Time Never Stops: Except on Shabbat

Time never stops. It is inexorable. In moments of joy and tragedy, the earth continues to rotate and the seasons continue to alternate. Shabbat and meditation offer a glimpse of existence outside of time. There we reside in the presence of the Source: no limits, no boundaries, only the vibrations of no/thing.

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More Photos of My Mother, Charlotte “Lotte” Kaplan, c. 1948

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The Kastonowicz Family c. 1900 in Pinsk, Belarus

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These are photos of my maternal family, the Kastonowiczs, c. 1900 in Pinsk, Belarus. The first photo from left to right: My great-grandmother, Rivka; Uncle Joe; Uncle Oscar; and my great-grandfather, Ya’akov. Uncle Oscar was a wonderful human being, beloved in our family.

I don’t know the names of the children in the second photo: on the far left is my Aunt Bunya (murdered in 1943 in Bobruysk by the Nazis in the Holocaust); the older man on the left is my great-grandfather, Ya’akov. Sitting to his left (our right) is my great-grandmother, Rivka; standing in the center is my grandmother, Leah. Of the four children, I would assume that one or two were murdered by the Nazis in Pinsk, but I’m not certain about that. At least one survived. There were others probably murdered as well (not all born yet presumably), but names and numbers are unclear.

Bunya attempted to come to this country in 1920, but was rejected by the Immigration Service at Ellis Island because of Red Eye (conjuncitivitis). She went back to Pinsk and Bobruysk in Belarus. Afterwards her husband followed her, because he could not live without her. Some of the children went as well. Later they all ended up murdered by the Nazis. My grandmother wept about this loss for as long as I knew her. It left a hole and a traumatic legacy for our family that persists to this day. When President Obama announced his executive order, I felt a measure of relief for my Aunt Bunya that justice had been served in some small way.

While there are several factors, the story of Bunya has a role to play in why I chose to enter the field of history of religion, New Testament studies, and Jewish studies. It is part of who I am today and why I do what I do. It always will be.

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Rape Culture at the University of Virginia and College Campuses

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Rape culture is pervasive in U.S. colleges and universities, but even more so at the University of Virginia. The extent of violence surprised even me.

Interesting that it took Rolling Stone to produce this story rather than one of the mainstream news outlets. So many local newspapers and news stations have essentially enabled this kind of revolting power dynamic at some of our most prestigious higher educational institutions. Many of them are simply advertisers and marketers for their local university and have few real journalists, if any. And most national outlets aren’t any better, as they’re committed to establishment institutions as they currently exist.

This is a story as much about what we allow to happen as it is about what’s happening. If the media and higher educational administrations did their jobs and if we put these students in prison as criminals for the rape crimes that they have committed, then this behavior would diminish. The students who engage in these abusive crimes are criminals, thugs, and our society should treat them as such.
We let thieving bankers, rapists, and police shooters live their lives as respected citizens, but put in prison drug users and the poor who can’t pay debts. There’s something wrong with this picture. If society does nothing to address this, there will be a massive, popular reaction against all the imbalance. Nature abhors a vacuum.

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119

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Ferguson and Michael Brown

As I read the media accounts of the grand jury on the shooting of Michael Brown, I am surprised that there is so little coverage of how a grand jury is supposed to function. All a grand jury has to do is see if there’s enough evidence to indict someone. It’s not supposed to weigh conflicting evidence, or examine conflicting stories, or assess what the most likely scenario of events was. It’s simply there to determine if sufficient evidence exists to reasonably conclude that someone may have done something.

This grand jury acted as if they were in a trial, but that’s not how it’s supposed to go. And the district attorney acted much more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor, which is very odd to say the least. The trial is where the evidence is supposed to be weighed, not a grand jury.

The joke is that most prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. So you can see that the unwillingness to indict the police officer is a bizarre outcome and clearly reflects that something else was going on. I don’t think it’s very difficult to figure out what that was.

It’s really not complicated. According to this grand jury, and many others as well, African American life is worth less than white life. And many jurisdictions view police as judge, jury, and executioner. We are no longer a of laws, but of people. Of course, that’s anti-constitutional, but the situation will improve only when people rise up, protest, and force change.

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Charlotte (Lotte) Kaplan-Kant

 

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My mom, Charlotte (Lotte) Kaplan-Kant, c. 1938 on left in front of a Poughkeepsie shop and c. 1943 on her house porch

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Idolatry

Anything can be idolatrous. Therefore, question everything.

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My Great-Grandfather and Grandparents in Pinsk and the U.S.

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On the top left is my maternal great-grandfather (my grandmother’s father), Jacob Kaston (Kastonowicz), in the early 1900s from Pinsk (Belarus). He never came to this country. The photo to his right is my grandmother Leah Kaston in her high-fashion of the day c. 1917 in Pinsk. She was in her early 20s. The third photo is my grandmother c. 1925 with her husband, Nathan Kaplan (my grandfather) in the U.S. While my grandfather sold fruits and vegetables on his cart, my grandmother invested in real estate in Poughkeepsie and managed the family finances. In Belarus she worked in a bookstore in Pinsk. On the far right is my grandfather with my mom’s brother, Alvin, c. 1945. Alvin died tragically of an apparent heart attack in the late 1950s (he was a pharmacist). I still have a stuffed animal lion (which growls when pressed) given to me by him. I think of him whenever I see it. My grandparents sent all their children–Lotte (Charlotte), Ann, and Alvin–to college.

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Dead Sea Relaxation

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Floating and relaxing in the Dead Sea in Israel in October 2012 (with Dianne Bazell).

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Bryce Canyon National Park

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Here we (with Dianne Bazell) are at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah in August, 2014.

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My Grandfather and His Horse

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My grandfather, Nathan (Notke) Kaplan, had a fruit and vegetable cart by which he made his living. When I knew him, he used a truck to transport his produce, but, in the old days, he used a horse to pull the cart. The first picture shows my grandfather with the horse, while the second photo is a picture of the horse with the groom (I think). I’m guessing that these photos are from the early 1920s.

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My Mom as a Girl

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My mom, Charlotte “Lotte” Kaplan, and her sister Ann Murkoff, as girls c. 1934-1938. Left two photos are mom on left and Ann on right. Second photo from right is my grandmother on left (Leah), then mom, then Ann, then my grandfather (Nathan/Notke). Right photo is Ann on left and mom on right with two unknown boys (probably cousins).

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Grand Staircase Escalante

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Here we are in Grand Staircase, Escalante in southern Utah. Above are three photos.

And see these videos below:

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What Are We?

We are intersecting fields of eternal becoming.

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Charlotte Kant Kaplan and Lev Gleason

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CHARLOTTE KANT (my mom) AND LEV GLEASON (comic book publisher)

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Right after college (SUNY Teacher’s College, Albany, math major), my mom (Charlotte Kaplan, 1928-2012) who was from Poughkeepsie, New York, moved to the big city, Manhattan. She worked as a secretary (1950/51-55?) for one of the founders of the modern comic book industry, Lev Gleason, at 114 East 32nd Street. His series included Silver Streak Comics, Daredevil Comics, and Crime Does Not Pay.

Lev Gleason was a brilliant, visionary man. His idea of a comic book written for adults heralded the age of graphic novels in which we now live. My mother valued people like that and looked up to them. She was an extremely practical person, detail-oriented, but she deeply valued vision and imagination. And Lev had that in spades. Gleason was strongly anti-Fascist and opposed Hitler in his comics and other writings. After enlisting in World War II, he continued to publish anti-Fascist comics. For his leftist politics, his association in the 1930s with the communist party (which many on the left in those days had supported because of Hitler, Mussolini, and others, as well as because of the Depression), and his refusal to name names, he was cited for contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Of course, that was the committee associated with the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy (though he was a senator and not directly involved with house committees).

Along with the decline of the comic book industry in the mid-1950s (spurred by attacks that it encouraged juvenile delinquency and moral laxness), the congressional attacks ruined Gleason who ended up becoming a small-time real estate agent. However, his work inspires comic book writers to this day.

For some time, in the 1950s, my mother brought him food and a little money to help support him. What the U.S. government did to people like Lev was reprehensible and wrong.

I’m sure that Jewish youth at that time would have seen Lev (who was not Jewish, though most of his peers in the comic book industry were) as a heroic figure for his fight against Fascism and Hitler. My mom lost one of her mother’s sister’s (Bunya) and much of Bunya’s family in the Holocaust (murdered by the Nazis in Bobruysk, Belarus, in 1943). This affected our family deeply. Still does (unconsciously for the most part). My grandmother (Leah) cried about it for as long as I knew her, and there was always a hole.

For that reason among others, my mother no doubt saw Lev as a figure to admire. My mother was an extremely practical and detail-oriented person. However, she deeply valued people with imagination and vision. And Lev Gleason had that in spades.

Above is a photograph of Lev autographed for my mom and another photo of her with Lev and the staff of Lev Gleason Publications: mom is the one in the middle with the black top; Lev Gleason is the man with the glasses at the far left.

The man on the far right of the photo (to the the right of the woman whose name I don’t know) is Charles Biro, who created the comic book characters, Air Boy and Steel Sterling, and edited Daredevil Comics. He saw comic books as “illustories,” the forerunner of our graphic novels. He’s a major figure in graphic arts and editing.  Stan Lee was asked about his success at Marvel Comics, he said “The secret is Charles Biro” (with whom he spoke by telephone on a regular basis): Here’s more on Charles Biro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Biro

In Crime Does Not Pay (1942-1945), Gleason and Biro had artists and writers interview real criminals. Though standard operating practice now for crime writers, this was groundbreaking at the time.

The man directly to the right of my mom is Bob Wood, a talented artist who worked for Lev Gleason on many of his comic book series and helped to created the Crime Does Not Pay series. Wood became most famous for murdering his girlfriend Violette Phillips in 1958 and going to Sing Sing for it.

If anyone knows who either of the other two people are, I would appreciate the information.

For more on Gleason, see the following items:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2011/05/leverett-gleason

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Gleason_Publications

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daredevil_(Lev_Gleason_Publications)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Streak_(comics)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_Does_Not_Pay_(comics)

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Technically my mother was a secretary. According to one of my sisters, she talked about doing menial things, such as retrieving staff dry cleaning and lunch. However, my mother was one of those organizer types, a take-charge kind of person and was extremely sociable. She was magnetic and would walk into a room, and everyone would gravitate toward her, as the photo suggests.  She was the type of person who could organize big events, pull a lot of details together, and make everything work. If she were born now, she would probably end up a CEO. Obviously, that wasn’t possible in those days.

In spite of her extroversion, she was an excellent listener and very private. She did not talk about herself a lot and used her outgoing nature very discreetly. One would never know what was going on inside her, and she would never spill a secret.

What she told me and what I remember is vague. She was also not a person who bragged at all or talked about private matters.  So I wouldn’t take this for fact. But she suggested indirectly to me that she shouldered some responsibility for the business, financial side of things. She may have helped keep the trains running, as some might say, and kept the books straight. She also was a social butterfly who I believe organized some of the parties and get-togethers there.

From what I can gather, Lev was not exactly adept at business, but my mother would have been. She would certainly have helped out in that way. I assume that Lev Gleason Publications comprised an extremely artistic, creative group of people. Mom was very attracted to those kind of people, and she would have wanted to organize them and make things work more effectively. She looked at artists, scholars, inventors as people to manage and keep on track. Of course, she was probably also doing all the things a secretary and female employee did in those days, a lot of which was grunt work.

My mother always mentioned that she brought Lev food and a little money to Lev in jail and that he was destitute for some time. At least, that’s what I thought. I asked my wife, Dianne Bazell, again whether she heard my mother say this, and she said that she had. So it’s not just my own memory here. My mother was not the type to exaggerate or embellish. If anything, her personality would lead her to minimize something like this. She played things down more than she played things up.

But I realize this doesn’t fit with what we know about Lev Gleason. All the stuff I’ve read (cursorily, I admit) mentions nothing about jail or prison. And there’s nothing about poverty. One of my sisters does not recall hearing about any of this from mom. I recognize that there’s something that doesn’t jibe here and hope that more information will come to light.

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Charlotte Kant: 1928-2012

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My mom circa 1946: Charlotte (“Lotte”) Kaplan, 1928-2012.

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Suzanna in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

 

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And here’s a 2012 photo from Suzanna, a restaurant in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, the oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv (southwest part of the city near the Arab city, Jaffa) with Irit Averbuch: Great food as always in Tel Aviv.

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Tel Aviv: Eating at Benny HaDayag

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Conspicuous food consumption in Tel Aviv. The first pictures are from Benny HaDayag (Benny the Fisherman–בני הדייג) on the Tel Aviv waterfront. I learned a lot of Hebrew names for fish–I don’t even know all their names in English (see the very last picture). Fish is a big deal Israel–and it’s really good, prepared in all sorts of interesting ways–along with all kinds of great salads, eggplant dishes, and other accompaniments. Dianne and I are eating with our good friend, Irit Averbuch, lover of all things Tel Aviv and Japanese.

And here’s the mouth-watering menu: http://www.bennyhadayag.co.il/

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Arches National Park

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Arches National Park, just north of Moab in Eastern Utah, which we visited in August, 2014 (with Dianne Bazell)

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Dianne Bazell’s Inadvertent Selfie

 

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Dianne took this inadvertently at Monument Rocks, Kansas, in August, 2014. I love this photo.

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Kansas Monument Rocks

 

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Here we were in August, 2014, in Western Kansas at a site called Monument Rocks. Who would’ve thunk it, but in the middle of the plains you find these amazing rock formations from an ancient sea that once divided North America. In the rocks, you can actually see the tiny shells and bones of molluscs, crustaceans, and fish that fell to the bottom as they died millions of years ago, forming a limestone ooze, and hardening over time. I had a little encounter with what I believe was a rattlesnake (I kept on hearing a rattle, and it got louder as I walked until I realized what it probably was and got out of there before I took too close a look). Just stunning the kind of beauty you can find in the most unexpected places.

This site was apparently the first U.S. landmark so designated by the Department of Interior. It takes over an hour and a half to get there on a dirt road, but it’s well worth the trouble. A blast.

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Hawk Visitor Friend

 

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This hawk came to visit us last year, perched on a chair on our porch, and partially consumed a rabbit, part of which he very generously left for us. We didn’t eat it LOL. Amazingly, the hawk turned his back on us and just hung out with us for a while.

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Moving from the Light to the Darkness

We don’t move forward to the light until we first step through the darkness.

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Lawsuit to Block Denton Texas Fracking Ban

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I am not against fracking when properly overseen (our society still requires fossil fuels), but I am appalled (though not surprised) by the lawsuit attempting to overturn the city of Denton’s (Texas) vote to ban fracking. How can people who attack government power and who call for respect for individual rights, especially for property owners, suddenly do an about-face and file a lawsuit to nullify the will of a community? This has nothing to do with principles and everything to do with money and power, pure and simple.

So much for conservatives and property rights. So much for conservatives and local control.

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/11/06/bush-family-inner-circle-office-denton-texas-fracking-ban-lawsuits

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Fracking Bans Passed in Texas, Ohio, California

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I believe that fracking can be a legitimate process, but right now there’s insufficient oversight, and property owners are paying the price. I’m a strong environmentalist, but also understand that our energy needs require some fossil fuels at this time. Isn’t there a way to drill natural gas more intelligently and carefully than destroying people’s communities? I fear that the fracking industry is destroying itself. People are going to rise up and demand that the frackers stay out of their neighborhoods unless the industry finds a way to do this more respectfully. Fracking will go the way of the nuclear power industry, which has similar issues. The NIMBY movement (not in my backyard) is beginning to assert itself, and the industry will find it very difficult to resist.

I’m sure I’ll get hammered by both sides on this, but isn’t there a way to figure this out so that fracking is more environmentally sound and so that the industry actually listens to the property owners and neighbors who have to live near this process? Why can’t we have it both ways?

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/11/05/3589129/texas-denton-ban-fracking/

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U.S. Official Calls Netanyahu “Chickenshit”

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Whoever in the U.S. government said that Netanyahu is “chickenshit,” is basically right. The only thing Netanyahu cares about is his political survival. He has no overarching principles other than political success. He’s not a leader, but a finger in the wind kind of guy. My guess is that Iran does not think that he’ll ever attack their nuclear sites, because Netanyahu would worry about the political implications–of course, Iran would probably be wrong about that, because other Israelis would likely force Netanyahu’s hand if Iran were to move quickly toward nuclear weapons. And Netanyahu would never challenge the far-right settler movement, because he might lose a coalition partner and a slice of his vote. That’s partly why the vast majority of Israelis don’t really like him (in addition to opposition to his domestic economic policies). He got elected to prime minister in spite of that (and in spite of Likud losses in 2013), mainly because Israelis are fragmented and divided in their support for various parties. It was not an affirmation of Netanyahu, but he was the least bad choice for enough Israelis.

Plus the slur is rather tame considering what Israelis call Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders. Americans and American Jews aren’t used to this kind of playground foul-mouthing. But it’s not a big deal for Israelis when Israelis do it. I wish American Jews were less prudish and more ready to mix it up where Israel is concerned, just as Israelis do.

And, yes, I realize it’s different when Israelis use foul language than when U.S. officials do it (even unnamed ones). But this kerfuffle was way overblown. It’s making a mountain out of a molehilll.

 


http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.623410

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/30/john-kerry-condems-official-insult-netanyahu

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