Category Archives: History

Rededication

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Tonight, I will light three candles for the third night of Hanukkah. As I’ve written before, Hanukkah is a fairly minor Jewish festival.  It commemorates the victory of the small but mighty band of Maccabees who fought against the army of King Antiochus.  Antiochus wanted to outlaw the practice of Judaism.  When the Maccabees liberated the temple in Jerusalem, it had been desecrated and so needed to be cleansed.  The story goes that there was only enough oil to light the holy menorah over the altar for one night, but a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted for eight nights, enough to allow more oil to be prepared.

Every year I ponder why this festival is significant, and there are many explanations.  This year, I’m focusing on the concept of “dedication,” which is the translation of the Hebrew word “Hanukkah.”  In the case of the holiday, it refers to the Jews regaining control, cleansing and rededicating the temple.  For me, this year represents my rededication to myself.  There have been many dreams in my life that I’ve allowed to fall by the wayside.  I’ve focused on my family, my career and the many responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself.  But I’ve also begun to feel the urgency of time and the drive to revisit some of those old dreams before it’s too late.

I read a post recently on social media about the various famous people who had begun their careers later in their lives, many after already achieving success in some other profession.  It reminded me that regardless of my current age, there is still time and a place to realize some of my goals.  The key is to stay focused and to be realistic.  This year, I am dedicating myself to figuring out which of my early dreams to pursue and to create a plan to achieve them.

I also dedicate myself to letting go of those dreams that are the stuff of childhood.  I was a pretty dreamy child, spending my afternoons lying in the grass looking up at the clouds, creating stories about my life.  When I wasn’t outside, I was curled up with a book, imagining myself in the words of someone else.  As an adult, I have often felt disappointed that life isn’t the fairytales of my youth.

So now it’s time for me to separate the fairytales from the reality of my life.  What can I achieve?  What dreams do I want to hold onto and pursue?  What am I ready to let go of?  And, in this darkest part of the year, how will I find the light to guide me on my path?  Tonight, I will light three candles, and one more every night until all eight are illuminated.  And this week I will dedicate myself to remembering that I can carry that light with me all year.

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On more thing.  For those of you who followed my adventures in gardening this summer, I have a few final pictures.  The last pumpkins have been harvested, cooked and turned into pies and my sweet potatoes continue to fill us up.  Most recently, they were a yummy stuffing on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

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About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Feeling Thankful Amid the Chaos

Two days from now, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.  At first glance there seems little to be thankful for given the chaos in our society.

The working poor in America face daily hunger because their wages are not sufficient to cover rent, utility bills and food but they make “too much” money to qualify for public assistance. Not surprisingly, a rising number of people believe capitalism is a failed economic system that benefits only insiders, according to a recent survey in The Economist magazine. The most anti-capitalist are young people just entering the workforce.

Our recent mid-term election has brought the threat of more chaos. The prospect of Democratic control of the House of Representatives has caused our president to unleash shrill tweets filled with paranoiac fear and conspiracy theories about how everyone is out to get him.

On November 13th, the FBI released their annual report on hate crimes showing a 17% increase from 2016 to 2017.  The most common hate crimes are based on race, ethnicity or ancestry. The second most common category is religion, closely followed by sexual orientation. These statistics are borne out by recent mass shootings against religious and ethnic minorities.

Last week the National Rifle Association sued Washington State to block a new law that bans the sale of fully automatic weapons to anyone under the age of 21.  The NRA apparently believes an 18-year-old kid should be allowed to buy a weapon that can kills dozens of people in minutes even if that same kid can’t buy his own beer for another three years.

All of these headlines left me feeling deeply depressed and wondering why I should feel thankful on Thursday.  But then I took a closer look.

Social engagement has increased with hundreds of groups trying to solve problems ranging from climate change to eradicating hunger to opposing intolerance.  Younger people are more relaxed by racial integration and sexual orientation.  White supremacists and other haters are a tiny percentage of the population who cannot win their battle against demographics and decency.

Political engagement has also increased as voters actually showed up to vote and mostly rejected the nuts of the left and the right.  Most importantly, young voters showed up at the polls in large numbers for the first time, having finally recognized that marches aren’t enough; voting is what counts in a democracy.

I see many dark days ahead as our society struggles to adapt to gut-wrenching economic, political and social changes. But amid the chaos, I am thankful this year because I also see signs of hope for our future.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Why the Time Change?

Every spring and every fall, as we “spring ahead” or “fall back,” people all around the country ask, “So am I gaining an hour or losing one?” It seems there is always confusion. And then there’s the question of why we do this at all. Why don’t we just leave the clocks alone and keep to “standard” time? Wouldn’t it just be easier? Well, get ready because it’s changing this November 4th.

I’ve always had some vague notion of the how and why we change our clocks, but I thought it had a much more recent history. I also thought it had to do with kids getting out of school and helping with farm work or something. I can’t tell you where I got that. You may already know it, but Daylight Saving Time (DST) is used to save energy and make better use of daylight. It was first used in 1908 in Thunder Bay, Canada. Many say the idea was actually conceived by Benjamin Franklin. Yep, our Ben, considered the “Father of Electricity.” According to timeanddate.com, however,

“Many sources also credit Benjamin Franklin with being the first to suggest seasonal time change. However, the idea voiced by the American inventor and politician in 1784 can hardly be described as fundamental for the development of modern DST. After all, it did not even involve turning the clocks. In a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, which was entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”, Franklin simply suggested that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. What’s more: Franklin meant it as a joke.”

The U.S. is one of about seventy countries around the world that use Daylight Saving (not SavingS) Time. Not every state in the country subscribes to it though. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gives every state or territory the right to opt out of using DST. For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states. Florida wants to have Daylight Saving Time year-round and Governor Rick Scott has signed off on a bill, the “Sunshine Protection Act,” asking congress to make it happen.

So, remember noticing a time change in the time change? I do. All of a sudden, the spring change came earlier and the fall change came later. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law on August 8, 2005 and it changed DST dates.

The Energy Policy Act extended the yearly Daylight Saving Time (DST) period in the United States by several weeks.

  • The beginning of DST was moved from the first Sunday of April to the second Sunday of March.
  • The end of DST was moved from the last Sunday of October to the first Sunday in November.

The law came into effect on March 1, 2007, and the new DST schedule was first applied on March 11 of the same year.

Some pros and cons of DST (Again, from timeanddate.com,):

Pro: Longer Evenings

Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight, but it causes the Sun to rise and set at a later time by the clock. So, when we spring forward an hour in spring, we add 1 hour of natural daylight to our afternoon schedule.

  • Proponents of DST argue that longer evenings motivate people to get out of the house. The extra hour of daylight can be used for outdoor recreation like golf, soccer, baseball, running, etc. That way, DST may counteract the sedentary lifestyle of modern living.
  • The tourism industry profits from brighter evenings. Longer nights give people more time to go shopping, to restaurants, or other events, boosting the local economy.

Con: Doesn’t Save Energy

A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight was a good thing because it meant less use of artificial light, helping to save energy. Modern society, with its computers, TV-screens, and air conditioning units uses more energy, no matter if the Sun is up or not. Today, the amount of energy saved from DST is negligible.

Pro: Less Artificial Light

One of the aims of DST is to make sure that people’s active hours coincide with daylight hours so that less artificial light is needed. This makes less sense close to the equator where the amount of daylight does not vary much in a year or near the poles where the difference between winter and summer daylight hours is very large.

However, at latitudes between these extremes, adjusting daily routines to the shifting day length during summer may indeed help to save energy. A German analysis of 44 studies on energy use and DST found a positive relationship between latitude and energy savings.

Con: Can Make People Sick

Changing the time, even if it is only by 1 hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For some, however, the time change can have more serious consequences.

Pro: Lighter = Safer

Safety is a good argument for keeping the lighter evenings of DST.

Con: Costs Money

It is hard to determine the economic cost of the collective tiredness caused by DST, but studies have found that there is a decrease in productivity after the spring transition.

  • The City of New York invested 1.5 million US dollars in a dusk and darkness safety campaign for the DST change for the fall of 2016.
  • There is an extra cost in building DST support into computer systems and keeping them maintained, as well as manually changing clocks.

The debate over DST is ongoing. I figure, we made up “time” anyway, so, if we want to change it to suit us, why not? The sun will rise when she’s ready and set the same way.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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An Immigrant Story

 

Once upon a time, two men named Christian and Jacob lived in a country devastated by war. The war had been going on for decades and the economy was wrecked, destroying their livelihoods as farmers and tradesmen.  Military press gangs roamed the countryside and towns looking for young men who could be forcibly recruited into military service.

The government of the day legitimated its rule by collaborating with the majority religion to stamp out the “heretics” who were considered political and religious subversives.  Christian and Jacob belonged to a religious minority that practiced pacifism.  As a result, they faced a constant threat of imprisonment, torture, and death.

They moved from place to place with their families trying to survive.  Eventually word spread through their community of a country where they could practice their religious beliefs without fear of persecution and support their families without fear of war.

Christian and Jacob chose to make the dangerous journey to the new country.  Healthy, unmarried young men are usually the first family members to emigrate because they are considered better able to take care of themselves and find jobs quickly.  After the young men are established, they can pay to bring other family members to safety.  Then as now women risked sexual exploitation, including rape, during their immigrant journey.

Christian and Jacob made their immigrant journey in the early 1730’s, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They came for religious freedom and economic security.  Under today’s rules, they could be classified as either refugees or economic migrants.

Refugees fleeing religious or political persecution are eligible for asylum and eventual citizenship. Economic migrants are considered a threat to the existing workforce and so are returned to their country of origin as quickly as possible.

Christian and Jacob never learned English but that didn’t stop them from becoming productive citizens. I am forever grateful for their courage and energy in making the dangerous immigrant journey.  I am one of many descendants of Christian Rutt (maternal ancestor) and Jacob Schurch (paternal ancestor) who are now citizens of the U.S.

Every family living in the U.S. has a story like this whether they arrived centuries ago or just last week. To honor the memory of Christian and Jacob, I welcome all new immigrants.  They may seem different now but they’ll fit in quickly.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Dirtiest Political Campaign Ever

 

 

This year’s midterm elections are dominated by racist, misogynistic, and anti-immigrant mudslinging that may sink lower than the lows set in the 2016 presidential race. There is even speculation that we’re witnessing the dirtiest political cycle in the history of the country.

Are we really? Hurling half-truths, innuendo and manure at political opponents is an accepted tradition. Here are a few examples from past election cycles.

Thomas Jefferson’s 1803 presidential campaign was dominated by stories of his children fathered with his slave, Sally Hemmings.  Jefferson never responded and his silence allowed his supporters to deny the self-evident truth. (His meticulous records for Monticello plantation prove he was the father.)

Misogyny and east coast elitism played a part in the bigamy allegations against Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel.  Their first marriage ceremony predated her divorce from her first husband. The oversight was remedied long before Jackson ran for president but that didn’t stop his political opponents.

In the 1850’s, politicians occasionally took time out from arguing about slavery to argue that no more Irish should be allowed in the country.  In the 1890’s, every politician who pledged to strip Chinese immigrants of American citizenship and civil liberties got elected. In the 1930’s, Father Coughlin used his weekly radio show to support politicians who agreed with his virulent anti-Semitism.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had an early electoral success driving around in a car with a giant teapot strapped to the roof.  Their political opponent was distantly connected to the Teapot Dome Scandal (a bribery scandal during Warren G. Harding’s presidency) but never overcame the innuendo caused by a giant teapot on a car.

In 1960, many voters were swayed by the argument that the Pope would run the country if a Catholic, John F. Kennedy, was elected president. You’ll hear an echo in the current election cycle arguments that Muslim-Americans shouldn’t be elected because they aren’t “real” or “loyal” Americans.

Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign was famously sunk by one TV commercial which showed a little girl vaporized in a nuclear explosion. Everyone was afraid that his hardline conservatism made him so irrational that he would literally blow up our world.

All of these political dirty tricks were amplified by the partisan press. Until recently, every city and most towns had at least two local newspapers which represented the major political parties.  The conservatives read “their’ newspapers much as they now watch Fox News. The progressives and liberals subscribed to “their” newspapers and today they watch CNN or MSNBC.

Obviously we, the voters, like this trash because it sells lots of advertising and air time. If we really hated the negativity and falsehoods, we wouldn’t tune in to the pundits blathering on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC and we wouldn’t vote for the politicians pedaling this manure.

But thinking about issues is not easy. The News Hour on PBS features politicians having a rational discussion about the effect a trade war will have on the economy or the trade-offs needed to support today’s retirees while also preserving resources for future retirees. Few people tune in on a regular basis. It’s so much easier to consume dirt in 30-second sound bites. That’s the worst dirt of the election cycle.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and on history, see History According to Norma (www.normashirk.com) which publish on alternate Wednesday mornings. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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We’re Better Together

On Saturday, July 14th, about one billion people watched France win the FIFA World Cup.  No other sport draws as big an audience and only the marriage of British royals can draw a similar global audience.  July 14th is also Bastille Day, a celebration of the French Revolution when France transformed from a monarchy to a democracy.

Both events demonstrate the benefits of globalization. Football (soccer to Americans) is the most popular sport in the world. Players leave their country of origin to compete in the top leagues in the world which makes them better players when they represent their country at the World Cup.

The winning French squad included individuals who play their club football in Spain, Germany, and England. Croatia, their opponent, has stars that play in Italy, Spain and England. The English Premier League is expected to suffer a loss of top talent after Brexit due to immigration barriers and the loss of passport-free movement around Europe.

The U.S. also benefits from this international trade. Several of our top players are honing their skills in European leagues against the top players in the world. Our domestic league, Major League Soccer, has many stars who are national team players in their countries of origin.  (The same is true for our national women’s team and league.)

The other big French event, Bastille Day, symbolizes the globalization of democracy.  The French revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity flowed across Europe with their armies and eventually around the world.  The concepts inspired popular uprisings in 1830 and 1848 as oppressed Europeans fought to overthrow oppressive governments.

The “losers” of these European revolutions fled to the U.S. where they became soldiers in the Civil War, homesteaders, business owners and politicians.  They helped build the U.S. into a world economic and political power.

After World War II, the U.S. used its economic and political power to create a global system anchored by democracy.   Political stability is maintained through the United Nations and similar international organizations. Economic stability is supported through the World Trade Organization and multilateral trade agreements.

Unfortunately, the benefits of globalization are being undermined by populists.  Like the royalist forces in 1789, 1830 and 1848, they believe in an illusory past glory when they were the “winners” and the condition of others was irrelevant.  If the populists succeed, I expect to pay more money to see a lousier game of football.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Have We Ever Been So Divided?

 

These days, our country seems hopelessly split in half politically. The only issue that most people agree on is that our country has never been so divided before.   Actually, it has.

The colonial population was split on whether to rebel against England. Northern states were in competition with English businesses and so they favored rebellion. But the Southern plantation owners depended on English businesses that loaned them money to grow cotton which was later sold to English textile mills.  Rebellion meant insolvency for Southerners so they opposed it.

One of the ugly facts erased from American history books is that as much as one quarter of the population were “loyalists”, people who remained loyal to and often fought with the British. These individuals were chased from the colonies by mobs of their neighbors in an 18th century version of ethnic cleansing.

The divisions remained after the U.S. became a country.  The founders argued about whether to abolish slavery, allow new immigrants, and whether to have an economy based on agriculture or manufacturing.  Southern states wanted an agricultural economy which supported their economic system of slavery.  Northern states were insolvent due to devastation caused by the American Revolution and wanted to rebuild quickly through an industrial economy.

The U.S. could easily have become a failed state. But it didn’t because of a blend of pragmatism and idealism epitomized by the Constitution. The idealism is reflected in the complicated structure of three co-equal branches of government which created strong institutions that could withstand corruption and tyranny.  The pragmatism is reflected in the tacit bargain that allowed the South to keep slavery in exchange for accepting a strong federal government that mutualized northern debts allowing for an economic recovery.  It was far from an ideal bargain but it saved the country.

Our political history is full of such compromises, most notably the Great Compromise of 1850 which delayed the Civil War for ten years.  But in the 1850’s, everyone lost their idealism and their pragmatism.  The North/South divisions ran so deep that voters elected only those politicians who pledged to never compromise on the key issues of the day: immigration and slavery.

Today our country is as divided as it was in the Federalist period and in the 1850’s. My hope is that we will follow the Federalist example. It’s the only way our country can remain strong.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Hanukah: Lights in the Darkness

Version 2

Hanukah begins in a week and this time of year I am always asked the same questions. “Do you also celebrate Christmas?” “Hanukah is the Jewish Christmas, right?” “So what is Hanukah about anyway?” “Do you also have a Christmas tree?” The list goes on. For the most part I’m always happy to share my traditions and practices and to educate folks about my tradition. So for the record, we do not celebrate Christmas, we don’t have a tree and Hanukah is not “Jewish” Christmas. In fact, Hanukah is a relatively minor festival that has little theological, religious significance. Hanukah celebrates both a military and a political victory.

The story takes place during the first century after the second Temple in Jerusalem was seized by the Greeks and desecrated, following which Judaism was outlawed. A small but mighty band of Jews, led by Judah HaMacabee (Judah the Hammer), liberated the Temple and cleansed it for rededication. In order to light the holy Menorah (candelabra) in the Temple, pure olive oil was required. The story goes that there was only enough oil found to last for one day, but it burned for eight while a new supply of fresh oil was prepared. And today, we commemorate what is considered a miracle by lighting our own menorahs one candle at a time for eight nights, each night adding a candle until the final, glorious night when the menorah is fully illuminated.

Because Hanukah is not a biblical holiday, the traditions and observances around it are varied. In Israel, the menorah is lit each night, foods fried in oil are eaten (think potato latkes and jelly donutes) and the traditional gift of money, or gelt in Yiddush, is exchanged. In America, families often add the giving of more secular gifts as the timing coincides of that higher profile, flashier holiday that happens to fall around the same time. You get what I’m talking about. And when my kids were young, we followed that practice. After all, we wanted them to enjoy being Jewish, to fit in with the greater culture and frankly, it was fun. As they grew older, we focused our Hanukah observance on socializing with friends, singing songs, and the gift giving has taken a back seat. To be honest, many American Jewish parents struggle with the annual “Hanukah dilemma.” How to help our kids appreciate and embrace their Jewish identity and not feel left out of the juggernaut that is Christmas. It isn’t easy.

For me the symbolism and imagery around Hanukah is rich and meaningful. I picture Judah and his warrior Macabees finding the Temple in ruins, remnants of their faith strewn about, in tatters. I can imagine the feeling of triumph and elation of victory as they reclaim what is theirs. I see them in the dimming light of the menorah frantically praying the oil lasts long enough for them to complete their work of cleansing and rededicating the Temple. And finally, the miracle occurs as the oil keeps on burning and the Macabees rejoice.

But there’s more. Hanukah usually occurs in December, the darkest of months. And yet, it is also called “The Festival of Lights.” We Jews have faced some very dark times in our history; destructions of our holy ancient Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms in Eastern Europe, the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. These days increasing anti-Semitism both here in the U.S. and around the world have a lot of us feeling uneasy, wondering if another Holocaust could, in fact, happen. And of course, our people aren’t the only ones targeted by hate and bigotry. But during this darkest, coldest time of year we have only to remember the victory of the Macabees, and their small band of freedom fighters who kept the oil burning, for examples of bravery, perseverance and the will to survive. And there is nothing like the anticipation of watching the lights of the menorah grow, one night at a time, until that eighth beautiful night when all are lit. I think the most moving of all Hanukah traditions is the one that encourages us to display our menorahs in our front windows. It is as if the lights themselves burn defiantly and victoriously against all the generations of oppression and destruction to show the world that, even after the darkest of times, we are still here.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Thanksgiving in America

In two days, Americans will gather for the annual Thanksgiving feast.  Thanksgiving is a very American holiday because it is associated with the best and worst of our society.

The first Thanksgiving was held before the U.S. actually existed as a country.  In 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoag Indians. The Pilgrims were English settlers who fled Europe in search of religious freedom.  They were saved from starving by the local Wampanoag tribe who helped them adapt to their new neighborhood.

What happened next? The Pilgrims discriminated against anyone who was not a Protestant in the Puritan image. That meant English Quakers had a rough time in New England. The Pilgrims also rid their new neighborhood of the “heathen” Indians using methods that today would be designated as ethnic cleansing.

Thanksgiving was designated a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Why did he decide to create a national holiday? By 1863, the American Civil War had dragged on for three years. The south was losing the war but the north wasn’t clearly winning.

Lincoln needed a win and Thanksgiving was a symbolic victory. It also allowed him to reiterate his message of binding the country together by using the day to “heal the wounds of a nation.”  His aspiration was never fully realized as we see with today’s political divisions on issues of race, gender equality, religion and immigration.

In 1939, Thanksgiving was moved to the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why the fourth Thursday of the month?  The Great Depression was grinding on and FDR hoped to increase retail sales by creating more shopping days before Christmas. Today, early sales begin on Thursday and end with the Internet-crashing sales on cyber-Monday. American capitalism is obscuring the purpose of the holiday.

But in spite of the rampant commercialism and the ugly elements engaged in race-baiting, gender bashing, and anti-immigrant claptrap, Thanksgiving shines through.  In two days, people will gather to eat turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, fish tacos, burritos, turnip greens, cornbread, fry bread, sushi, ramen noodles, curries, or hotdogs and hamburgers. Whether kosher or halal or nothing in particular, we’ll all enjoy the feast.

Our annual feast has evolved as our society has evolved. That’s the best tradition for an American holiday.   Happy Thanksgiving!

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

 

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

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No Nukes!!!

 

On May 6, 1979, 125,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to protest the proliferation of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.  I was there.

In the mid-seventies, my partner and I were totally ignorant of the eminent dangers of nuclear power and the unthinkable threat of the devastation of nuclear war.  Living near Gainesville, FL at the time, we were enlightened by a friend of ours when we told him of our plans to buy a farm outside Jamestown, TN.  He asked us why we wanted to live just over the hill from the largest nuclear weapons plant in the world.  We were dumbfounded.  Then he showed us a map depicting all of the nuclear power plants, weapons facilities and dump sites in our country at that time.  We immediately began educating ourselves.  And then we got busy.

We joined The Catfish Alliance, an anti-nuclear activist group in Gainesville.  We rallied supporters.  We spoke on the U of F campus.  We gathered signatures on petitions.  We worked to secure information via the Freedom of Information Act.  Then, on March 28, 1979, there was an accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

“They came from Harrisburg, thirty-three buses full. From Vermont and Alabama.  From Illinois and Florida. From Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. From New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Connecticut. From Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In all, they came from more than thirty states, and they filled Pennsylvania Avenue May 6 to demand an end to nuclear power.

“The unexpectedly large turnout, making it by far the biggest antinuclear protest ever in this country and one of the largest in the world, sharply indicated the spread of opposition to nuclear power since the Three Mile Island disaster.

“Among the last to arrive were 160 people from Gainesville, Florida, who had ridden in buses for nineteen hours.”

That was us.  Our flagship bus was a converted school bus emblazoned with Catfish Alliance and anti-nuclear symbols and we were piled in, filled with the hope and enthusiasm that we were going to make a difference.

My partner and I didn’t move to Tennessee then, but West Virginia instead. There were no reactors and people there had voted down attempts to locate a nuclear waste dump site in their state. We figured that was a good sign.   Active again, we rallied in Charleston, wrote articles for local newspapers and spoke to folks everywhere.

Subsequent reports indicate that things did slow down, but here we are; the year 2017 and we are witnessing/experiencing the devastating effects of nuclear disaster in Japan (Most people are hardly aware of the Chernobyl meltdown, described as “one of the most significant man-made disasters in history,” or other “accidents” here in the U.S.) and looking down the barrel of a real threat of nuclear war. One from which there will be no winners.

Well, I guess I got complacent, or just lazy, doing life.  I haven’t marched in a long, long time.  But I certainly haven’t stopped “speaking.”  I am comfortable on my soap box, ever hopeful that it’s not too late and that I can make that difference.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Filed under History, Self Savvy, Uncategorized