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I met an awesome couple yesterday, amid my hectic day of Hebrew School and tutoring. Jason and Melanie had called me a couple of weeks ago, asking about a Baby Naming ceremony for their boys, Aaron and Isaac. An Interfaith couple, he Jewish, and she Catholic, they were looking for someone to perform an inclusive ceremony that would allow them the freedom to celebrate the lifecycle, pay tribute to their Jewish heritage, but without having to make the promise to raise the boys in the Jewish faith, as they were as of yet – unclear as to what path they would take in choosing a faith for their sons. They were pretty clear that somewhere along the line they would make the decision to choose – they just didn’t know which they would choose, and once they did, how they would engage their fairly strong minded families in their choice. Certainly, they saw this choice as a distinct possibility of alienating someone – they just couldn’t predict who.

A common situation these days, especially in my life, I am once again reminded why I do what I do. This couple is on the proverbial fence. The strongest outward presence faith plays in each of their lives are the celebrations and rituals of their past. Neither subscribes particularly to a specific faith today, however, given the events of their lives over the last few years, I am confident they both share a very special relationship with G-d.

Shortly after their wedding, Melanie was diagnosed with cancer.

She is young, vibrant, and beautiful, and she and Jason should have just begun their carefree happy life together, getting to know each other and experiencing life as a married couple. But instead, they were thrust into a life of challenges neither of them could ever have predicted, and traveling a very scary road ahead.

With several treatments left to endure, Melanie was in menopause. She was not sure if she would ever experience the joy of having a child, so she and Jason began to consider adoption. Only a few months later, as Melanie was completing her treatments, she received a phone call telling her that a child had been located for she and Jason. Thrilled, they quickly went through the adoption process with Aaron, and were so incredibly happy to be parents. While there were certainly unknown challenges ahead, they embraced the gift they received, and Aaron was home with them, and they began a new life as a family, and a road to recovery.

Shortly after Aaron’s adoption, Melanie and jason were at her sister’s son’s Baptism. The Deacon performing the Baptism had asked everyone in the ceremony if anyone wanted to be blessed with his special cross. Melanie came forward, hopeful for all possible blessings of healing, and the Deacon said “I just want to let you know, many women who receive this blessing find they become pregnant.” Melanie knew inside this couldn’t be possible, as she had just come out of menopause after her treatments, and doctors told her there was a slim – to no chance that she would get pregnant for years, if ever, as a result of her treatment.

A month later, Melanie wasn’t feeling well. She was clumsy, and tired, and just didn’t feel right. Afraid for her health, she spoke to the Oncologist – who recommended a pregnancy test, just to rule out what small possibility existed. She sent Jason out to buy a pregnancy test, and he brought home 3! Unable to believe the positive results – she bought 5 more tests, and – MORE POSITIVE. Melanie was pregnant! A miracle!

Today, Melanie is 3 years into a Cancer-free life, with 2 amazingly beautiful little boys, Aaron and Isaac, 19 months and 7 months. Both boys have been baptized. Now, they want to give Hebrew names to their children, and I am performing their naming ceremony next weekend. Many Rabbis refused to perform the Naming ceremony, unless they made a promise to raise the boys Jewish, with full exclusion of any Catholic education. Jewish doors closed. Catholic church doors open. What is a liberal, inclusive, open minded and open hearted Cantor to do?

No question in my mind – perform the ceremony, with love, passion, and hope that Aaron and Isaac will know the beauty of the Jewish faith. Based on this family’s history, I am sure that each child will grow up with the core values of faith – love, charity, honestly, good will toward men, the value of education, and a life lived properly in the eyes of God. This is a family who will choose NOT to be faith-less, but faith-full, and I want to make sure that a door remains widely open for them to know Judaism. The alternative is unthinkable to me.

I know that Melanie and Jason have considered far deeper issues in the last 18 months than the religion of their children. I know they value every day they have together, and the gift of children, and a family is the greatest blessing ever. I know they will make right choices for their family, and for the boys. It is not my place to judge this amazing family. It is only mine to give the gift of my Jewish faith, my beautiful heritage, and my love for my G-d, who I know will watch over those boys, regardless of the faith their parents choose for them.

Melanie and Jason – it will be my pleasure to be such a special part of your lives.

B’Shalom

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The Big Apple

What fun I am having in the city!

I decided to extend my stay, and connect with some of my favorite people in NYC.  After leaving Jersey yesterday, Sharon drove me into the Village, where I met Jenni & Mike, my newest fave couple I am marrying in May in Mexico.  Jenni is the cutest, but after spending the day with both Jenni and Mike, it’s a race sometimes to decide who is actually cuter.  🙂  Mike is a doll.  A total guy, but, with a deep sensitivity and loving, warm disposition, that makes anybody fall in love with him.  It’s easy to see why Jenni did!  But Jenni is as precious as they come, so, they’re a great match for each other.  We went to a really cute restaurant in the village, The Cupping Room, and had an amazing lunch with a great bloody mary!  Then, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit was just down the street, and so we went there and had a great time, too.  Jenni and Mike have the cutest little place in the Village, and it was great to see them in their personal surroundings, and really get the time to connect with them on such a personal level.  I had so much fun!

I met a friend in the city, and we went to Little Italy for dinner.  Great food, great conversation – and back to the hotel to try to get a few hours of sleep before today began.

This morning, I left the hotel bright and early and decided to get myself moving around the city.  I took the subway down to Tribeca, and met Felix & Evelina at Mocca’s, on Church & Reade St.  I browsed Canal street for a few minutes, but got totally overwhelmed, and thought better of it.  You can’t do Canal Street alone, for sure.

Tonight is going to be the BEST!  I’m meeting the rest of the Aruba gang, Vlad & Tanya, and Max & Anna.  (Where did Shilana go in this mix??)  We’re meeting at Rockefeller Center, and it should be BIG fun!

Tomorrow morning, I am going to see my best friend in NY’s daughter who goes to FIT, before heading back to Newark.  Where did the time go?  Well, I suppose nothing this great lasts forever, and I’m just so happy to have had this time.  So – watch out tonight, NYC.  Here comes Aruba!!!

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So, I’ve really taken another writing hiatus, over the last few weeks, and I’m ready to get back in the saddle, again.

October, November, and December were the busiest months I have ever had, and I felt like I just needed to take some time away from business, to focus on life, in general.  With the kids home, and all of our birthdays, and all of the holiday celebration, things got incredibly hectic, as they do for everyone.  I just felt that with everything going on, I needed to take some time to enjoy the season, reflect on the coming year, and get all of my thoughts in order.  (Not to mention getting ready for the busy January I have booked as well.

I have some interesting events coming up this month, and I’m so excited about all of them.  Today, I am performing a wedding for Jerry and Audrey, at Winters Park in Pompano Beach, FL.  This is their 2nd marriage.  Jerry is a widower, and Audrey was divorced.  They each have 2 kids, and are in the process of buying a house, so they have many blessings to be thankful for.  They are a wonderful couple, who truly feel blessed that they were brought together, and know that they have so much to look forward to.  It’s awesome being in their presence.  I can’t wait to make it official.

I have a baby naming for a baby girl on the 19th, and on the 24th, I am performing a wedding ceremony for my friend, Meryl, and her fiance, Starr.  Meryl, believe it or not, was my camp counselor, at Camp Shane, in 1975!!  I hadn’t seen her, or spoken to her, in 33 years, and while I had searched for her on the internet, I had never found her, until just a few months ago, when I decided to try one more time.  Lo and behold, as we are catching up, she tells me she is looking for someone to perform her Boca wedding to her beshert, Starr, and there I was!  It has been a really neat reunion, and I can’t wait to be the one that after all these years, gets to make it official for her, marrying her true love.  Isn’t my job amazing?

On January 30th, I’m performing avery special Bar Mitzvah, for Max, in New Jersey.  This relationship was brought to me by my “soul sister”, Sharon, from Yelena and Lenny’s wedding in the Dominican Republic.  (See my previous post, about Sharing the Light.  Audrey and Rob, and Max, are also really special, and G-d willing, Oma, Audrey’s Mother, will be there to share Max’s day.  She is a Holocaust survivor, and the date was planned hoping she would be able to share this moment with Max.

I’m really looking forward to an interesting January – please stay tuned, as I will be writing about all of my events, for sure.

B’Shalom,

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I tried all the way home to write my blog entry about this past weekend, but I have come to the definite conclusion that some feelings simply cannot be put into words.  Such is the case for my experience in St. Maarten this past weekend, with Keith & Faith, their families, and friends.  And, if I wrote about every bit of the weekend that I felt was memorable – you would be here reading for another hour, and there was just no way I could cut it down, so I’m going to try to stick to the highlights – just know that there was so much more than what you will find here, and what happened in those moments will be memories I cherish forever.

Keith emailed me a couple months ago, and I knew immediately he was a mensch.  Just from the way he spoke about Faith, the wedding, and their lives, I knew I had to work with this couple.  And after my conversation with Faith, we all knew it was going to be amazing.  Looking back, this couple brought as much, if not more joy to my life, as I hope I brought to theirs, and once again, I fell in love.

At the villa

At the villa

Keith & Faith were married at La Salamandre, on the French side of St. Maarten.   It was the most beautiful villa on an amazing piece of property on the island, about 20 minutes from the hotel many of us stayed at – The Royal Sonesta on Maho Beach.  I have to say, the Villa was definitely the highlight of the weekend – other than the wedding itself.  But, what seems to rank my wedding experiences right up in the top 4 (as this one is definitely ranked up there!) is the people.  From Doug and Monica in St. Croix, to Dan & Rita in Mexico, to Felix & Evelina in Aruba, and now Keith and Faith in St. Maarten, it is absolutely the people I fall in love with.  And this wedding was no exception.

Pool

Pool

The weekend was full of casual, laid back celebration.  Keith and Faith were smart enough to realize that everyone was going to have a different idea of fun.  This was a very large crowd – 75 people, and many were friends of Keith’s Mom and Dad – Marge & Ken, and some were friends of Faith’s Mom – Vicky, and the rest were friends of Keith & Faith’s, so the crowd was diverse.  But, they managed to keep it interesting and fun, while being so easy going.  Friday night, we went to Pineapple Pete’s for dinner, but before, I met a lot of Marge & Ken’s closest friends at a little before party in their room.  My favorites of their friends were Mike & Jane, Linda & Barry, and Steve & Barbara, because they were such amazing and FUN people.

On Saturday – something terrible happened – I lost my voice.  Yes, I had gone to St. Maarten with a bit of a cold, and the cold/damp air conditioning went right into my lungs, and my voice was history.  Quite a panic when you’re the Cantor.  But, with laryngitis and all – this group of 75 made me feel so awesome, because it was clear that we were all so connected, that it just didn’t matter.  And then, to make matters worse – Vicky, Faith’s mom, fell and sprained her ankle, so there was quite a bit of irony in the whole situation!

Saturday night was a riot!!  We went to Cheri’s Cafe, right across from the hotel, a great open air restaurant with the most hysterical live entertainment!!  I can’t even begin to describe this night, but some pics just might give you an idea of how much fun we had!   It was a highly interactive evening, to say the least!!

The men - or - um - the women

The men - or - um - the women

I was very lucky to have found another “soul sister” on this trip – Dionne, who is Faith’s sister.

At the party

At the party

We were joined at the hip, from the moment we were checking in at the hotel – and realized who each other was.  I had so much fun with Dionne, and I don’t know what I would have done without her!  On Saturday and Sunday,  I had some very meaningful opportunities to connect with Faith & Dionne’s Mom, Vicky.  Sometimes, I get a very strong feeling that there is a greater purpose for why I end up in certain places, and my relationship with Vicky was one of those moments.  Vicky and I each had highly noteworthy disabilities this weekend – I lost my voice, and she sprained her foot.  Can you imagine?  A wedding where the Cantor has no voice, and the Mother of the Bride can’t walk her daughter down the aisle?  You might think it would be a disaster, right?  No way, it was amazing.

The wedding itself was magnificent.  From the caterers, to the steel drum band, to the dj, the bartenders, and the photographers (they were incredible – I can’t wait to link to them and see their photos!) this wedding was one of the most unique I have ever attended.  It was so private, and personal, and so much of Keith and Faith went into planning this wedding.  Faith has an very interesting story about her background, but suffice to say that she did not have a Hebrew name, so it was very important to her that before signing the Ketubah, she had a Hebrew name.  So, just before the ceremony, we gathered in the big living room, and I blessed Faith with the Hebrew name of Ruth – her grandmother’s name, with whom she is incredibly close.  We signed the Ketubah, took a few more pics, and then proceeded to the wedding ceremony.

It was here, on this dock, as Keith and Faith stood in front of me, that I had the most profound, meaningful experience in my career as an officiant.  But, it is one of those spots that words cannot describe.  As Keith and Faith stood in front of me, their loving gestures and care and sensitivity for each other overwhelmed me.  Now, you might think that the fact that I do weddings all the time, and see brides and grooms in love together, but Keith and Faith – they were different.  There was one moment in particular (I can’t wait till Judy sends me this photo because she captured it) that they just both instinctively leaned their heads in to rest on each other, while they were wrapped in my tallit, and the look on both of their faces brought me to my own tears – they were so hard to hold back.  It was a truly moving experience, and I am so thankful that we were brought together.

Now – the party – It was just so much fun, and I’ve never seen everyone have such an amazing time together.  The older crowd got down and dirty like the younger crowd, and everyone was having a ball.  On each table at dinner, Faith and Keith put the most unique flavored rums that everyone was taking shots of – which obviously contributed to a wild and crazy night – again – some things just don’t need to be repeated – but a good time was had by all!

The weekend review would not be complete without mentioning Keith’s brother Brian.  Brian – you are one of the MOST personable, bright, and fun people I have ever met.  Love you!

Dionne, Brian and me

In the end, I received two of the most amazing compliments of my career.  Marge, Keith’s mom came up to me, and shared her thoughts with me that were the most moving I have ever heard.

At Pineapple Pete's

At Pineapple Pete's

Marge- I can’t wait to be your friend, and I’m coming to Woodstock to visit!!  Steve, one of Marge & Ken’s friends, is an Orthodox man, a Chabad-nik, and he sat down next to me to tell me that while he disagreed in general with marriage outside a synagogue, he recognized that there was a need, and that he was so happy I was there for Keith and Faith, and he truly made me feel like I am accomplishing my goal.

Rabbi Lipson told me one day…”You can’t change the world”.  I know I can’t.  But, I can be different.  And if I can help one couple avoid being married by the Rabbi that married me, I’ve made enough of a difference in the world.

When I left the party, to return to the hotel, Faith hugged me and told me she loved me.  Keith and Faith – I love you both, so incredibly much!  I can’t wait to share more moments of joy with your family.  Thank you for bringing me into your lives, opening up and sharing your most intimate thoughts, and bringing so much joy to the world.  I miss you all!

B’Shalom,

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One year ago, today, my website had just launched, and my blog was in its beginning stages.  I remembered, today, that on that day a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about Thanks and Giving, and I decided it was the perfect time to go back, and see how far I had come, and express new thanks for what has taken place, and for the blessings that had been bestowed upon me in another year.

Honestly, not much has changed, but everything feels different.  I am still thankful for the same things, yet, this year, I want to be a little more specific about the things I’m thankful for, and to look closely at and appreciate the most profound blessings of the year.  My list from last year is below this year’s, at the bottom of the page.  Many things are still the same, and many find their same position on my list, but this year, I feel even more fortunate than last, because so much has changed.  I really hope to convey what I am most thankful for.

1.  I’m so thankful, first and foremost, for my amazing children, Lauren & Trevor.  They are truly the most precious gifts from G-d, they are my source of inspiration, and purpose, every minute of the day.  This year has seen its challenges, for both children, with Trevor leaving home for the first time, and finding out that the world can be harsh, cruel, and unfair – and Lauren, who is just beginning to see the world that exists outside of her limited perspective, and realize she has so much left to learn.  She has realized that while she’s an amazing human being, sometimes, the world mirrors back what it sees most, and she hasn’t loved what she has received in terms of messages.  The constant phone calls from each child this year seemed more than I could handle at times, but through them, we have all grown, and can clearly see new paths being formed for all of us.  I am thankful for the clarity I receive from the experiences with my children.  I am thankful they continue to strive to be independent adults with multi-dimensional personalities.  I am thankful they still call home for comfort, and run down the Turnpike or I-95 just to get a hug (and home cooking and clean laundry) from Mom.  Some might look at my relationship with my children and say I am too involved.  I am thankful that those people are not very important in my life, and that I have the courage to ignore them, and do what feels right.  I am thankful that they are healthy, ambitious, determined, kind, and sensitive.  I am thankful for the inner and outer beauty.  I am most thankful, above all else, for Lauren and Trevor.

2.  My parents and sisters.  This year, I have to put the emphasis on my sisters.  I am in awe of how each of us, quietly, and at the same time, seemed to put the resentment, and trivial annoyances behind us, and began to appreciate each other for who we were.  We stopped looking at each other under glaring microscopes, and realized that we are all flawed, but family is family, and we love and accept each other for who we are, and who we are not.  I’m thankful for Alexa.  My most amazing, precious niece, for whom I would do anything.  Anything, at all.  And I hope I am here to help guide her and listen to her, and be the most amazing Aunt anyone could ever hope for.  She lightens my life, makes me feel so special when she asks for me to come see her, and makes my heart sing, when we skip and gallop down the sidewalk together.  I am thankful for Nancy for giving her to me, and thankful to Nina, that we can share Lexi, and be great Aunts, together.

3.  My ex-husband, Wayne.  Yes, I still learn very important life lessons from you, and am eternally grateful that you are the father of my children.

4.  I have found an even greater appreciation for the voice I have inside of me, and the sensitivity that God gave me.  I have far more confidence this year in my voice than last year, and it grows daily.  Not the singing voice, but the inspirational voice.  The one that shows compassion, boldy speaks my own opinions, and allows me to set my own direction, regardless of input from others.  The voice that is connected to its source, who knows where I belong, and has given me the unlimited power to get there.

5. The roof over my head, the friends in my life (most specifically – Mindy, Alison, and Nancy), my comfortable car that gets me everywhere, my guitar, the beautiful community I live in, and peace.

6. Air. Food. Mountains. Nature. Highways. Technology. Friends. Chocolate.

7. Courage. Independence. Abundance. Freedom. Satisfaction. My job(s). Little did I know last year that this would be such a powerful segment of my gratitude.  I have pushed all of these to their limits this year, and it has proven to be the most rewarding experience of my life.  I thank G-d for the courage to fight for my independence, which created the most satisfying freedom and ability to create the job(s) that gave me the most joy and pleasure, and hence, abundance has sprung from sheer determination to do anything but fail – even when I was staring failure right in the face.  I am so grateful.

8. Tolerance. Understanding. Acceptance. Peace. (Yes, I know I said it already, but it’s important enough to say again)

*** New for 08/09 ***

9.  My commitment to health and physical well being.  I am thankful to know what I should and shouldn’t eat, and to finally begin to understand that I am what I eat.  I must honor my body by eating only that which empowers me, and fats and carbs just won’t do.  I feel so powerful when I know I am eating for success, and that enables me to pursue exercise and mental well being as a result.

10.  Meditation, and The Power of Now – The ability to tune “in” as well as “out” is incredibly empowering.  It seems that the universe opens up and the most dramatic changes occur, shortly after deep meditation and introspection.  When I stay focused on the Now, my energy is reserved for what is important, and I am so thankful for the perspective it gives me.

11.  The past.  Looking at it, I am able to find life’s lessons I might not have learned when it was the present.  Therefore, I try to remain thankful for the present, and also the future, as I know that the greatest lessons will be learned there.

12.  Love.  There is so much love in my life.  I love my family, my children, my career, my home, my community, my world, and my friends.  I am blessed many times  over, and could not hope for anything more than what I have been given this year.

13.  Optimism.  The ability to choose the positive over the negative.  To find silver linings.  To empower, and cheer – myself, and those around me.  To smile, just when I need to cry, and remember, that someone always has something worse to worry about than me.

14.  God.  How is possible He was not on last year’s list?  He brings all gifts, bestows all blessings, and provides all things.  I am so grateful to know him.

I didn’t do as well as I could have in the giving department this past year as I had hoped.  I gave of myself hundreds of times over, and I intend to make more of an outward financial commitment to help those less fortunate than I.  Perhaps there’s an opportunity for balance?

I believe that it is imperative that before we ask G-d for anything at all, that we count our blessings and show our gratitude.  Perhaps it is that once we do so, there is actually far less to ask for?  For me, I ask for nothing, this year, other than the continuation of the blessings I am already fortunate enough to have received.  They are enough.  They are everything.

My you and your families find peace and contenment in your hearts this holiday season.  May you find the abundance that exists, even when money is scarce.  May you find the love, even when conflict arises, and May you find peace, among the angry stress of the day.  May you be blessed.

B’Shalom..

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Thanks…..
1. I’m so thankful for my awesome children, Lauren & Trevor. Truly the most precious gifts from G-d, they are my source of inspiration and purpose, every minute of the day.

2. My parents and my sisters. The road to today certainly hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s the best path we have ever been on. I’m so grateful for having them in my life, and the relationship we share.

3. My ex husband. Thank you Wayne, for being you. Whether you know it or not, you play a huge role in my being on this path, and there are some very important lessons you have taught me in life. I will always treasure you – no matter how angry we get at each other.

4. I’m thankful for the voice G-d gave me. I’m thankful that I am sensitive, and sometimes overly emotional. It means I have feelings. And the opposite of that is unthinkable.

5. The roof over my head, the friends in my life, my comfortable car that gets me everywhere, my guitar, the beautiful community I live in, and peace.

6. Air. Food. Mountains. Nature. Highways. Technology. Friends. Chocolate.

7. Courage. Independence. Abundance. Freedom. Satisfaction. My job(s).

8. Tolerance. Understanding. Acceptance. Peace. (Yes, I know I said it already, but it’s important enough to say again)

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Hey Rick – just throwing a post out there to send you a trackback – let me know if this works!

Deb

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I’m cruisin!

Hi everyone!

I’m so excited to say that we already have reservations for High Holidays!  WOOHOO!

I’m also getting on a cruise ship, and will be pretty out of touch.  I’m kind of freaking out about being unplugged, but I’ll do my best.  I will be back on Monday – so please don’t panic if you don’t hear from me.

Everyone on the East Coast – prayers for you and I hope you avoid all hurricanes & tropical storms.

Prayers for my Mom – who just had surgery and is in the hospital until Monday.  Love you Mom!

Prayers for all for the upcoming New Year – Prayers for traveling angels, and Prayers for peace and love.

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