Thursday, July 15, 2010


Dinner time! But where have all the diners gone? Dad called that he's detained at the office. Mom's still at the gym. The teenage boys are at soccer practice. The older sister is studying at her friends. Even the family dog is still at the animal day care center.

In previous eras, the family meal was almost a sacred table. Mom was still in the kitchen -- putting the final touches to a full-course meal. The children knew they had to look neat -- their hands washed, their faces scrubbed. No excuses for being late! Whatever subject was being discussed, it was silently acknowledged that father knew best.

With an increasing number of women in the work force, with after-school activities almost mandatory, the chances of the family sitting down together at meal times is markedly reduced. When they are together, often a decision is made to eat out -- there is a whoop of joy -- no cooking, no clean up and those french fries at the neighborhood fast food diner!

Is the passing of the family meal, something to be mourned? Have we lost an opportunity to transmit family values and to bring together the family to offer support and security? Maybe something is lost, but the family meal wasn't always serene. There were sometimes heated arguments and a feeling of oppression by the woman in charge. And what about boredom -- and the wish to get through the meal as quickly as possible and get on with one's own interests.

Of course, families still get together, although surely less frequently around a table. But today, some major change can be observed. With almost no exception, one or both of the children, or even Mom or Dad is on a cell phone, an iPhone or watching a portable video screen. There's more talk to someone not at the family table that there is to someone present. Even couples alone, or a mother and child together, or grandparents visiting from afar, are technologically engaged.

Will the listeners at the other of the cell phone, the iPhone, or whatever new device is developed -- will these connections be the new electronic family? Will the text messages constantly transmitted, transmit the cultural values, offer support and security? The answers lie in the future, a future which will have its own technology, its own questions, and its own search for answers.



2 people reasonably sound in mind and body.

3 large cups of getting to know each other before tying the knot.

1 large tbsp. of learning about each other’s faults and virtues.

Several measuring spoons of accepting that you can’t change another person; it’s hard enough to change oneself.

12 oz. of agreement that you each have – separate interests you want to pursue and some degree of space required that you need to regulate.

Pour in a large bottle of luck, mazel, good fortune, and prayers to whatever God may help you.

Sprinkle the mixture with whatever spices you each like and start stirring in one of those bowls you received from your gift registry. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and relatively free of lumps. There are always some lumps and bumps in every couple pairing.

Your oven should have been preheated in the time you were getting to know each other – now turn it on high and put your dish into a hot oven and keep it hot.

Because Alana and Michael have all the ingredients for this recipe and they are both good cooks, I predict a successful outcome for this recipe – which I hope they’ll enjoy for many, many years to come.


About two months ago, I became a great grandmother. Our new family member is a boy, his name is Ariel and he lives in Jerusalem.

My friends congratulated me, commented on how excited I must be and questioned when I planned to visit him. At 95 years of age, the journey to Israel is one I don’t contemplate with confidence – so I have decided against it. The possibility of Ariel and his parents coming to New York in the near future is very uncertain.

There are many stories in history and literature of family separation and disbursement, sometimes never to be heard from again. When there was communication, it was limited and often delayed. But over time, communication improved – the postal system, telegrams and the telephone.

Ariel was born in the era of modern technology. Technology is the way I am getting to know him. I get frequent pictures of him on e-mails and messages about how amazing he is with more pictures. Then there is Skype, which shows him smiling, moving around, interacting with his parents – and its free! I can even speculate as to which family member he resembles. He is already a familiar presence on Facebook. If he weren’t so young, he would probably be twittering!

For me, getting to know my great grandson through technology is not very fulfilling. I see babies on screens, in magazines, on the street, and often admire them – but they are not my baby. I personally get pleasure from babies when I can touch them, hold them, taste them, and breathe in their delicious aroma – I can’t do that with Ariel.

Maybe in a future era of technology, we can touch them, smell them, cuddle them – but that era has not yet arrived.