Jenna’s Passover Message

Hi friends, I’d like to introduce a guest blogger, my daughter Jenna. Jenna is on staff at the University of Maryland Hillel as a Springboard Fellow specializing in social justice and student engagement. Because of her experiences on campus and her recent travels to Israel, I asked her to write this to share with our family. Jenna has graciously allowed me to share her thoughts with all of you. We are so proud of her work to engage and support Jewish students here and her volunteerism in Israel.  I hope you will take a few minutes to read this and learn from her firsthand experiences. – XO Elisa

A lot can change in a year. A year ago today, I was preparing to graduate from college and go to Israel for the first time on a Birthright trip.

A lot can change in six months. About six months ago, one of my student’s friends, Omer Neutra, was taken hostage by Hamas and hasn’t been heard from since.

A lot can change in a month. A month ago I came back from Israel where I saw and heard the resiliency of the Jewish people even with all of the pain.

A lot can change in a week, a weekend, a day, an hour, or a moment. This year, while I was on the front lines of many different faces of this war, I learned that every moment counts. For the next few, I want to share why.

I will need time to process my trip before I can share everything I experienced in Israel. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to share everything perfectly so you all can understand what it is like to feel so safe in a place that the world despises. I will say that picking cherry tomatoes while hearing bombs exploding only miles away from where I was standing is something I will never forget. At a farm about 10 kilometers from Khan Yunis in Gaza, I picked tomatoes for a 55-year-old farmer who had been called up from the reserves as a paratrooper. He told us he desperately needed our help because he only had one day to harvest an acre’s worth of cherry tomatoes, and he had to go back to Lebanon the next day. 

Yet, with all of the worry, stress, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion, strength, bravery, excitement, warmth, and resiliency that is felt in Israel, what surprised me the most was their concern for us Americans. They watch the news as we show our support for them and are met with antisemitism. And it breaks their hearts. I was in one conversation with Amit, my tour educator, and when I asked him what he thinks of the war, he told me he could ask me the same question. He said that we are fighting a war to stop antisemitism. I told him I didn’t think that we were at war because, yes, we are fighting back against stupid people, but it was nothing compared to what was happening in Israel. It was a social issue and something that I truly cared about, but not a war. 

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a meeting with a packet in front of me titled “How to Stop BDS.” If you are unfamiliar with the acronym, BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and calls for different societal institutions, like universities, to boycott, divest, and sanction anything related and connected to Israel. A motion was brought up to the University of Maryland’s Student Government Association to pass BDS, and ever since then, our team of student leaders and staff mobilized our community of nearly 6,000 Jewish students to speak up about their connection to Israel. We set up tables on campus with information in an attempt to open up a dialogue with others who may differ in opinion. Many times, I engaged in productive and insightful conversations where we agreed that communication is a great tool to disengage tensions. However, I cannot ignore the people who rolled their eyes, took down our hostage posters, and shouted “Free Palestine” in our faces. 

If this bill passed, university officials could be called upon to cut any and all ties to Israel. Antisemitism rates on campus would inevitably skyrocket as it has on all college campuses that have adopted a pro-BDS stance. It would also lead us down a path where people will never know about the Jewish community’s cultural, historical, and spiritual connection to the land of Israel.

This past Wednesday, I sat outside a hall full of people and listened via livestream to 60 of them speak about whether they believe the BDS bill should be passed. I heard a speaker claim that the media attention about the rise in antisemitism is a ploy the Jewish community uses as a tactic to distract from the real problem and that if you care for Israel, you hate human rights. Another person referred to what was happening in Gaza as “the largest genocide recorded in history” directly after mentioning the Holocaust. For three hours, I had to sit and listen silently to people screaming at my community for things we did not do, and each moment was awful. Four hours after the last person spoke, the Student Government Association announced a vote of 18-17 against the bill, with one person abstaining. It was close. Too close. We were all exhausted, as if we just won a battle, and I started to believe Amit’s words that we were also at war. 

This year has been full of unexpected moments, but I am grateful that we all expected this moment around the Seder table. We all knew we would come together at some point during Passover to do what we have always done, to take part in a cultural, historical, and spiritual tradition that highlights, rejoices, and reminds us of Jewish resilience and strength. With all that has been a surprise in my life recently, and I’m sure in all of yours, I am truly grateful we are here, together.

Chag Sameach. 


A Letter to Home Goods

Dear Home Goods,

I am a frequent shopper who enjoys finding quality products and getting great deals. But I have a bone to pick with you. It is impossible to steer my cart around your store! Your aisles are not wide enough for two people with shopping carts to squeeze by. We have to find a place to park them before browsing.

And that’s another thing. No matter where I turn in your store, I bump up against table after table of sale items right next to each other. I say bump because there is no way to maneuver past those tables without hitting them and knocking something over. If I’m not running into a sale table, I can turn a corner and find a large, flat cart from the storage room piled high with merchandise waiting to be shelved. And because your aisles are so narrow, I can’t get past those carts with my own.

Essentially, the layout of your store prevents us customers from making large purchases. Many of us enjoy the thrill of adding impulse buys to our carts. For instance, the last time I was there, I came in for shelving paper and bought dog toys, a bath mat, and a vase of fake flowers. It wasn’t easy to get to these items. And I’m sure I would have bought more if I could navigate the store and access more merchandise. Don’t you see that it’s your bottom line at stake

Clean up your act, Home Goods. Please don’t make me go to Walmart.

Thank you!



Top 10 Things I Think About Before Falling Asleep

Woman lying in bed not sleepingOnce, there was a time when I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Then, I’d sleep until 10 a.m. the next day and feel well-rested.

I miss those days.

The older I get, the more difficulty I have falling asleep. Even though I’m tired, the moment I start to drift off, my brain turns on and plays back my day in full detail for my viewing pleasure. If I had to title this internal monologue, I’d call it: “Shit I Got Done and Tomorrow’s To-Do List” (Not the best title, I know).

But I’m not done because, after the daily recap, my thoughts spiral into random tangents that pop up just to piss me off. These tangents are never the same which makes it interesting. But I’d much rather fall into a sound sleep until my alarm wakes me up the next day.

No such luck. So, here are the 10 things I thought about last night right before I fell asleep:

  • Is my CPAP mask on correctly? Did I refill the water tank? Don’t forget to buy more distilled water. Maybe I have a gallon in my car. How am I going to schlep this machine around Italy in September? Do they even sell distilled water there?
  • What do I have to do tomorrow? What day is it? What meetings do I have? When is Passover? I need to start making plans since I’m hosting this year.
  • I wonder what my mom wants for Mother’s Day. Are we hosting Mother’s Day this year?
  • Shoot! I forgot to post on LinkedIn today. What should I post about? What did I post about last week?
  • Please don’t let me dream about my crappy former boss again. That guy lives rent-free in my brain and comes out only during my REM sleep. Why can’t all my bosses be like the ones I had when I worked at the synagogue? They were the best!
  • Is my phone fully charged? Did I set my alarm? Is it going to rain tomorrow?
  • Did I set the DVR to record all the late night shows? Why didn’t it record SNL this weekend?
  • Why haven’t I finished writing my book yet?
  • I need to schedule my next mammogram.
  • Do I need to use the bathroom? Yes!

Rinse and repeat and fall asleep way past midnight. 🙁

Does anyone else have random thoughts like this right before you fall asleep? What are you thinking about and how do you turn them off? Let me know in the comments.



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