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Cartoon mouths on sticks like photobooth props

A famous comedian (though sources aren’t sure exactly which one!) once said that  tragedy plus time equals comedy. I don’t believe tragedy is necessary for jokes to work, but comedy certainly can certainly lessen the pain of our tsuris (troubles). That’s why, when people ask how I can be so flip in the face of disaster, I can honestly say: I’m a Jew. It’s a learned survival skill.

Even in the darkest days of the ghettos and Nazi concentration camps, Jews didn’t lose their sense of humor. Here’s a classic bit of...

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Timepiece partially buried in sand

When I was 6 or 7 years old, my older sister, our friend, and I draped a sheet over my mother’s backyard clothesline in Champaign, IL, to create our secret clubhouse. In the 1940s, if you didn’t have a tree house or some kind of playhouse in your backyard, you rigged up a makeshift shelter where you could chat, share secrets, and keep a stash of forbidden goodies.

One day while in our hideaway, the chit-chatting got to me, and I screamed, “We’re not getting anything done.” I made a quick exit out of the hideaway and ran into our house.

“Getting something done” has been my...

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Womans hand holding a coffee cup next to a pen and a pad of paper

Since stay-at-home orders went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have enthusiastically and gratefully joined a few Shabbat services across the country every week. I’ve joined remote services in multiple cities within my home state of California, as well as in Virginia, North Carolina, and beyond.

Some of them have become my regular go-to services, and because I live on the West Coast, I am often able to participate in three or four Shabbat services each Friday night. In doing so, I’ve witnessed incredible innovation by rabbis, cantors, and other congregational leaders to...

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Bundle of small Israeli flags

We are certainly in unique times, but this week is a particularly special moment in our Jewish calendar. Tonight and tomorrow we mark the Shabbat between Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). Like other special Shabbatot in our liturgical calendar, this Shabbat has a name: Shabbat Tekuma, the Shabbat of Revival.

"Revival" refers to the dramatic turnaround from the tragedy of the Holocaust to the realization of the dream of a Jewish state; the “special Shabbat” is an ancient paradigm we use still use to create meaning in modern events....

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Closeup of rusted prison cell bars

This year’s Passover was different for all of us, but I doubt most of us can imagine Passover spent in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alone in cells, no Zoom seder, no Haggadot, no social distance, and, in prisons where the rate of infection is staggeringly high, no hope to remain safe from the rampant spread of the coronavirus.

More than two million people are currently living behind bars in America. From Rikers Island in NYC to...

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