Last Night I Saw the Mushroom Cloud


I dreamed I saw the mushroom cloud. It’s been absent from my dreams for so long, in spite of Ahmadinejad. The more he talks about eliminating us, the deeper my sleep.

As a girl, I dreamt of it often; it was the backdrop of my life. Its after-image cast such a long shadow, in those days, that stray sparks from the firestorm were still drifting around the globe. The fallout was like snowflakes, finding their way all the way from Japan into my yellow-wallpapered bedroom in Connecticut.

I wasn’t the only one. Any American childhood in the 1950s and 60s took place with that impossibility as the underlying reality, and underlying fantasy: a brilliant white nightmare in the backyard, rising faster than Jack’s Beanstalk. Americans who were optimistic enough to build fallout shelters were ridiculed by their compatriots. How could a concrete bunker, naively fitted out with air filter and a two-week supply of bottled water, protect you from a bomb reputed to be greater than a hundred Hiroshimas? Even if you and your family did make it into the shelter in time and shut the hatch successfully against your neighbors, what kind of landscape would eventually greet … Read More >>

No Matter How Hard


Back in the days when I used to visit my parents, of blessed memory, in Los Angeles, I was once driving along Coldwater Canyon, one hand busily turning the radio dial in search of something interesting, when a man’s voice came on talking about holiness. The southern drawl alerted me instantly to the fact that this must be a Christian station, but I paused, curious, just long enough to hear him say that we all have the voice of G-d in us, which we call “my conscience.”

What my conscience was telling me at that moment was to turn the channel, but the line remained in my memory and resurfaced a few days ago, thanks to a piece in The New York Times.

It was the title that caught my attention, “An Ill Father, a Life-or-Death Decision” – an article about euthanasia, obviously, by someone named Alicia von Stamwitz.

I wasn’t in suspense as to where a writer for the Times would stand on the issue.

The article begins with the author’s many trips back and forth to the hospital during her father’s long, drawn-out illness; how she was tormented repeatedly by what appeared to be … Read More >>

Monday Morning in Jerusalem


One morning about a year ago, I got a call from a distraught friend. She had been working for a few months as the secretary of a tzedaka organization, and had just discovered that none of the funds had been used to “benefit needy children,” as claimed by the public relations brochure she herself had helped produce. The money had been going into the director’s pocket, who later explained himself by saying that his family, too, was in dire need.

So ashamed was she that ever since her discovery, the woman had been in a depression. Frum from birth, she said that what had broken her was not only the discovery itself, but the reactions she’d gotten from two other frum Jews. The first, a close friend, had suggested she help the director set up a bona fide organization.

“But all this time he was lying to me, and getting me to steal for him! How can I continue working with him?”

Her friend seemed inadequately horrified.

She then consulted a neighbor who is a rabbi. He told her that for guidance she should go to a posek, but in his opinion — since he knew that her … Read More >>

An Internet Tale


[Sarah Shapiro, noted Orthodox writer and daughter of literary icon Norman Cousins, would be a welcome permanent addition to Cross-Currents if I can finally talk her into it – YA – Updated Apr. 29 to attribute this article to our newest Contributor…]

A big writer’s block showed up one day and settled down right in front of my laptop. Generally speaking, I try to ignore this phenomenon. My philosophy is: don’t say its name out loud, since that affirms its reality and encourages it to stay. You’re better off preserving its illusory cloud-like status as a passing figment of the imagination, like an ice floe that will drift off to sea if you keep looking the other way.

But months were going by and it wasn’t drifting off. Since I’d grown accustomed over the years to the glow of the computer screen, I continued showing up for “work” each morning at my desk, and continued exercising my civic duty (as I had since the start of the Democratic primaries) keeping track online of the ongoing American Presidential campaign. Attacks and counter-attacks, prophecies and predictions, polls, blogs, bulletins, headlines, breaking news and shaking news, updates and pundits and Op-Eds…a … Read More >>