Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Honeybee's Defense

With each new report of violent attacks on Jews and their property around the world, I am sorely tempted to join the chorus of Israelis imploring our brothers and sisters in the diaspora to pack up and move to Israel before it is too late.

But each time I am able to resist that temptation because I truly believe that the Jews of the world aren’t experiencing 1933 all over again (at least in most places), and such comparisons are deeply misplaced. Further, I actually believe that the existence of Israel, combined with the legal protections of laws in most civilized countries, means that Jews no longer have to pack their belongings and flee in the night with whatever they can carry.

It bears reminding that living in Israel carries no guarantee of safety from anti-Semitic attacks, as our Palestinian 'peace partners' so ably remind us with alarming frequency.  And if Ezra and Nehemiah were powerless to persuade the affluent Jews of Babylonia to return to the land of Israel when the prospect of rebuilding the Temple was a reality and not some wistful dream, what can I, as a modern Israeli, possibly say to persuade American or European Jews to give up the comfortable lives they've built for themselves and start anew?

While Israel was certainly founded as (and continues to be) a refuge for Jews in need of escape/protection, it also serves as an example of how Jews need never apologize for, or shy away from protecting themselves.

To that end, every Jew – no matter where they live or how invisible they think they are – must take responsibility for their own defense.  That means carrying pepper spray… a knife… a gun… whatever the law of the land allows.  And they must be prepared to use these, and any other weapons that comes to hand. 

Those who are increasingly finding sport in attacking Jews must know that to raise a hand against any of us is a death sentence; that they will not be left alive to plead insanity, inebriation or incapacity!

We are not wasps or hornets whose nature it is to attack and kill… but rather, like honeybees whose industry and ingenuity benefit all who allow us to prosper peacefully in their midst. 

But any who raise a hand against us must know that a heavy price will be exacted, without hesitation… and without remorse.

Posted by David Bogner on December 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Compliment or Flirtation?

Okay, here's strange topic for a happily married man to be writing about publicly:  'Compliments that might be misconstrued as flirting'.

What I'm about to say is about me and my perspective, but IMHO applies equally to men and women in both the online and offline worlds.

I'll begin by saying that most normal people want to feel good about themselves; about their achievements… about their position/standing… and certainly about their appearance.

Yet as we grow older, even as we collect achievements and advance in our positions… there are fewer and fewer opportunities to receive positive feedback about who we are; especially as pertains to how we appear to the world. 

Those of us who are married don’t have things like a busy dating life or scintillating social calendar to use as measures of our attractiveness/desirability.  Heck, most of us 'of a certain age' privately wonder if we're even still interesting or attractive (if we ever were!).

To be clear, I'm not talking about the feedback/compliments we should all be paying to our spouses and significant-others.  I try to be mindful of this.  But even when we are consistent about telling our loved-ones they look good and make us happy, when we get such a compliment, we secretly wonder about our spouse's objectivity and candor.

So, back to the subject at hand:  I'm talking about the compliments and encouragement friends, acquaintances and colleagues give one another (on and off-line).  It can be as overt as telling someone their hair or outfit looks nice… to innocuous things such as 'liking' an achievement they have 'shared', or offering a few encouraging words when they mention they've had a personal setback.

However, it gets tricky when these compliments and words of encouragement are shared with people of the opposite sex.  If the compliment is appropriate to the relationship, and both the giver and recipient of the compliment are secure and happy, the result is (or, at least should be IMHO), a self-esteem boost and a strengthening of the friendship.  But even so, when I do it, I try to make sure my  - or their - spouse is within earshot or able to see the exchange online… y'know, to minimize the possibility of misunderstandings.

Two Examples:

Me (addressing a female friend without my wife nearby):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [a little creepy]

Me: (addressing a female friend with my wife next to me):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [sweet]

See, same compliment; but totally different vibe based on the setting and audience.

But sometimes, despite the best of intentions, misunderstandings do happen, and compliments and words of encouragement (chaste, platonic words of friendship), are taken as something more than that.  And the vague, uncertainty of many online exchanges only increases the chance of such misunderstandings.

I've written all this because I recently received a completely inappropriate private response to what I had thought had been a completely appropriate public compliment.  And as a happily-married, unremarkable-looking middle aged man, it occurred to me that if this happened to me, it probably happens a lot more to younger, more attractive people who think their interactions are simply 'polite', 'nice' or 'supportive'.

I've unfriended and blocked people with whom I've had contentious or aggressive political interactions… but this is the first time I've had to do so for an overt sexual overture.

The world is getting more and more chaotic, and rules and customs seem to fall by the wayside on a daily basis.  But some things will never change:  I will continue to try to be nice to my friends, regardless of their gender.  And I will continue to love my wife madly… and faithfully.  

So please let me know if I ever say or do anything that seems to blur those lines.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Alone With The Dishes

[I wrote the first draft of this back in 2004 to describe the mental process I go through at this time of year.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night, alone with the dishes.  To be clear, my wife does her fair share of the dishes.  But for the big jobs - particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc. - I’m the one left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the approach of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. 

For me, looking back at the year is like surveying the aftermath of a wild dinner party; one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate… the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored (and paid for), for months.

But every such a party comes at a cost.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room looking aghast at the damage.

What was I thinking?!

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes. 

Empty bottles of Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay stand abandoned beside half-empty bottles of bourbon and scotch. 

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers), seem evenly distributed between the diningroom table and the various kitchen counters.

Soiled linen napkins sit balled on (and under), chairs.  And glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists happen to have abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem, well, surmountable; trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has ever been left to clean up after a big party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never be clean again, so why bother?!.

But then you pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim), and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered. 

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet; just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more dirty wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join that first one there on the counter.

Then, after emptying the sinks of their precariously piled contents, I draw a basin of hot soapy water.

As the basin fills, I designate other places for dishes and for cups and for saucers - each to each - all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, while I work I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me).  Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers wrapped and put safely into the refrigerator, and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but some semblance of order has begun to emerge from the chaos.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with hot soapy water and placed on the stove and sideboard to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their racks, and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves; each gestures creating a bit of space… and again, I am comforted by the suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable finally beginning to seem surmountable.

If I've done that much, it seems less daunting to stand in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what has happened... and the tantalizing suggestion of more good things that might still lie ahead.

I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to shape and size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence. But now, as I look around, the task seems somehow more manageable… surmountable. 

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am almost ready for Yom Kippur. I have a clearer idea of what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary work, I will find myself at the end of the process with sparkling china… lovingly polished sterling… and immaculate crystal.  And the house  - and my life - will be looking - and feeling - ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Time To Bake!

Click HERE or the link below to sign up! 


Posted by David Bogner on August 7, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Yom Yerushalayim

I'm once again following the time-honored ritual below:

Find a quiet place... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:

Part 1


Part 2


Click here to see an interview that General Uzi Narkis gave less than two weeks before he passed away.

Partial Transcript / translation:

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above. [The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.


Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.] [More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there. [Gunfire.] We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here.

We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City. [Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands! All forces, stop firing!

This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over. Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel: [Soldiers weeping] El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen! [Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.] [Soldiers are weeping.

Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.] Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!]

Posted by David Bogner on June 2, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Just This Simple

This evening at sundown marks the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

There are many important lessons to be learned from this horrible period on our history.  But for me, there is only one lesson that matters:

It's that the labels and distinctions we all hold so dear... Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Re-constructionist Jews, Right wing Jews, Left Wing Jews, Humanist Jews, Gay & Lesbian Jews, Secular Jews, Hasidic Jews, Trans Jews, Charedi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Bi-Jews, Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Crypto-Jews… can’t possibly be important enough to cause us to hate one another, when those who hate us and want to do us harm don’t care one bit about such distinctions. 

They hate us because we are Jews. Full Stop.  So we need to find a way to love and look after one another for the very same reason.

Posted by David Bogner on May 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Yes, Mary Poppins is Actually a Bit Racist

Nobody reads anymore. They just seethe and share without bothering to perform even the most perfunctory scratch test to see if their outrage is actually justified.  And then there is the counter-offensive of seething and sharing by people who are upset over how hyper-sensitive everyone is over nothing.

I'm talking about the latest rumblings over Disney’s classic family film, Mary Poppins, being accused of having racist content.

In this case, it certainly wasn't worthy of extensive outrage... but it also wasn't exactly nothing.

I’ve seen at least ten posts this week screaming about how silly it is that the PC police are all woke about the ‘blackface’ scenes (where Julie Andrews and the kids smear soot on their faces to look more like Dick Van Dyke and his fellow chimney sweeps.


The problem is, if anyone had bothered to look around a bit, they would have learned that the blackface issue isn't any sort of reference to minstrel shows, but rather an anachronistic colonial reference from the British Empire's crowded closet that keys into a historical [white] British fear of black Africans.

The central problem is the use of the word 'Hottentots' in the film as an obscure homage to an earlier book version of Mary Poppins where chimney sweeps were insultingly mistaken for Hottentots (an archaic slur for black South Africans).

Here's the relevant passage from an excellent article that explains what are, IMHO, a couple of small but real problems that most people wouldn't even catch (not because the racism isn't there, but because it is buried in an historical anachronism that the typical Disney audience - then or now - wouldn't recognize):

Writing exclusively for The New York Times, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner – a gender studies professor at Linfield College in the US – claimed the iconic chimney sweep scene where Andrews and Van Dyke sing ‘Step in Time’ could be seen as ‘racist’ because their faces are covered in black soot. Rather than wiping the soot off her face, Mary Poppins rubs it in, making her face dirtier. Pollack-Pelzner pointed out that the scene may seem comical – if it weren’t for P. L. Travers’ novels on which the film was based.

He pointed out that in the 1943 book Mary Poppins Opens the Door, a housemaid calls a man a “black heathen” when he reaches out his hand and later calls him a “Hottentot” – an archaic slur for black South Africans.

For Pollack-Pelzner, the film is problematic because character Admiral Boom calls chimney sweeps in the film Hottentots.

“We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface,” he wrote. “It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy.”

Pollack-Pelzner pointed out Hottentot was also used in 1952’s Mary Poppins in the Park novel, with Mary herself reportedly telling a young child that he’s behaving like a Hottentot. [source]

So yeah, there's some problematic stuff there, even if almost nobody today would recognize it as such. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting banning the film, any more than I would suggest banning Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' because of the anti-Semitic treatment of Shylock, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories over his unflattering reference to Jews which are jarring to a modern reader, but reflect the typical sentiments of the audience for whom it was written. 

I'm just saying that it is a teachable moment that is being mostly missed because most people would rather rage than teach (or learn).

BTW, it took me exactly one quick Google search to find both the New York Times article and the well written piece I've excerpted above.  So maybe look around just a tiny bit before trying to show everyone how woke you are.

Posted by David Bogner on February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Farewell to Elisson

There's a fraternity of sorts that exists among those who were early adapters of online journaling / blogging.   Even if we didn't 'follow' one another closely, we recall the people we tuned into each day; if not by name, than by online moniker.

Back when this medium was new-ish and not everyone who had embraced it had a clear understanding of what they really wanted to say, a few clear, strong voices emerged from the clutter... and Steve Krodman (AKA Elisson), was as strong as he was prolific.

While some people wrote about politics and others shared food porn or did mommy/daddy blogging, Steve wrote a funny, irreverent, unblinking account of both his current world and his most cherished memories.  By making it clear that what he shared on his blog were his own impressions, recollections, and experiences, he headed off any potential arguments, disagreements or naysayers.  After all, how can you argue with something so subjective?

I won't try to summarize who Steve was in a few short paragraphs.  After all, most of us who followed his prolific output for years can't claim to have truly known the man.  But there were certain inescapable conclusions one could jump to after reading him for even a short time:

For instance, Steve was a family man, in the old-world sense of the title.  His self-applied moniker - Elisson - was, first and foremost how he saw himself; Eli's (his father) son.  He also frequently referenced his role as husband and father through the mention and frequent referencing of his wife and two daughters.  But he chivalrously shielded them with their own loving code-words ('She Who Must Be Obeyed', 'Elder Daughter', 'Mistress of Sarcasm').

He also wrapped himself warmly and un-self-consciously in the religious and cultural heritage of his fathers.  The observances and celebrations of the Jewish calendar were beautifully described - as they should be - through the lens of food and drink.  Even the weekday morning minyan, of which he was a regular, was framed lovingly as the precursor to the post-prayer gathering at the local 'smoked fish emporium'.

Steve sought out and savored tastes and experiences related to food and drink.  I don't think of him as a 'foodie', though.  His posts about food and drink were about sharing his deep enjoyment, not about showing off or putting on airs.

And even his tastes in food and drink were of the old world sort.  Yes, he like good wine.  But, long before it became hip to do so, he was describing his favorite tipples; classic cocktails, aperitifs and digestifs

And his sartorial tastes likewise reflected a respect and longing for the past; with seersucker suits and straw fedoras on unabashed display.  Admittedly, the colander was a decidedly modern touch... but we all have our eccentricities.

I only met Steve and his wife, Donna, in person on one occasion, during a trip they took to Israel a few years back.  But, aside from having my pre-existing impressions confirmed, that meeting was just another layer of the onion that I'd been peeling for years with each tidbit that was revealed in his writing.

He called his blogging "exercises in time-wastage and self-aggrandizement", but it was neither; not for him, and certainly not for the reader.  As his daughters so correctly pointed out in the announcement of his passing:

"[his blog was]...a repository for all of his warped humor and twisted rants. Suddenly - and finally! - an audience for his schtick beyond his nuclear family. Over the years this creative outlet grew from a little hobby ...into a fertile space for him to mold his rich internal life and tremendous stores of knowledge into beautiful and humorous pieces. We believe he got to know himself more greatly through writing this blog. It, along with family, friends, and Jewish Life, gave him purpose. We also believe that he was/is a man worth knowing, and so we are glad he found a way to generously share himself."

Just to give you an idea of how he reveled in outlandishness and the popular perception of him as its chief purveyor, here are some 'pull quotes' from the sidebar of his blog:

“Got-dam Philistine! Is NOTHING sacred to you?” - Acidman 

“The Bard of Affliction...” - Houston Steve

“My hat’s off to Elisson! All hail Elisson!”
Laurence Simon 

“Elisson’s blog: unraveling a turban and finding a moist dildo inside.” - Kevin Kim 

“...Obi-Wan Kenobi of Georgia...”
- Cowtown Pattie 

“The Shakespeare of poop jokes.”
John Cox 

“...when I grow up, I want to be Elisson.” - MetroDad 

“Elisson ain’t right. We know that.”

“Elisson...has totally gone off the deep end.” - Dax Montana 

“...of many talents...”
Rahel Jaskow 

“...the ever insightful Elisson...”
David Bogner 

“...Elisson, my man...I’m are the man...” - Straight White Guy 

“You make my heart sing.”
Sissy Willis 

“...maniacal, obsessive rants about duck fat...” - Steve H. Graham 

“In a world almost entirely without heroes, Elisson stands alone...”

“I really want to whup [Elisson] upside the haid...” - Meryl Yourish 

“The world is a much stranger place since I began reading your blog, Elisson.”

“…the cat’s ass in his trademark white fedora…” - Jim 

“...R’ Blog Shem Tov...”
- Erica Sherman 

“By gadfrey, sir...You’re the most amazing character... there’s never any telling what you’ll say or do next, except that it’s bound to be something astonishing.”
Ivan G. Shreve 

“Elisson, you are such a Renaissance Man you make Newton, Descartes & Copernicus look like Larry, Moe & Curly!”
El Capitan 

“You... are a plethora of useless information.”

Steve showed us all that being grown up didn't need to mean abandoning our childish sense of humor, or the child's innate ability to identify and point out the absurd.

And in the online world where - based just on their writings and correspondence - platonic 'blog-crushes' and deep 'bromances' could blossom between people sharing this new cyberspace, Steve became a good friend and generous mentor to me. 

For years he used his personal example to demonstrate the careful balancing of grown-up responsibilities and childish irreverence.  Fine dining experiences and scatological humor shared pride of place on his blog, as he virtually dared the reader to play the straight man to his clown.

Steve was the uncle we all wish we'd had; the one that parents became worried about if their children were left too long unattended in his charge.  New vocabulary words and a precocious understanding of excretory functions would certainly result from an afternoon spent with 'Uncle Steve'.  But he would also doubtless return the little dears with a newfound respect for the value of family... and for pickled herring.

And when, a few short months ago, Steve announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with ALS, he effortlessly pivoted from using his blog to show us how to live well... to showing us that it is also possible to die well. 

He generously let us in on what he was thinking and feeling throughout his descent into stillness... and in so doing, he spared us a tiny bit of the terror that is inevitable when confronted by the finality of what southerners call 'that sweet by-and-by'.

Steve, I will deeply miss your unique and unbridled spirit in my online wanderings.  Nobody else seems to have the courage to point out the many emperors without clothes.   I look for an offered finger to pull... but propriety seems to have suddenly taken hold.

My heart goes out to your family; I know that their loss is incalculable.  But if stories and fond recollections can keep a person's memory alive, you will have achieved immortality through the many generations who will doubtless continue to share accounts of the wonderful husband, father and friend you were during the all-too-short arc of your time here on this mortal coil.

Rest Well, my friend.  I will raise many a cocktail to your memory in whatever time I have left... until we meet again.


Posted by David Bogner on January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Should Old Antagonists Be Forgot...

[I’ve written about this in the past, but it has been increasingly on my mind lately as a read the news.]

New Year’s is a time to ponder, compare and contrast… it is a time to take stock of the situation, and to try to discern trends.  One inescapable trend is that anti-Semites are feeling less inhibited and restrained in expressing their Jew-hatred in voice and deed.

I know we Israelis tend to sound preachy and condescending to our coreligionists in the diaspora when we point to antisemitism as a contributing factors to our decision to move/remain here in Israel.   But then again, I suppose any uncomfortable truth sounds a bit preachy when one is on the receiving end.

Of all life's moments that flash through my mind on New Year’s eve, there is one that is so sour and negative that it cancels out virtually all the wonderful and positive nostalgia I have for the date:

Back in the early '90s, I played trombone in a ‘rehearsal band’; a jazz big band that met in a studio on W42nd street in Manhattan once a week to play through charts from the Big Band era of the '30s and '40s. 

The bandleader was an older musician from that bygone era who had acquired most of the original Count Basie ‘book’, as well as a nice sampling of music from the other top-tier (Miller, Goodman, Ellington, et al), bands' repertoires. And the players were a mix of professional and amateur musicians ranging from college age to retirees. 

Those few hours playing big band jazz with serious musicians were the highlight of my week.

Once in a while the leader would get a call for a gig and we would get to play the old tunes for an appreciative audience.  One such gig was the annual New Year’s Eve Black Tie Gala at the exclusive Downtown Athletic Club.

There’s an old joke about the Downtown Athletic Club posits that the only minorities one is likely to spot inside the hallowed halls of the club are the wait-staff… and the recipients of the Heisman Trophy (which is awarded there every year). 

We Jews tend to ‘pass for white’ in the modern world, so we largely see such discrimination as a cause to be championed rather than a first-hand problem to be overcome.  This gig changed that worldview for me.

The event was as glitzy and high society as you probably imagine, and it felt like time traveling to be playing WWII-era jazz in such a historic NYC setting on New Year’s eve.

While the band was on a break between sets, the bandleader came over to me and a trumpet player who was also religiously observant musician and told us that we would have to take off our kippot (yarmulkes).  It isn’t clear to me now if the demand came from the party host, a guest, the bandleader himself or some combination thereof.  What was clear – and remains so – is that someone took exception to a barely noticeable scrap of black cloth in a sea of black tuxedos, starched white shirts, champagne and party streamers, and felt empowered/entitled to demand that the offending religious article be removed from view.  

That was then. 

Now, more than 20 years later I don’t think anyone can reasonably deny that Jews in America (and elsewhere in diaspora), are less secure or less apt to experience discrimination and attack in the course of their daily lives.

Antisemitism has never disappeared, or even waned. It has been a historical constant; perhaps the oldest hatred in recorded history. What some mistake for it waxing and waning is it going through periods of being more or less socially acceptable to express in public. 

It may surprise you to hear that I honestly don’t mind Antisemitism or anti-Semites.  I've come to accept it as a constant reality that will never go away.   

What I do mind is having to face anti-Semites on their own turf and on their own terms. 

Over here, I know I am hated for being a Jew (even though they give that hatred the fig leaf of calling it anti-Zionism).   But as an Israeli, I have the privilege of ignoring the haters who no longer hold power or influence over me… and of defending myself - without explanation or restraint - against those who still operate under the misconception that they do.

Just something to ponder as you go about your rationalization of how 'it isn't as bad as it seems'.

Happy New Year!

Posted by David Bogner on January 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Your Cocktails May Never Be The Same!

[This is a pro-tip for my friends who enjoy a well-made cocktail once in a while]

Many the classic and not-so-classic cocktail recipes call for ‘simple syrup’. 

But until last night I didn’t think about this basic ingredient as a blank flavor canvas on which one can splash a wide range of accents and flavors.

I had just whipped up a batch of simple syrup for Zahava since she was envisioning some mojitos* in her immediate future, and had gone online to check how long a bottle of SS can be safely stored in the fridge, when I stumbled on the following two paragraphs in an excellent article on an excellent website:

“You can also make your own flavored simple syrup... by adding herbs, spices, or even citrus rind to the hot simple syrup. If you add the additional ingredient(s) the moment the sugar dissolves and leave it there until it cools, the add-in ingredients will steep in the hot liquid, infusing flavor.We make all sorts of simple syrups throughout the year.

Try fresh herbaceous syrups with garden basil, mint, and thyme for fruity cocktails with a little wow-factor, spicy simple syrups with cinnamon sticks or cloves for fall and winter cocktails, or vanilla bean simple syrup for an extra punch of flavor any time of year!”

[Photo Credit: The Pioneer Woman ]

Up until now I’ve been relying solely on bitters and garnishes to add that little extra je ne sais quoi to my cocktails  This opens up a whole new world of possibilities!

And as if providence hadn't knocked loudly enough, This past summer, Gilad and I were rummaging around in a nicknack shop in Zichron Yaacov when I stumbled on a beautiful set of antique-ish jars that I had absolutely no use for... but which I couldn't leave in the store:


Anyone want to venture a guess what will be going in these?


* Yes, I am aware that most Mojito recipes call for granulated sugar to aid in muddling the mint leaves.  But Zahava seems to prefer using simple sugar to avoid the grittiness of undissolved sugar.

Posted by David Bogner on December 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

 Thoughts from a feminist in a world still out of balance

[A guest post by my daughter, Ariella]

This week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Last week was the International Men’s Day.

On campus we have a group called the “Cell for gender equality”. They worked hard on both events, but I will get to the Men’s Day exhibit a little later.

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the cell put up a fantastic exhibition with explanations and stalls from all sorts of organizations that help women who are victims of violence or who find themselves in potentially violent situations.


The highlights of the event were a 'Poetry Slam' by three students (two male and one female) who spoke beautifully about their feelings on gender and violence against women, and later that evening, a play.

But what really caught my eye were the posters with the names of the twenty three women who were murdered this year in Israel in gender based attacks. The hardest to see was the last one, which had been penned in (instead of printed like the rest), because she had been murdered only the previous day.

Names of Victims


Twenty three women who were attacked and killed in gender based violence... from different communities and backgrounds throughout the country.

And while reading their names it all came back to me, that these are more than just names!

I KNEW a name that appeared on the same list just a few years ago. I KNEW a woman who was murdered by her husband. She had been my adoptive family when I was in mechina (a pre-army academy). She’d invited me into her home after meeting me at a community holiday event and noticing that her son, who is autistic, not only allowed me to play with him, but that he enjoyed my company!  So she took me under her wing, had me over for coffee and even for Shabbat.

I read about her murder in a news article that reached me via WhatsApp two years later while I was serving in the army. From that moment, seeing the names of victims could never again be just names. Even though I didn't recognize any names this year, it’s not so disconnected from me; Ariella Bogner. Each one of those names was a person.  A woman.  Like me.

I think the understanding that it’s not so disconnected from any of us was the idea behind the #metoo movement. So many women came out and talked about their experiences. But even then, does it touch my life as well?

Earlier this year I was sitting with a group of my friends and we were talking about some of the most difficult times of our lives. I spoke about when I had been harassed a few years ago. The other two women in the group shared similar examples that had happened to them. All of the men in the group (who are the majority in that particular group of friends) where instantly outraged that such a thing could happen and couldn’t grasp the idea that all we could do in most of the cases was tell an authority figure… if there was even someone to tell. They kept asking what was done to whoever touched/pinched/etc. They are all respectful amazing men who I adore. They are all aware of how vast the problem is, and yet it never occurred to them that #metoo reached their “inner circle”. These are not just names in posts, but people we know and care about. 

There I was, standing in the hallway on campus, looking at the exhibit and freshly shook up over the wave of memory that flooded in. I decided to go see the play (חצאית כאן קודקוד), which was being performed that evening on campus. I had heard good things about it from friends and all the money from the ticket sale was going to the local woman’s shelter. The play used the army as a metaphor for Israeli society and studied specifically the way women are treated in the army by using old-time army band songs (and also chants that soldiers make up for moral etc.). I spent the whole play torn between enjoyment and the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that came from knowing exactly how true it all was.


After the play, the actresses came out to have an open discussion with the audience  (that's them ^).

We talked about the #metoo movement, the audience that the play is aimed at, and of course feminism was thrown around as well. But the most important thing to be said was by one brave man in the audience (it’s must be intimidating as a man to speak publicly after such a harsh play that points an accusing finger at “men”). He spoke about how, as a man who considers himself a feminist, he finds that whenever he tries to join the feminist discussion he is met with accusing statements, suspicion and hostility. 

Sometimes I feel that we forget that feminism isn’t supposed to mean man hating, or that woman should be more than men. Feminism is supposed to free both men and women from gender bias and create equal opportunities for both.

In today’s society (at least the circles in which I run), feminism and gender equality are very talked about. But we might have lost sight of some of our original goal.

Which brings me to the exhibit that was set up on campus last week for the International Men’s Day.

As part of the exhibit, there was a video of men from all parts of society talking about what it means to them to be a man.

I was floored!

It was the first time I had even heard this kind of expression. We have defined what it means to be a woman. We talk about it and examine where it meets us time and time again. But it had never occurred to me that men might want to talk about what it means to be a man. Which begs the question; Do we allow that kind of discourse in today’s society? Should men form groups to talk about and redefine manhood and what is masculine?   Can those discussions take place in proximity to ‘our’ discussions?

I feel that in order to create meaningful conversations between the genders we all need to start to talk about and clarify our roles, and the attributes associated with them. The question isn’t only ‘what does it mean in today’s day and age to be a woman?’, but also ‘what does it mean to be a man?’, as well.

I am tired of hearing hateful accusing statements thrown around. I am tired of the stigmas attached to being a feminist. I am tired of society accepting the way things are.

I do not accept that ‘this is the way things will always be’! I do not want my male friends/future partner/future sons/etc., to be afraid to express themselves! I do not accept how so many women (and men), are harassed every single day!

Next year I do not want to read a list of twenty names of victims of gender violence.

I invite us all to reject the status quo and to work to change it. Let us be active and create a society that allows discussion and acceptance, but most of all mutual respect.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, October 08, 2018

'Cause when we kiss, oooh Fire

Some people seem to live in a black and white world made up of mutually exclusive concepts.  One of those people posted the following graphic on facebook today:


I'm sure it was a reference to jokes like this (which I actually shared):


It took my hours to put my finger on why this bothered me so much.  Because I know I'm not a misogynist... but I saw the tiny kernel of truth that made that joke funny.

Why can’t we become aware of, and sympathetic to, the problem of women being sexually assaulted... and *also* notice that there are a small percentage of women that have weaponized society’s newfound sympathy and sensitivity, creating a situation that *also* demands safeguards and caution for men?

After all, we’ve seen it in the medical field for decades, already.

Think about it... when was the last time you women found yourselves alone and undressed in an exam room with a male medical practitioner?  The reason isn't that all doctors are rapists or all women are looking to falsely accuse doctors of attacking them. 

The reason is that there are two very real, but very different fears at work, and there is no reason or necessity to qualify or quantify those fears:  The women are afraid of being sexually assaulted, and the doctors are afraid of being falsely accused / sued for sexual assault.  Both are legitimate fears even though neither is the norm.  And it doesn't matter if women are attacked more often than men are accused.  Fear is fear... and it isn't rational and it doesn't understand percentages!

I think we can agree that most doctors don’t molest their patients, and that most patients don’t falsely accuse or sue their practitioners. Yet here we are for more than 20 years with a nurse playing referee in your exam room... so you and your doctor will have nothing to fear from each other.

So why should it be so different outside the exam room?

Young women used to be catechized that good girls said ‘no’, and young boys were catechized that a girl’s ‘no’ was the start of a process that began by satisfying the girls honor… and ended with satisfying far more.  As horrifying as it may be to read those words in 2018, just look at the words of a song written by Bruce Springsteen and made popular by The Pointer Sister in 1978:


I'm ridin' in your car
You turn on the radio
You're pullin' me close
I just say no
I say I don't like it
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Late at night
You're takin' me home
You say you want to stay 
I say I want to be alone
I say I don't love you
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

You had a hold on me right from the start
A grip so tight I couldn't tear it apart
My nerves all jumpin', actin' like a fool
Well, your kisses they burn, but my heart stays cool

Well, Romeo and Juliet
Samson and Delilah
Baby you can bet 
A love they couldn't deny
My words say split
But my words they lie
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Ooh fire
Hot kisses like fire
Burn me up with fire
I like what you're doin' now, 
Touchin' me with fire
Touchin' me, burnin me with fire
Take me home
Kisses like fire

This wasn’t 100 or 500 years ago.  This was 40 years ago when I was a Junior in high school… and this song was a hit, and nobody batted an eye.  This was normal then!

Obviously the world has evolved a lot since 1978, and thankfully, many of the terrible things that women endured in the guise of ‘honor’ and ‘romance’ are now seen for what they are: assault. 

And thankfully we are well on our way in a process of societal reeducation and sensitivity to concepts like informed consent, professional boundaries, appropriate language and inappropriate touching, etc. 

But as soon as an entirely class of actions are recognized as crimes, and a woman’s testimony is supposed to be accepted at face value without supporting witnesses, an entire segment of the population suddenly becomes vulnerable to false allegations of having committed those crimes.  #metoo created an imbalance where it was supposed to have leveled the field.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  The pendulum sways back and forth before finding its natural resting place in the center.  If the pendulum has to swing off-center, it is fair and just that it should spend some time favoring the women, after all they've had to endure.  But jokes like the one above are not misogynistic.  They are an attempt to assure that it doesn't take another 20 years for things to even out.

Just as it was perhaps 20 years between the peak popularity of the song 'Fire' and the standard inclusion of a third person in a doctor’s exam room… it has taken another 20 years for college freshmen of both genders to internalize a script that requests permission for intimacy and gives (or refuses) consent, yet still allows a date to feel like a date rather than a deposition.

So, back to  the graphic I posted at the start.  When people are afraid or angry, many reach for humor.  A picture of a mother sending her son out to a party wearing a body-cam, is darkly funny; Not because it is actually necessary, but because there is a new paradigm for boys and girls out there... and until equality and balance have not yet been fully established, caution is advised.

So please try to stop with all this absolutism.  Considering the important issues that were raised by the recent confirmation hearing, and following so closely on the heels of the #metoo movement, it was pretty much guaranteed there would be a turf war over who is the most vulnerable... who is the victim. 

But it didn’t have to be.  We are all vulnerable to some extent.  As long as balance and equality have not been fully established, we are all potential victims.  Yet with a tiny bit of common sense and forethought, that vulnerability is completely manageable.

I am not overly worried about my daughter or my sons growing up today.  I’m actually relieved that they don’t have to grow up in the times that I did, with all the confusion, uncertainty, misunderstandings and needless imbalance of social power. 

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried at all.  After all, worrying is my full-time job.  I’m a parent.

Posted by David Bogner on October 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Much Ado About Headgear

I've seen more than a few FB posts about the latest 'Trump scandal'.  No, not that one.  Apparently, during one of her costume changes on her visit to Kenya, First Lady Melania Trump was spotted wearing a Pith Helmet-inspire hat.


Apparently, lacking anything else newsworthy to latch onto today (I kid), people are criticizing the First Lady's hat as being culturally insensitive, since it evokes and references colonial-era headgear worn by 19th and early 20th century European occupiers.

Only one problem.  This is simply not true. Almost all commonwealth countries still feature some version of Pith Helmets among their formal uniforms, as do the militaries of most of the former colonies they ruled.  I was there last week.  I saw them.

Given Europe's hypersensitivity to evoking their colonial past, I have to think that if this kind of hat were indeed a sore point, it would have long been banished from view by both the previous colonizers as well as the previously colonized.

In truth, this latest swipe is rooted in just plain meanness masquerading as political correctness.  What's next, should Melania not order a Gin & Tonic when she goes to India because it was the drink of choice by British colonial administrators and their forces during the Raj?!

Personally, I'm far more troubled by the deafening silence by the PC enforcers at First Ladies/families, dignitaries, journalists and even female soldiers who have been forced to wear Hijabs so as to not offend their hosts sensibilities (BTW, this crosses political party lines).



Hillary  Hillary-hijab1

EU  Reporter1


To be clear, I am not against the Hijab per se, so long it is the wearer's personal religious choice and not something that is imposed upon her.  In fact, I am deeply impressed by athletes and even police officers who have found a natural, comfortable way to integrate this religious observance into their daily lives without conflict or interference with their duties.  

Run  Weight

Fencing  N-BM-hijab___Gallery

Brussels  UK

So chill, people.  There are genuine problems out there to complain about.  Take your pick.  

If you really, truly feel that the First Lady wearing a Pith Helmet while on Safari in Kenya is a problem, you are either living in the most problem-free place on earth... or you are just mean-spirited and looking to take cheap shots at an un-elected family member because you don't like her husband.

Your honest self-assessment and introspection should follow.

Posted by David Bogner on October 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Righteous [Cyclist] Among The Nations

Every so often, the google search page features a graphic that is designed to draw your interest to someone or something of significance associated with the date.  A click usually tells you it is the 400th anniversary of so-and-so's birthday, etc.  Sometimes interesting... usually educational... almost never eye-opening.

That changed today.

Turns out that the Italian cyclist - Gino Bartali - whose 104th birthday it would have been today, was far more than just a champion cyclist.

Here's the relevant section of his Wikipedia page:

Rescues and Resistance role during World War II


Bartali used bicycle training as a cover for secret efforts to rescue Jews.

Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, saved their lives in doing so.[15]

Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance.[16][17] Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.

Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa,[16] was a member of DELASEM,[18] founded by the Union of the Israelitic Communities to help Jewish Italians escape persecution. The network in Tuscany was discovered in autumn 1943 and all members except Nissim sent to concentration camps. He met Pope Pius XII and, with the help of the Archbishop of Genoa, the Franciscan Friars and others he reorganized DELASEM and helped 800 escape.

Nissim died in 2000. His sons found from his diaries that Bartali had used his fame to help. Nissim and the Oblati Friars of Lucca forged documents and needed photographs of those they were helping. Bartali used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, ride to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim.[19][20]Bartali also used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.

Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life.[20] Bartali simply answered, "I do what I feel [in my heart]".

Bartali continued working with the Assisi Network. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Bartali told his son Andrea only that "One does these things and then that's that".[20]

In June 2012, a book about Bartali's wartime activities, Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon, was published.[21]

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honour Righteous Among the Nations.[22] He is a central figure in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.[4]

Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result”. 

While that may be technically true (having been shot at, I can provide my own affirmative data-point to the body of research), the famous quote doesn’t begin to address the fairly obvious question of what it feels like before you know the shot has missed you.

I can say with authority that glib media phrases such as ‘crude, home-made rockets’ and ‘the low odds of actually being hit’ don’t really mean much when the sirens are going off all around you, and you find yourself caught out in the open, doing the sick mental math that reveals that it will take you longer to reach shelter than it will take the incoming rocket to reach you.

And so you narrow your focus.

‘There’s a parked car over there that might offer some cover from shrapnel’.

‘There’s a low stone wall across the street that, if I crouch down next to it will protect me… at least from one direction’.  Which way is Gaza again?

‘The gutter and curb next to me will offer a snug place protected from two sides if I lie down really flat in the dirt collected there’.

And while these thoughts bang against each-other inside your head, the Red Alert siren wails on… and you know with absolute certainty that somewhere up in the sky is an inbound rocket packed with explosives and ball bearings, that has to land somewhere very soon.

True, statistically, the odds are extremely low that it will land on or near you.  But the odds are dead certain that it has to land somewhere (that pesky old ‘what goes up must come down’, thing).

It’s strange how gambling quickly ceases to be an enjoyable pastime when the stakes include your life.

Why am I telling you this?  Is it because the 200+ projectiles fired at Israel on July 14th didn't even make the international media needle twitch? 

Maybe.  Partially.

But it is also because I want you to join me in something... something that will allow you to experience a tiny fraction of the reality we Israelis endure on a daily basis... something that will allow you to become a bit more 'woke':

I want you to download a free app called ‘Red Alert: Israel’. 

Once you have it on your phone or tablet, please go in and enable notifications and select ‘All Areas’ from the settings menu.  This will allow you to be notified each time a projectile (rocket or mortar) is fired at at any part of Israel by one of our ‘neighbors’.

Keep in mind that each and every time you hear an alert, somewhere in Israel (usually in multiple places simultaneously), thousands of innocent human beings have suddenly been given between 10 and 50 seconds to get themselves and their loved ones to shelter – any shelter – before the projectile lands. 

Looking at your watch that may seem like a fairly long time.  Trust me, when the sirens are blaring, it is an instant.

Be warned, this app will disturb you at inconvenient times.  And it will almost certainly wake you up in the middle of the night. 

But I think it is important for you to be aware of the rocket attacks in real time - not just read about them on the rare occasions that the foreign media outlets decide they are 'newsworthy'. 

I think it is essential that you know with absolute certainty, in real time, that thousands of innocent people just like you  - people with hopes, dreams, loved ones, plans, possessions, talents, aspirations - have suddenly been forced into survival mode, and are running for cover or laying in the dirt, trying desperately to make themselves smaller… as explosive tube(s) filed with death streak through the sky towards… something.

I can tell you from experience (although certainly not as extensive as those living in the Gaza periphery or Kiryat Shmona), ‘exhilarating’ is the last word that comes to mind during those precious seconds while you wait to find out if the shot has actually (hopefully, please G-d), missed.  This time.

Red 1

Red 2

Red 3

Red 4

Posted by David Bogner on July 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)