Ruth Horowitz
Intermarry me PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 June 2011 19:31

Ruth HorowitzRuth HorowitzMy husband David and I celebrate our 30th anniversary next month. When I told my family we’d gotten engaged, my grandmother countered with an announcement of her own. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll just go upstairs now and kill myself.”

My parents were more gracious. Sure, they would have preferred for me to marry a Jew. But they liked David.

The ceremony would take place at my family’s house. I would wear my mother’s dress. It would be a Jewish service, complete with canopy, broken glass and rabbi. Once we were married, I would keep doing what I’d always done: attend services a few times a year and celebrate Hanukkah and Passover at home. Our kids would go to Hebrew school. They would be named Horowitz, rather than Christensen.

All of this was fine with David. His father was raised as a Protestant, his mother Zoroastrian. They’d brought him up religion-free, and he had no interest in converting. But he understood what my legacy meant to me. Plus, he liked lighting candles and eating latkes.

The Eggy Palmer effect PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 May 2011 00:00
Ruth HorowitzRuth Horowitz

When our son Sam was little, he played a game called Eggy Palmer. Eggy Palmer is an impish children’s book character who turns milk sour. My husband would pour himself a before-dinner drink, and Sam would sidle over and wave his hand over the glass, saying, “I’m Eggy Palmer!” David would sip his drink and twist his face in disgust. Hilarity would ensue – except for David, who discovered that when he made a sour face, his martini really did taste terrible.

Psychologists confirm a similar phenomenon. In one study, subjects who thought they were testing headphones’ durability were told to move their heads up-and-down or side-to-side while they listened to an opinion piece. When they were asked afterwards to evaluate the argument they’d heard, those who had nodded felt much more certain of their judgments than those who had shaken their heads. Action influences attitude.

The Eggy Palmer effect plays out in religion, too. Judaism distinguishes keva, ritual’s predetermined form, from kavvanah, the mindset we bring to the ritual. Without mindful intention, we’re often reminded, religious ritual becomes a hollow exercise. The Talmud says we shouldn’t even stand up to pray unless we’re already in a “reverent frame of mind.” And when we do pray, unless our hearts are directed to Heaven, we’re not really getting the job done. If you’re thinking about your next Scrabble move while you light the Shabbat candles, you’re just playing with matches.

By the book PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 April 2011 18:42

Ruth HorowitzRuth HorowitzOn a shelf in their New Jersey sunroom, my parents kept a pile of Haggadahs. Several were printed in Tel Aviv in the 1950s and ’60s, illustrated with old etchings so poorly reproduced it was hard to tell the hail from the locusts. One of these was in French, bought when my family lived in Paris. A later edition, in Russian, recalled my grandmother’s work with the United Jewish Appeal. We kept these stapled booklets for sentimental reasons, but rarely looked at them.

The books we actually used were more substantial. The lime-green Glatzer Haggadah meant business, with its extensive footnotes and essays by Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and other heavy-hitter theologians. But in time, the ponderous Glatzer Haggadahs were supplemented with the more user-friendly Silverman. I’m not a huge fan of the Silverman. The red-and-purple color scheme is garish. The pictures of the Four Sons are goofy. And the commentary tries a little too hard to convince the reader that a traditional Seder is worth the trouble.

Soon after the Silvermans came on the scene, I got married and moved to Los Angeles, where we celebrated with an Orthodox friend. I don’t remember his Haggadah – probably because he spent more time discussing the text than actually reading it. Who knew Seders could be so unscripted? So educational?

Heroes and villains PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 18 March 2011 14:30

Ruth HorowitzRuth HorowitzEditor’s note: We are pleased to introduce Ruth Horowitz to our readers. Horowitz, a freelance journalist in Cranston, will write for The Voice & Herald every other issue.

It’s the big day. An excited crowd has gathered. Some people have dressed specially for the occasion. Friends greet friends and strangers exchange knowing glances as more people pack in. Then someone steps up to the podium. When certain words are spoken, the crowd erupts as one.

These same lines have been said before, but they never fail to thrill. They paint the world in simple terms. It’s clear to everyone listening who the heroes are in this narrative, and who is the villain.

This shared understanding creates a heightened sense of solidarity, the surge of strength that comes when many voices join together. This unity reinforces the crowd’s collective vision, its shared definition of right and wrong.

I was part of a scene like this last month, when Rhode Islanders rallied for marriage equality on Smith Hill. I’ve seen clips of similar events at tea party rallies. I followed online as the same basic script unfolded in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. And every year I share this experience in synagogue, during the reading of the Book of Esther on Purim.

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