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Pay no attention to the number by the month.  Here's a good thought for the New Year.  Shannah Tovah. Ron                        ...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Friends:

We are having a hootenanny on Feb. 9th from 4 to 5:30 at Hillel 730 East 3rd street, Bloomington, IN.  YOU ARE INVITED.  Hootenannies are informal folk song singing gatherings.  You don't need to have any experience with folk music or music at all.  We will have all of the words to all of the songs and we sing together in a group.

But, if you play an instrument (we have had banjos, guitars, violins, mandolins, drums, bass, etc at various hoots) please bring it along.  It should be great fun.  

Also, bring friends; the more the better.  We will meet upstairs at Hillel in one of the big rooms at 4 on Feb. 9th.  This is all American folk music, no religion, no preaching, one size fits all.  We will certainly honor Pete Seeger at this get-together.

SO COME.  Hope to see you then.

Ron Klotz

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nothing But Net(s)

Dear Family and Friends:

I hate February. Thank goodness it is a short one.  It’s not because of the cold, and the days are certainly gaining momentum compared to January.  But once the Super bowl is over there is nothing, really nothing... but basketball.  I must be the only non-basketball loving Hoosier in the state of Indiana.   Basketball makes me nervous.  The score changes every ten or so seconds (you really only have to watch the final two minutes of a game anyway).  Give me a good football game any day.  They call it a game of inches, but it usually takes several minutes for a team to march down the field to score.  And give me baseball, the ultimate game of strategy where, if you can stay awake in between pitches and spitting, you really see some great stuff.  Basketball is so fast you hardly have time to eat three or four hotdogs and drink a few cups of beer and you’re out of there.  It’s uncivilized.

I've found that it is impossible to escape from basketball here.  I don't go to games or even watch them on TV, but I do go occasionally to the local YMCA to walk on the track.   At the Y, the track surrounds two basketball courts so I am constantly watching those games as I walk. 

One morning I watched what must have been a vacation camp for young kids.  They were dividing up into teams with several high school age leaders.  I'm a camp person so I see things through programmatic and group dynamic eyes. That morning on one of my loops around the court I saw a small boy, maybe ten years old, leave the group crying.  He went and sat by the wall alone.  I wondered if anyone noticed that he was gone from the group.  Next loop I see one of the high school boys sitting next to him.  From the little I was able to overhear I gathered that the leader was telling the boy that he was not going to make him play, but that he was going to take care of him.  I loved that message.  I wanted to give that high-schooler a hug.  One or two loops later the ten year old is playing basketball and it is quite obvious that he has no idea how to play the game.  Last loop around the track and the Hollywood ending to the story; I see the boy take a shot and, my goodness, the ball goes through the basket.  I don't care much for the game, but that kid's smile, well, I‘d say it was worth a March of madness.  It stays with me.

Last week I find myself looping the courts once again.  This time I see a group of Asian boys playing b-ball.  It was easy to notice that one of the kids was quite a bit smaller than all the others.  He must have been a younger brother that tagged along.  But the older boys included him in the game and even occasionally passed him the ball.  That boy also was all smiles.  I watched him play on each loop of my loops around the court.  He didn't make any baskets but was happy nonetheless.  I thought, “He’s at quite a disadvantage because he's so much younger and shorter than the others.”  Later I noticed that the boy had no right hand.  He played with his left hand and the stub of his right arm.  I hardly noticed it.  The other boys paid no mind.  The kids just played. 

Maybe basketball isn't so bad after all.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life

Dear Friends and Family 

I’ve been thinking lately of a song I’ve always loved.  It’s called, “What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”  Sinatra, Streisand, Sting (what’s with all the S’s?), Bill Evans, and best of all Sarah Vaughan all recorded it and recorded it well.  You can find it on You Tube.  This is a beautiful love song.  Its chorus goes:

What are you doing the rest of your life?
The North, South, East and West of your life.

The song came back into my head, not because of its great love theme, rather because of the enormity of the concept, “the rest of your life.” In the past year or so I’ve had several conversations with Indiana University students who have come to me to declare that they have no idea what they are doing with their lives.  They personalized those lyrics to read “what am I doing the rest of MY life?’  Some talked of leaving school (“it’s all bullshit, you know”) and making Aliyah.  Others were simply lost and/or frightened by the thought of making their way in the world.  That’s usually about it for the students’ part of the conversation.  Then there is silence.  Then they look at me as if I have answers.  How to respond?

Well, I’ve thought a lot about where I was at when I was twenty-one and how much I had no idea of what I wanted or where I was headed.  And I’ve thought about my wife Juca in this regard.  How would Juca, living in Brazil, working for Ha Shomer Ha Tsa’ir (a socialist, Zionist youth movement) have responded if, at that age, someone told her she would be married to a guy from Chicago and living in Bloomington, Indiana?  I can almost hear her Brazilian accented laugh from here.
What I learn from these thoughts is that these students are asking themselves the wrong question.

So I respond by saying that it is unfair to ask one’s self a question that cannot be answered and then become depressed when no answer can be found.  Perhaps no one can answer the question, “what am I doing the rest of my life?” because life happens, things change, life takes you along, you just use your paddle to try and stay in the middle of the stream.  It is overwhelming to think in terms of life.  Not so overwhelming to think in terms of, “what do I want to do now?  What do I want to pursue in the next part of my life, two years of my life, five years?”  Those are the questions.  I encouraged those students to try and figure out how this semester can be the best possible, next summer, the rest of his or her time here at IU.  “First the socks and then the shoes” was a cartoon that hung in my office at camp for many years.  
It is interesting rubbing elbows with Jewish college students.  I’d almost forgotten how difficult it is to grow up and start out in the world.  Also interesting that as wonderful as it is here at Indiana University in 2014 (this is a great campus, great town, great spirit, great community) compared to how terrible it was for me at the University of Illinois in 1965, students still ask themselves the same questions.  So it’s not the time or place, it’s the coming of age, the growing up.  Whereas I used to think that Vietnam, Nixon, the threat of the military draft was the cause of all the stress, now I know that the stress is within us and comes with the age. 

It’s hard to tell a kid to lighten up; to not take it all so seriously; that it will work out (I can hear those words coming out of my own father’s mouth).  But I’m hopeful that I can help a college student discover what might be the appropriate question to be asking; a question that might actually present an answer.
Nevertheless, growing up is not easy.  The questions are tough and often the answers difficult to come by.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Frank Capra? Forgetaboutit…

Dear Family and Friends:

Christmas is a special time for everyone, even us non-Christian, Jewish types.  I like most things about Christmas except for the Capra, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, bells ringing for Clarence the angel stuff.  This Christmas was the best of all.

Juca and I joined about twenty other members of our synagogue, Beth Shalom in serving a Christmas dinner at the Shalom Center.  The Shalom Center is a non-denominational, non-religious (started by the Methodist church here in Bloomington.  They liked the meaning of the word Shalom, so they used it) daytime homeless shelter.  Juca and I have worked off and on in their kitchen for the past two years.  Our synagogue, as it has for many years, took over the entire food operation of the Center for the Christmas meal.   In addition to those who came to work, others prepared food at home and dropped it off.  You should have seen the turkeys, trays of stuffing, green bean casseroles, mashed potatoes, bowls of gravy, even a couple hams.  The two hundred or so people who showed up for the dinner had a great one.  Best of all, those who came to work really worked.  Our fellow congregants sliced and served and cleaned and interacted with all of the guests. 

As you might have guessed I was on the cleanup crew.  I ran the Hobart dishwasher most of the day while Rabbi Brian scrubbed pots at the next sink.  I guess you could call that Jewish holy water.  We cleaned up a storm.

But the real best of the best happened throughout the meal in the lobby of the Center.  That’s where the Newmans, husband and wife, accordion and piano player, set up their instruments.  The Newmans are in their 80’s.  They are a wonderful couple who play music all over town, usually standards and Broadway tunes.  This day it was all Christmas music (they did manage to slip a “Sunrise, Sunset” into one of their sets).  Joining the Newmans were a violinist and one of the opera professors from IU’s Jacobs School of Music.  You should have heard the music.  Traditional Christmas carols to Jingle Bells, it was beautiful.  I wandered out there at one point to see what was what.  There they were playing beautifully and the lobby, filled with folks who had finished dinner singing with them.  It really reminded me of a Frank Capra film.  Like Curly would have said, “My goose bumps got goose bumps.” What I think of as the spirit of Christmas certainly hovered over the Shalom Center last Wednesday. 

And now we are into a new year, 2014.  That’s 7 + 7 + (7-1) = 20, and 7 + 7=14.  Good thing I don’t live in Las Vegas.  Here’s hoping it’s a year filled with health and happiness for all.  No war, no poverty, no more need for a Shalom Center. “Halavai,” it should only be so.