Braided candle lit, in a glass

The Non-Meditative Jew Tries a Havdalah Meditation

Braided candle lit, in a glass
Photo by Adam Fagen,  Some rights reserved

Last night I went to a Havdalah meditation.


I arrived damp from the second cold rain of the season, after going to the wrong location first.

All of these lovely people sat in a circle, looking more beautiful than I had remembered. I stood at the door, letting the cold air in, struggling with my facemask. The group was sharing ways of marking this time as we approach the days of awe. Telling us of these lovely things they do to mark this time of year when we approach the end of the Torah and prepare to roll it back to the beginning, which you would think would mark the head of the year, but doesn’t.

10 days of questioning, letters written between generations, meditations, dreams of voice and stillness.  The meeting of the final letter of the Torah, ל with the first letter, ב, to make the word לב, the Hebrew word for heart.

And I wondered what I do to mark this season.

What is my beautiful practice? What is my transcendent emotional state? I didn’t know.

It turns out that I have no special practice other than longing for ancestors to annoy and family to encircle.

I was born on Yom Kippur, two years after the death of the grand matriarch Esther Toba, who brought her beautiful children from a village in Poland so small that the ship that they boarded to take them to North America was larger.

Imagine, a shtetl smaller than an ocean liner. No wonder people broke down with awe when they caught their first glimpse of it.

And 19 years before I was born, when the Jewish and Gregorian calendars sync up, more than 33,000 Jews were massacred on the outskirts of Kyiv.

I wonder what the Kabbalists have to say about the number 19? 18+1?

As I sat cross-legged, trying to get lost in the moment, I realized something about myself. I am not the Jew who sits in a circle giving you beautiful tradition because I am angry and grieving and whiny.

This time of year reminds me of violence and death, and yes, of course, birth. Most of all, it reminds me of how existentially furious I am with Gd. It reminds me of massacres and despair. It reminds me of betrayal. It reminds me of my beloved grandfather who died a week after Simchat Torah, a week after my luminous Bat Mitzvah, where I read directly from the Torah scroll and led the entire service in the basement of repurposed bank.

And then I remember that I am angry because I love so much.

And how being Jewish is wrapped up in these people I met and did not meet, that I loved and that I didn’t even know. That I will always be walking to my death with the Jews of Kyiv and always be celebrating the survival of my glorious ancestors – the beloved, loving, bitter, charismatic, deep voiced, many. The generous imperfect mess of them.

This is my tradition. What I pass on. It’s not beautiful. It’s not neat. It’s not transcendent.

Blue and yellow fence painted like the flag of Ukraine with logos of tech companies on them.

Design Updates!

Because it’s easier to add a few examples here than to constantly update my portfolio.

My first ever animated gif was made for the good folks at Ranking Digital Rights to mark their new brand launch. The animation begins with the old logo and then shows the new logo and logo elements. I loved making this. And the logo has so many fun elements to play with.

I also made a quick explainer of dual class shares for Ranking Digital Rights, which you can view above. I, myself, was really surprised by the ways in which companies like Meta and Google create multi-class or dual class shares to prevent investors from having a say and to give more power to insiders. As well as avoiding shareholder accountability, these types of schemes also shift the risk of poor decision-making onto other shareholders. Hmmm…quite sneaky. You can read all about it here: It’s time to bring down the barriers blocking shareholders on human rights, by Jan Rydzak.

I recently started doing design work with Oy Vey, which means a mishmash of things from social media posts, print design, to site design (, and temporary branding and a new placeholder site for Het Joods Manifest.

Bring It On, Babylon

Who brings it on better than the multi-lingual, multi-generational, and multi-practice descendants of Babylon? I really don't know.

Over the past year, I have studied Torah with a wonderful group of misfits. They have literally changed my life, allowing me to nourish ancient roots and giving me the kind of friendship we all dream of. In exchange for the learning and the friendship, I designed a book of our commentary on the Talmud tractate Yevamot. It's a love letter to Ze Kollel and everyone who makes it possible. They know who they are.

Take a look at the digital version of our commentary. We're bringing it ancient city style. You can also buy a gorgeous print version on Blurb. Go. Now. I'm selling them at cost.

Featured image (detail) by Tamar Grosz

A statue honoring the dock workers who shut Amsterdam down shortly after the Nazi occupation of the city. This was the only public protest against Nazi occupation anywhere.

So you want to oppose fascism...

How to become an anti-fascist

Once, I did not understand the aims or tactics of anti-fascists. They seemed childish and violent to me. Now I am an anti-fascist. How did I get here?

It was slow going.

But fascists have radicalized me. And they should radicalize you too.

Anti-fascists are loose-knit and often unorganized. (The ADL has more info you can read) There is no central leadership and no central organization. Not all political beliefs are shared. The big overlap comes in agreeing to oppose fascism.

If only the antifascists would be more peaceful, then I could support them.

The anti-fascists of the past, fighting Mussolini and Hitler, are routinely held up as heroes. In the present, every tactic is criticized.

I used to be critical as well, so I know that you can untangle your thinking. You just have to step outside yourself for a moment. Ask yourself, is a window worth more than a life? Is vandalism worse than racism? Is a harmless cup of paint thrown at the door of a fascist political party worse than spreading misinformation that leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.

And then ask yourself: are people opposing fascism really the same as fascists?

Essentially, antifascists exist on the margins of society because the center allows fascism to grow unchecked until it’s too late to turn it back. And then, in some fictional future, when millions have died in unnecessary violence, the center claims an affiliation with those who resisted. Dissent gets sanitized and idealized. (See how the civil rights struggle in the US has been idealized, as well as the resistance of Martin Luther King, Jr for details)

Questions to help you on your journey

Here are some questions I mulled over for the past few years that may help you make the transition. I won’t give you answers, just questions.

  • What happens when we start holding institutions rather than individuals responsible for theft, deprivation, and murder? (Check out what happened to a lawyer who won a court case against Chevron)
  • What happens when we no longer assign intentions to murder? What if, instead, we wonder if it really matters to the murdered whether their death was due to bad intelligence or to intentional terror?
  • What happens to most people who are victims of rape and abuse when they report the crime to authorities? What good are the authorities if they don’t protect them? Who are they really protecting and why? (You can listen to this CBC podcast tracing one woman's experiences in Canada)
  • Who is in prison and why? Why is torture acceptable in our societies? (You can start with some of the stories on mass incarceration in The Atlantic)
  • Which nations outsource their human rights abuses and why do we constantly laud them as peaceful and nice? (Listening to Jun and Mitchy Saturay talk about the violence of foreign mining companies against local populations in The Philippines changed the way I thought about human rights.)
  • Why are so many indigenous women victims of violence and murder?
  • What lies do we tell ourselves in order to justify dehumanizing others?
  • What happens when you stop thinking about marginalized people and start thinking about HOW people are marginalized? (I recommend finding disabled activists to follow. Begin with Imani Barbarin. Here's her website: Crutches and Spice)
  • What happens when you center the needs of people who are most marginalized by society?
  • What happens when borders are open to multinational corporations but closed to people fleeing the devastation brought about by those same corporations?
  • What happens when you stop justifying acts of state and capitalist violence?

My Core Values

  • Everyone deserves to age and to age safely.
  • Everyone deserves a safe place to be alone and a safe place to come together.
  • Everyone deserves enough to eat.