As I approach the publication of novel #2, The Lost Torah of Shanghai, Lost Torah coverI’m constantly in catchup and explanation mode. Yes, it’s done,  but no, it’s not quite ready. The formatted manuscript sits in a drawer (to keep it together) awaiting my final proofread before it goes to press, cover and all. It’s coming, it’s coming…

What am I doing that takes the time away from this? Well, there’s HIPPY USA, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, of which I’m board chair, and that takes tons of time. Why? Because I’m passionate about this program that coaches parents to give their kids school-readiness skills, and it does so through paid home visitors, the parents’ socio-economic and cultural peers, “trusted messengers” who deliver HIPPY’s curriculum to the parents and trains them in using it with their kids. Many of these home visitors are working their first-ever jobs. HIPPY is now in 23 states and DC, and we’re trying to expand it. 

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Sooner or later, it’s all about IRAQ! 

It’s been a few months since ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) became a household word and the debate about what the US should do about Iraq began—again. Then war between Israel and Hamas and the crash in Ukraine of Malaysia Flight #17 pushed Iraq off the front page for a while. But it’s back! With President Obama’s decision on air strikes, Iraq again became the crisis du jour. Or should I say the ISIS du jour?

Ok, Iraq is back in the news, but what makes it a Ripped From the Headlines topic for this blog? 

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I think you can still buy Levy’s Rye Bread in New York. Years ago in the subways that company advertised with a series of posters of apparently non-Jewish types (Buster Keaton, a native American, a NYPD cop, a choir boy, African- and Asian-Americans) happily chomping on its product. Very politically incorrect and ethnically inaccurate in today’s world, but in the sixties the ad campaign made its point and helped propel its creator, legendary adman Bill Bernbach, into the Advertising Hall of Fame. (To keep things contemporary, I must note that Bernbach–a founder of Doyle, Dane & Bernbach–is considered an inspiration for today’s “Mad Men” television series.)

A non-Jewish San Francisco friend, whose book club has invited me to speak early in 2011, commented, after reading the book herself, that it would be helpful to have some terms explained. So, I’ve developed a glossary, which is actually included in the ebook version of After the Auction.

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Pronunciation: ˈzhän-rə, ˈzhäⁿ-; ˈzhäⁿr; ˈjän-rə
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Middle French, kind, gender — more at gender
Date: 1770

1 : a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content
2 : kind, sort
3 : painting that depicts scenes or events from everyday life, usually realistically

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I learned about this new genre on our summer vacation.  Once they started reading and writing, those women in the shtetel* had their own best-sellers.  Soap opera drama, Yiddish versions of classic European themes like Bovu-Bokh, a tale of chivalry. (Bodice busting romances?) Of course, women weren’t permitted then to learn Hebrew, the language reserved for the sacred texts.  But they devoured newspapers and books written in Yiddish.  After all, it was the mamaloshen**.

My husband, Eli, and I recently spent a week in the Berkshire Mountain area of western Massachusetts.  It’s a bounty of glorious nature and culture: Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Jacob’s Pillow Dance Center; the fabulous Clark Art Institute; the Norman Rockwell Museum and others; theatre festivals.  We were busy and enjoyed it all.

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