All posts by joel

Access is a way of life for me. Publications: I am the author of the following 3 books: · Learning to Live Again; My Triumph Over Cancer, published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston · The Politics of Food, published by Sierra Club Books and distributed by Random House· Handbook for Commissioners, Housing and Redevelopment Officials, published by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials I have published dozens of articles in my own name for such publications as The New York Times, The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune, and Information Week (http://www.informationweek.​com/534/34uwfw.htm) and have contributed to the Time-Life Books series on computers.

Tomorrow’s Motto


Christo: The Gates. Central Park, New York City







[I]n the first place, New York was a metropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it was not “the thing” to arrive early at the opera; and what was or was “not the thing” played a part as important in Newland Archer’s New York as the inscrutable totem terrors that had ruled destinies of his forefathers thousands of years ago.

—The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton



The Age of Innocence (1920) won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature,[59] making Wharton the first woman to win the award. The three fiction judges—literary critic Stuart Pratt Sherman, literature professor Robert Morss Lovett, and novelist Hamlin Garland—voted to give the prize to Sinclair Lewis for his satire Main Street, but Columbia University’s advisory board, led by conservative university president Nicholas Murray Butler, overturned their decision and awarded the prize to The Age of Innocence.[60] She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930.[61]

Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau and André Gide were all her guests at one time or another. Theodore Roosevelt, Bernard Berenson, and Kenneth Clark were valued friends as well. Particularly notable was her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald, described by the editors of her letters as “one of the better known failed encounters in the American literary annals”. She spoke fluent French, Italian, and German, and many of her books were published in both French and English.

In 1934 Wharton’s autobiography A Backward Glance was published. In the view of Judith E. Funston, writing on Edith Wharton in American National Biography,





On chanting Isaiah 61:10 to 63:9

Isaiah, prophet eighth century, as painted by Michelangelo (1475-1564)

“I greatly rejoice in the Lord,”

begins the formal portion of Isaiah which I am scheduled to chant in Hebrew on Saturday September 28th, the day before Rosh Hashana. [1].

This is the Hebrew:

שׂ֧וֹשׂ אָשִׂ֣ישׂ בַּֽיהוָ֗ה


This is how the first three verses of this Isaiah portion sounds when  Sarah Leah, my sister, sang them to help me prepare.


What follows are these verses in Hebrew and English.These are the first verses from the Isaiah haftorah [1] reading on the day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish calendar  New Year Year [2].

This is the first line of the selected reading. Unlike English that reads left to right, Hebrew reads right to left. This is an indication the Hebrew is a very old language. When language was first written, it was carved on stone. Since most workers are right handed,…
As a child of six, I was taught Hebrew in the morning and English in the afternoon. This happened for the first eight years of elementary school. Then, in high school, more Hebrew— compulsory after school Hebrew which I often resisted followed by one year of college Hebrew.
To this day when I am handed a book all too often I open it up without thinking. All to frequently, I open up an English book the wrong way and then pa Hebrew book the wrong way. When that happens, I feel maladjusted.


Later, I will discuss the considerable age of the Hebrew text which by tradition was dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai. This text has been handed down in written form for hundreds of years by and from generation to generation. The original draft contains occasional errors which are not corrected lest the instinct to correct might lead  to unwanted consequences. Instead, when a mistake does appear it’s correction appears immediately afterward in brackets. Here is an example from this haftorah.

[Insert example here.]

The Jewish Publication Society is responsible for the English translation. My mother Dr. Miriam Pell Schmerler helped in the Jewish Publication Society’s historic efforts in the late 1950s and early 1960s to produce an historically accurate translation of the Old Testament incorporating modern archeological findings and Biblical scholarship.

When I was a child, beginning at age 8, I attended working sessions of the translation efforts at summer sessions at Penn State, Cornell University, and Westchester County, NY.
While there I met some of the experts in global scholarship including experts, such as Zeev Vilnay, who wrote a classic travel guide to iIsrael which incorporated Biblical scholarship. When I was in Jerusalem in 1967, I attended his high brow Saturday afternoon teas.. All my life, willing or not through childhood and adolescence, the Bible has always been with me.



When was the last time you exalted? Or even used the word “ exalt?” This is the most beautiful and sophisticated poetry I have ever read in any language. Reading these words causes me to exalt. Learning the musical notes is hard sledding.


How should I begin?

Ancient Eastern wisdom suggests one should begin as one would proceed.  My goal here is to invoke in you the sense of beauty and awe the prophet Isaiah invokes in me as I prepare to read/chant it at my new and wonderful synagogue Congregation Ohev Shalom ( lover of peace) here in my new home of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In February, I moved here as a refugee from Addison Court, a de facto nursing home in State College. For over 10 years, this was the view from my apartment.

Earlier this year, my neighbor and friend John Harris lamented the death of a dear friend who seemed indispensable to our happiness. John observed that in the past calendar year 13 of his friends had died–many our neighbors.
On the average of once a week, by the estimate of the State College police, an ambulance pulled up to my window At any time, day or night, I could expect to see outside my window, a gurney carrying one of my neighbors who might already be dead or who might never return. Much of last year and the year before I was ill unable to leave my bed for more than four hours a day. No doubt this distressing view contributed to my illness.









This is the third floor view from the balcony of the residential hotel where I live–surrounded by residents of multiple generations (children, parents, truck drivers,workers–not all my neighbor for a change are old, neglected, focused seemingly entirely on their poor health.
Daily I see this ever-changing/ever-beautiful view of the sky and mountains and it has helped me get well after serial bouts of pneumonia. I feel about this view and its ability to make me well much as I feel when reading the astonishingly beautiful Hebrew poetry of Isaiah.



This is the first line of the selected reading. Unlike English that reads left to right, Hebrew reads right to left. This is an indication the Hebrew is a very old language. When language was first written, it was carved on stone. Since most workers are right handed,…
As a child of six, I was taught Hebrew in the morning and English in the afternoon. This happened for the first eight years of elementary school. Then, in high school, more Hebrew— compulsory after school Hebrew which I often resisted followed by one year of college Hebrew.
To this day when I am handed a book all too often I open it up without thinking. All to frequently, I open up an English book the wrong way and then pa Hebrew book the wrong way. When that happens, I feel maladjusted.


[Editorial note: In the course of producing this posting, I must use multiple computers for reasons Marshall McLuhan might understand. As a result, it is easier for me “publish” this now with the firm intention of returning and completing. Hurry back, now, hear.]








1. Haftorah. Wikipedia:

“The haftarah or (in Ashkenazic pronunciation) haftorah (alt. haphtara, Hebrew: הפטרה; “parting,” “taking leave”), (plural haftoros or haftorot) is a series of selections from the books of Nevi’im (“Prophets”) of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that is publicly read in synagogue as part of Jewish religious practice.

“The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. Typically, the haftarah is thematically linked to the parasha (Torah Portion) that precedes it. The haftarah is sung in a chant (known as “trope” in Yiddish or “Cantillation” in English). Related blessings precede and follow the Haftarah reading.”

My reading/chanting from Isaiah follows a reading from Deuteronomy, the last of the five Books of Moses.







Ani Ma’Amin: This is what I believe


Rabbi Horowitz

אני מאמין


Let’s start with first principles.

I believe in God. Specifically, I believe in the God who appeared to Moses in the form of the burning bush. Moses asks: “Who are you?” God says: “I am who I am.”

As a mystic, not much more can be said about God with this exception. God is not a He nor a She. God is genderless. Given my contrarian nature, I have taken to refer to God as She in no small part because doing so upsets some people. E.g.:

Kaddish: Prayer for the Dead


Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which She has created according to Her will.


One of my heroes is Edward R. Murrow. The great North-Carolina-born journalist instituted a series of radio programs ( which on NPR continue to this day) on what prominent people believe.



I am not prominent, but I am old (71j and am so dyed-in-the-wool Jewish that what I believe is equivalent at least in my own mind to what Judaism is or ought to be.

I can readily trace the conceit of my own rectitude to my mother who was an impressive woman and educator. Despite a lifetime of self-doubt, Mother never doubted that to be a proper Jew one must do what she insisted upon.

Here is my mom.


For me,  my belief in God is the least import aspect of being Jewish. I would argue it is irrelevant to what truly matters; namely, “If I am for myself alone, what good am I.”

One consequence of my going to Israel to fight in the Six Day War ( where I arrived at Lodd Airport on Day Four) was that despite the Israeli government’s understandable 1967 assertion (that the impending War was the 1948 War of Independence all over again) was my surprise upon being asked by the military official in charge of the airport,” Why are you here? “ My response (after kissing the tarmac and saying the requisite bracha):
“Whatever you want.”

Had it been 1948, I would have been handed a Stenn gun and sent to the Syrian front where the IDF troops scaling the Golan Heights suffered the worst deaths of the War.
Instead, being untrained naive and young, I was sent to a dairy farm in the South where I was badly needed to shovel the manure that had been built up while the farmer I had partially replaced was off in the Sinai reinventing tank warfare.
My Israeli experience as a migrant agricultural worker resulted in my becoming an agricultural policy expert ( of sorts):


Most recently, my “expertise” has resulted in my efforts to affirm Eli Weisel’s insistance that being a Jew ( surrounded as I had been  in the 1950s by tattooed survivors of the Holocaust) requires us as Jews to end genocide of whatever form; specifically in Yemen, the Mayanmar region of what used to be Burma, Venezuela ( most especially on the Western border in Colombia) the Sudan, and ….
Here is the book I am most eager to complete and publish:


Here is a relatively recent expression of what I regard as my primary life’s work:
Fortunately or unfortunately my rotten health ( which is to blame for my not being in shul yesterday) has required me to pay attention to a pressing reality(intervening in what I regard as my primary work).
For the past two  years, I have been suffering from one of the many consequences of radiation treatment that cured me of two of the three cancers I have survived and which resulted in my losing the ability to walk and stand 25 years ago.
The radiation has badly damaged my GI tract which has resulted in an inability to swallow, required that I relearn how to eat, and which most recently is manifesting itself in a severe cough. Last week, I was seen by the Digestive Diseases clinic at UPMC and with any luck I will receive surgery in June to put me on the road to recovery.
In February, by impulse or necessity, I moved to Williamsport after over 15 years in State College. Here I am receiving medical treatment unavailable in State College. And here, as a result of Larissa Simon’s efforts, that of Ohev Shalom and you, I have been rescued. Details available.
How I am able to write and write and write despite the failures of my body surprise me. The image that comes to mind is that my mind is in fifth gear; my body in second.
Clearly, it is time to stop this seemingly endless e-mail but I must first mention the following Yiddishkite issues of importance to me:
1. The revival of the Hebrew language. Eliezer ben Yehuda and Bialik,  Bialik, Bialik.
2. The understanding that the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh and Southern California makes clear that, as Jabotinsky expressed it,  in the Diaspora even the rocks are anti-Semitic.
3. The shameful way in which the elderly and disabled are treated in our society.
4. My reverence for the late Rabbi Heschel, Professor of Mysticism and Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary who marched with Dr. King as did I.
“Leaders of the protest, holding flags, from left Bishop James Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath.” Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, February 6, 1968. Published February 7, 1968. (Photo by Charles Del Vecchio/Washington Post/Getty Images)



Copyright  2019 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.


Our President’s trip to my new home in Williamsport PA

Williamsport PA, May 19, 2019:

Tomorrow Manic Monday President Donald J. Trump will be arriving here in Williamsport–center of Pennsylvania’s Alabama–to waste everyone’s time. A special election will take place on Tuesday for the seat vacated by Tom Marino, the worst member of Congress ever to have served in the House



Marino, who initially was elected on a term limitations platform, resigned on January 23rd after being elected to his sixth term in November. Previous to Congress, when Marino had left the office of the U.S Attorney in Philadelphia, the best that could be said of him was that there was not enough evidence to indict him.

President Trump called Marino his god of thunder because of his support. After Marino’s abrupt resignation ( where he announced he was going after the big bucks in the private sector), the  local Republican party nominated a fascist member of the Commonwealth legislature.

Fred Keller  is running on a support the Second Amendment platform in a town where the Williamsport Sun Gazette published on page six the release of the Muller report (when every respectable newspaper in the world had the story on page one).

Immediately below is tomorrow’s story today: “The event [Trump’s Presidentially visit] is being held for Fred Keller, who is seeking a vacated seat of Tom Marino. His opponent is Democrat Marc Friedenberg.”



Fred Keller, who will certainly win on Tuesday, cannot bait Nancy Pelosi, whom he calls a socialist, into wasting precious money and resources, into having the national Democratic Party into supporting the local Democratic candidate who will certainly lose.

Marc Friedenberg, the candidate of Centre County’s delusional very local Democratic Party, lost in November with 34 percent of the vote against Rep. Marino. [In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s State College headquarters in Centre County was not wheel chair accessible.]

Almost certainly, you have sinned in your lifetime. If you are capable of sitting through the next 55 minutes of a meaningless debate where hell will freeze over before the Democrat wins on Tuesday, your sins will be erased.


One might think the President of the United States has better things to do (e.g. on Friday our Commander in Chief expressed the hope we will not go to war with Iran this week) than clog up Williamsport’s streets and waste the time of an estimated 10,000 admirers . Trump’s local admirers are thrilled that Trump loves the other  Alabama which has decided to deprive women of their Constitutional right to an abortion (even  in the event of rape.)

Bottom line: Trump would rather make a pointless trip to Williamsport than do his job.

Given this reality or what passes for reality, I suggest that Trump consider using as the text and lyrics of his speech tomorrow evening the following material broadcast on Saturday Night Live.


The two  joined-at-the-hip Alabamas; one in the state of Alabama, the other in PA

“Twenty-two years ago, as a Democratic strategist working on a gubernatorial race, [James] Carville described the state as Paoli (a suburb of Philadelphia) and Penn Hills (a suburb of Pittsburgh) with Alabama in between.

One fact that unites the two Alabama’s is that their leading pro-Trump politicians do not care about preserving life after birth, This is not a joke; it is a sin. Consider the infant mortality rate in the US: the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world.

The infant mortality rate consists of the number of babies and children who die within the first year of being born. In the US, six babies of every thousand born die every year. In Spain, the figure is half that.

in Alabama, these 25 state senators who have the power to lower the infant mortality rate ( I can cite specifics on how that can be accomplished) who pretend to be pro-life are responsible for the state’s 9.3 infant mortality. That means that in Alabama, if the state senators who passed the law which would ban legal abortion ( and endanger women’s lives who would use illegal means to do so [ coat hangers]. The New Yorker points to a recent study that regardless of  whether an abortion is legal or not, the number of abortions stays constant.

In the Orwellian world of the 25 state senate, pro-life is pro-death in a state where every year three additional babies die each year than do so on average in the US. Pro life my ass.

Here in PA’s Alabama, the county infant mortality rates are shockingly higher than the US national average.

Trump’s support of pro-life  means that our President is pro-death.

What follows is a superb video taking you inside the neonatal ward of a hospital where babies die at great cost right before your eyes. The principal cause of infant death is low birthweight. The principal cause of low birthweight is anemia. If every woman in the US received pre- natal care ( even if it were only administered by a nurse or physician’s assistant and if every woman with anemia were treated properly with low-cost iron pills, the number of babies dying in the US would decrease considerably and health care costs would  plummet. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pond of cure.

I dare you to watch this video without weeping. I weep every time loudly and out of control.





To be continued



Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera (1935)







A Night at the Opera is a 1935 American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was the first of five films the Marx Brothers made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was adapted by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, and Al Boasberg (uncredited) from a story by James Kevin McGuinness. It was directed by Sam Wood.

Accounts of my indecent exposure at Williamsport PA’s Pajama Factory are vastly exaggerated


Hillel the Elder teaching a man the meaning of the whole Torah while he stands on one foot (detail from the Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem)













“Do unto others as you  would have others do unto you.”

—The Golden Rule [1]

Join me on October first for at the Lycoming County zCourthouse, Courtroom 3, for an existential demonstration that for the District Attorney in Williamsport PA, justice is a meaningless word .


The issue involved is not on the docket.



Tradition has it that a scoffer challenged  Rabbi Hillel the Elder to summarize the essence of the Bible while standing on one foot. Over the years the Hebrew “al regel achot” [2]  translated ( or even inserted into an English sentence in the original— as my maternal grandmother did frequently— means getting to the point.

This posting concerns the efforts of the chief executive officer of the Pajama Factory to discredit me in my efforts to make the Williamsport PA’s offices, residences, and shops wheel chair accessible and otherwise convenient for the elderly in this community to use.



Notice to readers

Coming soon. The deep skinny. Come back now, hear. Don’t touch that dial.


Belated Prologue

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

—The Golden Rule [1]




Scene of the crime





“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”














1. All major religions subscribe to the Golden Rule. As a card carrying member of the Jewish Religion, Rabbi Hillel (circa 110B.C. to 10 A.D.) the greatest of our rabbies, emphasized its importance anecdotally. Legend has it that a scoffer










The Saga of Trump’s Stinky Secretary of Interior Zinke Who Belong in the Klinky

In an early morning tweet on December 15, 2018, President Trump fired Secretary of Interior Ryan x who is under investigation for corruption. Shown here is Secretary Zinke riding the horse Tonto to work on his first day on the job. He was accompanied by DC park police as they trotted through rush hour traffic in our nation’s capital.







Tom Lehr’s song introduction is bizarrely relevant to President Trump’s firing [1] of Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke

“[A] few years ago, a motion picture version appeared
of Sophocles’ immortal tragedy “Oedipus Rex”. This picture played only in the so-called art theaters, and it was not a financial success.

“And I maintain that the reason it was
not a financial success… was
that it did not have a title tune which the people could hum, and which would make them actually eager to attend this particular flick.”


Song: Oedipus Rex Singer: Tom Lehrer From the 1959 Album: An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer


The Saga of  Trump’s Stinky Secretary of Interior Zinke Who Belongs in the Klinky

Dedicated to Kiran Stacey, the Financial Times 
reporter whose article “Donald Trump Announces Departure of Interior Secretary” inspired this song.

Zinke’s surely a schnook

‘Cause of the lolly he took

At Interior he was inferior

Drilling oil I the Alaska interior

Oh, Zinke rinky dinky schminky

Your ethics they are stinky


Bridge:    Slinky Interior Sec Zinke

Your soul’s controlled by Halliburton’s pinky


Once a Congressman from Montana

His cowboy Aires no winna

At despoiling our parks no beginna

Lobbying pals made him a sinna

No winna

The sinna

The Interior Sec Zinke

His ethics they are stinky


The Prez’s tweet made you incomplete

Oh Whitefish Boy Zinke

Slinky Zinke

Even your horse thinks you stinky


An environmental polluter today

Please take dinky Zinke away

Who road  horse Tonto—a dear

In traffic that took forever to clear

Intent on causing great fear

Filthy air would our lungs sear

A Whiefish “alleged” crook

To create Interior Donnybrook

Oh please take that Zinke away

A disgrace at Interior today.

— Joel Solkoff, Aged Bard for DC Cabinet-level reporters

The Politics of Food