Obesity in Children



How Can I Help My Overweight Child?

If you have an overweight child, it is very important that you allow him or her to know that you will be supportive. Children’s feelings about themselves often are based on their parents’ feelings about them, and if you accept your children at any weight, they will be more likely to feel good about themselves. It is also important to talk to your children about their weight, allowing them to share their concerns with you.

It is not recommended that parents set children apart because of their weight. Instead, parents should focus on gradually changing their family’s physical activity and eating habits. By involving the entire family, everyone is taught healthful habits and the overweight child does not feel singled out.

How Can I Involve My Family in Healthful Habits?

There are many ways to involve the entire family in healthy habits, but increasing the family’s physical activity is especially important. Some ways to accomplish this include:

Lead by example. If your children see that you are physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active for the rest of their lives.
Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise, like walking, biking, or swimming.
Be sensitive to your child’s needs. Overweight children may feel uncomfortable about participating in certain activities. It is important to help your child find physical activities that they enjoy and that aren’t embarrassing or too difficult.
Make an effort to reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games.
Whatever approach parents choose to take regarding an overweight child, the purpose is not to make physical activity and following a healthy diet a chore, but to make the most of the opportunities you and your family have to be active and healthy.


Parental Involvement vs. Parental Intimidation



Parents are and will always be the core of a child’s physical, social and academic development.  If children are fed a balanced diet, their bodies will be healthy. If children are taught manners, they will get along just fine with those around them.  If parents support a vivid educational environment, children will yearn for knowledge. As an educator, there are few things more exciting and/or welcoming, than that of involved parents.

Involved parents help their children learn by supporting them and their teachers.  Involved parents make sure the teacher is doing their job by asking questions and communicating with them.  They might ask the goals of the weekly lesson, or the methods in which homework assignments will further enhance the students’ knowledge.  Involved parents might meet with administrators and other school faculty to plan and assist in creating a more holistic educational environment for their child.  Involved parents are there to work alongside the educators for the benefit of their children.

Parent intimidators do none of those things.  Parent intimidators disguise educational support of their children with scare tactics and what we in the school system call ‘bullying.’  Parent intimidators only show up when they feel something might have been wrong or not to their liking.  Parent intimidators rarely look at long term growth of their children, and instead focus on menial topics that they disagree with.  Parent intimidators feel that if they put enough scare into teachers, they’ll get exactly what they want.  Parent intimidators have an unwarranted sense of entitlement and bravado.

Parent intimidators are by no means the majority, but there are plenty out there.  Unfortunately, there are also plenty of parents who are absent in their child’s educational life.  But those intimidators should know that just because they are not absent, does not mean that they are involved.

Educators are by no means perfect… and there are some that are indeed there for the paycheck.  I think I speak for the rest of us for whom education is a calling and who truly love our job, that we wish as much as the general public, that those teachers were ousted out of our schools.

All parents obviously have a right to, and definitely should, defend and fight for their child if something wrong is being done to them (there are plenty of examples, but it is not the majority either)… that is a given.  But if your purpose is to have it your way or else, you are not helping your child grow, you are teaching narcissism.  You are part of the reason why many of the qualified teachers are living with the fear of lawsuit everyday… while still taking the time to teach your child to not only gain knowledge, but become a better person.  If you want your child to be more successful academically, Be an involved parent, not an intimidator.



by Benjamin Alvarado

The door of La Senora Garcia’s living room opened and Gregorio walked in. She was sitting on the sofa in front of the television that was next to an antique turntable. He set the bag on the floor and sat next to her. She had been waiting for him with the same disheartened grimace as when she last saw him and that was one expression that never left him.

Gregorio remembered the child’s face as he hit him with the Nova after the supermarket robbery when he was twenty-two-years-old. The kid toppled onto the Nova’s hood. Gregorio’s first instinct was to slam the breaks but he did not. In his subconscious he wanted to kill the boy, to run him over and put the car in reverse and run him over again and again until there was nothing left to squash. He wanted the feel of death in his hands because he got in the way of his escape and later led to his arrest. The kid was tossed off of the hood and bashed his head against a fire hydrant. Gregorio fled and hid the gun under the insulation inside his parents’ attic. It was never found.

Thirty-one years had passed. He thought about his daughters. Were they married? Were they happy? Did they miss him? Did he have any grandkids?

He had many plans. He wanted to get a job and take his daughters to a movie, eat popcorn, eat ice cream, brag about their achievements, meet their husbands, drink beer, and maybe dinner in the end. He wanted to sleep late the first few days and perhaps drink a few beers under the carport and say, “Hi” to every pedestrian that crossed the house. He wanted to sleep late that summer and drink as many beers as he could and have an old friend over simply to help him fit in a bit into the modern times.

Nothing had changed except the color of his old house and the style of a group of young girls that chattered in front of the house where his ex-wife lived when he met her. They talked different and dressed different. As he had walked down the street to his mother’s house, he had seen people peek through their curtains but no one stepped out to say hello. Maybe they didn’t recognize him. He had already thought of the lies he would say if they had approached him. He doubted anyone cared, he was sure everyone remembered his crime. He bet they were all asking why he had returned.

“Gregorio, you are home,” she said, touching his cheek.

“Yes, I am free.”

“You have lost weight.”

“Yes, the weight is off.”

She touched his hand and cried. She resisted the courage to hug him as her hand trembled in mid air to tell him how much she loved and missed him but they never were the type of family to expose emotions to one another. She lowered her hand when he gave her a slight shove to stay away from him. He kissed her forehead as an apology and then he carried his bag into his old bedroom. He hated to see his mother cry and he was sure she lamented getting that close to him. Her expression carried shame and guilt. Gregorio unpacked on the bed; two pairs of pants, a pack of Faros, two shirts, and a toothbrush. On the wall next to the door hung a portrait of his parents and he approached it to look into his father’s eyes. His dreary eyes were a dark brown like the color of his skin from all of the summers under the Florida sun in the orange fields. Gregorio was absent when the cirrhosis took his life and he spoke to Gregorio on the telephone on the day he passed.

He bathed and set his photo by the lamp on the nightstand next to the bed. He lay in the dark and in the distance he heard the wail of sirens and a train horn. The shadows of the trees swayed against the window curtains like children’s scrawny hands casting shadow figures on a wall. He had left the door open and would not sleep until his mother closed it.

A dog started to bark, and then another, and another, and by the time his mother opened the backdoor Gregorio was covering his ears with his hands.

“Hush, Firulais!” He heard his mother say outside near the window. “Callate! Let Gregorio sleep! He is tired!”

His mother’s shadow passed across the curtain. He heard the crumbling of a paper bag and the pouring of pebbles into an aluminum bowl. The dogs stopped barking. Gregorio waited for the backdoor to reopen. He could not sleep.

“Are you awake, Gregorio?”


“Are you hungry?”

“No, but I’d like the door closed.”

“I understand. You need your privacy.”

He almost broke into tears. He had had enough privacy. He had lost that one ability to close the door for himself. Someone had to do it for him.

“This is a bigger bed. Is this where father died?”

“Mijo, don’t think about it.”

He asked with more authority. “Is this where father died?”

“Different mattress.”

“Did he ask about me? You know, in the end?”

“He missed you.”

“I want to sleep now.”

She shut the door.

Gregorio slept.

The door was ajar when he opened his eyes and the nostalgic aroma of fresh flour tortillas and brewed coffee conducted fond memories of his youth into the essence of his new confines. The house his father built had started to deteriorate and lightning bolt cracks outlined the white walls like giant spider webs. The Pancho Villa statue that his father won in a Nuevo Progreso Expo Fiesta stood next to the Virgen de Guadalupe image his mother prayed to every morning on the shrine that was decorated with Mexican candles. Gregorio rolled his eyes upward to see a crucifix above his head and his father’s sombrero. He put on the sombrero and had breakfast with his mother.

“You can have it,” his mother said. “The sombrero.”

Gregorio ate with the steadiness of a tired man. He ate forcibly, trying not to gag.

“Is the food good, Gregorio?”

He did not reply.

“I can make something else.”

“Don’t bother. It will take time.”

“Will you go out today to see your friends?”

“What friends?”

“Old friends.”

“I have no old friends. I want to see Elizabeth and the girls.”

“I think you should know. Elizabeth remarried and the girls have bonded with Sebastian.”

“You know his name?”

“I see the girls sometimes. I am their grandmother. I have every right.”

“When should I see them?”

“Give it some time, mijo. Instead go to your father’s grave. Take some flowers.”

“I should have seen him alive.”

“Take a walk, mijo. You will feel better.”

“Is your backyard fenced?”


“I think I’ll walk in your backyard.”

The yard looked like the body of a dog with mange and the occasional spots of grass that decorated it were brown and needly from the summer heat. Gregorio lay on the hammock tied to the porch posts next to the doghouse under the Fig tree and smoked a Faro. The air smelled of dog feces.

After an hour he paced alongside the wooden fence and peered through the gaps of the boards to see the neighbors ignite charcoal inside a grill. Their children frolicked across the grass, sputtered water at each other’s faces with a hose, and two Chihuahua dogs scurried behind them. He sat on the grass, leaned back against the fence, and lit another Faro. The smell of the charcoal smoke infiltrated with sweet onions and the crackle of the mesquite twigs inside the flames evoked memories of his family. For a moment he felt in place.

He started to walk again, holding a twig, until his father’s tool house crossed his path. It had once been a beautiful maroon but as the years passed it started peel off. The latch was unlocked and he opened the door. He stepped inside to sit on an empty bucket of paint. Up on the third shelf were the wooden toys his father carved and on the second shelf, underneath a brand new bottle of whiskey, a folded newspaper article with Gregorio’s illustration on the front. An uncleaned paintbrush lay next to a can of paint thinner and an old radio that had run out of battery power was turned to on. Gregorio did not touch anything as he walked out. He closed the door and there he was; black, muscular, eyes like an owl’s, canines exposed in a cannibalistic grin, and a long, heavy chain locked around its neck with a brass padlock. The animal was huge. He could use the twig like a weapon or he could toss the sombrero over its eyes and run. Gregorio lifted the twig and the animal raised its right paw.

“That’s Firulais, Gregorio,” said his mother from the backdoor. “Shake his paw. It’s the only trick I’ve been able to teach him.”

“A pit bull?”

“He was a gift from Elizabeth and the girls.  They said it would protect me after the house was burglarized. ”

“He is a beautiful dog.”

“All dogs are when they are young. He is seven-dog years-old.”

“How long has he been chained? How will he protect you?”

“Six months. But look at him, his physique alone will scare anyone.”

“You have to release him. You can’t keep the dog chained all of the time. He will become mean.”

“Hay, mijo.”

“Release him sometime.”

“I can’t. He is destructive. Six months ago he dug a hole under the fence and killed the neighbor’s dog. He has been chained since. He is better that way. He is lucky he wasn’t put to sleep.”

“He is a good dog.” Gregorio stroked the top of Firulais head. “It is not fair, is it, Firulais? We should let you be a dog. It isn’t fair.” The dog licked the palm of his hand.

“No, mijo, he is a naturally mean dog.”

“Where did the barks come from? I heard many last night.”

“All of our neighbors have dogs and I don’t think they like Firulais, especially the Chihuahuas next door. It was their mother he killed.”

The Chihuahuas started to bark. Firulais ears stood up, but he remained peaceful. He never took his eyes off of them.

They sat together at the table adjacent to the window where the sun set behind the trees. The tortillas blistered over the hot comal and El Clasico between America and Guadalajara was being televised from Mexico City. The television channel had remained the same since the passing of Gregorio’s father and the coaster where he placed his last Tecate was on the center table under a pack of Faros. Gregorio would not pick at his food as he sat with the fork in his hand.

“Is the dinner better, Gregorio? I tried my best,” said his mother.

“It tastes the same. I would prefer canned food. Can you do that for me tomorrow?”

“Anything in particular?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“I will go to the supermarket in the morning.”

“I love you.”

“I know, mijo.”

“Can you wash the spices off the chicken?”

“How are the corn tortillas? I made them by hand.”

“I would much rather have slices of white bread.”

“I am so sorry, mijo. I should have known.”

Gregorio cut a tortilla down the middle. He then put it back into the towel that kept the tortillas warm and instead ate the refried beans with the fork. “What will you do with the chicken bones?”

“They go in the trash.”

“Don’t. Set them aside.”

“Do you see the paper on the refrigerator door?” she said, holding the piece of chicken under the running water inside the sink. “That is Elizabeth’s telephone number. It is okay for you to call.”

“What about the girls?”

“It is up to her to let you speak to them.”

“Does she hold any resentment?”

“I don’t know, mijo. They never mention you.”

“Do you think they hate me?”

There was no answer from his mother for a few seconds. She pinched off some dough from a plastic bag and put it in the tortilla press. She looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry, Gregorio.”

“Did you ever tell them how I was? You and I spoke on the telephone every two months.”

“No, I never did.”

“Where do you keep the keys to Firulais’s lock? I will take him for a walk tonight.”

“They are on the key holder next to the door.”

“I will call Elizabeth tonight.”

That night he lay on the floor of the room and listened to the dogs bark with the ceiling fan light on. The telephone was by his right knee next to the plate full of chicken bones and a cigarette ashtray. He pressed the fifth Faro hard into the ashtray and thought about the happiest time of his life; about the house he remembered his father coming home in the last days of July carrying a rag bag that held his clothes and his burnt, tired face, under the shade of the old sombrero, forcing a half smile. They sat in the shadow of the Fig tree as Gregorio watched him drink whiskey, chew on pieces of sugarcane, and he told him stories about the migrants in the orange fields. Gregorio learned about the children that died from heat exhaustion as they worked the fields alongside their parents and of the illegal immigrants that were deported and were not paid after a month’s work.  He thought of his earliest memory of his mother and of the day he met his wife and of the days his daughters were born, but he mostly thought of his father and of the stories under the Fig tree. He picked up the telephone, dialed, and let it ring three times.

He hung up. He admitted to himself that he was no longer the girls’ father. He no longer existed, to them or the world.

Gregorio opened his father’s tool house to get the bottle of whiskey.  He sat in the dark under the Fig tree with Firulais by his side as he drank. He offered Firulais the plate full of bones but he ignored them.

“You can’t eat the good stuff? I figured. You need your dry food,” Gregorio said. “This is good whiskey, my friend, because my father drank it. These are good cigarettes, too, because my father smoked them. Do you know how many times I drank with my father?” Firulais wiggled his tail. “None. And neither did I see him die. I heard somewhere that you’ve been chained for six months. That’s three and a half doggy years. Are you still cruel? Will you bite me if I release you? Have you changed, Firulais? You have one ugly name, you know?”

Gregorio drank the whiskey under the Fig tree as the night passed. Firulais lay on the ground looking up at him. “You are an admirable dog. I have seen eyes like yours in the cages. I am an old man now, Firulais,” he said in tears, “and at this age I only want my old life back, but it’s not coming back and neither is yours if mom keeps you chained. The chains I carry are my past…just like yours.”

He freed the dog and slept on the grass.

The hole under the wooden fence was what Gregorio first saw in the morning. He swept the wet grass off of his back and peeked over the edge of the fence to see the two bodies. One was torn to pieces while the other lay by the dog house dripping blood from its snout. There was another hole under the fence facing the street.

He opened the door to the room where he slept and changed clothes.

“Will you pray with me, Gregorio?” his mother asked, kneeling at the shrine. “Don’t you want to change? La Virgen de Guadalupe always listens.”

“I can’t.”

“I will pray for you and I will call the radio station and they will pray for you, too.”

“Thank you, mother.”

“Don’t forget that I love you, mijo,” she said, stroking her rosary.

He felt sorry for his mother and her faith.

“I will try to be a good man, mother. Give me your bendicion. It is all I need.”

Gregorio kissed his mother on the forehead. He got the gun out from under the insulation and hid it in his pants. He stepped out into the street wearing his father’s sombrero.

He disliked the enormous new world and could not confront its rejection.

Firulais came running down the street with his snout full of blood. A speeding truck ran him over. He yipped. He rolled under the truck as it passed him completely. The tires did not get him. He got up and continued to run.

Gregorio followed him walking down the middle of the street inside a concert of barks.

Hope, Despair and Memory


by Elie Wiesel

A Hasidic legend tells us that the great Rabbi Baal-Shem-Tov, Master of the Good Name, also known as the Besht, undertook an urgent and perilous mission: to hasten the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people, all humanity were suffering too much, beset by too many evils. They had to be saved, and swiftly. For having tried to meddle with history, the Besht was punished; banished along with his faithful servant to a distant island. In despair, the servant implored his master to exercise his mysterious powers in order to bring them both home. “Impossible”, the Besht replied. “My powers have been taken from me”. “Then, please, say a prayer, recite a litany, work a miracle”. “Impossible”, the Master replied, “I have forgotten everything”. They both fell to weeping.

Suddenly the Master turned to his servant and asked: “Remind me of a prayer – any prayer .” “If only I could”, said the servant. “I too have forgotten everything”. “Everything – absolutely everything?” “Yes, except – “Except what?” “Except the alphabet”. At that the Besht cried out joyfully: “Then what are you waiting for? Begin reciting the alphabet and I shall repeat after you…”. And together the two exiled men began to recite, at first in whispers, then more loudly: “Aleph, beth, gimel, daleth…”. And over again, each time more vigorously, more fervently; until, ultimately, the Besht regained his powers, having regained his memory.

I love this story, for it illustrates the messianic expectation -which remains my own. And the importance of friendship to man’s ability to transcend his condition. I love it most of all because it emphasizes the mystical power of memory. Without memory, our existence would be barren and opaque, like a prison cell into which no light penetrates; like a tomb which rejects the living. Memory saved the Besht, and if anything can, it is memory that will save humanity. For me, hope without memory is like memory without hope.

Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future. Does this mean that our future can be built on a rejection of the past? Surely such a choice is not necessary. The two are not incompatible. The opposite of the past is not the future but the absence of future; the opposite of the future is not the past but the absence of past. The loss of one is equivalent to the sacrifice of the other.

A recollection. The time: After the war. The place: Paris. A young man struggles to readjust to life. His mother, his father, his small sister are gone. He is alone. On the verge of despair. And yet he does not give up. On the contrary, he strives to find a place among the living. He acquires a new language. He makes a few friends who, like himself, believe that the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death.

This he must believe in order to go on. For he has just returned from a universe where God, betrayed by His creatures, covered His face in order not to see. Mankind, jewel of his creation, had succeeded in building an inverted Tower of Babel, reaching not toward heaven but toward an anti-heaven, there to create a parallel society, a new “creation” with its own princes and gods, laws and principles, jailers and prisoners. A world where the past no longer counted – no longer meant anything.

Stripped of possessions, all human ties severed, the prisoners found themselves in a social and cultural void. “Forget”, they were told, “Forget where you came from; forget who you were. Only the present matters”. But the present was only a blink of the Lord’s eye. The Almighty himself was a slaughterer: it was He who decided who would live and who would die; who would be tortured, and who would be rewarded. Night after night, seemingly endless processions vanished into the flames, lighting up the sky. Fear dominated the universe. Indeed this was another universe; the very laws of nature had been transformed. Children looked like old men, old men whimpered like children. Men and women from every corner of Europe were suddenly reduced to nameless and faceless creatures desperate for the same ration of bread or soup, dreading the same end. Even their silence was the same for it resounded with the memory of those who were gone. Life in this accursed universe was so distorted, so unnatural that a new species had evolved. Waking among the dead, one wondered if one was still alive.

And yet real despair only seized us later. Afterwards. As we emerged from the nightmare and began to search for meaning. All those doctors of law or medicine or theology, all those lovers of art and poetry, of Bach and Goethe, who coldly, deliberately ordered the massacres and participated in them. What did their metamorphosis signify? Could anything explain their loss of ethical, cultural and religious memory? How could we ever understand the passivity of the onlookers and – yes – the silence of the Allies? And question of questions: Where was God in all this? It seemed as impossible to conceive of Auschwitz with God as to conceive of Auschwitz without God. Therefore, everything had to be reassessed because everything had changed. With one stroke, mankind’s achievements seemed to have been erased. Was Auschwitz a consequence or an aberration of “civilization” ? All we know is that Auschwitz called that civilization into question as it called into question everything that had preceded Auschwitz. Scientific abstraction, social and economic contention, nationalism, xenophobia, religious fanaticism, racism, mass hysteria. All found their ultimate expression in Auschwitz.

The next question had to be, why go on? If memory continually brought us back to this, why build a home? Why bring children into a world in which God and man betrayed their trust in one another?

Of course we could try to forget the past. Why not? Is it not natural for a human being to repress what causes him pain, what causes him shame? Like the body, memory protects its wounds. When day breaks after a sleepless night, one’s ghosts must withdraw; the dead are ordered back to their graves. But for the first time in history, we could not bury our dead. We bear their graves within ourselves.

For us, forgetting was never an option.

Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered. New Year’s Day, Rosh Hashana, is also called Yom Hazikaron, the day of memory. On that day, the day of universal judgment, man appeals to God to remember: our salvation depends on it. If God wishes to remember our suffering, all will be well; if He refuses, all will be lost. Thus, the rejection of memory becomes a divine curse, one that would doom us to repeat past disasters, past wars.

Nothing provokes so much horror and opposition within the Jewish tradition as war. Our abhorrence of war is reflected in the paucity of our literature of warfare. After all, God created the Torah to do away with iniquity, to do away with war1.Warriors fare poorly in the Talmud: Judas Maccabeus is not even mentioned; Bar-Kochba is cited, but negatively2. David, a great warrior and conqueror, is not permitted to build the Temple; it is his son Solomon, a man of peace, who constructs God’s dwelling place. Of course some wars may have been necessary or inevitable, but none was ever regarded as holy. For us, a holy war is a contradiction in terms. War dehumanizes, war diminishes, war debases all those who wage it. The Talmud says, “Talmidei hukhamim shemarbin shalom baolam” (It is the wise men who will bring about peace). Perhaps, because wise men remember best.

And yet it is surely human to forget, even to want to forget. The Ancients saw it as a divine gift. Indeed if memory helps us to survive, forgetting allows us to go on living. How could we go on with our daily lives, if we remained constantly aware of the dangers and ghosts surrounding us? The Talmud tells us that without the ability to forget, man would soon cease to learn. Without the ability to forget, man would live in a permanent, paralyzing fear of death. Only God and God alone can and must remember everything.

How are we to reconcile our supreme duty towards memory with the need to forget that is essential to life? No generation has had to confront this paradox with such urgency. The survivors wanted to communicate everything to the living: the victim’s solitude and sorrow, the tears of mothers driven to madness, the prayers of the doomed beneath a fiery sky.

They needed to tell the child who, in hiding with his mother, asked softly, very softly: “Can I cry now?” They needed to tell of the sick beggar who, in a sealed cattle-car, began to sing as an offering to his companions. And of the little girl who, hugging her grandmother, whispered: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be sorry to die… I’m not”. She was seven, that little girl who went to her death without fear, without regret.

Each one of us felt compelled to record every story, every encounter. Each one of us felt compelled to bear witness, Such were the wishes of the dying, the testament of the dead. Since the so-called civilized world had no use for their lives, then let it be inhabited by their deaths.

The great historian Shimon Dubnov served as our guide and inspiration. Until the moment of his death he said over and over again to his companions in the Riga ghetto: “Yidden, shreibt un fershreibt” (Jews, write it all down). His words were heeded. Overnight, countless victims become chroniclers and historians in the ghettos, even in the death camps. Even members of the Sonderkommandos, those inmates forced to burn their fellow inmates’ corpses before being burned in turn, left behind extraordinary documents. To testify became an obsession. They left us poems and letters, diaries and fragments of novels, some known throughout the world, others still unpublished.

After the war we reassured ourselves that it would be enough to relate a single night in Treblinka, to tell of the cruelty, the senselessness of murder, and the outrage born of indifference: it would be enough to find the right word and the propitious moment to say it, to shake humanity out of its indifference and keep the torturer from torturing ever again. We thought it would be enough to read the world a poem written by a child in the Theresienstadt ghetto to ensure that no child anywhere would ever again have to endure hunger or fear. It would be enough to describe a death-camp “Selection”, to prevent the human right to dignity from ever being violated again.

We thought it would be enough to tell of the tidal wave of hatred which broke over the Jewish people for men everywhere to decide once and for all to put an end to hatred of anyone who is “different” – whether black or white, Jew or Arab, Christian or Moslem – anyone whose orientation differs politically, philosophically, sexually. A naive undertaking? Of course. But not without a certain logic.

We tried. It was not easy. At first, because of the language; language failed us. We would have to invent a new vocabulary, for our own words were inadequate, anemic.

And then too, the people around us refused to listen; and even those who listened refused to believe; and even those who believed could not comprehend. Of course they could not. Nobody could. The experience of the camps defies comprehension.

Have we failed? I often think we have.

If someone had told us in 1945 that in our lifetime religious wars would rage on virtually every continent, that thousands of children would once again be dying of starvation, we would not have believed it. Or that racism and fanaticism would flourish once again, we would not have believed it. Nor would we have believed that there would be governments that would deprive a man like Lech Walesa of his freedom to travel merely because he dares to dissent. And he is not alone. Governments of the Right and of the Left go much further, subjecting those who dissent, writers, scientists, intellectuals, to torture and persecution. How to explain this defeat of memory?

How to explain any of it: the outrage of Apartheid which continues unabated. Racism itself is dreadful, but when it pretends to be legal, and therefore just, when a man like Nelson Mandela is imprisoned, it becomes even more repugnant. Without comparing Apartheid to Nazism and to its “final solution” – for that defies all comparison – one cannot help but assign the two systems, in their supposed legality, to the same camp. And the outrage of terrorism: of the hostages in Iran, the coldblooded massacre in the synagogue in Istanbul, the senseless deaths in the streets of Paris. Terrorism must be outlawed by all civilized nations – not explained or rationalized, but fought and eradicated. Nothing can, nothing will justify the murder of innocent people and helpless children. And the outrage of preventing men and women like Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir and Masha Slepak, Ida Nudel, Josef Biegun, Victor Brailowski, Zakhar Zonshein, and all the others known and unknown from leaving their country. And then there is Israel, which after two thousand years of exile and thirty-eight years of sovereignty still does not have peace. I would like to see this people, which is my own, able to establish the foundation for a constructive relationship with all its Arab neighbors, as it has done with Egypt. We must exert pressure on all those in power to come to terms.

And here we come back to memory. We must remember the suffering of my people, as we must remember that of the Ethiopians, the Cambodians, the boat people, Palestinians, the Mesquite Indians, the Argentinian “desaparecidos” – the list seems endless.

Let us remember Job who, having lost everything – his children, his friends, his possessions, and even his argument with God – still found the strength to begin again, to rebuild his life. Job was determined not to repudiate the creation, however imperfect, that God had entrusted to him.

Job, our ancestor. Job, our contemporary. His ordeal concerns all humanity. Did he ever lose his faith? If so, he rediscovered it within his rebellion. He demonstrated that faith is essential to rebellion, and that hope is possible beyond despair. The source of his hope was memory, as it must be ours. Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair. I remember the killers, I remember the victims, even as I struggle to invent a thousand and one reasons to hope.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. The Talmud tells us that by saving a single human being, man can save the world. We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all the prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers. None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness. War leaves no victors, only victims. I began with the story of the Besht. And, like the Besht, mankind needs to remember more than ever. Mankind needs peace more than ever, for our entire planet, threatened by nuclear war, is in danger of total destruction. A destruction only man can provoke, only man can prevent. Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures, it is our gift to each other.


Got Milk? You Don’t Need It


The New York Times, July 7th, 2012, By MARK BITTMAN

Drinking milk is as American as Mom and apple pie. Until not long ago, Americans were encouraged not only by the lobbying group called the American Dairy Association but by parents, doctors and teachers to drink four 8-ounce glasses of milk, “nature’s perfect food,” every day. That’s two pounds! We don’t consume two pounds a day of anything else; even our per capita soda consumption is “only” a pound a day.

Today the Department of Agriculture’s recommendation for dairy is a mere three cups daily — still 1½ pounds by weight — for every man, woman and child over age 9. This in a country where as many as 50 million people are lactose intolerant, including 90 percent of all Asian-Americans and 75 percent of all African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Jews. The myplate.gov site helpfully suggests that those people drink lactose-free beverages. (To its credit, it now counts soy milk as “dairy.”)

There’s no mention of water, which is truly nature’s perfect beverage; the site simply encourages us to switch to low-fat milk. But, says Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Sugar — in the form of lactose — contributes about 55 percent of skim milk’s calories, giving it ounce for ounce the same calorie load as soda.”

O.K., dairy products contain nutrients, and for those who like them, a serving or two daily is probably fine. (Worth noting: they’re far more easily digested as yogurt or cheese than as fluid milk.) But in addition to intolerance, there’s a milk allergy — the second most common food allergy after peanuts, affecting an estimated 1.3 million children — that can be life-threatening.

Other conditions are not easily classified, and I have one of those. When I was growing up, drinking milk at every meal, I had a chronic upset stomach. (Channeling my inner Woody Allen, I’ll note that I was therefore treated as a neurotic, which, in fairness, I was anyway.) In adolescence, this became chronic heartburn, trendily known as GERD or acid reflux, and that led to a lifelong Tums habit (favorite flavor: wintergreen) and an adult dependence on Prevacid, a proton-pump inhibitor. Which, my gastroenterologist assured me, is benign. (Wrong.)

Fortunately my long-term general practitioner, Sidney M. Baker, author of “Detoxification and Healing,” insisted that I make every attempt to break the Prevacid addiction. Thus followed a seven-year period of trials of various “cures,” including licorice pills, lemon juice, antibiotics, famotidine (Pepcid) and almost anything else that might give my poor, sore esophagus some relief. At some point, Dr. Baker suggested that despite my omnivorous diet I consider a “vacation” from various foods.

So, three months ago, I decided to give up dairy products as a test. Twenty-four hours later, my heartburn was gone. Never, it seems, to return. In fact, I can devour linguine puttanesca (with anchovies) and go to bed an hour later; fellow heartburn sufferers will be impressed. Perhaps equally impressive is that I mentioned this to a friend who had the same problem, tried the same approach, and had the same results. Presto! No dairy, no heartburn! (A third had no success. Hey, it’s not a controlled double-blind experiment, but there is no downside to trying it.)

Conditions like mine are barely on the radar. Although treating heartburn is a business worth more than $10 billion a year, the solution may be as simple as laying off dairy. (Which, need I point out, is free.) What’s clear is that the widespread existence of lactose intolerance, says Dr. Baker, is “a pretty good sign that we’ve evolved to drink human milk when we’re babies but have no need for the milk of any animals. And no matter what you call a chronic dairy problem — milk allergy, milk intolerance, lactose intolerance — the action is the same: avoid all foods derived from milk for at least five days and see what happens.”

Adds Dr. Barnard, “It’s worth noting that milk and other dairy products are our biggest source of saturated fat, and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer.” Then, of course, there are our 9 million dairy cows, most of whom live tortured, miserable lives while making a significant contribution to greenhouse gases.

But what about the bucolic cow on the family farm? What about bone density and osteoporosis? What about Mom, and apple pie?

Mom: Don’t know about yours, but mine’s doing pretty well. Apple pie (best made with one crust, plenty of apples) will be fine.

But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.”

Osteoporosis? You don’t need milk, or large amounts of calcium, for bone integrity. In fact, the rate of fractures is highest in milk-drinking countries, and it turns out that the keys to bone strength are lifelong exercise and vitamin D, which you can get from sunshine. Most humans never tasted fresh milk from any source other than their mother for almost all of human history, and fresh cow’s milk could not be routinely available to urbanites without industrial production. The federal government not only supports the milk industry by spending more money on dairy than any other item in the school lunch program, but by contributing free propaganda as well as subsidies amounting to well over $4 billion in the last 10 years.

There’s nothing un-American about re-evaluating those commitments with an eye toward sensibility. Meanwhile, pass the water.

Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You’re a Bad Customer


by Matt Walsh

I could have taken a picture of you and posted it here to publicly shame you, but I didn’t. That’s because I am not trying to be vindictive, ma’am. I’d merely like to answer that question you posed. This can be what the politicians call a “teachable moment” for you and everyone like you.

See, I was in line at that particular fast food establishment yesterday. You probably didn’t notice me — I assume you didn’t notice any of us from the way you blatantly barged to the front. I was about to tap you on the shoulder and politely explain how lines are supposed to work in a civilized society, but I could tell you were in the throes of an ungodly rage. I figured this must be an emergency. My God, you were practically foaming at the mouth. I thought maybe someone at the counter had killed your dog, or framed you for a murder you didn’t commit, or urinated in your oatmeal this morning. Obviously something serious was going on.

Then you suddenly screamed, “NO ketchup! I said NO ketchup!”

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a dire situation. It was a condiment situation. Not exactly life or death, but close enough, I guess. The girl at the cash register looked confused. I don’t blame her, some irate middle aged woman just barreled in the door yelling about ketchup. She asked you for some clarification, which was reasonable, but apparently you didn’t think so.

“What’s wrong with you people?! I just sat in the drive thru for ten minutes and now I have to come in here because you guys can’t understand f*cking English! I ordered this burger with NO ketchup but of course I get it with gobs of ketchup. Unbelievable. This happens every f*cking time!”

Wait, it’s unbelievable yet it happens every time? Hmmm. And your ketchup specifications are this important to you yet you continually come to the one place in town that apparently has a ketchup obsession? There are literally six other fast food joints within a two mile radius, but here you are at the one place that screws up your order “every f*cking time.” Interesting. Logical thinking isn’t exactly your forte, is it?

The poor girl at the counter, who likely had no hand in this ketchup fiasco, offered to give you a new burger, plain and dry, just as you prefer. But that wasn’t good enough, was it? Their failure to obey your demands must be punished.

“No, I don’t want a new burger. Give me your name and the number to corporate. I’m sick of this sh*t. Give me my money back and the number to your corporate office! Why can’t I ever f*cking get good customer service?!”

And the exchange went on from there. You of course handled yourself like a woman of culture and dignity, while the fast food employee and her manager tried everything to find a remedy for the Tragic Ketchup Calamity. It ended with you promising to get them all fired as you stormed out. Then I finally had my turn at the counter. I ordered a burger. With extra ketchup.

Now, I replay this back to you because I realize you probably scream profanities at minimum wage customer service representatives every time you run an errand or grab a bite to eat, so you might not recall the specifics of this one incident. And that brings us to the possible answer to that query you posed in the midst of your ketchup rant. You asked: “Why can’t I ever f*cking get good customer service?” Well, ma’am, that might have something to do with you being a vulgar, miserable, malicious person. Maybe you get bad customer service because you’re a bad customer. Did you ever consider that possibility?

I get it. “You’re the customer so you’re always right.” They work here so they have to bend over backwards for you “because that’s their job.” Well, you’re partially correct about that. Yes, you are a customer and, yes, they do work here. But it’s actually not their job to deal with psychopaths. They aren’t hostage negotiators, they’re fast food workers. And even if the powers that be at these corporate chains push this “customer is always right” crap because they’ve decided it’s good business to placate horrible jerks, in the real world, outside the land of plastic chairs and soda fountains, adults who throw temper tantrums in public are never right about anything.

I’m sure some people might take your side. They might come to your defense by telling their own horror stories about all the times when customer service has failed to live up to their standards. Those folks are under the same delusion as you. They think their hallowed “customer” status somehow gives them the right to treat everyone with a uniform and a name tag like garbage. They think their past encounters with sub-par service makes it acceptable for them to fly off the handle about ketchup every once in a while. They think the rules of basic decency and respect come second when they are The Customer. And they’re wrong.

Do you ever wonder why we have so many atrocious politicians in Washington? Well, you shouldn’t wonder. Just look in the mirror. Bad politicians are generally bad because they can’t handle power. It goes right to their head and they become narcissistic, petty, controlling sociopaths. But at least it’s a lot of power so the temptation to be corrupted by it is almost understandable. You, on the other hand, become a maniacal tyrant when society hands you temporary and meaningless power over 17-year-old fast food cashiers. I shudder to think what you’d do if you had an army at your disposal.

We all get a little unwanted ketchup every now and again, and we are all expected to handle it like mature and decent adults. Some of us manage to make it through our whole lives without ever feeling the need to berate restaurant or retail employees over some small and fixable mistake. Other folks, such as yourself, seem to get into a customer service Battle Royale every time they step outside their house. Maybe it’s because the universe is against you guys. Or maybe — just maybe — it’s because you behave like selfish obnoxious bullies.

Just something to think about.

Oh, and I’m betting you actually forgot to say “no ketchup” when you placed your original order. Wouldn’t that be a totally expected twist to this captivating saga?

Barbecue Shrimp


You can tweak this recipe with butter substitute but other than that, I would not change much else.


12 raw colossal (or the largest you can find) Gulf shrimp, unpeeled with heads and tails left on

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (2 cloves)

1 tablespoon of water

half of 1 lemon, seeded

1/4 pound (1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices


Place the unpeeled shrimp, Worcestershire, spices, garlic and 1 tablespoon of water in a heavy 10-inch saute pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the shrimp and add rind and pulp to the pan.

Over high heat, cook the shrimp while gently stirring and occasionally turning the shrimp. After about two minutes of cooking, the shrimp should start turning pink on both sides, indicating they are nearly half cooked.

If the shrimp are the colossal size, now add 2 tablespoons water to the pan. Otherwise, don’t add water.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue cooking as you gradually add the cold pieces of butter to the pan. While stirring the shrimp, swirl the butter pieces until they are incorporated into the pan juices, the sauce turns light brown and creamy as it simmers, and the shrimp are just cooked through. This will take about two minutes total if the shrimp are extra-large and about three minutes if they are colossal.

Serve immediately with crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and lots of napkins for cleaning your hands. Makes two servings.

Note: If you can’t find shrimp with the heads on, still be sure and use unpeeled shrimp.