Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”

I’d say that I’m sure we all remember the C & C Music Factory song, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm.”

Then, I remember the guy in my office who is less than a decade younger than I am, but who wouldn’t remember the song. So that analogy is out.

Anyway, having been on the web almost as long as the web has been publicly available (serious about this–I remember the days before Netscape and even Mosaic, though I’m guessing I’ve now lost, like, everyone), I never have stopped being amazed by how easy the internet makes due diligence, and how little it still happens.

I’m speaking, of course, about links and follows on blogs like this one.

Recently, one of the posts on this blog (I won’t say which) was linked to by someone (I won’t say who) who I’m 100% positive would not share the ideas expressed in that post. I’m really, really sure about this; you’ll just have to take my word for it.

How did this happen? I think some of the authoring tools that WordPress makes so conveniently accessible are the culprits here. Specifically, as you author a post, you get lots of related content that comes up underneath the editor for your posts. It bases its suggestions on the content of your post. (If you write a WordPress blog, you know what I mean, unless you’ve never used anything other than the iPad/iPhone app to do this. I won’t even go into how abysmal I find that whole thing.) (Also, it’s suggesting right now that I add some links to blogs about monetary policy, because one of them recently talked about the Federal Reserve using a reference to the same song I talked about at the beginning of this post. Which shows how the whole click-without-linking thing can happen.)

So, I think the person in question here was writing a post that addressed a similar topic, was adding links, and clicked the selection for one of my posts.

But I can’t imagine this person would have linked to my post had said individual actually read what I wrote; I’m inferring this from the content of the linking post and the other links the individual selected, all of which were in the same vein as the linking post. And none of those were in the same vein as my post. My post was running the other way from those posts and links, with its hair on fire, zombies following in its wake, and using parkour to surmount obstacles. (Well, not really–humanist here, no zombies, and the closest I’ve ever come to parkour is watching Schmidt on “The New Girl,” but you get the picture.)

Anyway, as a favor to your readers, it’s probably a pretty good idea to look before you leap–because many readers won’t do that themselves, and might not come back if you provide a link that is…unexpected. I promise my readers that I will (and have, and do) practice what I preach on that point.

In any case, it’s bath time in these parts for a certain kiddo, so here I am, signing off. Have a good week!


And now, a brief intermission from our regularly scheduled program

Okay, let’s take a break from the Pew study, Jewish identity, etc. Well, a little break, anyway.

(Rummages in closet, grabs the “Autism dad” soapbox, drags it to the public square)

So, now I’m going to put on the Autism dad hat. I’m not going to make requests for expanded healthcare availability, more public school funding for services, etc. We’re just going to be people here for a bit.

An article today on is titled, “I MIssed the Autism Early Intervention Boat & That Might Have Been a Good Thing.” In it, the author, Dana Meijler, talks about her daughter’s Autism diagnosis at age five–past the threshold for “critical” early intervention.

Meijler has, among other things, this to say:

Our social worker, who was there to help us, told us to slow down and take a breath. Yes, therapy is important, but what was just as important was letting our daughter be herself. While therapy could help our daughter immensely, she would always have autism and would probably never be completely free of its symptoms. What was most important, she said, was that our daughter felt accepted and that we focus our energies on supporting who she is and encouraging her to take those scary steps outside of her own world.

I can’t emphasize how dead-on I think Meijler’s social worker was. We have tried, since our son’s diagnosis at age two (WAY inside the early intervention period), not to make Autism the defining feature of his life. Or, a different way of saying it, we just treat him as he is. In some respects, while we had early intervention services of some kinds (I was in school for much of this period, so we didn’t have insurance to cover treatment), we really were in a situation similar to Meijler’s. We just couldn’t do anything much about the diagnosis beyond developmental preschool until I was out of school, working, and insured.

More importantly, we don’t treat our son’s Autism as though it is a disease. It’s part of who he is, but it’s not who he is. We recognize that it affects how we live our lives, engage in social and business activities, and the like; that’s all unavoidable. But we treat Autism as just part of his personality; it creates certain triggers, requires certain treatments, but we still (try to) get him to do homework, wipe his hands with a napkin, sit politely in a restaurant, etc. We aren’t always successful; we may have less success at this than other parents do, but no one has a perfect child.

So he needs help with daily activities; who doesn’t? He’s a bright, funny kid with a memory like a steel trap. That’s good enough for us. If only others were able to be at ease, too.

Oh, and if only he would stay in his own bed at night, too. We’re still working on that one; I think he may have bruised my kidney with a swift shot from his knee at around 5 a.m. this morning.

(Puts the Autism dad soapbox away.)

And now, back to our regular programming.

Yes, it’s good for the Jews

Over at Kveller, Alina Adams asks whether she should feel guilty about her children receiving scholarships and financial aid for their various Jewish and non-Jewish educational activities. Observing that she doesn’t hesitate to say that her children receive such aid in exchange for her work, and that such aid is received as a result of her and her spouse’s decision to change jobs to be with their children, she asks whether 1) she should feel guilty, and 2) whether what her children receive as a result of her decisions is good for the Jews.

Should she feel guilty? I don’t know; I don’t think so. These are extremely personal decisions, and it’s difficult to know what the results of those will be in each case. But beyond that trite little observation, I think we need to acknowledge that those who give do so without a guarantee–unless they ask for it–that the money will be used only for those whom the donors believe merit the aid. And those donors often wish they could do what people like Adams are doing, but for whatever reasons did/do not feel free to do so. So, I’m not convinced guilt is a good thing here.

Is it good for the Jews? Yes. Every Jewish child will be raised differently. If this is what the author’s children need to develop a Jewish identity and simultaneously have active and involved parents, then I think we have the answer to that question.

This is not to say that there is no free-rider problem associated with such aid. But that problem is alleviated by the work-study arrangements Adams discusses, and by the knowledge that it’s still uncommon (not unheard-of, of course, but not happening 50% of the time) for people to opt out of higher incomes unless circumstances dictate it. (For example: parents of children with disabilities routinely earn less than parents of children without disabilities, and that’s out of necessity in many cases. But that’s a story for a different day.)

In any case, I understand the impulse to feel guilty–but I tend to think it show that Adams made her decisions for good reasons, and that the aid is appropriately (in her case) taken.

About the blog

The title of the blog is relatively self-explanatory. But as a bit of filler, here’s a bit about me:

  1. I’m the rabbi at Machar: The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Take some time to learn more about Machar.
  2. I have significant (as in, graduate degree-level) education in Jewish history and thought.
  3. I’m a licensed attorney, however, I AM NOT AND WILL NOT BE YOUR ATTORNEY. I am not soliciting business, as I do not practice law for clients. Don’t ask–I won’t accept your inquiry.
  4. Was a rabbinical student here. Now I’m a rabbi. So that happened.

I hope, if you’re reading this, that you’ll stick around or come back from time to time as I post what I hope will be interesting observations, explorations, and reflections on modern Jewish thought, identity, and life. Some articles have an Indiana twist, because that’s where we used to live until August 2017, when we moved to the D.C. area.