Bubbles of happiness

by Brian on August 18, 2019

in Cancer,Health,In the News

Binging Nora McInerny can be a serious bummer. McInerny is the host of the morbid yet utterly compelling podcast “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” 

Nora McInerny, host of “Terrible, Thanks for Asking”

McInerny lost her husband to brain cancer when he was just 35. McInerny’s father died and she suffered a miscarriage all within a few weeks of her husband’s passing. She wrote a memoir about her experience called It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)

McInerny’s podcast – which my wife, Jody, and I consumed for hours straight on a recent road trip – alternates between the host vividly exploring her own grief and interviews she conducts with other people going through similarly trying times. 

McInerny isn’t the only pain podcaster. “Everything Happens” is a program hosted by Kate Bowler who was diagnosed with Stage IV incurable colon cancer in her mid-30s.

Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School who previously wrote a book about the American Prosperity Gospel, a Christian creed that sees fortune as a blessing for those who believe. In her podcast, Bowler explores what it means to be dying in a community that insists everything happens for a reason – and what it’s like when she finds herself bereft of that certainty.

Grief podcasts are becoming a thing these days. There’s Jordan Ferber’s “Where’s My Grief?” Julia Samuels’s “Grief Works,” and “The Art of Dying Well” from St. Mary’s University in London.

All of these podcasts force listeners to grapple with the realization that life doesn’t always turn out to be as bright and shiny as they expected when they were younger. Faced with this gritty reality, how is it we still find joy in our lives? What exactly is happiness (and how can we achieve it when our bodies conspire to push us in the opposite direction)?

Long before I was diagnosed with my own chronic incurable cancer, I’d suffered from bouts of depression, anxiety and insomnia. (You would have thought all that was enough for one body, but you know, cancer.) Through trial and error, I hoped my psychiatrist and I would stumble upon the right cocktail – a single magic pill – that would lift the fog so I could feel some sort of equanimity for much of the day.

As I grew older, though, and I gained more experience with protracted disquietude, my expectations changed. Rather than seeking 100 percent pleasure all day, all of the time, I’ve become more content with just identifying “bubbles” of happiness. A good meal, stimulating conversation with friends, a trip abroad, passionate sex – bubbles of bliss floating in a boundless sea of dissatisfaction. 

It’s the same with cancer, where there are precious few sure-fire solutions and sustained uncertainty is often the best we can hope for. 

I savor my happiness bubbles. I grasp for them even though I know they must inevitably burst. Which got me thinking: is there a non-chemical way of creating more bubbles – or at least stabilizing them so that they last longer before they’re gone? 

The very pursuit of happiness may be part of the problem. 

Studies show that “people putting the greatest emphasis on being happy reported 50% less frequent positive emotions,” Dr. Todd Kashdan writes in Psychology Today. “Thirty-five percent had less satisfaction about their life and 75% had more depressive symptoms than people who had their priorities elsewhere.”

“Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue,” Victor Frankl opined in his post-Holocaust masterwork, Man’s Search for Meaning. “One must have a reason to be happy.”

Dr. Micah Goodman, who founded and directs the Ein Prat Leadership Institute, suggests that this can be best accomplished through fashioning a life of purpose. 

We are happiest, Goodman explains, when we become part of a story that begins before we’re born and that will end, hopefully, long after we’re gone.

That could be as grand as a shared cause – a political passion, caring for the Earth – or as particular as a club or hobby. Religion is an especially effective path to purpose, Goodman says.

Happiness guru and former Harvard University lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar agrees. “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning,” he writes.

I like Goodman’s approach, but I fret he may have overlooked an essential part of human nature. If happiness increases when we’re part of a project that we won’t live to see the end of, then why are so determined to cheat death?

Yuval Noah Harari points out in his book Homo Deusthat in the 21stcentury, “Humans are likely to make a serious bid for immortality.” 

Death is essentially a “technical glitch,” Harari writes. And “every technical problem has a technical solution.” Some experts believe humans may overcome death as early as the year 2100.

Woody Allen would be down for that – even if he won’t be around that long. When asked once if he hoped to live on forever through the silver screen, the director quipped that “I’d rather live on in my apartment.”

Harari ultimately argues the opposite is true. “A large part of our artistic creativity, our political commitment and our religious piety is fueled by the fear of death,” he writes.

As, it seems, is our happiness. 

Internalizing that our time on earth is limited may be a cliché, but it can nevertheless help us derive meaning from the moment; to appreciate happiness when it comes, like transitory bubbles, which necessarily pop like soap but are utterly intoxicating when we open ourselves up enough to acknowledge their fleeting existence. 

Maybe Nora McInerny should do a podcast episode about that.

I first burst my bubbles in The Jerusalem Post.

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Last year, I wrote a column that asked the question: “how do datlashim – the Hebrew acronym for formerly religious Jews – want to raise their children?” The main response I received during the course of my research: “to be just like them”– that is, to also be datlashim.

This poses a dilemma, as to be formerly religious is, by definition, a one-generation, non-transferable identity. 

Or is it? 

It turns out I’ve been looking at the categories of religious and non-religious all wrong. 

Demographers have typically tried to classify Israeli Jews into four main groups: secular, traditional, religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox. 

That’s out of date, says Shmuel Rosner, the author of the new book Israeli Judaism: A Cultural Revolution.

“Those groups still exist, and they have some importance,” Rosner says, “But it’s more illuminating to look at Israeli society not by dividing it according to religious affiliation, but by a mix of tradition and nationalism.”

The state of Israel, Rosner explains, represents “an unprecedented reality for the Jewish people. Never before was there a civil, secular Jewish state. One would expect that special circumstances such as these would result in a different type of Jewishness.”

In Rosner’s book, which he co-authored with veteran Israeli statistician and pollster Prof. Camil Fuchs, there are still four groups. They’re just very different.

“Israelis” (15% of the Jewish population) are the first group, Rosner writes. They’re nationalists (in the broad sense of the term) who are secular and don’t adhere to much Jewish tradition. 

“Jews” (17%) consist of the ultra-Orthodox who place great emphasis on tradition but are less enthusiastic about national Israeli customs and culture.

“Universalists” (13%) are the farthest left-leaning Israelis. They’re often alienated from both Jewish tradition and other Israelis.

The largest group (a full 55% of the Jewish population) Rosner dubs “Jewsraelis” – those who walk the tightrope balancing tradition and nationality

The Jewsraeli group is not monolithic and includes within it a spectrum of practices and values. On its right flank are the religious Zionists; on the left are secular Israelis who are still engaged in Jewish tradition.

Jewish tradition is hard to avoid in Israel, Rosner points out, which is one reason the Jewsraeli group is so large. Tradition is baked into the symbols and calendar of the state. Yom Kippur is a national day off but clearly comes from Jewish culture. Jewsraelis are connected to Jewish tradition but don’t necessarily feel obligated or limited by religion.

Are you secular but attend a Passover Seder? You’re a Jewsraeli. 

Do you scrupulously observe the commandments but also believe it’s important to serve in the IDF and raise the Israeli flag on Independence Day? You’re a Jewsraeli. 

Do you have a Friday night dinner with family or friends, then retire to the living room to watch a movie? You’re a Jewsraeli. 

Get dressed up for Purim and then go out drinking at raucous party in a Tel Aviv bar? Jewsraeli.

Seen in this light, “datlashim are squarely in the Jewsraeli camp,” Rosner says. “Most datlashim, when they leave religion, become secular yet somewhat traditional.”

Once you define Jewsraelis as the country’s dominant category, it becomes clear that, rather than becoming more and more polarized, Israeli society is actually converging around a consensus, one that blends nationalism and tradition. 

So why does everything feel so fraught these days? “During an election campaign, politicians have to flag the differences to attract voters,” Rosner says. “But if you sat [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet together in a quiet room, you’d find that they agree on almost everything.” After all, they’re Jewsraelis, each in their own ways.

Rosner hit on the idea for his re-categorization while walking his dog in Tel Aviv. 

“I noticed that on Fridays, people bring their dogs [to the park] a bit earlier,” Rosner told The Jerusalem Post. “Everyone in the area is secular. I started asking people why and they explained that they have to walk the dogs and then have Shabbat dinner.”

Eighty percent of the Jewish population in Israel has a Friday night dinner, Rosner notes. “Even if they don’t recite the kiddush, it is still a Jewish thing to do.” In Israel, Jewish customs are a part of life. “It’s something we do without having to think about it.”

Rosner’s research has a personal component. He was raised Orthodox; his wife grew up secular. Defining themselves as Jewsraelis helps make sense of their “mixed marriage.” 

That’s my life, too. Since I began moving away from observance a decade ago, I’ve struggled with where I fit in. I’m no longer religious but I still eagerly attend lectures on Jewish topics. Our home remains kosher, Shabbat and holidays are observed, and I’m in a mixed marriage of my own.

What Rosner helped me understand is that I didn’t leave one category (religious) for another (secular). I simply shifted within the spectrum of the Jewsraeli camp. 

Moreover, the big tent of Jewsraelis is growing. Studies show that up to 50 percent of young Israelis raised in religious Zionist homes eventually become datlashim. In a Jewsraeli context, that’s not something religious parents should fear but rather embrace. 

“National religious families have many children,” Rosner says. “In a sense, they’re like a factory for providing more Jewsraelis to Israeli society.”

Returning to the paradox of what datlashim want for their children, there’s now an answer that makes sense. Their children will indeed be “just like them” – Jewsraelis. And that’s an eminently transferable identity.

I originally wrote about datlashim and Jewsraelis in The Jerusalem Post.

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Flunking out of blood school

by Brian on July 21, 2019

in Cancer

I flunked out of blood school last week. I wasn’t expelled exactly, but my scores dropped significantly enough that I was put on probation and sent for an emergency remedial course.

Blood school is not the kind of place you go on a whim. You first have to receive several “letters of recommendation.” Once you’re in, attendance is mandatory and, like a certain hotel in California, you can never really leave. Even if you go on vacation for a while, you’re required to show up for annual reunions, where the staff checks how well you’re doing and decides if re-enrollment is necessary. 

Back when I was in regular school, I was the kid who always got straight A’s. I was several teachers’ pet. I brought that same sensibility with me to blood school. I peppered the instructors (who for some reason insist we call them “doctors” and “nurses”) with questions showing how much I had prepared and how well I was going to do at my new school.

So, when I received the equivalent of a “D” from blood school, it was a blow to my ego as much as to my body. I had expected to sail through blood school with nary a hiccup.

It’s not like you can cheat in blood school. We all follow the teachers’ assignments assiduously. If you get a poor score, it’s entirely a matter of inner constitution, something you’re born with.

Blood school, of course, is what I like to call the time I’ve been spending at the hematology daycare ward since I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma last year. The occasion of my recent failure was a sudden drop in my white blood cell count – in particular, a type of cell known as a neutrophil – 10 days after my fifth session of immunotherapy maintenance treatment. 

Nothing like that had happened over the previous four treatments nor during the months of chemotherapy that preceded this phase. That’s why it came as such a shock. 

I was a star pupil, I told anyone who asked. Instead, it turns out, I’m quite ordinary. 

If your blood test scores drop too low, it means your immune system can’t fight off the bacteria all around us, putting you at a higher risk of infection and hospitalization, two situations I desperately want to avoid. There is also the risk that your immune system could remain permanently depressed. 

The protocol in cases like mine is to get a shot of a medication called Neupogen, which prompts your bone marrow to rapidly produce extra white blood cells that can mature into more neutrophils. 

The shot itself didn’t hurt but, afterward, every single bone in my body seemed to ache while the marrow inside was working overtime. It felt like I’d come down with an especially nasty flu. 

Susan, my favorite nurse, cautioned me to avoid crowds for the next few days. That knocked out a dinner we had planned with some friends who were in town, but at that point, I wasn’t in a social mood anyway.

A follow-up blood test showed that the shot worked: my initial scores were out of the danger zone, although it’s too soon to celebrate – it will take another month or two to see if they stay up. 

The whole experience dispelled my illogical belief that my time in blood school would, unlike my peers, somehow be limited in duration.

It’s not all bad. Blood school can even be fun. Only a few courses are compulsory. 

Everyone has to take basic math (“if you need 12 treatments over two years and you’ve done five already, how many more do you have to go?”) and sport (regular exercise can keep you from calling in sick too often). I particularly like the literature class – we read lots of cancer memoirs and books on managing chronic pain. I chose to do my science elective on medical cannabis. 

The social scene at blood school is a lot like any other school. You’re thrown into a room with a group of strangers. At first, you stay quiet and avoid eye contact. When you do connect with someone, the bond forged in blood school is like no other. But there’s competition, too, where you wind up comparing yourself to others and determining who’s the more promising student. Sometimes you get to take an experimental advanced placement class. 

There are blood schools in every major city these days and demand is steadily increasing. My school is a bit run down. Some of the equipment hasn’t been updated since the 1950s and there are never enough pillows. But the staff is uniformly great; they really care about their students, which is what’s most important, after all.

I’m not due for my first furlough from blood school for another year, after which I can look forward to the annual homecoming dance, although it’s not with the other students or even my favorite teachers but with the maintenance team that manages the PET CT machine that looks for tumors. If you’re clear, you’re free to go about your business normally until the next reunion. 

Every so often, you hear about a student who defied the odds and graduated, no longer needing to come back, not even for continuing education courses. 

That’s my hope and the hope of every student in blood school: to receive an actual diploma from a school that’s steadfastly stingy about granting them.

I first wrote about blood school in The Jerusalem Post.

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A new English-language podcast that aims to demystify the racy yet often unspoken topic of “intimacy and healthy sexuality in the context of Jewish family life” – hosted by an Orthodox rabbi and a sex therapist no less – is attracting a growing number of listeners online.

Rabbi Scott Kahn and Talli Rosenbaum in the studio (courtesy)

Intimate Judaism” began as a one-off episode of Rabbi Scott Kahn’s “Orthodox Conundrum” podcast, which examines issues affecting the Orthodox world “without exaggeration, whitewashing or pretending they don’t exist.” Orthodox Conundrum is the flagship show on a network of podcasts run by Kahn called the Jewish Coffee House

Kahn had invited Beit Shemesh-based sex therapist Talli Rosenbaum to come on his show to discuss male masturbation. The idea was to talk about the subject from the perspective of both halacha (Jewish Law) and psychology.

“It was probably one of Scott’s most popular podcast episodes ever,” Rosenbaum tells The Jerusalem Post. 

It was so popular, in fact, that it spawned a 13-episode spin-off – Intimate Judaism – that has tackled such sensitive subjects as infidelity and monogamy, how to raise sexually healthy children and what does halacha really require on the wedding night?

Intimate Judaism’s most listened to episode, Rosenbaum says, was about “What you are and aren’t allowed to do in bed. It points to how desperate people are for information.”

Rosenbaum says that the podcast attracts “a demographic of people that respect and adhere to Jewish law but also want to experience optimum sexuality.” Listeners includes Modern Orthodox Jews (with which both Rosenbaum and Kahn identify) as well as “people to the right of Modern Orthodoxy and those who don’t identify as Orthodox at all.”

Rosenbaum admits “We’re not going to be able to please everyone. Some people will think we’re too modern. Others that we’re not liberal enough.”

It can be particularly challenging, Rosenbaum points out, when it comes to providing balanced advice for adolescents. “We want to raise our children to experience themselves as sexual human beings without guilt and shame, while at the same time taking into account Jewish values and self-regulation,” she says.

Another recurring topic is the conflict between obligation and personal agency. Many couples look at sex from a halachic headset “as something where they have no individual control,” Rosenbaum explains. “It’s very important that we bring a voice that says a Jewish marriage absolutely appreciates – and to some extent demands – that each partner have sexual autonomy.” 

The program is not afraid to wade into the touchiest of topics. One episode was titled “Jewish #MeToo: Does adherence to Jewish Law provide safety from sexual assault?” (The answer is no, the program’s hosts say. “Objectification and victimization exist across cultures, and Orthodox Judaism is no exception.”)

Each episode of Intimate Judaism opens with Kahn presenting the halachic framework and biblical and Talmudic texts underling the theme to be discussed. Rosenbaum then tries to probe “what might be going on here that’s deeper” than the law. The two hosts will sometimes disagree, but always respectively. 

Rosenbaum and Kahn both insist that the podcast “adheres to the cultural norms of modest speech.” That’s because, in addition to individual listeners, “we hope we can enable rabbis and other clergy to understand that there is more to intimacy than just what you are and aren’t allowed to do,” Rosenbaum says.

Have Rosenbaum and Kahn received flack or pushback from listeners? Rosenbaum says no, “but I’m a fairly public personality about these topics. I’ve written articles, I have a blog, so my family and friends are used to it. When the podcast first came out, maybe I got some looks and giggles at Kiddush in shul.”

Kahn tells The Jerusalem Post that “talking about sex and intimacy is part of the job” when he counsels young men on the laws of family purity before marriage. Kahn was the director of Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah in Beit Shemesh for 11 years prior to starting his podcast network.

“I can only be effective if I’m frank and honest,” he stresses, although he doesn’t “necessarily anticipate evolving into a Dr. Ruth Westheimer. While I’m comfortable discussing these topics, I admit that it’s easier doing so in the comfort of a recording studio than in front of a visibly large audience.”

Kahn did check with his own rabbis before launching the podcast. “They were very supportive,” he says. “One wanted to make sure that my wife was on board. She was, in fact, particularly encouraging. She believes Intimate Judaism is providing an important service.”

Indeed, rather than hate mail, Kahn and Rosenbaum have received messages of appreciation from listeners “who have found the podcast to be a breath of fresh air,” Kahn says. “There is so much misinformation about sexuality resulting from both incorrect teaching and wrong assumptions by religious people who were never taught at all. I will admit, however, that I don’t share the podcast with my mother or mother-in-law.”

“These are not watercooler conversations,” Rosenbaum quips.

In episode 13, the final one of the first season, Rosenbaum and Kahn explore what happens when couples disagree over religious observance – for example, whether to refrain from sexual relations until the wife has immersed in a mikve (ritual bath). The discussion quickly expanded to encompass more than just sex.

“No couple sees eye-to-eye on every aspect of marriage,” Rosenbaum says. “That’s true whether it’s sex, religion, money, kids, education or in-laws. The idea is about being able to navigate power struggles and the dynamic between the couple. As a couple’s therapist, I’m very attuned to the idea of differentiation.”

The Intimate Judaism podcast has been downloaded over 20,000 times since it launched in July 2018, with most of those from North America and Israel. That’s not an insignificant audience, but it’s not generating revenue on its own just yet. 

That’s OK for Rosenbaum; making money on the podcast per se was never her goal. “I look at this as an area where I can contribute,” she explains. 

That fits with her other work: Rosenbaum is the co-author of the forthcoming book “Ani L’Dodi: I am for My Beloved – A Married Couple’s Guide to Enhanced Intimacy.” She is certified as a sex therapist by the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, as well as by the Israeli Society for Sex Therapy and spends most of her day with couples in her office. She is also the academic advisor to Yahel: The Center for Jewish Intimacy, which provides personal counseling to couples and courses for professionals. 

If there’s any financial silver lining from her podcast, it’s been an uptick in clients, Rosenbaum says.

For Kahn, Intimate Judaism is part of an overall increase in listenership for his Jewish Coffee House network, which has now been operating for two and a half years. 

“Almost every podcast on the network is more popular now that it was even six months ago,” Kahn says. The downside: the site is getting unwieldly, with “everything from baseball to a podcast geared toward Christians who support Israel.” Former MK Dov Lipman hosts “Knesset Corner” while Molly Livingstone jokes around in the “Jewish Coffee House Comedy Podcast.” 

Expect more spin-offs – in this case for some of the non-Judaism specific programs to shift to their own independent websites, Kahn says.

Intimate Judaism is on summer break but will be back in the fall with more provocative questions about sex, religion and relationships. You can catch up with past episodes at https://www.intimatejudaism.com/and https://jewishcoffeehouse.com/.

I first wrote about Intimate Judaism in The Jerusalem Post.

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“Why do you Israelis want to wipe us off the map?” asked Zahra.

Tehran, Iran (credit: Behrooz Rezvani)

The question wasn’t meant to be provocative; Zahra was merely curious. I was, after all, the first Israeli she’d ever met. And she was the first Iranian – at least someone who currently lives in the country rather than, say, an expat in Los Angeles or the child of Iranian Jews now residing in Israel – I’d had a conversation with, as well.

I met Zahra on a recent trip to Barcelona where I was covering a conference for a client. Zahra runs a tech company in Tehran and had given a presentation, earlier in the day, where she described the difficulties of doing business in the midst of Iran’s current economic crisis. 

Runaway inflation (nearly 40 percent at the end of 2018) means that the price of a supermarket item in the morning may not be the same as the price at the end of the day, Zahra explained on stage.

Zahra’s story gave me an opening to make “first contact.” I approached the businesswoman during a coffee break.

“I really related to your story about inflation,” I said, “The annual inflation rate where I live was over 400 percent in 1985. We used to joke that you’re better off prepaying your taxi fare than using the meter in order to lock in a lower price.”

Zahra looked at me quizzically. What country did this guy, speaking perfect English, come from that had inflation like that? Certainly not the United States.

“I live in Israel,” I said, sensing her confusion

Zahra’s eyes widened ever so slightly though her demeanor remained steady. A consummate CEO with a winning, unwavering smile, dressed in pants, a long tunic and a red and cream-colored hijab covering all but a wisp of hair, she brushed past the elephant that had suddenly set up camp in the conference hall and asked if inflation is still high in Israel.

I launched into a simplified explanation of the 1985 economic reforms that would eventually transform Israel into the Startup Nation.

But the next session was starting and it was my job to report on it, so I had to run back to my laptop.

I caught up with Zahra again the next day. Apparently, our brief chat had made an impression. She had already told her family in Tehran that she’d met an Israeli. What she said I wasn’t privy to, but now, at least, she wanted to know about more than shekels and startups. 

“What do Israelis think about Iranians?” she asked, her smile as unreadable as before.

Suddenly thrust into the role of unofficial Israeli ambassador-without-portfolio, I paused for a moment to choose my words carefully. 

“I think most Israelis are able to separate the people of Iran from what its government says,” I responded, as diplomatically as I could. “People are basically the same everywhere, don’t you think?” 

Zahra nodded.

“We all just want to make a living,” I continued, gaining confidence. “To raise our children to thrive, to be happy.” 

“So then why do you want to kill us all?” Zahra abruptly asked.

I was momentarily stunned.

“Is…that what you h-hear about Israel in Iran?” I stammered.

“Yes, of course,” she said. 

I felt myself resisting her words – they didn’t fit my expectations of how a worldly Iranian entrepreneur at an international tech conference would think. That was supposed to be rhetoric from the ayatollahs, not the general population. 

“Well, I have never heard anyone in power in Israel ever say they wanted to obliterate the entire Iranian people,” I replied. “It’s not true, not in the least.”

Zahra kept smiling as she took in what I imagined was new information. I shifted uncomfortably in my dress shoes and fidgeted with my name tag.

“Then why do you shoot Palestinians?” she continued.

I tried to add some context this time.

“If someone is running at a soldier with a knife, the solider has to defend himself,” I said. “If a terrorist is planting a bomb, he’s going to be stopped. But the name of our army is the Israel Defense Forces. Its mission is to defend, not to initiate action.”

Was I getting through? I couldn’t tell. 

“Don’t you think, if the Palestinian conflict was solved, all the other issues in the Middle East would go away?” Zahra asked.

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” I started to say, but we were cut off for a second time as the networking break came to an end. 

Zahra and I exchanged business cards.

“Perhaps someday it will be possible to visit you in peace,” I said. “I hear Tehran looks a lot like Tel Aviv.”

Zahra didn’t reciprocate with a wish of her own to sip tea in Jaffa, nor did we shake hands as we parted. (I didn’t try, not knowing if her hijab meant no contact with the opposite sex.) 

Afterward, I sent Zahra an email with a copy of the article I’d written about her presentation and a pledge to continue the conversation virtually. 

I never heard back from her. Perhaps the email never got through the Iranian censors.

I hope that Zahra’s business trip to the West, in the midst of increasing sanctions on Tehran, wasn’t entirely in vain. If nothing else, she met her first Israeli and he turned out to be not quite the monster she’d always expected. 

I first wrote about meeting the enemy in The Jerusalem Post.

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Is it all in my head?

June 23, 2019

If you were to have told me a year and a half ago that my chronic stomach pain was all in my head, I would have picked up the nearest stick and shown you what “all in your head” really feels like.

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What I learned from Facebook about God

June 10, 2019

How a Facebook conspiracy theory helped me understand why some people, when confronted with cosmic questions like the Big Bang, say “God made it.”

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Letting go

May 27, 2019

I was the fat kid in elementary school. I worked hard to keep the weight off. Then I got cancer. As my weight ping pongs, can I learn to let go of the “small things?”

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After Pittsburgh and Poway, is it time to make aliyah?

May 11, 2019

Thoughts after the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway. In a world where no place is safe, where should you live?

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You want me to swallow … that?

April 28, 2019

“You want me to swallow…that?” I blurted out to Yardena, the nurse.  In Yardena’s hand was an oversized, oval-shaped capsule, the size of a pill bug – that is, if a pill bug got caught under a radioactive beam and grew in power like a high-tech Spider-man. The bug/capsule had flashing eyes and, instead of DNA, its […]

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