Wednesday, February 15, 2017

An Exciting Homeschooling Option

Yom revi'i, 29 Shevat 5777.

Once in a while, you get to be part of a project that touches your heart. (With God's help, I will have the opportunity to teach at this online academy in the fall.) If this looks like something you've been looking for -- or if you have friends who homeschool and are looking to broaden their child's horizons, pass it on!

Presenting Open Tent Academy’s 2017 - 2018 class offerings and schedule!

Open Tent Academy is an all-inclusive consortium of phenomenal instructors, who are offering homeschooling (and “after-schooling”) students an array of amazing classes. All OTA instructors are committed to excellence in education. Our goal is to guide students allowing them to ponder, think, analyze and draw conclusions. We believe that this is best accomplished through interactive classes filled with discussions, hands online, group projects and open ended questions. During 2017 – 2018, we are offering 80+ classes for grades 3 – 12!  There is something for everyone!

Important details to remember!

Registration begins on MARCH 1, 2017 with a two-week EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION period. During this time, you save $50 on EVERY CLASS. The "Early Bird" Discount is applied to the cost already.

In addition, if your family registers for 5 or more classes (as a unit), you can SAVE an ADDITIONAL 10%. Use registration code MULTI.

OTA will be using CANVAS as a Learning Management System (LMS). Everything will be online 24/7 for you/your students!  Classes are held live in virtual classrooms as well as recorded for later use.

Classes are limited in seating. This means, once they are filled, they are filled. Please do not wait too long!

To be part of our email list for future announcements or if you have questions or concerns, please contact Eva Goldstein-Meola at

Be prepared to be amazed!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hidden Figures: From Disrespect to Dignity

Yom rishon, 9 Shevat 5777.

I grew up in a time after the civil rights battles of the Sixties had already been fought by brave people of many colors, standing shoulder to shoulder. Not that the fight is over -- for as long as men believe themselves to be more or to be less than others for any reason other than merit, we have not yet won -- but at least I never saw separate drinking fountains and restrooms separated by color.

There was a black family that moved to my all-white town when I was a little girl. My mother became close friends with Fortha May Fergus (thus named because in a family of many children, she was born on the fourth of May). Among her children, Fortha May's son of my age became my very good friend.

One day, we marched into my back yard, hand in hand, and announced to my stepfather that we were getting married.

"The hell you are!" he roared. I never discovered if it was merely our young age or something else that caused such a heated reaction... but I do know that others drove my "boyfriend" and his family out of our town some time after our ill-received news. Mama said it was because they were Negroes. Neither she nor I could comprehend the reasoning behind this. It would be as illogical as the brunettes driving out redheads or blondes.

On the way home from our date today at Cinema City, the Dearly Beloved remarked: "There are some good movies. Some reach the level of greatness. This was a great movie."

I agreed, though I shook with rage and barely-controlled tears through the last half of the film.

I often see goodness in human beings that makes my heart burst with pride. At too many other times, I think we must make God cry at the tragedy of how we diminish each other, His creation, His children. How can we ever, ever feel superior to another human being, for things over which we have no control? How has it ever been possible, how is is still possible, for one human being to look at another as automatically beneath him, simply due to an accident of birth?

There are plenty of good movie reviewers who will tell you all about this remarkable film, about the fine actors portraying a degraded and degrading time in American history, and how some brilliant people of stunning patience fought the system within the system and won some semblance of respect and dignity. So I won't review the film for you here -- but I will recommend that you watch it, and that you take your children to see it.

God created us all with unique gifts and with defects so that we can all work together to form a complete and awe-inspiring world. If we think for five minutes, we can see areas to admire in another human being, areas in which we ourselves are lacking.

It is my fervent prayer that Israel, saturated as this nation is in the Torah concept that we are all b'tselem Elokim (created in the image of God), will finally decide to lead the world in truly looking not at the jug, but in the wine it contains, as our Sages taught.

Friday, February 3, 2017

What's Your Favorite Day of the Week?

Yom shishi, 7 Shevat 5777.

I am sure that in religious Jewish circles, the "correct" answer to the question of favorite day of the week is the holy Shabbat. The Sabbath certainly is a precious day, filled with good food, dedicated time with friends and family, time to read actual paper books, time for communing with oneself and with one's God. But I am not quite at the madraiga to put Shabbat first.

My very favorite day of the week is Friday, yom shishi (the sixth day) in Hebrew. Our Torah seems to skillfully combine the best of all human worlds for me on this day. While it's about preparing for our holiest day of the week, everything I love about being a physical human being is put toward this important task.

I will make a caveat here, for the sake of readers with small children. When I was a full-time mommy, I do not think that Erev Shabbat was my favorite day. It was a day when I had to feed lots of people who all wanted (or hated) different things, and who were intent on making messes faster than I could clean them up. My great goal on Friday was to NOT deserve going to Hell some time during the day for screaming at those of Hashem's precious children in my care. I usually failed. But this post is about Retired me, not Mommy me.

It would be untrue to say that I love cleaning. It's pretty far down on my list of fun activities. But what I do love is making everything mesudar -- organized, in its place, tidy -- for Shabbat. It gives me pleasure to wash all of the dishes and put them away, clearing the counters and tables, making them ready for their next "performance." I love to see the floor clean after a good sweeping and mopping, knowing that by candle-lighting time, it will say to me if not to the world that Ruti has it together.

Cooking for Shabbat is also a fulfilling activity for me. I get to take raw stuff created by God and put it together in new and interesting ways, the height of creative work (even above writing and painting and playing music) for me. And I know that each dish will say "I love you and care about what you like" to someone in my family.

There are special errands and rituals for Friday: my walk to collect the mail and the Torah Tidbits weekly magazine; recycling all of the various detritus of the week; shopping for the last minute items. The exchange of "boker tov" and "boker ohr" and "Shabbat shalom" with everyone I pass simply puts the frame around a lovely and purposeful walk throughout my yishuv.

There is a peace in this day that exists in no other: the peace of creating, while knowing that it is in the service of the day designated as the holiest day of the week.

I give myself and all of us the blessing that we can find the harmony of creativity in the service of something higher. I further bless young friends and family with little ones and demanding jobs that they will enjoy their days -- even the crazy ones! -- for long, healthy years, and that they will remember that there are wonderful things to look forward to, even after the kids have grown up and moved away.

What's your favorite day of the week, and why?


Madraiga: level
Erev Shabbat: Friday, the day leading up to the Sabbath
Boker tov: good morning
Boker ohr: literally "morning light," used as a response to boker tov
Yishuv: community, small town