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Your LifeStory Episode 10

Happy Jewish New Year

Jewish Holidays by Gary Simon

Member Congregation Beth Israel, Carmel, CA

"This is wonderful, Marcia."

Karen C.

"Thanks for so many nice comments. What great publicity for my books."

Elizabeth C.

"Wow, Thanks Marcia, Inspires me."

Gary S.

Blog Host, Marcia Rosen

Author of “My Gangster Father and Me,” will be published in 2024. Also, author of 11 books including My Memoir Workbook, has presented numerous Memoir Writing Programs and Encouraging the Writer Within You Presentations for over 16 years.

This Blog* and My Memoir Workbook is meant to encourage, inspire and motivate you to write your unique story.

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September 15, 2023

Jewish Holidays by Gary Simon

Member Congregation Beth Israel, Carmel, California

Of all the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur speak to my philosophical soul, appealing to my better nature. The festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot are ordained in the Torah as consequences of the Exodus from Egypt. I am too far out the skeptic scale to believe the literal descriptions of the Exodus. Yes, these are pleasant holidays, but I regard them as aspirational extensions of a fanciful text.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our tradition demands that we examine ourselves. We are asked to contemplate the things we did wrong and work to improve. Long lists of potential sins are enumerated in the services. Did we commit any of these misdeeds? It would take a serious effort at profound nastiness to commit a large proportion of these sins, but I can admit to a handful of gaffes. Perhaps I hurt someone’s feelings. Perhaps I misrepresented the truth. Perhaps I was too stubborn at times. I should ask for forgiveness and try to avoid future bad behavior. I should apologize to those I might have hurt.

These hold days incentivize the very best feature of any religious faith: making better people. This is to me the most noble aspect of Judaism. I have belonged to Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations. Yes, in that order. The Orthodox Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur events which I attended up to about age fifteen had services conducted completely in Hebrew, but the books included English translations that described very well the intentions of the service. The sermons too often, even from my juvenile perspective, stressed the need to become better Jews above the need to become better people.

My mother passed away when I was only fourteen. My father remarried after a time, and we moved to the Conservative synagogue of my stepmother. Many of the readings for the high holy days were in English and, to my exquisite surprise, various sections of the prayer books were skipped. The omissions shortened the services to a more comfortable level. The sermons were often about the state of Israel, a disguised appeal to purchase Israel bonds. But the sermons also impressed on us the need to think about how we have treated other people.

We are now in California, and the major synagogue in our area is Reform. We joined without hesitation. I have come to appreciate the Reform Judaism concept of tikkun olam, striving to make the world a better place.

The Reform services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur shocked me. Much of the service is in English. The basic structure of the Orthodox and Conservative service has been retained, but greatly abridged and hours shorter. The sins which we might have committed are read aloud in unison, and everyone knows exactly what should be our concerns.Much time is spent on the cantor’s chanting, often with accompaniment by the choir. The attendees just listen. I had the odd feeling that I was observing someone else’s repenting, and not myself repenting in any meaningful way. The atmosphere reminded me of the Zoom services during the pandemic.

But nonetheless I can connect to meaning of the holiday. We should be making better people, and I’ll start with myself.

Special Feature: The Fabric of Life

by Elizabeth Cooke


Richard was ambitious and he was talented. . He was even chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy to help decorate some of the private rooms in the White House! Quite a coup! I met him while at Vassar.

Richard and I spent much time together and on a Saturday, he would sneak the two of us down to New York to see the latest Broadway play or hit a jazz joint where I heard Billie Holiday sing in a drug-filled husky voice – or Mugsy Spanier playing at The Village Vanguard – or Miles Davis playing at Teddy Butler’s Harlem Jazz Club

Richard Vincent Hare was a constant friend. We were in London. There was a call on the phone from the lobby. A British voice - the concierge – in formal tones, said “Madame, Lord Hare is here and wishes to speak with you.” Of course,” I said – in shock. ‘LORD Hare?’ Then, Richard’s voice, as pompous as ever I heard it, asked “Are you ready to join me?”

My answer was a resounding “YES” and down I went, wearing a dark gray suit. Richard was standing by the elevator, awaiting me, more dapper than ever I’d seen him – with vest, handsome walking stick and highly polished shoes. Indeed, he looked the Lord! Off we went first to a ladies hat shop where he bought me a straw hat with roses on top. “All well-to-do English ladies wear hats,” he explained. Then we had a luscious lunch of chicken pie with a golden crust and white wine – for Lord and LADY Hare. “Lady Hare?” I exclaimed. We had tea at The Hotel Chesterfield Mayfair with crumpets and scones and strawberry jam – and, of course, strong tea. The British servitors treated us like royalty – which we were for a day. It felt like we were in an English play. Lord and Lady Hare.

* * *

Who else? Lord and Lady Hare!

Thank you, Richard.

It was Richard Vincent Hare’s final name change. To me he remains Lord Hare forever.

And for me... Lady Hare? Well, she’s part of me. She always will be.

Author of 21 books including her latest, “A Letter.”

Writing Your LifeStory Hints, Tips, and Advice

The Writing Process

Remember to write from your voice in the first person. Unlike an autobiography which is usually written in chronological order, a memoir can begin and end wherever you want and that best tells your story. Everyone has a story to tell. I encourage you to tell yours. Writing your life story can be an emotional, exciting, moving, and rewarding experience.

Following is part of my LifeStory:

My Gangster Father and Me (Excerpt)

Biggest Gambles

There were bitter and sometimes long-lasting fights between my father and mother. They had gambled on living happily ever after, and like many others found that they had taken a chance and not come out winners. My mother would accuse him of having affairs; he would accuse her of being difficult and crazy. Sometimes my mother would throw his clothes out in the hall, just to add some drama. My father would then leave, usually not returning for several days, occasionally for longer. My mother would send me to the pool hall to get money from my dad. I would go to his business, the gambling hall, and card room on Jefferson Avenue across from a Texas Hot Dog restaurant. We loved those hot dogs, my mom and I, and at least once a week would ask my dad to bring them home to us for dinner…when they weren’t fighting and mad.

My father would hug me when I came for the money, shrug his shoulders as if to say, “What is there to say?” He always gave me the money. I loved to peek in the card room, which was behind a closed door, to see who was there around the large round gambling tables. Sometimes my father would give me a lesson on how to play pool. How I loved that! My ritual was to get some candy where snacks were kept for the gamblers, and then I would go home and wait for my mother to send me there again. He would eventually come home, and they would act as if nothing had happened. Another argument “forgotten.”

For more stories about me and my gangster father, check out the book The Gourmet Gangster.

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Sep 18, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Marcia, your postings are delightful. Gary's post captures what I believe to be the most important part of any religion-becoming a better person. Elizabeth's Lord and Lady Hare adds pure delight. Then your own little tale of turmoil full of love gives your readers a different view of family life. Charlene Bell Dietz

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