Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Sorry, Sir, You Can't Go In There; This Place is Just for Jewish People"

Read this great story at about Reuben Greenberg: black, Jewish, Texan, retired Chief of Charleston, South Carolina Police Department!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Meme: Six Word Memoir

I've been tagged by The Angry Muslimah (who I'm gonna jack up) to participate in the meme below:

Six Word Memoir:

The Rules

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4 Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!


OK, I tag:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Sister, My Friend, My Physician

The Friday Mosque ... Zaria, Nigeria

As Salaamu Alaikum Sister Juliet:

I cried my eyes out when I heard what happened. I just found out today. I still can't believe it! I had to read the article at the Attorney General's website over and over before it sunk in.

Where to start?

Well, I had been trying to get a hold of you since early December. I called your office a zillion times and left so many messages. But you didn't return my calls. Then I called the special number you gave me. Remember? The one that you said connected to the phone in your home? The one you told me to use if I ever really needed you? Someone answered, but it was not you. A woman told me, "I just got this number; I've been receiving a lot of calls for her."

At first I blew it off. I thought that maybe you went to Nigeria to visit your family over the Christmas holiday. When I couldn't reach you in the middle of January, I started to worry. I knew something had to be wrong. Finally, I called the hospital and the switchboard operator said to me, "Didn't you hear? It was in all of the newspapers." When I told her that I hadn't, she said that all she could tell me was that you had left the country and wouldn't be coming back. Confidentiality rules prevented her from telling me more. She suggested that I go to the Attorney General Office's website and put your name in the search engine ...

Remember the first time we met? I sat across from you in your office and gave you my medical history. You looked at me with a faraway look in your eyes. "This," you said, gently touching my hijab," does something to me, in my heart." I sat silently as you continued. "I think my mother may have been Muslim," you said. "I don't remember her; I was raised by my grandmother. But I have a memory ...

When I search your name on the Attorney General's website, an article appeared describing the arrest of your husband. It said that he had been forging your name on prescriptions for addictive pain medication. The article continued to describe how your home and your clinic had been raided by the authorities. It said that when you learned of a pending investigation of your prescribing practices for these medications, you "fled" the country for you native home in Nigeria.

Remember when you asked me where you could buy a hijab? I told you that I would bring you a few when I came for my next appointment. How thrilled you were when I gave them to you as promised! You said you were "thinking" about becoming a Muslim, and you wanted to "see" how it felt to wear hijab.

Why did you leave the country if you are innocent? Wasn't your husband the one who was forging your name on your prescriptions?

When I walked in the office at my next appointment, you greeted me ... wearing hijab! Alhamdulillah, you said you decided to become a Muslim! But you said you wanted to do it "slowly". You told me that your husband became angry when he saw you wearing the hijab. But you said you didn't care. You wanted to be a Muslim. The first thing I taught you was "As Salaamu Alaikum". I promised to bring you books about Islam and a pamphlet about how to pray the Salaat.

My sister, my friend, my physician - how I grieve for you. Will I ever see you again? Insha Allah you will think of me sometimes, perhaps even get on the Internet and read this post. If you do, please leave a comment so that I know you are OK.

And please don't leave Islam. Allah (swt) will help you through this; all you have to do is ask Him.

Ya Allah! Please guide and protect my sister, my friend, and my physician/Ameen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Beauty of Mathematics and the Love of God

While I'm working on Part 2 of Am I Still Jewish (have been REAL busy, Ya Allah), check this out at Brother Irving's blog. I tried to re-post it (with his permission) but Blogger didn't format it correctly, and I didn't have the patience to fix it. So, go over there and see!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


As shots of celebratory gunfire continue to be heard in certain sectors of New York, Governor Eliot Spitzer is set to announce his resignation this morning.

Governor Spitzer has been implicated as being a client of an international prostitution ring, among other possible legal charges.

This is a man who claimed to be interested in combating the sexual exploitation of women. He was instrumental in passing anti sex traffic legislation. He pursued and prosecuted prostitutes and prostitution rings in his career as New York District Attorney.

All the while, evidence suggests that he is no stranger to being a regular "john".

Why is everyone so surprised at this revelation? The news has been described as amazing, tragic, stunning, shocking, unbelievable, etc.

Anyone who has been involved with the criminal justice system, as I have for many years, can tell you that nothing a person can do is ever beyond surprise. I have seen and heard thing that can make your hair curl.

What does surprise me is that the Governor can hold two news conferences, apologize at one, and resign at the other, yet never admit to us what he actually did! Of course, he copped out by not taking any questions from the media, probably his last vestige of control, while his whole world and that of his family is falling apart.

Are some people shocked because of the hope placed in the Governor? After all, he won the election for governor by a large majority. He promised New Yorkers that he would clean up the state. His entire political platform was based on ethics.

What is extremely disappointing is the hypocrisy of some politicians.

And do we have to again be exposed to salacious details of a politician's sex life? Remember Bill Clinton? His famous denial of sexual relations with his White House intern? And Larry Craig? And the public restroom details? There is such a thing TMI (too much information).

However, Governor Spitzer is no different than those he prosecuted, or those who went to jail or who now have criminal records due to his zeal in taking them down for what he himself was doing.

Am I surprised? No. Just disgusted. Again.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Am I Still Jewish? (Part 1)

Who is a Jew? Controversial question among Jewish people. Answers differ depending upon who you ask.

According to Judaism 101 (, for example, Jewish religious law and traditional Orthodox groups make the determination through the maternal line. If one's mother is Jewish, he is Jewish. Even if he doesn’t practice Judaism or identify as a Jew, religious authorities will consider him to be a Jew. Even atheists born to Jewish mothers are considered to be Jews. Formal conversion to Judaism is also a legitimate path to Jewish identity. However, liberal Jewish groups, such as Reform Judaism, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents is Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. To muddy the waters further, some Orthodox groups do not recognize the conversions of those affiliated with the Conservative or Reform groups. And what about the people who consider themselves to be Jews who are the children or grandchildren of any of the above scenarios?

Oy Vey! It’s all so complicated.

In my case, my father was an Ashkenazic Jew and my mother was a Polish Catholic. They met and married while they were both serving in the military in 1947. My father was the first member of his family to marry outside of Judaism.

My father’s family tried hard to accept my mother. My great-grandmother, Fanny, taught my mom how to separate dishes in order to maintain a kosher kitchen. My grandmother, Lillian, taught my mom how to cook Jewish cuisine. They grew to love my mother and until her death, my mom affectionately called my grandparents “mother” and “dad”.

We became a blended family. When I arrived, my birth was a joyous occasion with me being the first Jewish grandchild. My grandfather went to the synagogue and gave me the Yiddish name of Heshke (sometimes spelled "Hashka") Ella bat Shimon. For my brother, four years later, there was the bris (circumcision ceremony).

One of the other things my parents did to try to make their interfaith marriage work was to celebrate the holidays of both traditions. My mom hosted the Christian and secular holidays at our house, and the Jewish ones were hosted in the home of my paternal grandmother. Although my brother and I were raised with smatterings of Christianity in our lives, we identified as being Jewish. We never attended church, but we did go to the synagogue. We perceived Christmas and Easter as extensions of the secular holidays, having no religious significance, just another day off from school.

It wasn't until my parents divorced and my mother moved out-of-state to live with her family that we were enrolled in a Catholic school and forced to practice Catholicism. Can you imagine? Two little Jewish children yanked away from a large, loving Jewish family and enrolled in a Catholic school? I was barely 12 years old. Within the timeframe of one year, the nuns prepared me for baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation. I was caught up in the whirlwind, too young to fully understand what was going on. I remember one time when a nun slapped my face because I told her that Jews did not kneel to pray.

At home, I was a grieving child in extreme emotional agony. My mother’s alcoholism was progressing, and I was also being molested by one of her brothers. My father had gotten remarried to a Jewish woman and they had a child, a little girl. How jealous I was that my sister had taken my daddy and had him all to herself! I felt abandoned and alone. Life as I had known before my parents’ divorce was stolen from me and replaced with a wretched nightmare from which I could not awaken.

It was during this time that I found comfort and solace in the Catholic Church. The image of the suffering, crucified Christ on the altar spoke to my own pain. The inviting, outstretched arms of the Virgin Mary statue from her niche nurtured and soothed my aching heart. Stories of martyred saints reinforced my sense of victim hood. I no longer felt alone.

At the same time, my identity as a Jew was strong. Summer vacations and regular phone contact maintained the ties of kinship with my father and the rest of my Jewish family. But they were so far away, and my Jewishness seemed out of immediate reach. Despite the psychological peace I felt when I attended mass, I knew in my heart that Jesus was not the son of God. Around the age of 16, I returned to Judaism. My grandfather wrote a letter of introduction to the rabbi at a local synagogue and asked him to accept me as a student. After almost a year of studying, the rabbi called me into his office one day after class and told me that he wanted me to join a class that was preparing for formal conversion to Judaism. Shocked, I replied, “But why? I’m already Jewish!” He calmly explained that I was not really Jewish because my mother was a Christian. Oh how I cried later that night in a telephone call to my grandfather. He gently encouraged me to participate in the conversion ceremony. I still remember his words: “This way, no one can ever say that you’re not a Jew.”

How could anyone say that I was not a Jew? Me, Heshke Ella bat Shimon, whose formative childhood years were spent immersed in Jewish culture and ethnicity. Did I need to convert because the wrong parent was Jewish?

To be continued, Insha Allah ...

Go Figure #1


Remember this cartoon strip? They'll Do It Every Time was created by Jimmy Hatlo and was syndicated to major newspapers in America. The series depicted frustrations and ironies of everyday life and people. I used to love this series when I was a kid.

Well, I'm going to start something similar called Go Figure. A place for little vents on my blog. Insha Allah I will figure out how to use cool pictures and graphics in the future.

To cristen my series, I start with Go Figure #1:

Oil prices fell to below $100 a barrel last night.

When oil prices rise, gas station owners run out (sometimes within hours) and increase their prices ... same gas they had in the ground before the oil prices increased.

Will gas station owners run out this morning and reduce prices?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Al-Huda Sunday School Library

Our masjid is doing some construction. So we asked the carpenter to build a "book shelf" in one of the school rooms for our new library. Alhamdulillah, look what he built:

Masha Allah!!! He made shelves across the entire wall! Now, Insha Allah, we will work to fill up the shelves!

For our start-up, we were granted a generous award by Muslim publisher, Linda Delgado (Sister Widad), owner of Muslim Writers Publishing MWP) and award-winning author of Islamic Rose books (IRB) ( MWP and IRB support literacy and Sister Widad dedicates the profits from the books she has authored toward buying books for Islamic school children's libraries.

Sister Widad ordered our books from Brother Adnan A. Khattar, Sales Manager, of Islamic Book Store ( Brother Adnan was very generous in offering the books to Sister Widad at a discount. He was also very efficient in shipping the books out to us in a timely manner.

Masha Allah, the teachers and students at Al-Huda school thank both Sister Widad and Brother Adnan for their generosity and commitment to Muslim children. May Allah (swt) reward both of them immensely/Ameen.

And may Allah (swt) reward our carpenter, too!

The kids are so excited, Alhamdulillah! They are looking forward to unpacking the books and arranging our library as soon as the construction is finished (a few more weeks, Insha Allah!).

One of our young girls came up to me today and proudly told me that she knows the Dewey Decimal System and volunteered to classify all of our books! I told her she would be my Assistant Librarian.

Please say dua for the continued success of our little school and our new library/Ameen.