Monday, January 16, 2017

Staring in the Mirror: a birthday, a yahrzeit, a very good day


Eight years is a long time.  

Eight doesn’t seem like a special number at first, unless you’re Chinese, and then, I’m told, it’s extremely lucky.  But even in Judaism, eight is a special number: it means one more than nature, as we see in connection with bris milah and the eight-day miracle of Chanukah. It’s also my shoe size, if you don’t count the half.

When it comes to a yahrzeit, eight feels like the first "big" number, the first time you can't honestly say "it's only been a few years..."

Today, we sat basically at the same bus stop where we sat across from the Merkazit (central station) in Yerushalayim eight years ago. 

Today, we were minus two kids in one way, but minus four kids in another, because the two who were babies then have magically been replaced by two who are quite a bit older and smarter (and GZ can walk now, which is a plus).

Today, we didn’t do anything we haven’t done before:

Monday, January 09, 2017

Six reasons I won’t sign online petitions… do you?


Are you swamped with online petitions?  I am.

Through email, Facebook and other social media, it seems like I’m constantly being asked to click through and add my “signature” to one thing or another.  So when I got one this morning on WhatsApp, and a friend asked if it was worth signing, I leapt into the fray.

(This one was about a building project planned near the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania.  So far, it has 2,712 supporters, so it’s fairly big as these things go.)

Another friend said it sure was, saying basically (I’ve paraphrased since I don’t have her permission):

…it’s up to us to speak up or stay silent. Signing the petition takes less than a minute; we should pray, too; who knows?

Now, because this was first thing in the morning or because I was feeling cranky or because I have just gotten too many of these things, I added my 2 cents’ worth:

I believe the opposite: I don't think petitions help; or rather, I don't think online petitions help. An actual piece of paper may still have some weight. Yes, I believe we need to share and publicize things that are happening. But most people tune out - and, I believe, with good reason - when they see an online petition. They may actually undermine the credibility of good causes. 'Nuff said.

Another person in the group – a researcher, of course! – asked if there was any research on this, so I poked around for a few minutes.  There is some, but it’s mostly about how petitions spread through social media and not on their effectiveness when it comes to policy.

So am I right?  Should we avoid online petitions?