10:00

10:00

Silence.

It begins.
The wail rises up from the earth beneath my feet to fill the spaces between us.
I stand, feel the heaviness in my throat that threatens to drag me down beneath myself.
The constant tone.
It connects us and it isolates us in our shared sorrow.
Then it fades.

Silence, again. Emptiness.
Something clicks, beeps and the world comes rushing back.
We sit again.
Somewhere, someone is singing, someone laughs.

10:02


These might interest you too:

Our Holocaust and ancient spirituality

Are we forgetting our Holocaust survivors?

School fees for writers

School fees for writers are those experiences you go through when you learn to write more effectively. Just being a good writer isn’t enough. You have to learn to adapt your writing for your objectives and that can feel like starting from scratch.

When I changed careers I knew I would have school fees to pay even though I have been writing (and doing a share of content writing) for a long time. The difference was that I was shifting from writing articles about themes that mostly just interested me professionally to a focused content marketing career. It has proven to be a challenging transition.

Writing for myself vs professional writing

When I write for myself, I write to share an idea, an argument or something I find interesting. The result I have in mind is to share something interesting with you and hope you find it interesting too.

Content writing is a little different. On the one hand, I believe strongly in writing as a blogger. What do I mean by that? To me, writing as a blogger means sharing something with your audience in your voice. It is not, as Nathan pointed out recently, “flogging”, it is something real.

When I think about great marketing writing, I think about articles that share something useful in a personal voice, not jargon filled PR language (I am being introduced to PR as a recent addition to my projects and it feels very different).

At the same time, marketing writing has a tangible objective: add to the business’ bottom line. Marketing writing that doesn’t help the business make money in a meaningful and measurable way isn’t particularly effective. With that in mind, my goal has been to learn to write material that converts more effectively and intentionally.

Although my previous body of professional writing continues to draw traffic, I wrote those articles to inform, educate and satisfy my curiosity about the stuff I wrote about. I wasn’t always writing specifically to convert readers into customers. That happened mostly organically because customers were often drawn to my content and reached out to me because they felt I would be able to help them.

Making those school fees count

In my current position, our emphasis is on measurable performance. We focus on producing content that generates leads that our sales team can convert. Writing that sort of content isn’t as easy as it may have seemed to me when I began. I like to think I write fairly well but writing well isn’t enough. The writing has to achieve a tangible result. That is the purpose of my professional role, ultimately.

This is where those school fees come in. “School fees” are those experiences you go through when you learn to write more effectively. Just being a good writer isn’t enough.

You have to learn to adapt your writing for your objectives and that can feel like starting from the beginning. It can feel a lot like those early, bewildering years in first grade, although with stubble and a family depending on you being a quick study.

Making the transition to this approach can be challenging. It isn’t uncommon to write something I feel is particularly insightful and informative only to receive feedback from my boss that it falls short because it doesn’t adequately address a particular set of needs. Sometimes the feedback can be tough because, after all, I write “fairly well”, right?

I think a big source of frustration is that I have an attachment to my writing. How can you not have an attachment to your work when it is an expression of your personality shaped for a specific purpose? That personal investment in your work is what differentiates it from a stereotypical PR publicity piece and gives it meaning in some way.

Writing something that people really resonate with is a great feeling, probably second only to writing something that feels meaningful in the first place. Sometimes those hits are surprises, too. I’ve written a number of articles that I wouldn’t have thought would have been particularly interesting and turned out to be pretty popular.

As with photography, you don’t usually see all the misses in between because they don’t make it to publication. In between all of those is a series of creative crises, intermingled with short growth spurts.

These school fees can really bite at times although they tend to be worth it in the medium term even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

Image credit: Pixabay

Are we forgetting our Holocaust survivors?

Just as we should never forget the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust, we must remember the Holocaust survivors who live among us, often neglected and in need of our support.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer highlighted an important issue as we approach Yom Hashoah later this week: is Israel forgetting our Holocaust survivors?

But. We forgot someone. Actually, a lot of someones.

The actual survivors who need our help.

Because during the rest of the year, during the cold winters and the blistering summers, while housing prices soar with the cost of living, one out of four Holocaust survivors lives in poverty and isolation.
Let me repeat that: One. Out. Of. Four.

Yes, a staggering — no, a SICKENING — 25 % of all Holocaust survivors in Israel are struggling to pay the rent, or buy groceries. The children of the Holocaust are in their 70’s and 80’s now…
Some are all alone.

Others are sick.

It is tragic that these survivors made it through the horrors of the Holocaust to our home land only to languish through neglect by successive governments.

I read some positive news just before I started writing this post, too. According to an article on YNet News titled “Kahlon: Half-billion shekels to go to holocaust survivors and elderly” –

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced plans on Monday to increase annual financial support for Holocaust survivors and elderly welfare recipients by a half-billion shekels in advance of the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, previous Israeli governments have not done enough on behalf of Holocaust survivors…the program is focused on pushing elderly Holocaust survivors over the poverty line,” Kahlon said during the annual Knesset event celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. “In addition, there has not been enough done for the economically-disadvantaged elderly population—increasing their benefits was one of our conditions for entering the government.”

Let’s not forget the living as we remember the dead. Here are a few options if you want to make a contribution (feel free to share more links in the comments and I’ll add to the list):

Image credit: Pixabay

No more device guilt

All those notifications and conversations can rapidly become sources of guilt. One solution is just not to create the profiles in the first place.

I came across this article on People (it was a search result, ok?!) titled “Jennifer Garner: Why I’m Not on Twitter or Instagram” about why Jennifer Garner doesn’t have Twitter or Instagram profiles and one of her reasons is really interesting:

One, I don’t want any more guilt coming from my phone or computer. I have the hardest time answering emails, anyway, so the last thing I want to feel is indebted to my phone or computer. So it’s time.

I know a few people who are tempted to delete their social profiles entirely and just open a post box somewhere. That isn’t really an option for me but I do often feel the need for fewer notifications, things to check and more analogue sanity.

On a related note, Radiohead’s latest publicity move has captured some people’s imaginations:

Could you just delete your digital presence?

Image credit: Pexels

A gentle bedtime story from Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner reads a new bedtime classic in a gentle, but firm style that many parents will appreciate. It’s a wonderful book for 21st century parents, not prudes.

Jennifer Garner read a gentle bedtime story for kids that almost all parents will love because it speaks our truths at that late hour. This is probably essential reading for the 21st century parent:

Just in case you were wondering (or have been living in a science station in Antarctica for 6 years), the book is very real:

Go the Fuck to Sleep

Image credit: Pexels

Ntokozo Qwabe: an inconvenient hypocrisy

You’ve read about Ntokozo Qwabe and his reason for refusing to tip a waitress based on his political activism. Did you also notice his hypocrisy?

2016-04 Ntokozo Qwabe FB post about his humiliation of Ashleigh SchultzI barely followed the story about how Ntokozo Qwabe and his ridicule of a waitress he upset as part of what must have seemed like a clever bit of activism. A number of people have commented so I’m not going to add to the criticism.

Qwabe’s amusing and, most likely, inconvenient hypocrisy was highlighted in an article on The Daily Mail and I had to share that:

Does the name Ntokozo Qwabe ring a bell? Let me refresh your memory: he is one of the leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which called for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from the facade of Oriel College, Oxford, on the grounds it was upsetting to ethnic minority students to be confronted by a monument to the 19th-century colonialist.

It then emerged Mr Qwabe’s own place at Oxford is as a Rhodes Scholar, funded by a bequest from that very same imperialist. He became, according to one report, ‘visibly angry’ when the academic Mary Beard said: ‘You can’t whitewash Rhodes out of history but go on using his cash.’

On a positive note, the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Ashleigh Schultz, the waitress who was the subject of Ntokozo Qwabe’s political tantrum, has been a tremendous success.

Update (2016-05-02): Also read this response from Oriel College at Oxford to the #rhodesmustfall campaign being conducted there by Qwabe and his colleagues (apologies for the ad in the embed).

OXFORD – The Fight Back Has Begun

Image credit: Ntokozo Qwabe

When you make aliya “… you will be a Jew – not Jewish”

Our aliya process is very much a work in progress. This list of aliya “facts” is a little funny and I’ll find out in a few years how true they are but one stands out for me.

Neil Lazarus published a post titled “The top 14 facts they forget to tell you about aliya” which my friend, Rachelle, pointed out on Facebook. I’m not sure about most of the “facts” but number 14 works for me:

Despite all of the above, your children will be Jewish and will have a sense of pride. You will walk the roads where Jewish prophets and kings once walked. You will celebrate Jewish holidays and walk streets named after mega-Jews — not saints. You will become a part of Jewish history as it unfolds and, as an Israeli, you will be a Jew — not Jewish.

Our Holocaust and ancient spirituality

I visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem, with my mother on her first day in Israel. It was the beginning of a profound journey in my new home.

My mother arrived for her first visit to Israel and I took her to Jerusalem. Our first visit was to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. We took the light rail from the central bus station up to Mount Herzl and walked along the edge of the forest to the museum.

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center

We decided to do a self-guided tour of the museum and hired two audio guides and entered the main museum. It is shaped almost like a deep prism and your path through the various exhibits is a winding one. You can’t simply walk from one side to the other, you have to cross through all the Holocaust exhibits and be immersed in the unfolding tragedy as you go.

I wasn’t new to the Holocaust. I’ve been exposed to it for most of my life. Just the same, I found the museum almost overwhelming. It was filled with stories of communities that were, at first, sidelined. Later, they were taken from their homes, relegated to ghettos and, finally, shipped to the camps where roughly two thirds of all European Jews were murdered.

Photos of Holocaust victims
Israel Tourism, licensed CC BY SA 2.0

What the exhibits depicted using photos, video footage from the time and collections of victims’ personal effects and writings was just how brutal the genocide was. I found myself fighting back tears for most of the two hours we spent walking through it all.

The view as you exit the museum

We emerged at the other end of the museum and were presented with this remarkable view of the valley. It is a life affirming sight, almost as if the museum’s architect is saying –

Look! After all this tragedy and devastation, this is what we must protect. This is a reminder of what we must never forget and what can never happen again.

The Kotel

David's tower and the Old City walls
David’s tower and the Old City walls

It was fitting that our next stop was the Kotel (also known as the Western Wall). On the other side of the Kotel is the holiest Jewish site – the Temple Mount. This was the site of the two great Temples and is also the object of considerable tension with Muslims who regard the Temple Mount as their third holiest site.

The Kotel
The Western Wall (the “Kotel”) in Jerusalem.

The first time I saw the Wall, it seemed so small. I expected it to be bigger and, as I learned a week later when we return for a tour of the tunnels underneath it, the visible wall we see now was only a small part of the original wall. Visiting the Kotel is a fairly personal experience. To me, it is a monument to an ancient people, my ancestors. It is a reminder of what we have been through and what we fight for every day.

I love this photo of these monks watching visitors to the Wall.
I love this photo of these monks watching visitors to the Wall.

Just the beginning

That day in Jerusalem was just the start of a staycation with my mother. I still had a couple more days to work that week before taking the week of Chol Hamoed off for some downtime, local tourism and quality time with my family. It was also the beginning of what turned out to be a profound personal journey that I’ll share in subsequent articles.

In the meantime, I have published my album from that day to Flickr. You’re welcome to view more photos here:

Jerusalem visit collage
View my gallery of photos on Flickr.