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Karen White


Beloved daughter,

You and I have been having an interesting dialogue about your bat mitzvah – or, as you would say, the question of your bat mitzvah. I remember the look in your eyes when I casually mentioned that you'd be stepping up to the bimah in less than two years. "No!" you shouted back, incredulous, "I'm not having a bat mitzvah! I hate Hebrew school!" I felt that flush of righteous indignation that always hits me when you're defiant, just before I remember that I haven't exactly raised you to be passive and acquiescent. Still, I thought that somewhere in the transfer of...

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Say what you will, but I prefer the Rosh HaShanah children's service to the adult one. It's a little under an hour, and it's lighter on the lengthy recitations of the full evening service. There's a lot of singing, the cantor plays guitar, and if your mind wanders from the core service, there are little thought exercises in the margin of the prayer book to keep you engaged: "Recall a time when something went wrong and then went right..."; "Remember a time when you felt that you were doing exactly what God wanted you to do."

These are interesting questions – for me, more interesting...

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Last weekend, at a Tel Aviv cafe, I met Shani. At 24, she is an intelligence officer with the IDF. I was introduced to her through her father, who suggested I speak with her in my quest to understand more about the Israeli observance of Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day). Over coffee, she told me the story of why she’s chosen a career in the army.

“My grandparents,” she began, “were a big influence on me.” Holocaust survivors who met after the war, they lived with Shani when she was young.  She and her grandfather were extremely close. He was a brilliant doctor who spoke eight...

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As a Reform Jew, I lead a largely secular life. Most of my friends aren't Jewish. My daily schedule is governed more by school hours and work demands than it is by rituals of worship. And the synagogue plays only a peripheral role in my life.

Nonetheless, I have been wondering how to make Shabbat a presence in my week, in a way that honors the spirit of the commandment but also works for my family and for my life. To date, I have been largely unsuccessful in this mission. I have given it plenty of lip service and little effort.

Last Friday, I decided to try something that...

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The other day, a friend and I were talking about electric vehicles. He asserted that electric cars have a larger carbon footprint than gas vehicles. I told him he was nuts; the sheer scale of electric power generation vs. the internal combustion engine made the electric car a clear winner. A few days later, after some Googling, he came back to me with more information: The gasoline vehicle wins by a nose if you assume that you will, at some point during the 130,000-mile life of the average car, need to replace the battery in the electric vehicle - because there is so much carbon tied up in...

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