Thursday, February 22, 2018

Grandmas on Stage / Grandkids in the Audience - A guest blog by Mimi Katz

Dance -
1. To move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps,
especially to the accompaniment of music
My girls with their performing grandmother
2. To leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly
What does it mean to dance? The definition in the dictionary is pretty straightforward and clear. But the dancing my girls and I watched this week had so much depth than that.

Auntie Bati, Grandma, Auntie Nava
I took my ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters to watch their aunts and grandmother dance in a very special performance entitled, "Dames of the Dance", an all-female dance performance for women of all ages.
We look forward to this show all year, with its bright colors, creative dances and shining costumes.
The day itself was full of excitement. "Today we are going to see Grandma's show."
Grandma tap dances (at right) with Auntie Bati right in the center
The girls must have asked me twenty times what time we'd be going and in how much time is that. We headed out. My older daughter was worried every time we slowed down for the slightest bit of traffic and the eta on the Waze changed even by a minute. As we got closer to the theater we stopped to buy some snacks, the anticipation barely allowed the girls to eat dinner before we left.
We arrived at the theater and immediately looked for our family. My daughters were so happy, we arrived early. They couldn't wait to see their cousins, aunts and grandmothers. We got our tickets and found our seats. Our family had an entire row. Even their great-grandmothers came to see the performance.
Grandma plays a grandma
This year's show surpassed well beyond all of our expectations - and we have high expectations based on the previous years we've attended "Dames".
The theme of the show this year is legacy. It's "Dames" tenth anniversary - with 100 women volunteering to dance, rehearsing for months, devoting their efforts to a cause. Their goal is to raise money for the needy in their communities. This year they set an additional goal - to contribute to an IDF Lone Soldiers’ Home in Gush Etzion.
Ten years of shows, of creating a group that has become like family. They wish to extend their love to soldiers who don’t have family with them in Israel. Their message is clear - we love you! You do have family in Israel - we are here for you!
My daughters sat in awe watching their grandmother perform with love. She is able to combine the things she cherishes most - charity work, family and friends, and dancing. This is the legacy.
Showbiz kiss
So what does dance mean? Well, to us it represents beauty and expression, awareness and activeness, facilitating change and providing help, movement and progress and most of all love and unity.

"Dames of the Dance" has one more performance, a 5 PM matinee on Monday February 26, geared for the younger crowd. The sports hall of Efrat will be filled with cheering kids in the stands and shuffling mothers, sisters and grandmothers on stage.
[If you're in Greater Jerusalem, tickets: tixwise.co.il/damesofthedance.]

Grandmas on Stage/ Grandkids in the Audience - A Guest Blog by Mimi Katz

Dance -
1. To move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps,
especially to the accompaniment of music
My girls with their performing grandmother
2. To leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly
What does it mean to dance? The definition in the dictionary is pretty straightforward and clear. But the dancing my girls and I watched this week had so much depth than that.

Auntie Bati, Grandma, Auntie Nava

I took my ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters to watch their aunts and grandmother dance in a very special performance entitled, "Dames of the Dance", an all-female dance performance for women of all ages. We look forward to this show all year, with its bright colors, creative dances and shining costumes.
The day itself was full of excitement. "Today we are going to see Grandma's show."
Grandma tap dances (at right) with Auntie Bati right in the center
The girls must have asked me twenty times what time we'd be going and in how much time is that. We headed out. My older daughter was worried every time we slowed down for the slightest bit of traffic and the eta on the Waze changed even by a minute. As we got closer to the theater we stopped to buy some snacks, the anticipation barely allowed the girls to eat dinner before we left.
Grandma plays a grandma
We arrived at the theater and immediately looked for our family. My daughters were so happy, we arrived early. They couldn't wait to see their cousins, aunts and grandmothers. We got our tickets and found our seats. Our family had an entire row. Even their great-grandmothers came to see the performance.
This year's show surpassed well beyond all of our expectations - and we have high expectations based on the previous years we've attended "Dames".
The theme of the show this year is legacy. It's "Dames" tenth anniversary - with 100 women volunteering to dance, rehearsing for months, devoting their efforts to a cause. Their goal is to raise money for the needy in their communities. This year they set an additional goal - to contribute to an IDF Lone Soldiers’ Home in Gush Etzion.
Ten years of shows, of creating a group that has become like family. They wish to extend their love to soldiers who don’t have family with them in Israel. Their message is clear - we love you! You do have family in Israel - we are here for you!
My daughters sat in awe watching their grandmother perform with love. She is able to combine the things she cherishes most - charity work, family and friends, and dancing. This is the legacy.
So what does dance mean? Well, to us it represents beauty and expression, awareness and activeness, facilitating change and providing help, movement and progress and most of all love and unity.

"Dames of the Dance" has one more performance, a 5 PM matinee on Monday February 26, geared for the younger crowd. The sports hall of Efrat will be filled with cheering kids in the stands and shuffling mothers, sisters and grandmothers on stage.
[If you're in Greater Jerusalem, tickets: tixwise.co.il/damesofthedance.]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Twenty lessons to live a long and happy life. (Part 2)

When they look back on life, many folks would say that their grandparents had the biggest effect on the people they became. Unending love. Kneidlach. Funny stories. Great accents. Most everything about grandparents is colorful and worthy of remembering. Well, I recently spent a few weeks with an entire oasis of grandparents, and I too learned a lot about aging and not aging. In my last blog, I discussed 10 ways to live longer and happier lives. Here are another 10 things to consider (in no special order).
Trivia class.
11. Be interested. Every day we picked up a new packed activity schedule. Two of the activities – Trivia and Women’s Discussion Group have everyone chatting. It’s important to keep seniors interested in the world around them and in the conversation. As time does its job and they get around less, hear less, and see not so well, these discussion groups keep their world from shrinking, and keep older adults relevant.
“Today in 1901 the first Nobel Prizes were awarded.” Everyone had an opinion on who should have gotten one and who shouldn’t. “Today in 1830, Emily Dickinson was born. Can anyone remember one of her poems?” And I was flabbergasted to hear two of the men recite Emily Dickinson by heart. (I couldn’t remember anything. I’d better brush up on my poetry.) The Women’s Discussion Group chatted about varied random topics, exploring all kinds of horizons – life in Thailand, parenting today, and I even got to open a discussion on life in Israel.
Staying interested is staying in the game of life.
12 . Dress up. At my mother’s senior residence, her friends dress for dinner every night. Daytime is casual, as residents flit from one activity to the next. Evenings are special, and give everyone a boost, beginning with stylish clothing. Okay, no one wears orange leggings or crazy-youth-obsessed clothes, instead, they all look like they’re going on a cruise. I checked outside for a boat. None. You know the look. Fresh, classic, dignified, like the folks themselves.

Singing hit songs.
13. Sing. Sing out!! Mostly every day, a show or a solo performer takes the stage at my mother’s residence. The songs on the program range from 1920s hits (songs these great-grandparents and I heard from our own parents and grandparents) up to the latest Broadway fare. What a delight! I was in my element. Some folks sat quietly listening, but my mom and I sang along, every song.
Singing is great for seniors and all of us. It expands our memory, it makes us happier, reduces stress, and generally improves quality of life.
In addition to the shows, my mom’s pals like to sing whenever a phrase reminds them of a song. Usually I am the one to break out into a song at the drop of a hat. (I think my kids find it annoying. Tough.) Imagine being on the receiving end of an instant-song. “Thanks so much. That makes me so happy.” And then, three ladies simultaneously chime, “Make someone happy. Make just one someone happy.” Soooo cute.
14. Share your family. We’re in a family-scattered world. Kids, friends and siblings live everywhere from Maine to Mexico. So, when someone has company, everyone in the residence has company. Everyone enjoys stopping by to say, “Hi and where are you from, how long will you be here. Your daughter is beautiful.” And I got to schmooze comfortably with everybody, because they’re used to being friendly to visitors. Win win for all.
Yiddish fun.
15. Learn a new skill. Take up a new hobby. My mother (may she live and be well until 120) worked her entire life. She never had the time or the luxury to paint or even sit over a crossword puzzle. She definitely was not the type to make jewelry. Well, now, whenever she comes to visit, she gifts her children and grandchildren with beautiful Bubby-made colored necklaces and bracelets to match all their clothing. It’s not easy for my mom to use her fingers on these small beads, but she’s great at color coordinating and has become quite creative.
She also goes to a fun-tastic Yiddish class. My mother used to speak a mean Yiddish, but time made her a bit rusty. Now every week, she and her friends learn new fun Yiddish words and try to speak again – at least for an hour on Friday afternoons.

learning new skills and languages keep those brain gears going, plus it's exciting and empowering. What's next? Bring it on.
16. Taste the memories. Most of us cherish our mother’s pinwheel cookies or roast breast of veal in our hearts. The taste remains embedden in our memory banks forever. Every week my mother attends a cooking class where the “master chef” makes different dishes from long ago and today. I sat in on two cooking sessions. The first was devoted to New York City. The dessert, of course, was cheese cake. Deeelicious. Cooking class participants enjoyed every creamy morsel, as some remembered the last time they traveled to NYC, and commented on former mayors. They even sang, “New York, New York.” At another cooking class, souvganiyot donuts came out hot from the frying pan, and the chef said, “Get ready for our Chanukah delicacy. Does anyone remember a Chanukah song?” So, they munched and they sang, and they remembered.
17. Make friends. Be a friend. Moving to a new home is scary. Moving to a new home where 200 other people already live is even scarier. In my mother’s residence, the folks are so nice, I’m sure they help newbies fit right in. Friends are important at every age, and especially for seniors and super-especially when family is far away. Friends keep us young, really. They keep us going. They care about one another. “Why weren’t you at breakfast?” “You went to the beauty parlor? You look great.” “What did the doctor say?” “How are your kids?” Friends are our pillars, our teddy bears, our sounding boards. They keep us in better health, give us emotional support, share our joys and our challenges, and are fun to be with at every age.
18. Believe. Faith has so many forms. Recognizing the good in the world, reading the Bible, chatting with G-d, formal praying. As we face the challenges of life, faith keeps us going through dark times and gives us strength in times of weakness. Believing there’s more to Life than just 24/7 life is empowering, as faith gives us a helping hand, helps us face stress, anxiety and fear.
I attended local Sabbath services with my dearest mother (until 120). The congregation sang time-honored prayers, prayed for the health of their loved ones and the welfare of the nation, read from the Torah scroll and blessed the Sabbath with wine. Faith is invigorating, and if friendship is important to seniors, friendship with Our Creator is huge.

19. Change it up. Seniors in my mother’s residence have a daily and weekly routine, but they are encouraged not to get stuck in a rut. There’s a mini-bus to the Mall to go out into the world a bit. The dinner menu varies every night (although Thursday is always dairy with ice cream. Yes!). Even something as simple as changing a seat breaks their routine and keeps them fresh – sitting at a different table for breakfast or dinner, picking a different seat at a show or at a lecture. Keep life fresh until 120.
20. Become more than yourself. Truthfully, I had another eight things I learned hanging out with my new bubby buddies, but I’d like to stop here and add a thought of my own. As we get older and spend more time worrying about our own health and well-being, sometimes our focus becomes overwhelmingly self-self-self. There are so many amazing ways that seniors can go beyond themselves and make a bigger imprint. Many seniors are probably involved in the follow ideas already, but I wanted to end with a few simple notions.
Charity, of course, is an important aspect of life – helping worthy institutions, causes, projects. Every check makes a difference to a person/organization in need. Tutoring disadvantaged children - wouldn’t it be cool if a bus of inner-city kids was brought to a senior residence twice a month so that seniors could help the kids with their reading. Wrap gifts for children in the hospital or decorate cookies that could be sold at charity events. Knitters or crochet-ers could put their skills to use making caps for premie babies or woolen caps for soldiers. Mentoring young people starting out in the world - seniors have so much life experience/ business experience/ non-profit experience they can give over. Possibilities are endless. 
No one is too old to give of himself. Everything/anything we do for others can change the world for the better, and we're never too old to be a life changer and share of ourselves. Every positive deed we do leaves our mark, “I was here.”


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Twenty lessons to live a long and happy life. (Part 1)

“By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea…”, this 1914 song is just as great today as it was back then, and so are its singers! I’ve just completed a fantastically positive extended stay in a senior citizens’ residence in Florida. True. I may not fit the average resident age of poo poo poo 95 yet, but they let me in just the same. Before I left my home, I wondered, what would I do all day? How could I relate to the octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians with whom I’d be spending my time?
Well, thank G-d, I did great! Like everyone in the residence, I was busy from morning to night, and I spent quite a bit of time speaking to the terrific folks that lived there. I shmoozed in the gym, in the dining room and in the hallways. And we did fun activities together too.
I didn’t have connectivity in Florida (so more or less no internet [I survived]), and I didn’t waste my time. I soon noticed that these spectacular silver citizens had lots in common that may very well contribute to their longevity and laughter. I wrote down 20 DOs that I learned from the folks I met. Here are the first ten (in no particular order).
1. Eat blueberries. I’m putting this at the top of the list, because every day began with blueberries. Yes, ba ba ba baaaa super-blueberries! They’re filled with vitamins and fiber; they reduce cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. They help improve memory!! They’re also yummm. And they are the object of every day’s conversation, “Do you know how much these cost in the store? Well, today….”
2. Smile a lot. No matter where we were in this Florida residence, everyone was smiling – the staff and the residents. I thought it must be something in the water, but I guess it began with a conscious effort to smile, and now everyone who walks through the sliding doors smiles. Even if they aren’t feeling tops, they smile at the moment. That encourages everyone who looks at them to smile too. And isn’t it a great feeling to walk around a place where folks looked so happy?
3. Own your age. I did not meet one person in the residence who was embarrassed about or hesitant to admit his/her age. In fact, they were proud of their age, and even prouder of their friends who had hit 101, 103 and 105. They looked at every year as a blessing.
4. Don’t/act your age. I never heard once during my stay in the senior residence, “I can’t go/do/participate because I’m old, or I’m __ (whatever age).” If an activity included lots of walking, so they walked less. If it including lots of listening, and they didn’t hear very well, so they did their best. I even spent one morning on the treadmill with a lady of 105 on the treadmill next to me. Okay, she walked at speed 2, but helllooo, she was walking on the treadmill. I wish that I and everyone reading would be able to walk on the treadmill at 105.
5. Greet everyone by name. I’m a friendly person and I can usually recognize familiar faces, but I’m bad with names. I better up my game. No matter where we went, the seniors and staff greeted every single person by their first name. Everyone’s name was important. Every person mattered. None of the staff were “the waitress” or “the desk clerk”. They were Melissa, Aggie, a name, a person who matters. And every resident was Helen, Audrey, Edith…What a great you-are-our-friend vibe!
6. Hug. Everyone there hugged all the time. On the way into dinner, into the shows, going into a car. Hug hug hug. The seniors hugged the waitresses, the residence’s administration, and the activity leaders. You could hardly walk out of a room without hugging someone. Now, I’m a big hugger, but they out-hugged me by miles. Who could be lonely, depressed or feel in a bad mood when you’re sharing hugs? I just found out that hugs strengthen the immune system, relax tension and even improve sleep quality. Besides all that, they feel great and spread love and caring. {{{xoxo}}}
7. Be pleasant. Unfortunately, seniors and anyone who lives life can suffer from many troubles – bad legs, bad hearing, high cholesterol, diabetes. There is no lack of tzores, but the majority of the seniors around me didn’t kvetch. Pleasant people really are happier, and they make those around them happier too. Grumpy Old Men may be a TV show (or maybe it’s a movie – I don’t get out much), but I noticed that at this senior residence, there was no atmosphere of nastiness or gripe, and very little self-pity. Acting pleasant then domino-ed to everyone around them.
8. Say yes/Say no. Who’s not tired after lunch? I know quite a number of countries whose residents take a siesta or afternoon break. But then, it’s time to jump/glide/ease back into action. My senior gang could have taken their naps and said, “We’ll just hang out until dinner,” but they said “yes” to playing rummy cub, canasta, mahjong, going to a class. Then again, no one can hulya morning, noon and night, so it’s wise to know your limits and say “no” sometimes. It will enable you to say “yes” when something special comes up.
9. Move. Moving around is an essential of life here.
Residents walk from their rooms to the elevator to the dining room to the theater. When they go on trips, they walk to the movies or in the mall. Mobility is critical for seniors – especially for the simple tasks of getting out of bed, heading to the bathroom, walking to the kitchen.  Mobility keeps you social and “in the game.” Speaking of mobility, I wrote that a lady of 105 was on the treadmill near mine. The speed she walked was not important, but the fact that she walked was amazing. Whenever the subject of mobility came up, the seniors said, “We’re going to keep moving around as long as we can!” May they succeed.
10. Look pretty, feel pretty. Look handsome, feel great. When I was younger Thursday was beauty parlor day. At the senior residence, any day that someone could get a lift to the beauty parlor made it “beauty parlor day”. Every day I was impressed that everyone B”H looked so great. Their hair was coiffed, their clothing clean and it was clear to see that everyone took pride in their appearances. The result - surely higher self-esteem, more interaction with their friends and an enhanced feeling of “I am dressed to take on the world.” You go, guys!
More to come.



Monday, November 27, 2017

Blessed be a Sandwich


What's a sandwich? Two pieces of bread with something squished in the middle. (My mother-in-law ad 120 puts a slice of honey cake between her bread, but that's another story.) They call folks in my stage of life, sandwiches. Thank G-d, we've got parents on one side of our attention and children and grandchildren on the other. I guess we could feel squished by the responsibilities of both, but instead of being compared to a peanut butter on toast or lox on a bagel, I'd rather think of myself as an overstuffed club sandwich with delicious deli meat, pickles, coleslaw and Russian dressing - full and flavorful.

I flew down to Florida today/ yesterday/ today/ whenever/ the day seems confused, to visit my dearest mother (may she live and be well until 120). It's my fourth time in America since my family made Aliyah 25 years ago. My mother used to travel to Israel twice every year, but it's gotten a bit harder for her lately. So, here I am with my daughter in sunny Florida to visit "Bubby".

We hit the ground running, dropping off our bags in her apartment and immediately attending two programs in her senior residence - A Virtual Visit to Ellis Island and Remembering Tin Pan Alley.

None of the seniors in the room had come through Ellis Island, although they said their parents had. Everyone had a story - the kid with an eye infection, the tailor who got the name Schneider, etc.

Music-R-Us

The Tin Pan Alley program was supposed to have piano accompaniment. When the pianist didn't show, the lecturer was disappointed. Talking about Tin Pan Alley without music is kind of like going to an ice cream parlor that's all out of your favorite flavors. Everyone sat quietly as she spoke about the music of Gorge M. Cohan and Irving Berlin. This would not do! My sister and I began singing every song the lecturer spoke about - By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Over There,  K-K-K-Katy, Give My Regards to Broadway, Yes We Have No bananas, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Swanee and more. (They should hire us to perform.) Some other voices chimed in and we had such a rousing good time. The only thing missing was the beer.

Sitting together at a speech.
Then we met some of my mother's friends. They were so thrilled we came in from Israel. They remembered traveling there in 1972, 1989 after the Six Day War, after the Golan communities were formed. None had visited less than twenty years ago. Boy, I told them, things have really changed. They were happy to know that Israel has grown and prospered.

B"H, I'm lucky to be spending time with my Mom on her home turf, and I'm looking forward to her next trip to Israel to visit her great-grandkids.  Pastrami on rye, anyone? Yummm.




Friday, November 24, 2017

Intersecting Circles 1 & 2

I will probably write many blogs that will be called intersecting circles. Isn't that the way life is? We don't just sit at our desk and do our work, baste chicken and cut up potatoes, or attend dance class and twirl with abandon.
Working at our desk, we answer the phone to find that our friend lost her keys and needs a lift. With the chicken in our hands, we look down to see the worrying kid with homework trouble. As we pirouette across the dance floor, we get an emergency call from the babysitter.
Different circles of our lives intersect with other circles - work, home, culture, fun.
So, today while writing one show, rehearsals are underway for another. In my world, they're even often at the same location.
This morning, after a Rhythm and Romp dance rehearsal for DAMES of the DANCE 10 - LEGACY, I was back to work on rewrites of my new musical production "HIDDEN - The Secret Jews of Spain" with my co-author Avital Macales. We reviewed dialogue and hummed each tune as it popped up in the script, but the strains of Indian music kept mixing in with our Spanish songs. Interesting blend, but not exactly right for either production.

The toasty-warm kitchen smelled like Ashkenazi Shabbat as Avital and I traveled back in time to seventeenth-century Madrid to further explore our hero's dilemma. The living room was freezing, but Bollywood co-choreographers Bati Katz and Shifra A-C Penkower were sweating as they seemed to be in an intense workout of the upbeat high-energy jumping and bouncing that characterize Bollywood dance.
This is the first year that Bollywood will be part of DAMES, but this year's theme of Legacy makes the style perfect for our show. A legacy of the Jewish people and a dream have been to welcome our brethren from the four corners of the earth. Many Indian Jews, Bnei Menashe, have made their way to nearby Kiryat Arba with the help of the Shavei Israel organization. We also hope they'll make their way to our stage.
So, our circles collided and filled the house with creativity.


A perfect morning.

Monday, November 20, 2017

50s, 60s and 70


I spent the most amazing morning in a Gush Etzion sound studio. Thanks to a music mix, I got to mix with a super creative group of women whose ages spanned three decades. A writer and a soloist in their 50s, (me) a producer in her 60s and a project manager who turns 70. But age had no influence on the excitement and originality that we brought all together to that sound room.

Jocelyn Reisman Odenheimer, 53, is the energetic and ingenious choreographer of the DAMES of the DANCE troupe The Saturday Night Dancers. This year, DAMES’ mega-dance spectacular will be celebrating its tenth year of dancing for charity. It brings together about 100 women from varied backgrounds, ages and communities who donate their time and their talents to the needy and needy projects.
The Saturday Night Dancers strut their stuff in 60s and 70s dancing. Jocelyn thought the SNDers deserved a special song to mark DAMES’ decade anniversary, and she wrote a parody on Y-M-C-A by the Village People. It’s called, of course, D-A-M-E-S and it’s g-r-e-a-t.

Marci Wiesel, 50, is a renowned paper cut artist, reflexologist, naturopath medical student, and a super-shiny stage personality and singer. Marci wowed audiences on stage in Gush Etzion in the title roles of JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and NOAH! Ride the Wave! for the Raise Your Spirits theater company. When Marci recorded her solos, we felt her dazzle through the microphone.

I’m up next, Sharon Katz, 62, founder and producer of DAMES and founder of Raise Your Spirits. The women wanted me to pop by the studio to participate in all the excitement and fun, and get a preview of our great new song. Wow, I feel privileged that I did.

Cheryl Mandel, soon to be 70, started the SNDers 10 years ago for the first DAMES. She still consults on choreography, dances with the group and handles its organizational tasks. Cheryl thoroughly project-managed this recording, booking the studio and organizing the talent.
Teamed up in the studio, we rocked, we danced, we changed a line here and there, and we thrilled to DAMES of the DANCE’s new anthem!! I wish I could play it for you. It’s still in the works.
Thanks to Cheryl, Jocelyn, Marci and the other wonderful women who participated, Judith Epstein, Yael Simckes and Alona Cole. I can’t stop humming your song.
BTW, if you’d like the most beautiful of paper cuts, look no further then www.papercutjudaica.com, 052-811-9400, marci@papercutjudaica.com.


Grandmas on Stage / Grandkids in the Audience - A guest blog by Mimi Katz

Dance - 1. To move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music My gir...