Saturday, December 31, 2011


My friend Joan in Oakland, California emailed this to me last week. My acupuncturist just told me she sent it to two friends so here it is + Happy New Year everybody.

In honor of the new year, and the New Year's party in my building, I just had a manicure and had my nails painted with bronze glitter only live once ! Unless you're a buddhist, I guess.....

In keeping with the Jews + Chinese restaurants:
Little Known Jewish History
According to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5772.  According to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4708.  
This means that the Jews went without Chinese food for 1,064 years.
This period was known as the Dark Ages.
Happy New Year !

credit: friend of joan l.


I love the card I got from Julian showing his whole gorgeous family ! It came along with their 'car-inspired' 2011 Slane Family Christmas letter which I'm having a lot of trouble scanning so I left it out for now. Suffice to say, they all have very high class taste in cars - Jaguars, Porsches, and even a 'green' Chevy Volt - yay Hansen for thinking about the planet ! A dual sport motorcycle is also on the wishlist - yikes !

Friday, December 30, 2011



There will be a new addition to the family - Amber is expecting !
Wow, I missed checking her blog for a few days and whoa,
what a surprise ! I've been smiling all day just thinking about it.

Read all about it + get all the Details on Amber's blog

Aurora is looking forward to her new brother or sister -
another surprise......


As usual, I am behind and catching up. This year I got to light the beautiful menorah Bernice gave me.  I had a friend over and we ate latkes with organic applesauce and Jane ate hers with sour cream. My friend Howard came over on the last night and we each lit our own "chanukiot." (There is a tradition in Judaism for each person to light their own menorah). There was a candle-lighting every night in my building which I went to after I met the woman who was leading it, Elaine, and found out she had handouts and everyone sang Chanukah songs that we all knew since we were kids. On the last night I brought down latkes from the Butcherie, the kosher market in Brookline, plain and sweet potato + they were a big hit !

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
I made it out of clay,
and when it's good + ready,
with dreidel I will play.........

It was wonderful to see Julian and Amber's menorah too along with the Christmas celebrations, and even Kwanza ! Check out Julian's blog and Amber's blog for all the details.


A dreidel has four hebrew letters:
nun, shin, hay, gimel;
the letters mean: "a great miracle happened there";
referring to the one flask of oil that lasted eight days after the Maccabbees defeated the Syrian-Greeks who had ruined the alter at the Temple of Solomon; the six branched menorah was kept lit 24/7 by the Levites who were in charge of Temple maintenance.  You can read all about it in The Book of Maccabbees 1 +2.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


A little over a year ago, when Roby first saw the Sandler Family Archives blog, he emailed me saying:

Robert and Bernice Sandler (XXX
show details 8/18/10

Hi Carol, 

I' m still here, I still love you. I was looking at the computer the other day about the Dorchester years and later the Brookline years etc etc. I thought how could anyone born and bred in Dorchester leave out the Beth El synagogue and Beth El Hebrew school? How could any ONE LEAVE OUT  Franklin Park and Blue Hill Avenue?  


I emailed him back saying he was absolutely right ! I planned to do that but I hadn't gotten to it yet ! 

Today, Bernice, Ellen and Robert will be going to the cemetery to visit Roby. Since I can't be there with them, I am following up with his request regarding the Dorchester years. 

Here is the Fowler Street schul also known as the Beth El synagogue. (It is gone now + a plaque was put up where it once stood)

Here is the Beth El Hebrew school where Roby, Ruth, Shirley and I went !!

"Located at 1601 Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan Square, the Oriental Theatre building has become Capitol Electric Supply Co.  The Oriental was one of the few and best "atmospheric movie theaters in the area. During the "golden" age of great movie houses, "atmospherics" were the ones with a strong romantic theme, incorporating the features of lighting and architecture to create an illusion that the patrons were seated outdoors in an exotic locale.  The theatre was designed by Boston architects Krokyn, Brown and Rosenstein and the stadium-type auditorium designed in the "Chinese" atmosphere was capable of seating 3000 patrons in an atmosphere faithfully re-creating  such notable Chinese structures as the Street Gate of Tsinanfu and the facade of the Wan Shou Tsu Temple. The theatre opened in 1929 and closed in 1971 playing "Diamonds Are Forever." Originally part of Jacob Lourie's and Sam Pinanski's NETOCO, then Paramount-Publix and M & P, closing as one of the last of the old American Theatres  Corp. (ATC). It was intended to be built in Waltham, but ended up in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood. Photo and background courtesy of Earl Taylor Collection, Dorchester Historical Society. For more information on the society and its activities to preserve neighborhood landmarks and history, see the website:  Watch this space for a weekly photo from Mattapan's yesteryears."

I remember going to the Oriental theater in the '50's when I was a kid. The ceiling was painted blue with hundreds of little stars that twinkled ! In niches in the walls on the right and left were statues of the Buddha with green glowing eyes. 

Blue Hill Avenue was the shopping district in a Jewish neighborhood where Shirley and I went every Saturday.... the market that delivered, then lunch in the G + G, then the bakery for danish and half-moons. Hundreds of people were on those streets and we would always see our relatives, aunts and cousins of the Sandler family.

I will add more to this post, especially the G + G delicatessen, but for now, I have gotten a lot onto this post that Roby wanted to see.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


It's coming up in a couple of days. Roby's been gone for one year. Bernice told me everyone will be lighting a yahrtzeit candle, the Jewish tradition to honor the memory of a loved one, in this case, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle. My dear Uncle Roby or Bob as Bernice and friends called him - he told me he liked it that I called him Roby. When Bernice was in the hospital, he and I talked on the phone almost every night. Once he said, "Carol, I have something to tell you." "What ?" I asked......"I love you" was the reply. I'll never forget it.

Bernice, Ellen, Jeff, Amber, Julian and I will be lighting our candles at sunset, December 17th. As we approach the shortest day of the year, we will be adding a lot of light and Roby will know that he is sorely missed and remembered by all who loved him. Some of us will also light a candle on the Hebrew date, 11 Tevet ((January 6th) on the Jewish calendar.

Roby passed away on Shabbat. I asked a rabbi if there was any special significance in Judaism regarding passing away on Shabbat. This is what he said: "Because Shabbos is generally referred to as a day of 'Chessed - kindness - passing away on Shabbos is understood as a sign that the soul's leaving this world is an expression of G-d's kindness, as opposed to the rest of the week where it may be due to G-d's judgement."

"It tells us something about the quality of the person who passed away."

I think that says it all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


T H E    J E W I S H   I D E A  O F   G O D


Prof.  Robert  Sandler


Among the many issues and problems in Jewish life today about which Jews disagree, sometimes very sharply, is the elusive but extremely important subject of the idea of God: specifically the definition of God, the attributes and capabilities of God, and what it means when a person says he”believes in God.” Although the idea of God has been, from the beginning of Judaism, a central element in Jewish thought, the reality is that there have been, and still are, different and conflicting views as to what constitutes the Essence of the original and continuing creative energy in the universe - i.e., God.

It is interesting to note that there are several different words that Jewish thinkers and writers throughout the ages have used to denote the original and continuing creative energy in the universe: Elohim, the Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay word (transliterated into English as Jehovah, or Yahveh),  The Most  High,  The Holy One Blessed Be He, The King of Kings, The Almighty, Adonai, King of the Universe, Master of the Universe, among others.  The Hebrew Bible itself clearly reveals a progressive development from the idea of a tribal, jealous wrathful God, in Exodus for example, to a universal, compassionate God in the books of the Prophets several hundred years later.

Textual evidence from the Torah itself would seem to indicate that even Biblical writers disagreed as to whether Elohim or Jehovah (YHVH) should predominate. A compromise of sorts was apparently reached when the final text of the Torah came to be written (about 450 B.C.E.) which included the use of both of those “names.” In Genesis, from Chapter 1:1 to Chapter 2:3 for example, Elohim is used exclusively to relate the first version of Creation. From Chapter 2:4, in the second version of Creation, God is referred to as Jehovah (YHVH) Elohim. From then on, both terms are used, sometimes alone, sometimes together, although as the Torah continues, the term Jehovah (YHVH) is used alone more often than Elohim.

In Judaism, there is no authority that is empowered to make any official pronouncement about the nature, definition, or capabilities of God that is binding on all Jews. (No one speaks for all Jews on any  issue !)  As to the idea of God, however, most Jews would agree that any idea of God must not refute, nor conflict with the IDEA of a Monotheistic, Non corporeal Creative Energy or Force in the Universe. Although that point of agreement is an extremely important one, that is where agreement ends.

Some Jews believe in a supernatural, all-knowing (Omniscient) Being who can hear and understand human prayers. Many other Jews, however, do not believe that. Many other Jews believe that a Monotheistic Non-corporeal God is Omnipotent, that He has the power to control all natural and human events on the planet Earth or anywhere in the cosmos. Many other Jews do not believe that. Some Jews believe, on the basis of a literal reading of numerous passages in the Tanach, that a God exists who is both Benevolent and Just and that that God can and does reward or punish a person or a nation as He chooses. Many other Jews do not believe that.

Some Jews believe that God not only spoke to Moses 3,300 years ago in Egypt and in the Sinai Desert, but that He also spoke with Adam and with Abraham and with many others, as is literally recorded in the Tanach. Some Jews believe that God, the Univeral Creator, actually revealed Himself to Moses at Sinai and that He chose the Israelites to be His special people.

Many other Jews, however, who admire with reverence the profound wisdom and insight of the human writers of the Tanach, as well as the brilliant authors of post-Biblical Jewish writings, and who are pround to identify with their Jewish heritage, do not believe those things literally at all.

We Jews may be one people, but we certainly have different views about how this vast cosmos of time, space, matter and life came into being and by what rules or laws this Creation continues to function.

Having different views about the original and continuing creative energy in the universe is not unique to Judaism. Hundreds of different theologies and beliefs have existed,  and still exist, among human beings here on our little planet Earth. To help put matters into perspective, we should remember that the planet Earth is only one of nine satellite planets orbiting our parent star, the Sun, which is only one of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is only one of billions of galaxies !

It would appear to be appropriate for all human beings on this planet to be extremely careful about any claims of certainty or absolute truth of their beliefs concerning the manner in which the entire Universe came into existence, especially if those beliefs contravene the known laws of nature. Unfortunately, many people who appear to be otherwise sane and “educated” are often inclined to believe the strangest, weirdest, most unbelievable things about Creation, etc., even if those things do not at all conform to reason and common sense.

About 250 years ago, someone asked Israel Ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (founder of modern Hassidism in the eighteenth century) why in the Siddur at the beginning of the Amidah, we say “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob,” instead of simply “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” What the original writer of the Siddur intended when he wrote that passage many centuries earlier is not known. For his part, however, the Baal Shem Tov obviously wanted to make a particular and very meaningful point when he responded that “Isaac and Jacob did not feel bound to adhere to the idea of God as Abraham conceived of God; each had to search for God and to conceptualize God in his time and in his own way.”

While many Jewish writers, teachers, rabbis, and scholars throughout Jewish history have embraced, and have continued to cling to, a supernatural personal God as a static concept, many other writers, teachers, rabbis and scholars, especially since Biblical times, conceptualized God as the Baal Shem Tov did: that is, as a developing idea based on newer and deeper insights which come to light from time to time. Many Jewish scholars have incorporated that concept of progressivity into their own contributions to the halachic record on many other matters as well. (One wonders how many Hassidim today agree with the Baal Shem Tov on that point.)

Jews are taught never to utter phonetically the Hebrew Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay word denoting God, which is transliterated into English as noted above, as Jehovah, or Yahweh. The whole of Creation was considered to be so awesome, so reverential, so vast, so majestic that no mere man-made name was considered to be adequate to describe the unimaginable power, mystery, and sheer enormity of all of creation. This Hebrew word may actually be the infinitive of the verb, to be, or Being, as if to say that the closest our ancient sages felt they could come to a word for the original creative energy of the Cosmos was a word that acknowledged the existence of  an original and continuing energy !

In the Book of Exodus, the unknown author writes that, after God instructs Moses, atop Mt. Sinai, to tell the people of Israel that he must go to Pharoah in Egypt and tell him to “let my people go,” Moses says to God, “The people will ask me what your name is; what shall I say?” The writer of Exodus has God answer, “Tell them, ‘I am that which I am sent me,’ which again implies the idea of Being.  Rashi translated those words, “I shall be that which I shall be,” implying that as time passes, new ideas and concepts about the nature of the Original Creative power in the Universe may find their way into the realm of Jewish thought.

In recent years in the United States, the idea of stimulating a deeper sense of “spirituality” among Jews has been receiving a great deal of attention. Many Jews around the country are still not quite sure, however, what the various writers and speakers mean by the term, “spirituality.” Does it mean that, in the event of whatever calamity or tragedy may befall us, we are to conclude that “It is God’s Will,” and then go acceptingly to the days that follow ?” Does becoming more spiritual mean that we are to try to develop a more reverential feeling toward the beauty and majesty of all living things in nature ? Does becoming more spiritual require a belief in the existence of a supernatural Deity who is Omniscient (knows everything) and Omnipotent (controls everything that is done or not done) and Benevolent (acts justly to the deserving) ?

Although some people would answer “yes” to these questions, many others would answer “no.” Would a Naturalist Jew who is suffused with awe at the magnificence of creation, who devotes his life to the doing of Mitzvot, but who cannot rationally accept the existence of a supernatural personal deity be considered sufficiently “spiritual ?”

For many of those who are speaking and writing about spirituality, the desideratum seems to be, simply, that Jews should have a stronger belief in and a deeper feeling for God and let it go at that, without asking any probing questions about what exactly is meant by “God.” I would suspect that many, perhaps most, Jews are not likely to accept that. Too many Jews resemble Job in one respect. Even as he was suffering, Job yielded to no one in the depth of his faith in the existence of an awesome Creative Energy - God. Job could accept suffering and misfortune as part of the vicissitudes of life, but not as punishment for having done bad things. Job maintained that he was innocent, that he had not sinned and did not deserve to be suffering.

Job’s passive, non-thinking friends, however, criticized him, even ridiculed him.  “Who ever suffered being innocent ?” they taunted him.  Job vigorously defended his position, however, explaining to his friends that he too had been given a mind, that he would think for himself, and that he had not only the freedom but the responsibility to question - yes, even to question God Himself !  “Make me to know my transgression and my sin,” Job says to God.  It is interesting - and very important - to note that in this great dramatic allegory, after Job questioned God and respectfully challenged God to answer him, God spoke to Job “out of the whirlwind.”  Job is duly awed; he is overjoyed ! He is now satisfied that a universal creative energy - God - did exist, even though he is not given a reason for his suffering.

It is very significant that God later rewarded Job because “God liked the way Job spoke.” God restores Job’s family and possessions.  Job’s non-thinking  friends, on the other hand, who blindly accepted ideas from the past - that suffering and catastrophe are God’s punishment for sin - are themselves punished.  The author of Job writes that God did not like the way they spoke.  The message is clear and simple: honest sincere questioning and searching for the universal creative power is good; unquestioned acceptance of old ideas is not good.

As for suffering and catastrophe, the reader is left to infer that misfortune and tragedy, especially misfortune and tragedy that are random and capricious, just “happen” in nature and in the lives of human beings. One of the central points the writer of the story of Job may well have intended to convey to the reader is his refutation of the idea that tragedy and catastrophe and even personal suffering are punishment by a God who has the power to punish for sin and wrongdoing.

That idea, that suffering and tragedy are God’s punishment for sin and wrongdoing, is still present in the thinking of many Jews and hundreds of millions of believers of other religions  “umip-nay  chata-aynu galeenu may-artsaynu”  (because of our sins we were exiled from our homeland) is still found in many Siddurim.  In his autobiographical memoir, NIGHT,  Elie Wiesel recalls that in Auschwitz - IN AUSCHWITZ !! - “Men sat around discussing the sins of the Jewish people.”

It has been suggested, in this post-Holocaust age, that anyone who feels the inclination to explore the idea of God, especially in the context of human suffering, should not rush to a clear and definite conclusion until he can imagine himself standing between the gas chambers and the crematoria in Auschwitz in 1943 or 1944 and watching what was taking place.

“I am the Lord thy God,” wrote the unknown writer of the Book of Exodus; “Thou shalt not have any other gods before me.” The passage which begins with those words is known as the Ten Commandments, literally the Ten Sayings, which Moses, according to tradition, presented to the Israelites in the Sinai wilderness after the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. At that time, about 3,300 years ago, when most tribes and nations worshipped an assortment of visible and/or tangible deities, such as idols, statues, animals, planets, stars, etc., the Monotheistic idea of God as a singular Invisible, Non-corporeal Creative Energy or Power in the Universe must have seemed very strange.

Neighbors of our Israelite ancestors often taunted them by asking, “How can you believe in a God you cannot even see ?”  Even among the Israelites there were those who were skeptical. Some Israelites simply could not understand the idea of One Invisible, non-corporeal Creative Energy in the universe. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, many Israelites, unwilling to wait any longer for Moses to return from the top of the mountain, prevailed upon Aaron himself, the High Priest and the brother of Moses, to fashion for them a Golden Calf so that they could have something visible to worship. When Moses returned and saw what happened, he was furious.

With the help of the Levites, Moses led a military action that crushed the idolatrous rebellion. The author of Exodus writes that “three thousand men were killed that day.” In subsequent centuries, other groups of Israelites succumbed to the lure of idolatrous worship. Judaism, as always, continued without them.

Some time in or about 620 B.C.E., the writer of the fifth of the first Five Books, the Book of Deuteronomy, wrote, as part of a long oration by Moses, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” This idea, this mental concept of one God, one original and continuing cosmic creative energy, that gave rise in all matter and all life, is never described or defined in human or physical terms. Perhaps  more importantly, however, it did clearly imply that no idols, no images, no statues, no animals, no human beings, etc., can properly be worshipped as the real Creator of all life, of the planets, of the stars, of the galaxies, of everything !

The simple fact is that no human being - not Moses then, nor any scientist or theologian now - knows with absolute certitude, the source, the explicit origin of the Original Cosmic Creation. In Judaism, the worship of any thing, object or person other than that unknown, perhaps unknowable, idea of a non-corporeal, Inscrutable Cosmic Creative Energy is idolatry ! Such idolatrous worship, it was felt, would actually prevent the human mind from freely contemplating the enormous scope and grandeur of that Creation.

We now refer to that short paragraph in Deuteronomy as the “Sh’ma,” the Jewish Declaration of Faith. Millions of Jews throughout the centuries who were brutally murdered at the hands of assorted tyrants only because they were Jewish died with the words of the “Sh’ma” on their lips.

One Original invisible, non-corporeal God, One Continuing Creative Energy in the vast universe ! The idea is awesome ! To this awesome idea, Moses and later writers and teachers attached the idea that the Creation which emanated from this Energy: time, space, matter and life, was essentially good, that it was meaningful, that it was what the human  mind could conceptualize as holy, and that human beings, as the most highly developed species, has the responsibility to develop themselves to their fullest extent, and to live their lives on the basis of the highest possible ethical and moral principles.

No human being, as noted above, knows exactly and precisely what the original and continuing creative energy in the universe is. We look out upon this vast cosmos, and we see it to be, at times, so majestic, so magnificent and so comforting, yet at other times so powerful and destructive. At still other times, we see the forces of God’s Nature to be utterly indifferent both to the suffering of innocent people and to the good fortune of evil people.  We are, at one and the same time, filled with awe and troubling sense of frustration.  On the one hand, we are programmed to participate in what appears to be a miraculous continuum of life that began billions of years ago with one cell.  On the other hand, we now contemplate the fantastic nature and incredible capabilities and potentialities, for good or evil, of the human brain. 

One thing those wise Hebrew sages of old did not want to do, as so many other tribes, races, and nations had done over the centuries, was to trifle with so awesome and majestic a phenomenon as the original creative energy that was and still is, responsible for this whole creation, the land masses and the oceans, the sun, the moon, the stars, planets and galaxies.  The Hebrew thinkers did not want to use a human-like name to denote the Creative Essence.  They certainly did not want to attribute such Awesome power and Cosmic Majesty to any object or to any person, however prominent.  Doing so would have violated their empirical understanding of what they knew about life and creation and what they knew they did not know about how and why ccreation really began.  As a consequence, they opted for a word that simply acknowledged the existence, the being of that creator, using one of the verbs to be.

One may ask:  how are we to understand the hundreds of references to God in the Tanach and in the liturgy which describe God in human-like personal terms? The answer: ancient Jewish writers used the same anthropomorthic, mythological and metaphorical writing techniques that both religious and secular writers of ancient (and modern) times have used in their writings.  These references, wrote Maimonides, 800 years ago, “are all of them metaphorical and figurative...the Torah speaks in the language of men.”

Clearly, our exploration of the “nature of God,” should evoke in all of us, irrespective of our individual nuances of belief, feelings of humility and spirituality as we contemplate the vastness of the cosmos, the sublime majesty of our solar system, and the seemingly miraculous emergence and evolution of human life and human civilization our little planet Earth.

Our exploration of the “nature of God” should also induce in all of us a healthy dose of tolerance when we learn that mankind’s most brilliant minds have wrestled strenuously with this “nature of God” question and reached a variety of different conclusions.  Even as we are frustrated, however, we Jews are admonished to fulfill our human responsibilities with compassion for our fellow human beings and to respect those whose ideas about the original and continuing creative energy in the universe may be different from our own.

(note: This article can also be read and printed here.)


Bernice recently told me she found Roby's Common-Place Book on the top shelf in a closet. She did not know about it, had never seen it and Roby never spoke about it. In what looks like a composition book, it contains 96 pages written in his own handwriting !! Before word processors and computers ! A
treasure ! I looked up  'Common Place Book' on Wikipedia which gives a broad explanation. I peppered Bernice with questions about it and this is what she said.

"In 1951, Roby was at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The story of why he wrote it is unknown. From what I can tell, most of it is from "The Life of Johnson", written by James Boswell who knew Johnson for a short time, but spent a great deal of that time with him. I read somewhere that James Boswell was considered the first biographer after writing The Life of Johnson. I also found a copy of the book, written from 1709-1784. This particular edition that I have - published in 1946 has been edited to make it shorter and more readable. The original must have been a very lengthy book. I will copy a few pages of the book - dedication, etc. and mail it to you. I will make copies of the "References" and some of the "Index" (all also hand-written) by the amazing Robert Sandler.

The Common Place book in Bob's handwriting is 89 pages - then there are two pages of References and four pages of Index for a total of 96 pages. So that is a short version of what I know about the Common-Place Book of Robert Sandler (1951) English 365."

I asked Bernice to take some pictures of it and she sent me these two photos. I hope to see it one day - Bernice said it is in very fragile condition and does not want to let it out of her hands.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Check out the cutest, little face in the whole wide world, omg, just gorgeous ! I had to 'steal' this 'action photography shot' from Amber's blog ! Here is adorable Aurora, speeding along, ringing the sure to see the Santa cow and candy crayola crayons !


As keeper of the flame of the Sandler family die-hard Red Sox fans, announcement, announcement! Red Sox management issued a statement on Thursday - we finally have a new Manager, Bobby Valentine. Winter meetings start next week so stay tuned. New players, trades, we're all waiting on the edge of our seats here in Boston. Thinking of the boys of summer makes the Winter go by faster and we've hardly had a winter, yet.....You can read all about Bobby Valentine from Boston Globe sports writer, Dan Shaugnessy and see his introduction in a Red Sox uniform here.

Friday, December 2, 2011


As we head towards the one year anniversary of my dear uncle Roby's passing, December 18th, he is very much in my thoughts. Although it is a painful time for us, it helps me to continue to put his Writings on the blog and to know it will preserve his memory forever. While we worked on it long distance over the phone, he was happy to see his work on the internet.

Today I started reading the next article, THE JEWISH IDEA OF GOD, 1995. This jumped right off the page, "In Judaism, there is no authority that is empowered to make any official pronouncement about the nature, definition, or capabilities of God that is binding on all Jews. (No one speaks for all Jews on any issue !)"  (note: His bold on any) I laughed out loud, so true, so true !