As you know, the name of our shul means Lover of Peace. Now, when the threat of infection is all around us and fear grips us here in beautiful Lycoming County, it is difficult to be peaceful within ourselves.
As we prepare for the siddurim, we can take comfort from the Haggadah properly understood.
The story that comes immediately to mind is that of Rabbi Akivah. The Haggadah says Rabbi Akivah’s sedar lasted until dawn. His followers had to remind him the time had come to daven Shacharis.
Scholars explain to us the true meaning of that event noting Rabbi Akivah was helping Bar Kochba prepare for the Revolt— a Revolt that fought the Romans deadly attempt to destroy our people.
Now, the threat to our lives and tradition as G-d’s’ Chosen People is so small as to require a microscope to see it. It is so dangerous that by the time you read this 5,000 residents of the United States have already died and more are expected.
Following Rabbi Hillel’s first rehetorical question, If I am not for myself who is for me, we must all take care. Wash our hands. Avoid touching our face. Have safe distance between and among ourselves. Make sure to open the windows when the temperature permits. Fresh air and sunshine are the best disinfectant.
The second of Rabbi Hillel’s rhetorical questions:
If I am for myself alone, what good am I.
This means we must invent new ways of expressing our love for each other. We must make use of this time to learn Hebrew, read and appreciate the Tanach, study the history of Zionism and the State of Israel we so love. Stand up, sing Hatikvah, And pledge allegiance to the US flag.
Rabbi Hillel’s last rhetorical question, of course, is :
If not now, when.
Remember, we are today united under G-d’s glorious umbrella. It does not matter now in midst of this pandemic whether one’s faith is Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, Buddhist or nothing at all. Never since World War II when I served my country has our country faced as great a danger as it does now.
This Pesach we can learn from Rabbi Akivah’s diligence. The details of the threat may be different.The message is the same. With love and hope we will prevail as a people and as this wonderful United States which we all call home.
[Editorial note: Marvin Staiman is the spiritual leader of Williamsport PA’s Synagogue in Williamsport PA. founded as Orthodox, but because women and men sit together rather than being separated, we regard ourselves as traditional.Marvin’s grandfather Kalman was one of the founders of the synagogue in 1907.
Jean and Marvin have been married for 72 years. Jean continues to read avidly and is devoted to literature. The couple are the pillars of our synagogue.]
Today, Sunday, March 22, 2020 Dateline Lycoming County, Pennsylvania ( two miles from Williamsport City line), I am in the process of composing a Trump resignation speech.
#### Premise: The Donald finds a quantity of LSD in the Resolute desk. Left over from the days JFK dropped with Timothy Leary.
“Summer-bachelor Jack Kennedy stands on the Harry Truman balcony overlooking the rose-garden fountain, a soothing sight before him: prisms of lighted water shooting into darkness, the white spike of the Washington Monument, auto headlights flickering along Executive Avenue. He begins to feel a deep-seated goodness within, centered between his chest and throat. From the bedroom behind him, through white chiffon curtains in open french doors, float the chords of a Sinatra song — “All I Need is the Girl.”
“With strange clarity, JFK can suddenly make out every note….Behind the curtains moves the shadow of a tall woman who is not his wife. She is deeply connected to CIA, and has just dispensed to the President of the United States a dose of LSD. In the next few hours she will be “brainwashing” him, and she will be doing so on the directions of a Harvard psychologist, Dr. Timothy Leary, whose colleagues are all taking CIA money, and who has himself designed a personality test used by CIA..”
“Over the past three years, many terms have been thrown around to describe Donald Trump. Phrases like “huge moron,” “colossal jerk,” “massive prick,” and, our personal favorite, “malignant tumor.” Obviously many have agreed that the 45th president of the United States is both a terrible person and an idiot incapable of tweeting a coherent sentence, let alone running the country.
“Still, some have worried it would be taking things too far to diagnose the man as a full-blown sociopath. Are we being too cavalier with the designation, they’ve likely fretted. Shouldn’t we wait until the Mar-a-Lago groundskeepers find a few dozen heads in the basement, they’ve probably wondered.
“On Friday, however, Trump confirmed for all the world to see that he indeed has no conscience.During a press conference at the White House, NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked Trump, “What do you say to the Americans who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick, millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” In reality this was a softball question that anyone with a semblance of a soul would be able to answer, responding with something like, “That’s an understandable feeling. I would tell them we’re in this together and we’re doing everything we can, as fast as we can.”
Trump literally only thinks about himself, so instead he told Alexander: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope, and you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and con-cast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘con-cast.’ Let me just tell you something. That’s really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”
“Attention in Washington is focused on Russian subversion of the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion. The furor has obscured Russia’s many malign activities elsewhere, notably in Syria,” Tisdall writes.
“Could Trump suddenly switch tack and jump in, prompted by atrocities in Idlib? It’s possible…But that looks unlikely. At present the Pentagon seems more concerned about a Russian threat to attack an area of eastern Syria, bordering Iraq and Jordan, where a handful of US troops is based. How the mighty have fallen. While the Russians run riot across a region that Washington once dominated, the US is reduced to observer status, watching as defenseless civilians die.”
Full-Scale Military Attack must be Avoided in Syria’s Idlib: UN Negotiator
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and his Special Advisor, Jan Egeland, speak to the press following the meeting of the Humanitarian Access Task Force. OSE Syria – Media Stakeout: Humanitarian Access Task Force (Geneva, 4 September 2018) —-
The UN’s top humanitarian advisor for Syria appealed for “sanity now at the end, hopefully, of this, the worst war of our generation” and said it was no way to “liberate a people or to save a city by crushing it with the civilians inside.” Jan Egeland, the Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, told journalist in Geneva today (4 Sep) that intense humanitarian and political diplomacy on Idlib was ongoing. He added, “if it succeeds we will have hundreds of thousands of lives spared; if it fails in the next days and hours we could see a battle more cruel than any previous battle in this, the cruelest war of our generation.” Egeland said he is looking to Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the western countries with influence on the parties to come with hope for civilians. He noted that there are more babies than terrorists in Idlib with over one million children in the area.
The Special advisor said hundreds of thousands of people fled to Idlib because it was considered safe as a recognized de-escalation zone by the Astana guarantors. He noted that it was possible to end fighting through talks in Idlib as was done in other places. Egeland said the building of forces and the fortification inside Idlib signal that innocents would die at a much higher ratio than armed men in a war scenario, which would also endanger the humanitarian lifeline for some two million people.
Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria: “We are prepared now in our planning for war, but we pray there will be no war. We cannot have war in Idlib because it’s filled to the brim with the internally displaced, with civilians.” The Special advisor appealed for “sanity” which would mean “not repeating eastern Aleppo, eastern Ghouta, and Ar-Raqa; it is no way to liberate a people or to save a city by crushing it with the civilians inside.” He said armed opposition groups destroyed bridges in the city which meant that civilians do not have freedom of movement. Egeland said a humanitarian response plan has been launched for Idlib which calls for 310 million USD but the funds were not available adding that the current humanitarian operation was barely funded.
International organizations have accused the Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, and the U.S.-led coalition of severe human rights violations and of massacres. The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting continues.
How many of the 2.9 million civilians in this last ditch war in the last Syrian province held by non-government rebels will die within the next 24 hours?
I met the future mother of my children as a consequence of writing a speech on the Multi Fiber Arrangement for the importation of textiles and apparel. Known familiarly as the MFA or the Arrangement.
My title back then 39 years ago was Special Assistant to Under Secretary of Labor Robert J. Brown. Bob, whose position was comparable to the chief operating officer in a private corporation, was the second most important person in the Department reporting to Secretary of Labor Raymond Marshall.
As with the Under Secretary and the Secretary, I was a political appointee serving at the pleasure of President Jimmy Carter. Yes, my appointment was unanimously confirmed by the senate, but that was no big deal at the time. Unlike the other political appointees with offices within the impressively exclusive suite of the Secretary of Labor, I was not a hot-shot.
My friend Walter Shapiro needed someone who could help out writing speeches–which I do well–and one thing led to another. I received a full-time appointment. There was talk I might actually be in line for an important job, but that was talk. When I met the lovely Diana Bass, international economist, I was working in an office environment where petty politics were rife.
Secretary of Labor Marshall was distracted from doing his job by the fact that his son was dying of cancer. The twenty – and thirty-year olds who staffed Secretary Marshall’s Office were well-educated, mean, and not as competent as they imagined themselves to be. Soon, I was to learn loyalty to my boss meant my future was in danger–although I did not realize at the time I would be out of a job within two years.
This clip from the Washington Post provides a hint at the nature of the internal politics where I worked and its consequences.
The story of in-fighting at the Labor Department in 1978 is a secondary reason for this reminiscence. My primary objective here is to tell a love story.
I here describe the origins of the strength of my lengthy marriage to Diana which had its downside given the marriage ended 17 years ago. In so telling, I am hopeful of providing perspective the German-born American developmental psychologist Erik Erickson would have found helpful. For the time being, I will leave dangling Erikson’s relevant Stage Eight of his Theory of Psychological Development: Ego integrity versus despair .
I cannot introduce romance too early here given I am a policy wonk. Unchecked there is real danger I am likely to go on and on about the applicable details of international economics for a speech delivered 39 years ago. Nevertheless, this 2018 New Year's born reminiscence requires I regard my grandfatherly role--generator of generations--with the respect due to a genesis story. Hence, you will not be spared international trade policy details.
Regarding the speech to be delivered by my boss: Under Secretary of Labor Robert J. Brown was as close to panic as I have ever seen him. Even here though I thought of Bob as safe and steady; steady and slow. I very much admired him. As a consequence of trying to please Bob’s desire for an upbeat speech (when upbeat seemed and indeed was impossible) I met Diana who six years later became the mother of the first of our two daughters.
The exigencies of the speech caused the lovely Diana to emerge from her non-carpeted office on the sixth floor to the exclusive custom-wood paneled corridor at the suite of the Office of the Secretary of Labor. There, my secretary announced then escorted her to my office where she sat at the custom-made tweed sofa.
I had summoned Diana indirectly because when I called Irving Kramer, her boss who was not there, she recognized appropriately that a call from the Under Secretary’s Office required instant response if I thought it necessary and I did. Her overt purpose there on my couch gazing at the original landscapes on loan from the Smithsonian was to teach me enough international economics to satisfy (or at least make a pretense of satisfying) my boss’ desire to deliver an upbeat speech.
The problem was That Bob had been trapped into giving a speech he did not want to give to an audience which did not want to hear what he had to say at a time and place where he would rather be elsewhere–namely, at home with his wife and children.
The speech was to the annual convention of apparel manufacturers at a Friday evening ceremony at a hotel in the heart of the Old Quarter of New Orleans where only a few years earlier I had spent the most decadent weekend of my life. While the audience may have wished to drown itself for good reason in alcoholic excess and readily available decadence, Bob–tasked to perform this unsavory speech by his immediate boss The Secretary of Labor–had already figured out how to exit New Orleans as quickly as possible.
The problem was, What was he to say?
Bob could not say the truth.
The truth was after decades of refusing to read the handwriting on the wall, manufacturers of apparel had failed to realize making clothing as they had for years would no longer be profitable no matter how hard they lobbied government officials to pretend. Unless the manufacturers took special measures they were unwilling to take to improve efficiency, they and a portion of the domestic textile industry would be put out of business.
For over a week leading up to this 2017/2018 New Year's Eve (despite having promptly taken a flu shot when my physician told me to) I have been slowly recovering from an influenza-induced fever-dream-like state where in my mind's eye I envision my currently 18 month granddaughter Juliet Mae at some future appropriate age asking her Zeyda (that's me) how I met her grandmother (distinctly not a Bubbie). [Of course, a Bowdlerized version would be required.]
We were sitting at an upscale bar in Richmond waiting for me to appear on the evening news. NBC. My book Learning to Live Again had just been published. It was a hot summer. Diana, my lover for three years and wife for two, and I had more than survived marriage. Would we survive the autobiographic book I had just published in 1983 describing a previous romance to Laura, the woman whose love made it possible to get through my first experience with cancer?
My egregious violation of the rules of gentlemanly behavior would never have happened if I were not a writer continually hell bent on publication regardless of the consequences. Thomas Wolfe had written Look Homeward, Angel unwilling/unable to keep the autobiography from his novel’s pages–revealing the secrets of his Ashville, North Carolina home town. In the process, he made it impossible to go home again. Later, Wolfe claimed all novels are autobiographical saying even Gulliver’s Travels was autobiography.
I made no pretense of hiding behind a novel. My chance at becoming a full-time writer of books was this one published by Holt Rinehart & Winston. It had been based on a New York Times Magazine article that had resulted in my appearing with great fanfare on Good Morning America. It was not impossible–nor a forgone conclusion either. As my friend Bill Gahr (and my boss at the General Accounting Office) had said, “When you have a chance at the brass ring, you go for it.” If Learning to Live Again succeeded, I could fulfill the dream of writing books for the rest of my life. This was my big chance.
Richmond television initially was the best I could do on the road for hopeful success. Diana had spent much of our years together watching me write and rewrite expressing the belief her love for me was so great eventually my passion for another woman would be transmuted by her love for me. Thus far her belief seemed to be working. We were happily married. Through the day of press, radio, and television interviews Diana was by my side supporting me totally.
Then the human interest clip at the end of the evening news appeared. The story line went on about the fear of surviving cancer and how a woman’s love had helped me through it. Neither Diana nor I had realized the interview, filmed in a park, had included (after we thought it over) a shot of Diana and me romantically holding hands as we crossed a bucolic bridge. Yet there it was.
Diana and I were sitting at the bar. Several others were also watching the news. The cameraman was not as expert as one might hope. The clip ended as Diana and I holding hands suddenly disappearing as if Merlon, the magician, had said Poof. “Where’d they go?” some of drinkers asked each other who were as puzzled as we.
Diana is a proud woman. Mixing our romance with another was a bridge too far. Never again did she appear with me as I hustled the book. Was this a defining moment? It did not seem so at the time.
The book received good reviews but did not earn enough to repay the advance. I published another book. This time on agriculture policy. One does not receive the kind of advances required to pay the mortgage and support children from a book on agriculture policy. Instead, I had to return to speech writing and then become a technical writer.
As for our relationship, did it matter? We did have two children and remained together as a couple for twenty years. Much of the time a happy time. Did Richmond matter?
Currently, l am writing documentation for a complicated electrical mobility tool. Ever since 1990, when my family and I relocated to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, I have written documentation on a regular basis working for such companies as Nortel Networks, IBM, Schlumberger/Sema, and three start-ups in the Silicon Valley (a place where my heart resides).
The following example dates from 1995, one of the most difficult years of my life. Certainly, I would not have made public any document that is classified (as is the one below) if time did not make such classification moot.
This is KLA-Tancor now (2020)
“KLA once again demonstrated solid execution in the December quarter, delivering results in the upper end of the range of guidance, and capping multiple records across revenue, GAAP EPS and non-GAAP EPS for the quarter,” commented Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA. “As we begin the new calendar year, we are excited with the growth opportunities that lie ahead for KLA, with the industry outlook calling for growth led by technology transitions in advanced Logic, expanding investment in EUV, and with the expectation that Memory investment will improve in the calendar year. As the leading supplier of process control and specialty semiconductor process equipment for semiconductor and related electronics industries, and supported by a large and growing services business, KLA is uniquely positioned to benefit from this growth while continuing to deliver high levels of profitability.”
What follows are examples of the documentation work I did for KLA in the 1990s
What makes this sample useful is that it represents, as I will discuss, the best example of an optimal organizational structure to produce documentation. Since writing, KLA has merged with Tancor. I will always be grateful to KLA-Tancor for making possible the production of quality documentation unequaled by subsequent experience that made me write poetry in frustration.