Friday, April 11, 2014

The Passover Guest by Joan Koehler

Years ago I found the following story in a women’s magazine, Redbook, Ladies’ Home  Journal, or Good Housekeeping. Charmed with the tale, I clipped it and packed it away with my Pesach things to come out and be reread year after year.

Unfortunately, I never found another work of fiction by Joan Koehler. Recently I tried, unsuccessfully, to learn about her life on the internet. If anyone does have any information about her I would be happy to receive it.

In the meantime, please enjoy this story and accept my warm wishes for a happy holiday.
The Passover Guest
by Joan Koehler

Spring had come to Vislovitz. Under the pale sunlight the last sooty lumps of snow melted into puddles. But just looking at the calendar was enough to make any Jewish housewife faint-April already-and only a few days till Passover. Even the rich women who wore satins and pearls on the Sabbath were down on their hands and knees scrubbing.

Friday, April 4, 2014

In Your Blood You Will Live

As the month of Nissan begins my thoughts turn to Seders past. So many years I have carefully set the Seder table with a stiff, white tablecloth, sparkling wines glasses just waiting for their wine, stacks of three matzos covered with the hand-made, embroidered cloths, and time-worn haggadot next to each place. The Seder always begins with a surge of excitement and anticipation. Once it ends, though, there is little to resemble to the beginning either physically or spiritually. The tablecloth is no longer white, rather stained red, green, and brown from wine lettuce, and chorosis. Matza crumbs adorn the table, the chairs, and the once shining floor. The children who have stayed awake are tired and irritable and the adults are not much better. When I stumble off to bed I can only hope that despite the mess and exhaustion we have managed to add precious memories, ideals, and attitudes to remember throughout the coming year.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sin of Silence: A Short Story (Fiction)

I killed my daughter-in-law. I didn't mean to and it wasn't because I didn't like her. I loved her. We were never one of those mother and daughter-in-law cliches. In fact, whenever I listened to Megillah Rut I always thought my relationship with Bracha was very similar to the one Naomi had with Rut. I guess, like they say in the stories, I should begin at the beginning.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Abuse of Authority or Plain Old Anti-Semitism?

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit it but I was one of those goody-goody students, the kind likely to be a teacher’s pet. I liked learning and since I had no brothers or sisters I liked the socializing in school. All through grammar school I had an integral place in my class of thirty students. Junior high school was a rude awakening for me in many ways. Since a number of grammar schools fed into the junior high we became a class of over four hundred. Of course, we never learned together in one classroom but every hour had us moving from one room to another. None of us moved uniformly and each hour we had a whole new group of classmates and a different teacher. Between bells I hurried from science class to sport, from sport to social studies, from social studies to art or music, from art or music to math and from math to English. It was in English I met my Waterloo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

And Again, Practical Pointers for Pesach Preparations

After having made Pesach thirty-seven times and never once being late for Bedikat Chometz, I think I can say with full confidence that I am somewhat of an expert on Pesach preparations. It would be well worth your while to read my pointers.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


When I was a teenager the rabbi at our Reform temple said something in his pre-Purim talk that I have never forgotten. He stated that one of his colleagues always told over the Purim story with a slight twist to the ending. This other rabbi’s conclusion had Mordechai and Haman making up, sitting under a tree together, and becoming the best of friends.
If I remember correctly I was enthralled with this new ending. After all, growing up in that oasis of time of the fifties and sixties overt anti-Semitism was something I learned about but did not experience. How I wish my children and grandchildren could think the same way I did. Hatred to the Jewish people is such a reality for them. Friends have been murdered on their way to Torah classes. Playmates have been stabbed to death while sleeping in their beds. All this and more has been done by Arab terrorists who want to destroy Israel. Unfortunately, my children and grandchildren know firsthand there is no truth to that other rabbi’s happy ending.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Fun Article for the Month of Adar

My Children Guard My Tongue
First Published in Horizons Magazine in 1996
It’s a humbling experience being a mother, but it’s even more humbling being a bilingual one. I guess I’m giving myself more credit than I deserve, though. I’m not really bilingual; I’m more what you would call non-lingual. As I learn more Hebrew, I forget more English, and whereas I once sounded like the university graduate I was, nowadays I more closely resemble a high-school dropout. And when it comes to Hebrew, well, there are preschoolers who speak better than I do. That wouldn't be so bad, except the preschoolers are my children and they and their older siblings are embarrassed by me.