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A white correspondence card with a handwritten Thank you! on it, halfway out of a red envelope

Dear Floyd,

I loved spending the weekend with you at Alfred University. Your freshman year is off to a stellar start!

Your dad and I could not be prouder of you as you continue your journey to becoming a responsible adult. I’d like to tell you some of the reasons I am so proud of you and your adjustment to life off at college.

We have always been a “different kind of family.” You never had any issues adjusting to a world that may have looked at you sideways as you had two dads. You were always kind, polite, and more interested in changing the world than in fighting...

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The author's father, with bowling ball, and his bowling team in Harrisburg, PA

Birthright citizenship in the United States: who knew it would become controversial? The newly heated discussion, along with an energized general disdain for immigrants, caught me by such surprise that I did something quite outside my skill set: I made a music video.

It started out as a poem until I decided that my poem was really song lyrics, so I composed a little tune, hired a singer and fashioned "Dark Lamp," a music video that, on a broad scale, pays homage to the American tradition of immigration...

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The authors, Karen and Marc Rivo, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Perhaps it was presenting a tallit (prayer shawl) to our b’nei mitzvah-aged daughters overlooking the Dead Sea from the ancient fortress of Masada or feeling the spiritual peace of majestic Safed and Mount Meron; maybe it was the delicious cuisine and worldly smells of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. Or could it have been the profound realization that we of Jewish faith can trace our roots back to that arid desert and the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, where we received the Torah from Mt Sinai?

Somewhere...

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Older woman laughing toward the camera while sitting at a kitchen table

I was born in 1936. That year, the birth rate plummeted to an all-time low of 2.1 children per mother, a drop perhaps best explained by the financial hardships of The Great Depression. I suspect that expectant parents of 1936 felt trepidation along with their joy – and in my experience, we few who entered the world that year often feel alone.

At a recent Torah study, my rabbi mentioned the Lamed Vav Tzadikim, “righteous ones,” and the significance of the number 36 in Judaism. She had my attention. Could there be something special about my birth year? I wanted to know more.

...

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Emma's Torch employees

Kerry Brodie is founder and executive director of Emma’s Torch, a non-profit social enterprise that provides paid culinary training and job placement for refugees, asylum seekers, and human trafficking victims. Kerry, her Israeli-born husband, and baby daughter, are members of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, N.Y.

I caught up with Kerry, at Emma’s Torch restaurant, where I enjoyed a delicious brunch of black-eyed pea hummus, a succotash grain bowl, pulled lamb on pita, and knafeh, a Middle Eastern sweet...

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