At the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York on Pier 36, when you exit the rooms with videos, you come across the quote, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” This quote, and the fact that Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, spoke to me and my writing journey. Thank you, Vincent, I am brave!
I recently Tweeted a comment from a friend. Upon hearing how hard it is to break into Kidlit, she said, “A lot of people get famous after they die.” Ummm…WHAT?! First of all, I don’t write Kidlit to become famous and, secondly, WHAT?! Was that meant as encouragement? Was she volunteering to be my “manuscript historian” and, once I depart this Earth, make sure my stories and characters see the light of day and laps of children?
Morning walks are my meditation; sweet scents my solace.
A year ago, we were frozen in place. When the pandemic shut our world down, my family asked, “How long will this last?” “Surely, a few weeks.” “Surely, not past July 4th.” As the months dragged on, and everyday was the same as the last, several walks a day was our way to break the monotony. And guess what, hon? Senses heightened. Flowers were more vivid than ever. Garden scents filled the air. Songbirds were distinguishable. And the antics of our sweet furry angels, Lucy and Midnight, entertained us. I’m still walking, discovering wonders everyday. And everyday, those wonders bring me bits of peace.
Charosets and desserts are usually my contribution to our extended family’s Passover seder. But, due to the pandemic and worry over COVID, this is the second year we aren’t all gathering. I always thought Charosets on the seder plate was a representation of mortar enslaved Jews used to when they were forced to build those gorgeous pyramids in Egypt. Little did I know there this dish’s significance was up for discussion!
Charoset (חֲרֽוֹסֶת, pronounced ha-row-sit) is a sticky, sweet symbolic food that Jews eat during the Passover seder every year. The word chariest derives from the Hebrew word cheres (חרס), which means “clay.”
In some Middle Eastern Jewish cultures, the sweet condiment is known as halegh.
Charoset represents the mortar that the Israelites used to make bricks while they were slaves in Egypt. The idea originates in Exodus 1:13–14, which says,
‘The Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with back-breaking labor, and they embittered their lives with hard labor, with clay and with bricks and with all kinds of labor in the fields—all their work that they worked with them with back-breaking labor.’
The concept of charoset as a symbolic food first appears in the Mishnah (Pesachim 114a) in a disagreement between the sages about the reason forcharosetand whether it is a mitzvah(commandment) to eat it at Passover.
According to one opinion, the sweet paste is meant to remind people of the mortar used by the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt, while another says that the charoset is meant to remind the modern Jewish people of the apple trees in Egypt. This second opinion is tied to the fact that, supposedly, the Israelite women would quietly, painlessly give birth beneath apple trees so that the Egyptians would never know that a baby boy was born. Although both opinions add to the Passover experience, most agree that the first opinion reigns supreme (Maimonides, The Book of Seasons 7:11).
Bmore Energy is a place to share ideas, inspiration, creativity, and moments of beauty and levity in everyday life. Call it positive energy with time for contemplation.
Rarely do I share my political views, but in light of the palpable tension apparent in every single person I know, if you’re uncertain why our nation is on the precipice, read Isabel Wilkerson’s researched, insightful, and devastating book, an accounting of race in America, Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents.
Still don’t know why an angry, violent, weapons-laden mob stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021? Or why a police officer was killed when he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher? A woman trampled to death? A gallows set up to lynch the Vice President? Or why, if the color of the people’s skin in the crowd was different, the outcome of the day would have been vastly different? Consider who supports Auschwitz sweatshirts, Nazi insignia, Confederate flags, and gallows. And why. Do I need to spell it out?
On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the world will be watching the transition of power. Even if that transition is peaceful, this country is home to over 70 million people who voted for a person and his political henchmen who promote racial, religious, and ethnic superiority, polarization, divisiveness and violence. What’s become of basic human rights, natural resources, the environment, foreign relations, trust, healthcare, education, decorum and civility, not to mention the ability to discuss and debate opposing political views? And, how will we look back at the response to a global pandemic that’s, so far, killed over 397,000 people in the U.S.? How many citizens are willing and ready to let the U.S. devolve into a racist regime? I feel ill thinking about it.
This year, MLK Day falls during an historic Inauguration Week. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is as powerful and important today as it was in 1963.
Peace to you, hon, wherever you’re from, whatever religion you practice, and whatever ethnicity you are, and hoping and praying the same humanity is extended to you that you extend to others.
Transcript of speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day.
And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
Thinking about the holiday events we’d be attending and hosting if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, my mind turned to silver linings. In 2020, believe it or not, there was actually amazing news (Polio has been eradicated in Africa) as well as mundane news (Flour was in high demand.). Focusing on how the pandemic effected everyday life and in no particular order, here are the…
“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*
Living on a hill has its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages? Balls roll away, mud and ice makes it especially slippery, the garden’s on a slope, and climbing back up the hill in snow is a workout. Advantage? Being “the sledding house!”
I created this video after a blizzard in 2015, and it always make me smile.
The New York Times’ Metro reporter, John Leland wrote about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ties to her hometown in:
The Nation Lost a Titan. Brooklyn Lost a Native Daughter.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg — “Kiki” to her Brooklyn family — was a product of the borough’s public schools and synagogues. She is revered on her home ground.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a child of Brooklyn long before she was Notorious — daughter of Jewish immigrants, graduate of P.S. 238 and James Madison High School (class of 1950), cheerleader known as Kiki Bader, member of the East Midwood Jewish Center.
She lived on the first floor of a two-story house on East Ninth Street in the multiethnic Midwood neighborhood and fed her mind at the local public library branch, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and a beauty parlor.
“She’s part of the folklore of the community,” said Joseph Dorinson, who lives in the neighborhood and has taught at James Madison. “My neighbor’s brother dated her.”
Howard Teich, founding chairman of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, said Justice Ginsburg resonated so profoundly with Brooklynites — the elders who followed her judicial career and the young people who loved the pop icon — because she represented the values of her block.
“It’s a place that lends itself to the values of modesty and people living with each other, and that has lasted her through her lifetime,” he said. As an emblem of pride, he added, “She’s singular in terms of who she was.”
Over the weekend, as news spread of Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday, makeshift memorials of candles, signs, flowers and even an R.B.G. action figure went up outside James Madison High School and her childhood home. Hundreds gathered Saturday night outside the courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan, holding candles and singing the civil rights anthem “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Freedom,” and a vigil was also held outside Kings County Supreme Court. Handwritten signs in different parts of Brooklyn urged neighbors to honor her legacy by voting.
“They’ve been coming and going all weekend to pay their respects,” said Diana Brenneisen, who has lived in the justice’s old house since 1969. “They’re outside now.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state would erect a statue in her honor in Brooklyn. It will be only the fifth statue Mr. Cuomo’s administration has created since he took office in 2011.
“NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Mr. Cuomo said on Twitter.
Over the weekend, state monuments were bathed in blue light, her favorite color.
Enterprising New Yorkers altered a subway mosaic at 50th Street to read “RUth St.” and added her initials to a street sign commemorating the rapper Notorious B.I.G.
At the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the display board posted her encouragement: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
As national politicians spent the weekend debating whether to fill her seat on the Supreme Court before Election Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio honored her as a native daughter, saying, “I’m crushed that we lost an incomparable icon. A daughter of Brooklyn. A tenacious spirit who moved this country forward in fairness, equality and morality. She was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She never backed down from a fight. Tonight her hometown and world mourn.” Flags around the city flew at half-staff.
There was our justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “At the end of the day, the government is throwing to the wind the women’s entitlement. …” She was forcefully intervening at oral argument in the last months of her life, in a case about access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Her dissent, issued in July, condemned the majority for leaving potentially half a million women to “fend for themselves.”
It was her last opinion about gender equality after a lifetime of advocacy and leadership on the court. She was keenly aware, as she always was, of how the law affects real women in real life. And as always, nothing could stop her from speaking up.
We clerked for Justice Ginsburg in the 1997 and 2003 terms. She was a role model for us in law and in life; how to work, how to write, how to advocate, how to partner, how to mentor. She was already famous when we clerked for her. But that she later became a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls around the world is nothing short of extraordinary.
This didn’t happen through loudness of voice, harshness of words or a biting cynicism about the world. It was through a remarkable legal intellect, an incomparable work ethic and a powerful vision of what justice and equal treatment for men and women mean in reality. Her once-radical vision of gender equality penetrated the law in countless areas, not just reproductive rights but also workplace discrimination, class-action law, criminal procedure — in every aspect of how women interact with the world. And she lived that vision through every aspect of her personal life, too.
Justice Ginsburg was the last justice on the court to have spent time before the bench as a legal advocate for equality. (Justice Thurgood Marshall was the last before her.) Today we take for granted her vision of gender equality. But we should never forget that it was not until 1971 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. That was Justice Ginsburg’s case — Reed v. Reed, which challenged the rule that men were the preferred administrators of estates of deceased persons, and that gave a grieving mother the right to administer the estate of the son she lost.
For Justice Ginsburg, equality did not mean special — she would say “pedestal” — treatment for women. Equality meant the same treatment for women and men. Stories from her childhood — as when she complained it was unfair that boys had wood shop while girls had sewing — are renowned. As an advocate, her litigation strategy zeroed in on that radical vision and realized it for all of us.
She often used male instead of female plaintiffs to show sex discrimination prevents all people from realizing their full potential. Why shouldn’t a man, for example, receive the same Social Security benefits a woman would receive, so he could stay home to care for his child after his spouse died? She successfully brought that question to the court in the 1975 case Weinberger v. Weisenfeld. She has said in interviews: “The aim was to break down the stereotypical view of men’s roles and women’s roles.”
Over the next 45 years, Justice Ginsburg would extend that vision into every corner of American life. In 1996, she wrote a pathbreaking opinion striking down Virginia’s provision of single-sex public education for men only (at a military institute), giving us both the law and the vocabulary to describe her vision. She eschewed the term “women’s rights.” Instead, equal protection demanded that both women and men be given “full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”
Then there were the dissents — they had an extraordinary impact even before she became the leader of the court’s liberal wing and gained the moniker “notorious R.B.G.” In 2006, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, Justice Ginsburg became the only woman on the court. She spoke ever louder. In a case upholding a federal ban on late-term abortions, Justice Ginsburg’s dissentattacked the majority for its paternalistic concern that women could not be trusted to make decisions they would not regret: “The Court invokes an anti-abortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence,” she wrote. “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”
In a criminal procedure case about a strip search of a 13-year-old girl for ibuprofen, the justice reacted to a male colleague’s asking why stripping in the gym was “a major thing.” Shaking out one’s bra and underwear and then being forced to sit in the hallway for two hours, she said, was not mere locker-room play. It was an “abuse of authority.”
In a 2007 equal pay case, Justice Ginsburg — herself a victim of early-career workplace discrimination — chided her colleagues for deciding that a woman who does not file a claim immediately can never file at all. This ignored the actual “characteristics of pay discrimination.” “Small initial discrepancies,” she wrote, “may not be seen as meat for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.”
In a 2011 employment discrimination class action, she faultedcolleagues for overlooking how “subjective decision making can be a vehicle for discrimination.” She referenced a favorite example from a favorite pastime: Orchestras with blind auditions hire more women.
The magnitude of her legal legacy cannot be overstated. But her impact was even greater because she modeled for us and for women and girls around the world how to live a life that reflected her legal vision. She demanded a lot from her law clerks, but demanded even more from herself. She was the hardest working, most deliberate person either one of us has ever worked for. She taught us to be strong and to stand behind our work. She gave countless women and men opportunities and support in the life of the law. She got to know all of our children. Her famous faxes came across the channels at all hours of the night. Her black coffee always brewed strong.
In her home life, she modeled to us how to translate the radical legal change she worked to the personal. She and her husband, Martin, were insistently equal co-partners in marriage and parenting and had a marriage for the ages.
Her commitments were always the same and grew ever louder. Even at the very end, she reminded us how much more work there is left to do.
Abbe R. Gluck is a law professor and faculty director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. Gillian E. Metzger is a law professor and faculty co-director of the Center for Constitutional Governance at Columbia Law School.