Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm a winner!

I am rather late in posting this, but I wanted to let my readers know that a couple of weeks ago I received two Golden Quill Awards, which are presented by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. The awards were for two separate articles that appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

The first, for Investigative/Enterprise reporting, was for an article about how urban renewal in the 1960s and '70s negatively impacted a Pittsburgh neighborhood and may have played a part in the exodus of the Jewish community from that area. The other, a Spot News piece, was about how Jews in West Virginia feel about Senator Robert C. Byrd, who enjoys legendary status in the state but has never been a supporter of foreign aid to Israel.

I feel very gratified to have won the awards, and was a little bit overwhelmed to have received two of them (I was competing against other non-daily newspapers, not daily newspapers). Here is a link to a press release about the awards, which lists all the winners. http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060508/clm003.html?.v=44

Both of my winning articles are available online at The Jewish Chronicle. Unfortunately, our antiquated Web site makes it impossible to link directly to individual articles. However, it is possible to search the site by headline, and the two articles are the following:

"Building that symbolized failed urban renewal comes down" and

"W.Va. Jews support Byrd despite record"

Both articles are about topics that are close to my heart, and the first in particular was a project in which I invested a lot of personal time and energy. (The finished article is about 1,500 words, which is quite long for a newspaper story.) So, being honored for these articles is particularly gratifying and renews my delusions of grandeur about achieving journalistic greatness. :) [The truth of the matter is, I feel extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work in a field I love, and to have the chance, every now and then, to write articles that I really find meaningful, which is truly more valuable than any external award. Not that I'm complaining about the two lovely plaques that I have yet to hang on my wall.:) ]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Finally, a nephew update

I'm a few weeks overdue, but for those of you who have been breathlessly waiting, my nephew's name is Aaron Zebulun Smith. He had his bris right after Pesach, but life has been busy, and then my computer went kaput (it's okay, it was old, it was its time), and I finally got my new, wonderful computer all set up today, and it is so fast, and so cool, and I'm almost as excited about it as I am about being an aunt!

As you see, there is a photo of Aaron along with this post, plus I am copying below a column I wrote for last week's Jewish Chronicle about the little guy's bris. May we always have simchas to share!

Bris teaches lesson in family unity

Gathering representatives of Judaism’s various branches is somewhat like getting together the members of an over-opinionated family, who often disagree quite passionately. Sometimes just getting together is an accomplishment all its own.

Aside from normal (read: stressful) family dynamics, many of us today can look at our own family gatherings and see nearly the whole range of Jewish experience – affiliated and unaffiliated; secular and religious; intermarried and inmarried; born Jewish, non-Jewish and Jewish by choice; Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform.

Such was the case at the recent bris for my nephew, who was born right before Passover. He is the first child of my only sister, and the first grandchild to both sides of his family. His bris brought together nearly 30 people of very diverse backgrounds and attitudes toward Judaism. And that was just the beginning. Like any nice Jewish family, we have our share of individuals with complicated relationships, including, of course, my parents, who have been divorced for 25 years.

As I drove to northern Virginia for the bris on a late April day, I was excited to meet my nephew and nervous about the possible tensions that such a family gathering could produce.

I was pleasantly surprised (read: shocked) when I arrived at the location for the bris to find that quite a few family members from the various branches were not only politely mingling, but seeming to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. It all seemed like a very strange dream.

Such a diverse family gathering is practically the stuff of nightmares for me, with worries about how everyone will get along. But afterward, as I thought about a series of coincidences that made it possible for several relatives to attend the bris, it seemed as though God was bringing everyone together to welcome my nephew, Aaron Zebulun Smith, into the world.

At nearly 10 pounds, Aaron was big for a newborn, but he was still tiny compared to the rest of us, and as I looked around the room of assorted family members, it was both ironic and amazing that so many people had gathered together in celebration of this new little person’s life. And it was more amazing that such a small, utterly helpless person would have such power to bring people together.

The mohel did a beautiful job of explaining the ritual to everyone present – both those who had attended such ceremonies and those who had not. Everyone was focused on the celebration of Aaron’s birth – and his entry into Jewish life – and not on hurt feelings from the past.

I was incredibly relieved that everyone got along. And, the celebration gave me hope that in the future the various branches of my family will be able to gather together for other happy events that will truly be happy.

I hope the same will be true for other Jewish families as complicated as mine, and for the Jewish people as a whole. May we always be able to set aside our differences and join together in times of true celebration.