Five Uncomfortable Facts about Bullying

bullying

No matter what I do and no matter where I go, one awful concept seems to follow me around everywhere: Bullying. I’ve been the victim, I’ve been the perpetrator. I’ve helped the victim, and I’ve let the victim get chewed to pieces.

Certainly as an adult I have a refined perspective on the concept of bullying. However, this awful behavior still creeps into the picture wherever I go. With each year I understand the world just a drip more, and here are five facts of bullying I’ve come across along the way.

1) Bullies Rise from the Weakness of Others

The way I always explained bullying to my students was very simple, and these truths should let any bully know the sadness of their path. Bullies are weak and/or unimpressive people. But it is a human need to feel strong and noticed.

What do you do when you’re talented or capable? You naturally show off your ability just by being yourself. However, the bully doesn’t have any of that. They can’t impress the world with who they are. So they seek a target on whose shoulders they could stand. And by weakening their victim, the bully emerges on top of them, inherently feeling more powerful and superior.

We should all be blessed with the ability to win the adulation of those around us, not because of who we can harm, but because of who we are. No one should need to rise above others in order to shine.

2) Male Bullying vs Female Bullying

In Baltimore, my son attended a school with only male students. Bullying was fairly common, albeit very typical male-style bullying. Boys are aggressive. They hit. They choke. The scars are mainly physical. And the best way to deal with it is to stand up for yourself.

The following year my son found himself in a grade filled with mainly girls, hellbent on demonstrating to him that their style of bullying was superior. They could bring someone to tears with a mild glance. A few well-timed words, and they could have you begging for mercy.

And these wounds don’t heal with Bandaids. And they are far more difficult to point out or prove to the authorities. In the immortal words of Louis CK, “Boys… do damage to your house that you can measure in dollars, like a hurricane. Girls… leave scars in your psyche.”

The takeaway: Bullying that is non-physical is a) still bullying and b) potentially far more damaging than any punch or kick.

3) Bullying Exists at Every Age

Bullying is something we come to think of as a kid thing or a school thing. But it exists at every stage of our lives, just manifesting itself in different ways.

But it’s still bullying.

It’s still abhorrent behavior that we should keep an eye out for. We should stand up for those being tormented. And we should fight for justice in every place we see the mistreatment of others.

I’ve been bullied in the workplace, as I’m sure most people have. Sometimes it comes from those in positions of authority. However, very often it can come from just about anyone.

The rule is the same: If you can’t feel good about yourself because you’re talented and amazing, the tendency arises to try and feel good by forcefully placing others beneath you.

4) We All Do It

Many times I’ve asked my students if they’ve ever been bullied. Usually every student in the class will raise their hand. I’ll then ask who has ever bullied someone else. It might take a little longer, and the reactions might be a bit slower, but generally every hand will go up for that question as well.

It’s scary to think that something we all loathe so much can also be something we’ve engaged in. We’ve all hurt others. We’ve all caused somebody, somewhere to question their worth. There’s a person or people in the world who have shed tears because of our words and actions.

And now we’re adults. And we’re doing it all over again.

It is imperative that all thinking adults, anyone with a strong sense of character and morals, evaluate their everyday actions and activities. We should be able to look deeply at our interpersonal experiences and recognize when we’re bringing someone else down in order to artificially feel better about ourselves.

As adults, we tend to be able to justify what we do easier. And we can cast away our misdeeds as being necessary or light-hearted banter. And in some cases, it may be true. Firing a lousy employee is not bullying. And joking around with close friends is fairly likely to be innocent and harmless as well.

But we know better than that. There are lines we shouldn’t cross, and people for whom it wouldn’t take much to realize we’re causing harm. And we absolutely should never cause harm. No one should suffer unnecessarily as a result of our words or deeds. And if they are, we need to know we’re the cause, and kill the behavior immediately.

5) Bullying Can Easily Draw You In

It’s a sad reality, but even the gentlest and most well-meaning person can easily be pulled into bullying. The group starts teasing someone for whatever, and before you know it, you’re participating as well. After all, if everyone is involved, how bad can it be?

None of us are immune to this. Whether it’s poking fun at the new kid in school or teasing a co-worker about their mismatched socks, when the group starts in, it’s so easy to just slip into the mix. You might do this with your own obnoxious comments, or you might do it by laughing along with everyone else.

And you’re fairly likely to participate by not noticing when someone is being hurt, or by not doing your part to make things better.

We should all be blessed to recognize when we are acting as bullies, to be sensitive to the feelings of those around us, to have the strength to not get pulled into bullying situations, and the wherewithal to always stand up for what’s just and right.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Five Movies You Need to See… When You Just Need to Shut Off and Laugh

movies

It’s time for as lighthearted a post as I can write. Day to day life isn’t always easy. And sometimes we all just need to shut off our minds for a couple of hours, grab some popcorn, and simply laugh a whole lot.

This is a list of five comedy movies I love. In my mind, they are timeless comedic classics. They are all extremely quotable and memorable.

When you need a little innocent pick-me-up, and you’re looking to try something different, you can’t go wrong with a solid comedy to make everything right.

In no particular order, here are five recommendations for hilarious movies that could brighten up almost any day.

My Blue Heaven (1990)

One of the most quotable movies ever created is for some reason forgotten by so many. This classic has oddly faded into obscurity, but it should make a comeback with a vengeance.

Steve Martin plays a gangster in the witness protection program, in which a hardened Italian criminal must somehow learn to live the smalltime life in the middle of nowhere. As you can imagine, this scenario provides countless opportunities for comedic fodder.

Steve Martin and Rick Moranis are the perfect duo, and their fantastic performances result in endless unforgettable moments. (Apparently they’ve been in three movies together. I’ve never seen Parenthood (1989), but Little Shop of Horrors (1986) is amazing. Did you know that there are two different versions of the ending?)

With My Blue Heaven, you’ll find yourself grabbing moments from the movie and making them a permanent part of your life and speech. For example, I can’t go to the grocery story with my wife without reenacting this hilarious moment:

And in case you’re wondering, that superb pick-up line works just as well for me as did for Steve Martin.

So grab My Blue Heaven. Heck, grab 25 copies… ya know… in case you want to watch it more than once.

Capiche?

Clerks (1994)

Sadly, the only movie on this list that might not hold up anymore. I remember seeing Clerks in the theaters and loving it so much I went back to see it again. But you kids these days just can’t seem to handle the black and white!

Clerks is about a couple of nobodies in New Jersey who are working at a convenience store and an old school video shop. They have several adventures along the way and a handful of mishaps with customers.

The humor is not for everyone, but it certainly was for me. I still laugh when I picture Dante talking about the customers who search for the milk that will never expire. Or the countless customers asking if his store is open. Or pretty much anything Randal does.

If you want a nice, silly belly laugh, and pretty much a documentary of Jersey life, Clerks is the way to go. And it’s an apt introduction to the world of Kevin Smith movies, which include other classics like Mallrats (1995) and Dogma (1999).

37!

Office Space (1999)

Everything from the hysterical dialogue to just about the best soundtrack you’ll find in any movie.

Follow the trials and tribulations of a nerdy computer programmer whose life is basically meaningless, until he figures out a really unique way to turn everything around.

And before you know it, this badass conquers his workplace, replete with the amazing gangster rap you might be expecting. If you’ve worked for even a short period in any office, you will love Office Space, and everything from the overbearing bosses dwelling upon the most minute details to the rage against the copy machine.

And you will certainly want to take yourself over to the first occupational hypnotherapist you can find and set fire to your T.P.S. Report cover sheets. Because that’s when things start to get real!

Airplane (1980)

If you have not seen Airplane, you are under-qualified to discuss comedy films. Every parody film that has come out since Airplane, strives to create a level of perfect silliness on par with this masterpiece.

Whether it’s someone beating up airport solicitors, old women speaking Jive, or very unique drinking problems, the humor in Airplane is timeless.

This movie even gave birth to some important moments that effect my life more often than I or anyone would like to admit. Ever have one of those times when you’re trapped in a lecture or speech you are just praying will end already? You may even get to the point where you’d rather commit hara-kiri than listen for even one more minute?

I call those “Airplane moments”, after the many characters who’d rather take their own lives than listen to our protagonist tell his story anymore.

Also, keep your eyes open for my son’s absolute favorite answer to the question, “How do you take your coffee?”

Airplane throws everything at you to brings tears of laughter to even the toughest eyes.

So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)

Mike Myers at his best. This movie has everything from beat poetry to thick Scottish accents to a cameo from the greatest living comedian, Stephen Wright.

So I Married an Axe Murderer has fallen into a bit of obscurity for reasons I’ll never understand. Usually I get an odd stare from most folk just by mentioning its name.

Throughout this hysterical movie, follow all the crazy mishaps of Charlie MacKenzie as it slowly becomes clear to him that his new main squeeze might be a bit more than he expected. (I mean, who hasn’t slowly discovered they might be in a relationship with a psychopath?)

Did you know that So I Married an Axe Murderer is the most popular movie ever created that uses the phrase “hard hearted harbinger of haggis”?

For those who need a good laugh and choose to listen to me and grab one of these movies… you’re welcome!

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, 0 comments

42, Still Kickin’

42

Yup, I’m 42. The yearly bitter birthday post. I keep trying to be be younger… the years keep piling on.

Two years ago I got this blog started and felt awe and discomfort about turning 40. And now it’s two years later. I’m still going. Hopefully strong. And somehow or other I made it to 42. Yup, twice the age of being able to legally purchase liquor in the the Old Country. More than half my way to 80. Old enough that I can’t stand up without grunting. And certainly old enough, no matter how young I may look, that I can’t go to 20s/30s events without guilt and/or a few surprised reactions.

So, I’ve reached this coveted age of great wisdom. What are some giant takeaways I’ve gained at 42? What newfound knowledge has popped into my brain as yet another year has advanced me forward?

Let’s look at five:

1) Still Lessons to Learn

At each stage of my life, it seemed the life lessons would slow down. There was far less to be gained. I learned what I had to learn, and now just needed to put those lessons into practice. And coast from here on out.

And as usual, it turned out I was wrong. Quite wrong.

In my 42nd year I fell in love, got engaged, and got married. One could say it was quite a big year for me.

What’s crazy is how unexpected all of these things were for me. I entered the relationship, arrogantly stating that I have four children, and that’s plenty for me. I’d prefer not to add to the numbers. And before the relationship, I talked about my proud and happy single status.

And yet I told a story at my wedding when my fiancĂ© and I were reading about how you know you are with the right person. One suggestion stated that you know you’re with the right person when you look at your partner and would be ecstatic if your children grew up like them.

We looked up at each other, and for that moment, everything was completely obvious to both of us.

In just this past year, my thoughts and opinions have shifted over and over again.

I can’t even imagine what the future holds.

2) Every Year, I’m Less and Less Defined by My Job

Many of us dread that moment. We’re meeting a brand new person, and the inevitable question rolls around: “So, what do you do?”

I can talk on and on about my wife and my kids. I can tell about my hobbies. My passion for health and fitness. My love of languages. And on and on.

But I can’t escape it. Eventually they’ll catch my clever diversion and ask what I do for a living.

Now, I’m by no means embarrassed by or ashamed of my job. It’s just that no matter what I do, it’s guaranteed to be a conversation killer.

“I do customer support for an email marketing company.”

Cue the crickets…

In any case, I used to be a teacher. It was very important to who I was, but also something I desperately needed to run away from. And like has happened so many times in my life, it feels like a distant part of my past. It’s just gone, like it never was.

Why? Because my job pays the bills. Hopefully. But that’s where it’s importance ends. I am made up of so much more than just my job. Sure, it’s a part of the puzzle, but merely a small part. My answer to their dreaded question isn’t flawed. It’s the question itself, and the underlying expectation behind the question that needs to be changed.

I am me, with all my 42 years of complexities. My job is just one of the many things I do.

3) How to Get Attention? It’s All About the Individual

Two years in a row I’ve participated in ALYN Hospital’s out-of-this-world skydiving fundraiser. And both years I slogged my way through weeks of grueling fundraising.

In two years, I raised nearly $6,000 for this incredible hospital. But I’ll be honest: I hated every minute of the fundraising. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who enjoys asking others for money. I know I’d like to participate in a fundraiser each year. However, I’m not sure I can stomach this again.

I did learn an important lesson, however, albeit the exact reason behind the lesson is still unclear to me.

I posted weekly on Facebook and LinkedIn. And I posted in different public groups. Others posted on their Facebook pages as well. I even wrote a blog post about the fundraiser. In two years of fundraising, not a single donation ever came from a public post of any kind. Not one. 100% of the money came from people I reached out to directly.

No one listens to what’s said to the group. You want attention? It’s all about speaking directly to each and every individual.

4) Even Skydiving Can Become Routine

I also learned that routine is routine. Skydiving is a major thrill, certainly unlike any other I’ve experienced. And falling out of the sky from 14,000 feet is an objectively wild experience.

But even that makes me think: Been there, done that. What can I possibly tackle next?

I thrive on routine. I like knowing, at least generally, what my days will look like. However, I also need constant growth. Constant novelties that spice things up in my life.

And even the things that are amazing or thrilling, need to be topped all the time. There is absolutely nothing that cannot become routine.

5) I Was Wrong

You’re never too old to find out you have no idea what you are talking about. That’s a lesson I learn yearly.

I was wrong when I was 40 or 41. I will spend a whole lot of time wrong as a mighty 42-year-old.

And I expect to be wrong time and time again as many more years of my life pass on by.

The trick isn’t to never be wrong. That’ll never happen. The trick is to learn to not let it bother you, and to instead embrace your own mistakes. See them as jumping points for great change and improvement in your life.

***

So, here I am. 42. A whole spattering of young and old. With a lot of cynicism, combined with a whole heaping load of hope.

It’s going to be quite the year. I can feel it in my bones!

(I can feel a lot in my bones these days… )

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Slave to Technology

Technology

Am I a slave to my possessions?

I’ve had a fear for a good deal of my life now. Addictions. Or harmful habits or reactions of any kinds.

For example, I fear having no control over my love of food. And eating way too much of it, way too quickly. And even though I stopped biting my fingernails several years ago, I still feel a pull toward them. All the time. I was afraid of bleeding, public speaking, and heights. So I started giving blood and speaking in front of an audience whenever I could. And, of course, I went skydiving a couple of times.

A New Terror

And now I face a new terror. A new burden. And I pay a lot of money in order to posses the burden.

Technology, and all of its wicked offspring.

Slaves to Technology

Years ago I went to a lecture meant to “prove” that we were slaves to technology more than technology was our servant. The lecturer spoke about the computer keyboard.

Why is the keyboard in this odd and seemingly random pattern? Well, it was originally created to be optimal for typewriters, and did a fantastic job preventing type bars (the nifty pieces that strike the paper and plop the letters there) from getting tangled with one another. (And yes, I needed to Google what they’re called.)

In comes the modern word processor, completely void of any of these problems. A perfect opportunity to revamp the keyboard! It can now be in alphabetical order. Or optimized for faster typing based on thorough research. Limitless options!

But people didn’t like it. They had already grown used to something else and were unwilling to embrace change.

And thus, we are essentially following where technologically leads us, rather than guiding technology where we wish for it to go.

Do I Answer the Door?

I had a big disagreement with a lot of folk way back when. We argued about a rarely talked about gem of an invention: The front door. A technology masterpiece, if there ever was one.

Imagine the scenario: It’s a relaxing Sunday, summer afternoon, somewhere in suburban America. And the family is all sitting around, quietly reading. Enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly someone knocks on the front door. But no one wishes to respond, let alone get up.

The debate: What is the obligation of the comfortable family at that moment, if any?

Others in the discussion maintained that their calm must be disturbed. Someone is required to minimally ask who is at the door. And if that ruins everyone’s beautiful time, so be it. An obligation is an obligation. They might add: What if it’s an emergency!? (Since, as we know, all 2019 emergencies are handled with a gentle knock on the door.)

It’s My Damn Door

My approach was… let’s say, drastically different. And still is. As far as I’m concerned, my house is my house, and my door is my door. And they both exist to serve me, and in exactly whichever way I choose.

So, even if I’m sitting back against my door doing nothing at all, I still have no obligations once the big knock comes. It will be no inconvenience to me whatsoever if I just turn around and open the door. My life is not being affected in the slightest, since I wasn’t doing anything at all. Nevertheless, I have no requirements at that moment. I am perfectly alright with not responding to the door simply because I do not want to.

The door serves me. Not the other way around! It does not get to cause me even a single moment of discomfort, unless I so choose.

It’s My Damn Phone

Enter the modern world and this debate gets to a whole new level. Ever had this experience? Someone calls you and you don’t pick up. They call again, maybe two more times. They text to see why you’re not picking up. Maybe they try a few people who they think might be nearby to see what’s going on.

Finally, you get out of the bathroom, or leave the movie theater, or whatever it was you were selfishly preoccupied with. And after all the intensity, you assume an emergency and call back… only to find out they were looking for the recipe for that chocolate cake you made last week.

Why do we have these possessions if they become obsessions and obligations rather than items that exist to serve us?

A Slave to My Phone

And trust me, I’m as guilty as the next person. Like most of you, I’ve had those moments where I was called out for looking at my cellphone in the middle of a live conversation with someone. I completely missed what they were saying to me because I got a new notification or I was distracted by another bunch of likes on my Facebook post.

And what happens when my phone is more important to me than the person sitting across from me? The world shatters. Interpersonal communication is replaced by dopey comatose-like monkeys staring at a few circuits.

I recall a few years ago poking fun at a group of students. They were all sitting around “hanging out with each other”. Yet not a single one of them was actually talking. Each one was engrossed with their phone, probably texting someone who was just down the hall. And they all thought I was weird for thinking the scenario was hysterical.

When to Break the Chains?

Many years ago I was told that a person should not open up a school if they wouldn’t have the strength to close it should it become necessary. What if they were forced to run the school contrary to their value system? What if the entire concept of the institution was undermined by others? The ethical choice and the choice with integrity would be to shut the place down rather than compromise on ones value system.

Perhaps one should never lift up a cellphone if they don’t have the strength to put it down when it stops serving the greater good.

Perhaps we should all reconsider what’s important to us in this world, and figure out whether the technology in our lives is serving us in accomplishing our goals. Or distracting us and making us servants to the objectively less important parts of our lives.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Six More Things I Love About Israel

Israel

Way back when a friend challenged me to write an article about things I love about Israel. I thought it was a fair challenge on a number of levels. Obviously there are things about the country that bug me to no end. It’s only fair that I tell the other side as well.

There also needs to be some balance to my bitterness for what I’ve seen and been through. And even if it’s not there to counterbalance my feelings about Israel, it’s worthwhile to be there to counterbalance my soul. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking it would be great to be cynical today.

But I am a cynic. And I have plenty of reasons and ongoing support for my cynicism. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. And credit should be given where credit’s due.

1) ProFit, My Beloved Gym

Gyms in Israel aren’t known for being very affordable. And even though I’m certainly spending more to go to Profit in Talpiot than I was spending in the States, I must say that a) it is the most affordable gym I’ve seen so far, and b) it’s worth each and every penny.

Not only has my gym been my greatest form of escape and has kept me strong and fit for some time now, but it is truly a break from some of the most stressful elements of Israeli society. There’s no Israeli vs. Arab in my gym. Everyone exercises side by side. Men exercise alongside women, religious folk on the machine next to someone completely secular. And all political opinions are left at home.

Everyone is just working hard to be healthy. A common goal that transcends all the garbage that chills me to the bone.

2) Walking the Mighty Mesila

And speaking of breaks from the world at large, nothing beats a walk down the Mesila (also known as Derech Harakevet or the Old Train Tracks).

A walk down this lengthy and gorgeous path is a trek through all elements of Israeli society. Some folk are jogging. Others are walking their dogs. And still others are just going from one place to another.

And some are just sitting and enjoying the crisp, clean air.

But they all have one thing in common: They’re at peace.

The Mesila isn’t just a break from all of the craziness of Israel. Anywhere in the world this would be considered a beautiful, relaxing place to spend your time.

3) Israel’s Objectively Better Wedding Experience

I’m going to say it, out loud and once and for all: Weddings in Israel are far better than weddings in the States.

Weddings in America are very formal and slow paced. Everyone is seated during the ceremony and everything progresses in an ultra-standard way. And there is a fashion show aspect that is hard to ignore.

At an Israeli wedding, formal dress is downplayed. It is not at all uncommon to see many a guest in sandals and an untucked white shirt. They pile around the ceremony. And this overly informal atmosphere goes hand in hand with the wild and pure fun about to come.

Sure, every wedding has the guy smoking at the side and the bozo who answers his cell phone. It’s all worth it to create the perfect environment for the crazy amounts of informal fun everyone is about to have.

Everyone’s about to sing and dance in utter joy, with few dull moments. An objectively fun and exciting experience!

4) Israel’s Uncanny Ability to Move On

Israelis have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget, so drastically different than the environment I grew up with in the States.

I feel like holding tightly to grudges is a part of being a true blue American. Someone wronged you, and there is no statute of limitations to when the ensuing feud will come to an end.

Not so the mighty Israeli. Anger in Israel is intense and frequent, but short lived and completely impersonal. Just because you were in a yelling match with the clerk from the Misrad Hapnim for twenty minutes yesterday, doesn’t mean they hold any ill will whatsoever. It’s more likely that if you were to see them on the street the next day you would get a nod and a semi-friendly “What’s up?”

5) Israel: A Different Kind of Pride

Admittedly, I waiver about my feelings on this one. Israeli pride can be funny sometimes. Folk here use the word “we” a whole lot. Oftentimes they’re referencing an accomplishment made by an individual or an organization (or even something that happened before they were born), and using it as a source of pride.

We invented the PillCam. Or Soda Stream. We won Eurovision! And the list of national achievements can go on and on.

I grew up in the States. I never once found myself bragging about the invention of dental floss or crash test dummies. Yet in Israel it’s entirely natural to have a national pride over all the “Israeli” accomplishments, regardless of your giant lack of actual connection.

6) Israel’s Doggie Culture

To be sure, there are plenty of stores and other locations where it is not permitted to bring my precious pooch. But it feels like they are the exceptions, not the rule.

The default is that you can bring your dog almost anywhere. I’ll never forget once walking through a strip of bars in Jerusalem. We contemplated sitting down at a place, but I was concerned that it wasn’t an option, since my trusted hound was with me. Not only did they encourage me to come in regardless, they offered to bring him a bowl of water!

Indeed, good ole Frankie gets to experience a whole lot of Israel.

***

Anyone watching knows I don’t love everything about Israel or its culture. I think it’s import to critique Israel, from top to bottom. I think it’s essential we all work together to create a better and more functional society. The society we deserve.

But I need to give credit where credit’s due. Israel is by no means devoid of its positives, and some of those are reason enough to cross the ocean and stay here for a while.

May we be blessed to fix the ever-present problems plaguing our everyday lives, and may my next list be about the top 100 things everyone loves about Israel!

***

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Posted by jaffeworld, 1 comment

Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part II: The Facebook Question

question

In my last post I wrote about organizations that boast of helping those who are trying to succeed in moving to Israel (aliyah), but are failing short. I don’t believe, ultimately, that the secret to success here lies in an organizations. However, there is a group that is absolutely essential: All of us.

We are in a remarkable generation. I can post a question on a group on Facebook (such as Secret Jerusalem and Keep Olim in Israel) and get answers from thousands of people in just minutes. We have a country of immigrants whose collective wisdom is more than enough to help everyone find the information they need.

For example, I once posted on the group Secret Jerusalem that I needed assistance speaking on the phone with an actual human at a specific government office. Someone told me a sequence of numbers that worked like a charm and got me exactly what I needed. I was floored. In the 70,000+ members of this group, someone lurked out there with exactly the information I needed.

The problem: I had to trek my way through tons of idiotic responses in order to obtain the information I required. There are a lot of great ways to answer people’s questions. But there are just as many awful ways.

I would like to propose:

10 Commandments for How to be Helpful on Facebook

1) Never say “Google It”

There are many equivalent things that are equally bad, but this of course takes the cake as the classic annoying response. I know you think you’re the first to discover this new and fresh oasis of knowledge known as Google. But, well, you’re not. Please assume that I’ve tried that. Please assume I’ve checked their website as well. Or perhaps I couldn’t find their site and a link might be amazingly helpful.

You have no obligation to respond. If your answer is “Google it”, your silence is truly appreciated.

2) Don’t Write “Following”

I’m glad you found the question interesting enough that you want to hear answers too. Problem is: No one cares. And there are ways to follow without telling everyone, and without giving the one who posted any unnecessary notifications.

If you didn’t know there were alternatives, you’re forgiven. But now try these instructions and never write “following” again.

3) Read the Question

I recently read a question on Facebook. It was one sentence, no more. It very explicitly said “Jerusalem” in the question. Yet, the first response asked what city they needed their answer for. Why are you bothering to try and help someone if you can’t even be bothered enough to read through their full, brief question?

Take the extra six seconds to look before you respond. Those six seconds are golden!

4) Scroll a Little

And while you’re troubling yourself to read the question, take a minute, just a quick minute, to make sure you’re not the 47th person to give the same answer. Is it the end of the world if you do? No. No real harm. But then again, there’s no real harm in not forcing someone to read the same answers over and over again either.

So be helpful. And while doing so, try not to be pesky and ultra-repetitive at the same time.

5) Keep the Stupid Jokes at Bay

My first exposure to the wonderful world of seeking help online I asked for assistance with a door handle that was broken. I feel like in ten or so responses, I was exposed to everything that bugs me about these types of forums.

I know you think your joke is amazing. Sadly, I have some news for you. Not only was your joke inane at best, but it was wildly unoriginal. Someone else just made it an hour ago. If you bothered to scroll up, you would have seen that (see #4).

But far worse: I get this cute little notification telling me someone has responded. When I enthusiastically check to see if someone has helped me solve a problem, and instead I’m greeted with what you must assume is wit, you do nothing but frustrate me. You have not made Israel better. You’re just slowing us down so you can get your three seconds of attention.

6) Don’t Sell Me Crap

While we’re speaking about my door handles… please note that a friend responded and solved my problem. Fairly quickly in fact. And I’m grateful.

I’m not grateful to the half dozen people who then tried to sell me door handles. First of all, I was renting a crappy dungeon in Nachlaot. I wasn’t about to invest hundreds of dollars in increasing their door value. Second of all, scouring these forums in order to try and sell people crap is just plain obnoxious.

I saw this in an exaggerated form when I was recently planning my wedding. I couldn’t post any question without someone trying to become my band. Listen: I need your help, not your sales presentation.

7) Answer the Damn Question

Third of all, you didn’t answer my question. I wasn’t looking to buy new door handles. I wanted to fix my existing ones. Please answer the question I asked, not the one you wish I had asked or the one that better suits your agenda.

I’m constantly seeing this. Someone asks for the best pizza in Talpiot. Someone responds by saying they don’t know, but there’s a great one in Har Nof. I’m sorry, but what part of my question was an invitation to just say random information you happen to know. You are under no obligation to respond. And if you don’t have an answer to my actual question, it’s never a problem to not respond.

8) Don’t Speculate

“I think I may have seen a store like that somewhere on Emek.” This is a really bad answer. It’s extremely non-specific and inspires zero confidence.

Remember: You are under no obligation to answer anyone’s questions. If you don’t have an answer, your silence will never be upsetting to anyone.

Speculation is cute and all. But I asked my question to find answers, not to watch you search the annals of your memory, nor to watch you philosophize about what may or may not be useful information.

9) Don’t Tell Me to Get Used to It Here

If I’m asking for a certain brand of whatever, because I really enjoyed it in my home country, this is not your opportunity to hop on your soap box and remind me I no longer live there. I get it. You moved to Israel. You sacrificed certain comforts to do something extremely meaningful for yourself. Stop patting yourself on the pack, and please leave everyone else alone.

If they miss a comfort from their past, and wish to see if it’s possible to still have it, that’s their prerogative. And it’s none of your business. Either answer the question, or don’t. But keep your self-aggrandizing monologue out of it.

10) Stop Being So Damn Mean

Finally, people on these forums can be just downright mean and insensitive. There’s no place for this. Everyone’s issues are their issues and deserve respect, not condescension. Not berating.

Remember: The time will come when something will upset you. You will be frustrated and seek assistance. Don’t set the precedent that it’s OK to crap on other people or their problems. Otherwise when your turn rolls around, your problem will be as meaningless to others as you’ve treated theirs.

But more than that, being mean is never the right choice. In pretty much anything in life. Even when you’re hiding behind your keyboard.

Conclusion

The basic rule of thumb is like this: You are under no obligation to answer! If you are going to answer, follow these ten guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to making Israel a better place to live. For all of us.

Ignore these rules… and you’re likely a part of the problem.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 0 comments

Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part I

Aliyah

This post might upset some. But perhaps some people need to be upset. Because I feel everything I’m about to say is long overdue. And as much as there are plenty of individuals who will have fingers pointed at them, there is a communal responsibility that makes what I’m about to say relevant to countless individuals.

The Complexity of Aliyah

Moving to Israel (Aliyah) is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Yes, I’m sure when you move to Israel from Ethiopia or Russia, whereas you may still have challenges, you are nearly guaranteed an increase in your quality of life.

However, this is not the case for many if not most of us who move to Israel from North America. We have certain standards that we became used to in our previous lives. And yes, we are moving to another country, with its own unique culture. Israel has her own way, and its own situation, and no one should expect to be catered to.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a challenge.

Those challenges can be enormous. And they also can be objectively puny. But they are still challenges, and need to be respected. They need to be comforted. And where possible, they should be accommodated. That’s the case even when you believe the individual should be learning to live without whatever comfort they are seeking.

Aliyah and Seeking Help

When I was moving back to Israel, I sought help from every direction I could think of. I was panicking about any number of issues. I didn’t know how to find a job and I needed advice on apartment hunting. And I had countless questions, and I certainly didn’t not want to go into such a daunting experience alone.

There were some organizations who said their main focus was to collect money. I thought it odd that I was explaining my fear of the system and my dread of not being able to find work… and I was hit up for a donation. I found this inappropriate on a number of levels. But at least they were fairly upfront…

There were two organizations whose attitudes to me I found so repellent, I would like to highlight them here: Nefesh B’nefesh and AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).

Aliyah and Nefesh B’nefesh

Nefesh B’nefesh boasts of making the process of moving to Israel significantly easier. Their propoganda makes it seem like Aliyah is impossible without their assistance. And to some extent, that may be true. But, sadly, I made Aliyah before they came into existence. And even though it is not indicated on their site, there are those who they will not help. Ever.

Any attempt I’ve ever made to connect with Nefesh B’nefesh was met exclusively with an invitation to look at their website. Apparently, unless I’m one of their numbers, I’m dead to them.

Any organization claiming the way they do that they exist for the sake of immigrants (olim), cannot ignore olim. Any olim. I only know what I know, but I’ve also heard from others that as time went by, the organization has become less and less vital to so many. Sure, everyone who is able to will (and should) use their services. Any help is better than no help.

But how do you sleep at night knowing that ultimately your purpose is filling checkboxes to say how high your numbers are? You don’t pay crucial attention to what happens once the immigrant is already here, or the many reasons things don’t work out for so many people. And you’re blatantly ignoring the needs of some who could desperately use a little extra assistance.

Embarrassing.

Aliyah and AACI

Another organization who I turned to for aid and support was AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). My primary concerns, like most people, were housing and work. I was told they could most certainly help me, but only if I pay them a membership fee. So I shelled out cash I didn’t have in the desperate hope they would be able to answer my many vital questions.

That’s when the magic began!

As far as housing was concerned, I was given a list of websites. Nothing more, nothing less. Just names and links. Some that even worked! No attempts to help me find the right neighborhood, or how to navigate the system. Just a page with links.

But that was far more impressive than the assistance I was given for finding employment. AACI offered for me to meet with their liaison, who had very limited office hours in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She would not help through Skype or phone or email. She categorically refused to assist someone unless it was in person… and I was living in Kansas at the time.

So there I was. I shelled out cash I really needed in order to get a list and an impossible consultation. There wasn’t even a mild attempt to do a better job than woefully below par.

But, yet again, another organization was able to include me in their numbers. And endlessly pat themselves on the back for the quality assistance they offer to make new immigrants’ lives easier and better.

“Secret” to Successful Aliyah

Do these organizations do anything good? Do they make anyone’s transitions to Israel easier? I’m sure somewhere hidden behind a whole lot of garbage, they do good things. Personally, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence.

Ultimately, I found an apartment. On my own. And with the assistance of a couple of good friends who were living in Israel. I furiously networked and eventually found a job. I owe everything to hard work, perseverance, and a whole hefty load of good, old-fashioned luck.

Why did I succeed? Not because of some special organization that supposedly helps olim. I succeeded in spite of them. All they offered me was false hopes and a bit more financial difficulty.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Would Israel be better off without them? Well, people have successfully transitioned into the country without their help, so they’re not strictly needed. If enough people’s stories are like my own, they might be doing as much harm as good. And if their influence is actually negative, I’m sure the massive amount of charity going their way could be better spent elsewhere.

If you’re going to help people, then help them. If you’re going to steal money and continue to do minimal for the greater good, why are you here?

Anyone Else?

But there lies in Israel a group of people that everyone actually does need.

Each other.

How do we take that responsibility as seriously as possible?

See you in my next post.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 3 comments

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Sometimes being an adult can get quite frustrating. Life can lack the adventure and spontaneity that colored our youth. Or at least the amount of unplanned craziness we all expect to have when we’re younger.

Many years ago I was introduced to an author who would later become my favorite: Kurt Vonnegut. I was quickly attracted to his unique and entertaining style of writing. And I found concepts and ideas throughout his books becoming a part of who I was.

The Cursed Kurt Vonnegut

A great example is an idea in the book Hocus Pocus. The character spoke about his reason for never cursing. He believed it weakened the strength of his thoughts and opinions.

Now, I grew up a classic potty-mouthed New Yorker. But I also grew up wanting to make sure any point I make gets across as quickly and effectively as possible. So it was imperative I gave this idea some thought. I considered all the most famous quotes and speeches I had heard. And the people I knew who had the most influence on me and others around me.

And not a curse word to be found.

I took this to heart, stripped my vocabulary of the expletives, and watched as over time the words became somewhat repulsive to me. I also watched as the words became more powerful. Their infrequent use made them more intense when they were actually used.

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Vonnegut’s influence on me had no bounds. There was one phrase from his incredible novel Cat’s Cradle that has had more impact on me than any other: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

As you make your way through the twists and turns of life, every once in a while someone will suggest you do something you’ve never done before. You will have an opportunity to wander outside your comfort zone, and see things differently than yesterday.

Those moments aren’t just fun one-time breaks from your normal reality. They are the bread and butter of who you will later become! And so it has been for me, time and again. In my youth I was invited to a youth group meeting. It was something outside my realm. Something that I really did not understand or see the point of. But it was a peculiar travel suggestion, with potential galore for changing my life forever.

And it most certainly did!

That one decision was the starting point for a path I am still trekking down. For sure there have been other peculiar travel suggestions along the way. Many I’ve followed, and many have had their impact. The path hasn’t always been an easy one, but it certainly has always felt like there’s been some type of plan guiding the way.

Dancing Lessons from God

In more recent years I was invited to a friend’s home to hang out and play some games. I didn’t know my host very well, nor did I know any of the other guests. My instincts and inertia could have easily gotten the better of me. After all, it was exceedingly hot outside. I was better off just staying home, reading, and napping.

My host’s peculiar travel suggestion would be a key moment on the path eventually leading to our marriage.

And thus has been the pattern of my existence for as far back as I remember. When my days had too much of a pattern, and I was too rigid and unwilling to follow the ebbs and flow of life, or there were elements holding me back, little noteworthy happened.

And therefore when I told stories about myself, I noticed they were all old. Anything and everything that seemed interesting or noteworthy about me happened a long, long time ago.

In the Comfort Zone

And now here is where I stand. I find comfort in day-to-day routines. I like knowing what my day will look like and what’s coming up in the near future. Any break from my routine, even a small one, upsets my balance. Leaves me somewhat unnerved. That’s why they call it the “comfort zone”…

Yet at the same time there are changes that need to happen. There are improvements to myself as a person I so vehemently wish I could make happen. And if things continue on the same path they’ve been zooming down since I was a teenager, these changes won’t just happen on their own. Change happens when a peculiar travel suggestion enters my world, and I’m brave enough to follow the unknown path.

Shaking Things Up

And it seems this is the only true way meaning occurs in my life. It’s like a snow globe that settles into whatever it is, but the true beauty shines when things are shaken up.

But the shaking can’t happen by force. I can’t just shake my own snow globe or artificially insert my own peculiar travel suggestions. This disingenuous method of finding meaningful change is unlikely to produce any results.

Waiting for Peculiar Travel Suggestions

That’s not to say I have no control, nor that I lack an important role in inevitable and exciting changes that lay ahead. I must lay the foundation, and create the right atmosphere for change to naturally flow from what’s happening in my life.

There is so much I want to happen in the future, so many goals I wish to achieve. I want to see new levels of professional and financial success. I wake up daily yearning to return to levels of religiosity and Zionism I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. And I want joy in my days, the extent of which I could not have imagined.

I’m out there. God, I am wandering through life, each day awaiting Your peculiar travel suggestions. I patiently seek Your dancing lessons.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

My 100th Post: Why a Blog in 2019?

Blog

Blog? You write a blog? What year is this!?

This is my 100th blog post (including guest posts). I work on the blog a little bit every day of my life. But… some days I wonder why I bother.

To date, I haven’t earned a penny. In fact, it costs me to maintain the blog.

I’m not famous. It hasn’t put me into the limelight or tossed me in the way of some prestigious writing position.

But I keep at it. Week in and week out, nearly two years now. Consistently publishing at least one post every week.

And here I stand. This is my 100th post. And I have no plans to stop. I love it. It’s really fun for me. And I hope to keep it up for quite a long time to come.

It’s 2019 and I’m still blogging. Here are five reasons why:

1) Writing is a Muscle

The people of the world don’t know how to write anymore. Sadly, those among us who love style and grammar and just common decent awareness of the English language, we can’t shut off. Not for a minute.

Each and every day I’m literally sickened by the lazy writing I see or the blatant and heartbreaking lack of attention to detail.

And I pledge to never be that guy. I want my sentences to flow from one to the other. I don’t want to toss important punctuation and grammar rules into the trash can. I’m perfectly happy being the last American alive who knows how to spell words, and values that correct spelling as well.

But one thing is for sure: Keeping the writing skills alive won’t happen by accident.

I treat writing like a muscle. If left unused long enough, it will atrophy. I want to write every day of my life to prevent this vital muscle from withering away. The muscle needs to constantly be developed and refined, and hopefully through my daily exercise it will grow and sharpen to the height of its potential.

2) Blog as Written Catharsis

As any loyal reader knows, the last 41 years haven’t always been easy. I’ve done a great deal to try and survive the many hardships that have popped up along the way. Writing for me is both a way of processing my thoughts and feelings, as well as an emotional release in and of itself.

For certain, there are many pains that I cannot process through writing. And for sure plenty of pain for which I haven’t even scratched the surface. Nevertheless, pockets of difficulties I’ve had, I have managed to get through just because of this blog.

We all know that feeling of release when a pain slowly but surely dissipates. I’ve had that feeling a few times. Whether it be contemplating the complications of returning to Israel or closure at the end of a decade’s worth of work as a Jewish Educator, this blog has consistently given me great emotional catharsis.

This alone would be reason enough to keep on going.

3) Collecting My Thoughts

I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I have no political affiliation. And I begrudge (almost) no opinion out there. Nevertheless, I’m a thinker and I do have strong opinions.

I am a work in progress, constantly listening to what others have to say and trying to piece the world together. I make mistakes. A whole lot of them.

But the goal is and always will be to understand as much as humanly possible. And the single best way for me to collect my thoughts is by trying to write them down. If I can clearly and concisely get my thoughts into the written word, and I can answer a handful of questions about what I’ve said, competently and confidently, I have successfully added another piece to what I think, feel, and know. My mind is just a little sharper than it was before.

Clarity. I write, and that’s how I achieve clarity.

4) Me, the Minor Celebrity

There’s a cute little psychological effect that comes with sharing so much of yourself in such a public forum. It’s fun when someone quotes you or has a little bit of knowledge of what’s going on in your life or has a deep understanding of your thoughts and opinions.

Obviously I’m more than aware of my relatively minor influence in the vast world out there. No delusions of grandeur over here. Only the pleasure of knowing somebody out there might be listening. Somebody out there might have a care or concern for what I can add to the conversation. It’s enough to keep writing. It feels great.

It’s a funny world. The words “rich and famous” often get lumped together, and whereas I would love to be rich one day, I can certainly live quite happily without fame. I appreciate my privacy. I love it, in fact.

And in my heart I see no contradiction between my adoration of solitude and the joy of having my thoughts out there for the world to read. When I need or want to be private, it’s always there for me. And it’s always great.

5) Keep Hope Alive

Maybe it’s online youthful innocence. Or maybe hope is the greatest motivator the world has ever seen.

But I still keep waiting and watching. I still keep hoping that at some point things will “take off”. And that can mean all sorts of things. My blog could all of a sudden become the cash cow I never imagined. Or my blog could travel far and wide and it or some portion could end up influencing the lives of thousands of people.

All I know is, as long as I keep on plugging, the chance exists of some sort of magic occurring. And those chances end the moment I close my laptop and throw in the towel.

So I keep on writing.

See you in Post #200.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 1 comment

Five Easy Ways to be Healthier… I Just Can’t Manage to Do

healthier

I want to be healthier. I want to wake up everyday refreshed and strong, with a positive feeling when I look into the mirror.

And I do a lot of the things you’re supposed to do to get there. I eat relatively healthy and exercise a whole lot. But I’m never happy with the results, and certainly not happy with a whole slew of my health woes.

No one could ever 100% pinpoint the main reason or reasons they can’t achieve their goals. But sometimes the biggest complications are staring right at me, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to improve.

What’s worse is these ways to be healthier are objectively easy. And after years of strategizing how to develop better habits, I still fall short. Every single day.

Who knows? Maybe airing my health-related “dirty laundry” will be my motivation to improve.

Any tips world?

1) Stretching is for the Birds

I love to workout. I love getting to the gym and attacking the weights with alacrity. Sometimes I have a problem getting out the front door, or motivating myself to actually get to the gym. But once I’m there, it’s a great workout almost 100% of the time.

I don’t love cardio. But there are a handful of cardio activities I do really enjoy, like hitting the heavy bag. And when I’m into it, I’m into it.

But the evil and daunting stretch? I hate it each and every time, and the thought of stretching bores me, before I ever find myself trying to touch that toe. Sometimes I want to keep working out just to avoid needing to stretch afterwards.

Most of the time I want some excuse to leave early so I don’t have a chance to stretch.

What is the secret to enjoying this miserable necessity?

2) Water, So Mighty, So Dull

There are few topics in the world of health and fitness that don’t inspire controversy. One source says red meat is the God of all healthful items. Another says it is the devil, waiting to destroy anything you’ve ever accomplished.

Whether it’s soy or coconut oil or whole wheat bread, there’s someone out there to sing its praise, and just as many others ready to burn the sucker to a crisp.

And when all the smoke clears, the only two items everyone seems to universally agree are still healthy are vegetables and water.

But how does one learn to enjoy water? It’s so dull. It’s so non-invigorating.

Sure, it’s quite refreshing to down a bunch of ice-cold water on a super hot day. But we all know we never seem to be getting enough. Why? Because we need to be drinking the stuff even when we don’t want to.

What’s the secret to enjoying this banal necessity?

3) The Elusive Sleep

I love sleeping… but I hate going to sleep. First, it’s not and has basically never been easy for me to fall asleep. And mornings are really tough for me. Sleep just seems like that thing I do before I have to deal with waking up.

Furthermore, I like to do a lot with my days. Besides my family and my job, there are a million other things that will easily fill up any given day. And it always feels that if I want to make it all happen, I need to sacrifice something.

And when something has to go, it’s almost always sleep. If I sleep two hours fewer, bam, like magic my day has an additional two hours.

The logic is highly flawed, but never feels flawed at the moment it’s being applied. How do I get the sleep I need in the puny few hours of the average day? How can I have my sleep and eat it too!?

4) Put Down that Damn Food

I’ve got a food problem. I love the damn stuff. And I just can’t get enough.

Literally. I find myself thinking about the next bite while eating the current one. And no matter how how much I eat, I never quite feel full.

It’s a real issue, and a real blemish on my health resume.

Not to mention, it can be embarrassing. And it can get expensive.

I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food. Sometimes I hear about people who get stressed, and they just can’t eat when they feel that way. They hate it… and I feel envious. Pretty much the only thing I can think of when the stress starts pouring on is to start shoveling in the food.

I just ate a beautiful, delicious hamburger. How come I feel like I need another? How come I want the fries too, and the never-ending plate never satiates?

Why can’t I just put the food down and walk away?

5) Just Relax Already!

There are few items in the health world with endless solutions. If one wishes to relax, there are recommendations galore. Everything from certain vitamin complexes to yoga to meditation to power naps.

And yet relaxation just never seems to be a part of my life. I mean, after all, who has time to relax!? Seriously. There are only so many hours in the day. Who has the time to just stop doing and creating in order to sit back and simply enjoy God’s green earth, in peace and harmony.

Fact is, I think I’m genetically predisposed to not relaxing. Or maybe circumstances in my life led me to feeling this way. Or some level of both.

But there’s no denying that I’d rather be writing this here blog than lying down staring at a ceiling, just paying attention to my breathing. What’s the secret for me to just relax already?

***

Healthier around the Corner

And there you have it. I’m well aware that I could inch closer to becoming the pinnacle of health I so desire. All I need to do to be healthier is stretch more, drink more water, sleep a little, stop shoveling in the food, and relax already.

No problem. Healthier is right around the corner…

***

Bonus: Like everyone, I’d probably be healthier if I were to just drop alcohol from the routine… But hey, let’s not get crazy now…

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, 1 comment
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