

By Robin Becker

 

I’ve expanded like the swollen door in summer

           to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness

 

is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder

           in the cry of the magpie that I am

 

still capable of inflicting pain

           at this distance.

 

Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,

           half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered

 

with a patina over time. When she came into my life

           I didn’t hesitate.

 

Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?

           Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?

 

Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains

           you can still find shells.

 

It’s these strange divagations I’ve come to love: midday sun

           on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;

 

toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot

           climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit

 

of the dead hovers about its earthly home

           four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.

 

Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes

           to be washed and given to the poor.

 

I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders

           as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.

[“Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico” from All-American Girl]

 

What is one thing I can do to nurture my relationships this year?

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sunset tonight, Friday, September 29.

Robin Becker is an American poet, critic, feminist, and professor.

Atonement

Robin Becker

By Robin Becker

 

I’ve expanded like the swollen door in summer

           to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness

 

is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder

           in the cry of the magpie that I am

 

still capable of inflicting pain

           at this distance.

 

Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,

           half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered

 

with a patina over time. When she came into my life

           I didn’t hesitate.

 

Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?

           Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?

 

Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains

           you can still find shells.

 

It’s these strange divagations I’ve come to love: midday sun

           on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;

 

toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot

           climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit

 

of the dead hovers about its earthly home

           four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.

 

Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes

           to be washed and given to the poor.

 

I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders

           as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.

[“Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico” from All-American Girl]

 

What is one thing I can do to nurture my relationships this year?

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sunset tonight, Friday, September 29.

Robin Becker is an American poet, critic, feminist, and professor.

Growing Up Story

Maz Jobrani

By Maz Jobrani

Growing up, my family didn’t have any coming of age traditions. No bar mitzvahs, no crownings, nothing. There was, however, one incident in college when I became a man.

My dad was very generous to us. A self-made millionaire back in Iran, he was able to bring a lot of money with him to the U.S. and spoil us. Like Vito Corleone from The Godfather, he was a larger than life character, always helping people out.

I became used to this until I went to college and felt it was time to stop accepting money and become a man – except for one last time. In my first week, my father gave me a couple hundred dollars. A few weeks later, I paid him back with a check. He was shocked and asked in a thick Persian accent, “Vhat iz dis?”

“I’m paying you back.”

“Ha! You pay me back? I keep in my vallet, but I no cash it. I keep as souvenir!”

Fast forward a few weeks, I went to the ATM and was told that I had “insufficient funds.”

“How is that possible?” I asked myself. And then it hit me. My dad had cashed the check! He lied to me! How dare he! I was broke.

From that day forward I took responsibility for myself and my finances. I also learned that the next time I borrowed money from my dad, I would pay him back in cash.

How can you thank those who’ve helped you? How can you pay it forward?

Maz Jobrani is an Iranian-American comedian and actor.