Bob Schwartz

Month: April, 2016



If I forget
To sit me down
Tell me to just sit
And breathe.
If I ask a question
Over and over
Don’t answer
Just sit me down
Remind me to breathe.
I won’t ask
What I should think about
Or what you’re thinking
You won’t ask
What I’m thinking.
It won’t matter
What I’m thinking
If I sit and
Remember to breathe.
If I forget
Whatever I forget
Right now
I remember
What I ask
And who I ask
To remember
To remind me
To sit
To breathe.

Matzo: Dealing with Eating the Bread of Affliction

Organic Spelt Matzo

Matzo is referred to as “the bread of affliction,” symbolizing the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, who didn’t have time to allow the bread to rise as they fled through the wilderness. Talk about flatbread, this is the ultimate.

If you are observing the Passover and avoiding bread for the next week, or even if you’re not, some thoughts about eating matzo.

  1. Put away the toaster. Save the counter space. You won’t need it for bread. And you can’t toast matzo. Even if you could, it would slip through the slot.
  1. Make matzo brei for breakfast. Matzo brei is kind of a cross between pancakes and French toast, made by soaking matzo in water, mixing it with eggs, and cooking it in a frying pan. Delicious all year round. You don’t have to Jewish and it doesn’t have to be Passover.
  1. Try all the varieties of matzo, or at least the ones that don’t seem a little extreme (Organic Spelt, I’m looking at you). Once upon a time there was only plain matzo, just like there used to be plain white bread. Now everything is mixed in: Egg, Yolk-Free, Egg and Onion, Spelt, Mediterranean, Whole Wheat, Garlic and Rosemary, and Everything (which actually doesn’t have everything, just garlic, onion and poppy seeds. Go figure.)
  1. Don’t try to make sandwiches. At the seder, the tradition is to eat a tiny sandwich of horseradish and haroset (a sweet paste representing the mortar of the building the Jews slaved on) between two pieces of matzo. The great sage Hillel supposedly created this sandwich, and his name is attached to it. Even this tiny sandwich throws matzo crumbs all over the place. A full-size matzo sandwich is not a good idea. No matter how wise Hillel was.

Happy Passover.

Democracy Awakening

DA general 6

We are hearing questions about whether the Bernie Sanders phenomenon is a “movement”. It is pointed out that many other moments, in and out of electoral politics, either never turned into movements at all or, if they did, quickly fizzled out.

Last weekend in Washington D.C. there were events sponsored by a group called Democracy Awakening, mobilizing a wide array of progressive organizations, big and small.

We’re a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights and money in politics reform movements. We share a firm belief that we will not win on the full range of policy issues we all care about until we combat attacks on voting rights and the integrity of the vote by big money.

At a demonstration on Monday, more than 300 were arrested, including Ben and Jerry, Rosario Dawson, and others famous and not. If you didn’t see or hear much about it, it was overshadowed by New York Primary coverage. And by the fact that there are many who are hoping that this isn’t a movement—at least not one that lasts.

Think about those who stand out in the ocean at low tide, facing the shore. The water gently laps at their ankles, rises a little more vigorously to the knees. Still they stand confident and firm. They can choose to ignore the tide and the waves, but eventually the tide has a way of coming in and rising, and the waves have a way crashing against whatever is in their path.

So maybe the best idea is to turn around and face the ocean. That’s where the movement comes from.

DA Robert Reich quote 1

Mystic Maps


Mystic Maps

Before the journey
The maps were few,
Colorful, promising.
Destination uncertain
Roads to travel
Randomly real.
More maps
Until there was no room
To hold them
No time
To study them.
The map makers,
Had they seen these roads
Visited these towns
Or are these conjectures
Visions, fantasies
Conjured up?
Map makers or magicians
Directions or tricks,
Now I see where they took me
Where I stop and sit.
Time and joy
For the maps
And the trip.

A Heschel Haggadah


Heschel Stamp

Each Passover is an opportunity to craft a special theme and text for the seder meal and celebration. The haggadah is the guide to the seder. It always incorporates the traditional order and elements that have been a part of the seder for centuries—most especially the retelling of the exodus story. Beyond that, one can follow the same exact text year after year, or can get creative. In recent years, creativity has been a hallmark of Passover and the haggadah.

It is a happy struggle for me to determine which haggadah to use for seder. Happy because it is a way to deeply consider Passover, the seder, and the group of guests joining us at the table. Our library has haggadot from years past, both those in published book form and those made up of pages printed and compiled ourselves. (I am a little partial to the one that includes scenes from The Ten Commandments movie.)

After weeks of study, and with a previous suggestion about using FDR’s Four Freedoms as a possible theme, I’ve decided to make this a seder featuring the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel. I’ve mentioned Heschel a few times in this blog (and mentioned his daughter, Professor Susannah Heschel, too). I’ve run out of superlatives to recommend his work. So as I’ve said before, he is the great Jewish thinker and writer of the 20th century, and that is only the start. He is also a model of enlightened religious thought in action. He marched with Dr. King in Selma—as can be seen in the famous photo, Heschel looking every bit the bearded biblical figure. And it was to Heschel’s seder that Dr. King planned to go in April 1968, when he was gunned down in Memphis.

In that same vein, here is a message that Heschel sent to President Kennedy in 1963:

To President John F. Kennedy, The White House, June 16, 1963

I look forward to privilege of being present at meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m. Likelihood exists that Negro problem will be like the weather. Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Please demand of religious leaders personal involvement not just solemn declaration. We forfeit the right to worship God as long as we continue to humiliate Negroes. Church synagogues have failed. They must repent. Ask of religious leaders to call for national repentance and personal sacrifice. Let religious leaders donate one month’s salary toward fund for Negro housing and education. I propose that you Mr. President declare state of moral emergency. A Marshall Plan for aid to Negroes is becoming a necessity. The hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.

Now begins my review of Heschel’s volumes, looking for small excerpts that will convey the essence of Heschel and the holiday, but won’t make the seder too long. For me, if we just took part in the seder, ate a great meal, and read Heschel aloud all night, it would be fine. Let’s see how that goes.

For an introduction to the words and works of Abraham Joshua Heschel:

The Wisdom of Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings

I Asked For Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology

“Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”

Record Store Day

Record Store Day 2016

Today is Record Store Day.

Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008. Today there are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.

This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records,  and on and on. In 2008 a small list of titles was released on Record Store Day and that list has grown to include artists and labels both large and small, in every genre and price point. In 2015, 60% of the Record Store Day Official Release List came from independent labels and distributors. The list continues to include a wide range of artists, covering the diverse taste of record stores and their customers.

Next to Independent Bookstore Day —coming up on April 30—this the most important cultural retail event on the calendar.

Independent Bookstore Day

Find your local record store and buy something—CD, vinyl, or whatever format you play that they sell.

And in two weeks, find your local indie bookstore and buy something there too.


Hey kid, rock and roll
Rock on, ooh, my soul
Hey kid, boogie too, did ya

Hey shout, summertime blues
Jump up and down in my blue suede shoes
Hey kid, rock and roll, rock on

And where do we go from here
Which is the way that’s clear

Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen
Prettiest girl I ever seen
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean

(James Dean)

Jimmy Dean
Rock on

David Essex, Rock On

Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis

Bernie Sanders at the Vatican

This kind-of-cute headline from Politico sort of says it all.

Bernie’s fanboy moment: A meeting with Pope Francis

As you may know, Bernie Sanders was invited to a conference at the Vatican on issues related to economic justice. He interrupted his New York campaign to attend, gave an excellent speech that frequently cited the Pope’s own writings, but was told that the Pope would not be able to meet with him and others at the conference.

Then, at the last minute, the Pope was able to meet for five minutes with Bernie and his wife Jane. It was thrilling to hear that. It is unimaginable to conceive what it must have been like for Bernie, who as the headline suggests, is a huge fan of the Pope and his thinking on economic issues.

In case you think this is all about electoral politics, think again.

A major American politician has met with the Pope, based on a shared vision of economic justice. That vision comes from a background of Jewish fairness and compassion in one case and from the deepest, most Jesus-based tenets of the Catholic Church in the other. This doesn’t happen every day, or month, or year.

It is a unique and sweet moment for those who care about the future of America and the world. If that sounds a little grandiose, maybe believing big is exactly what we need.

Garbage Disposal of the Mind

Garbage Disposal

Garbage Disposal of the Mind

Sinkhole for waste
From things
Expensive and cheap
Raw and cooked
No longer
Useful or needed.
Very noisy.



Unicorn Island

Unicorn Island

Unicorn Island

What difference does it make
Where the sun rises
What the time zone?
The earth and sun
Don’t care.

The bag man
Leisurely strolls
Past the French watch store.
The restaurants
Are ready from last night
White tablecloths
White napkins rolled.
Past an apartment courtyard
The smell of breakfast.

The time and place
The names and lives
No place
This morning
Is an island.

Note: The title requires an explanation. This is a scene in Westwood in Los Angeles. I love L.A.: sometime resident, recent visitor. Walking down Wilshire, I saw a billboard for a new YouTube movie called Unicorn Island. I decided that this was the perfect new name for the city. Filled with unicorns, a bit of an island. It might not catch on, but for me, from now on, L.A. is always Unicorn Island.