What a week. Today (Thursday) I reread my column on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict (Neighbors, July 18). I had to. And in reading it, I tried to keep an open mind, examining myself to see if, indeed I am a racist without knowing it. I looked for any place in the column where I’d exhibited any racist attitude. I couldn’t find any.
Yet, my email account this week was filled with hateful letters from people calling me a racist. I even got letters accusing me of agreeing with the O.J. Simpson verdict. What’s with that? And for the record, I believed then, and still believe, O.J. was guilty. But that’s neither here nor there. What matters to me is what came up from the heart of many of the people who wrote to me. What came up was dark and ugly. The letters came from a place where I thought we, as a nation of freedom lovers, had gotten beyond. Boy, was I surprised.
Let me say here, that I also got many letters of encouragement. Some came from people who agreed with me and some came form those who didn’t, yet still respected my opinion. I appreciate that. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and they shouldn’t. People should think for themselves and if they don’t agree with someone, they should be able to discuss it in a non-insulting manner. That’s what the freedom of speech means to me.
One thing the hateful letters revealed to me is, there is still a lot of work to do to get this country on the right track. Yes, we have come a long way. But this week I see, more than ever, that there is still a mountain of work to do. We can do it by reaching out to one another; by learning about each other’s cultures; by visiting a house of worship that is different from our own, and by keeping an open mind. As for me, I’m kind of glad the floodgate of letters — the good and the bad — came my way. It’s good to know the people around you, who they are, how they think.
The letters, especially the hateful ones, taught me a priceless lesson, though — to be even more thankful to be an American. For all the things that can and do go wrong here, I believe this is still the greatest nation on the earth. I pray daily for our leaders, both locally and nationally, that we will continue to be able to live peacefully with others.
We have work to do to make our country, with all its ills, even better. We can stop the fighting and the hatefulness. We can start with adopting the commandment of treating others the way we would like them to treat us. You say I’m being preachy? I say that it’s simply good manners to show respect to others.
We can do this, people; I know we can.
Learn Jewish cooking
If you are Jewish (or not) and have always wanted to learn how to make great food in time for the Jewish holidays and just for your own information, now is the time to sign up for "Cooking With Class", a program sponsored by the Next Century, a group of young professionals at Beth David Congregation.
The group will present two classes, starting July 31, to help you get ready for the Jewish New Year. The first class will feature Rachel Merlin, who will teach participants how to make "fantastic" challah in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Then on Aug. 27, Channing Norton, a Johnson and Wales trained chef will teach a class on making traditional Rosh Hashanah treats with a modern twist.
The challah baking class cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. the Rosh Hashanah Cooking class is $36 in advance or $40 at the door. Sign up for both classes and the cost is $40 in advance or $45 at the door.
The classes are open to all those in their 20sand 30s (oops, that leaves me out). Space is limited. To sign up, go to http://www.bethdavidmiami.org/rsvpcooking-with-class.php. Or, you may call Lonni Romirowsky at the temple at 305-854-3911, ext. 200.
Denny’s funds scholarships
Our hat is off to Denny’s Restaurants, for contributing $50,000 to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) which will be administered bu the nonprofit Step Up For Students program. According to a press release, the donation will help Step Up For Students to fully fund nearly 10 scholarships to low-income school children in Florida.
Because of continuing help from corporations like the restaurant chain, during the 2013-2014 school year, Step Up for Students will fund about 60,000 scholarships to low income students, allowing them to attend either a public or private school of their parents’ choice. Since the program was initiated in 2002, more than $1 billion have been invested by the corporate community, resulting in more than 271,000 scholarships to underprivileged students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Doug Tuthill, Step Up for Students president, commended Denny’s for their partnership with the Hungry For Education scholarship program.
John Miller, president and CEO of Denny’s, said: "We are proud to create inspired opportunities for deserving students through our partnership Step Up For Students and our new scholarship program, Hungry for Education."
It’s almost time for chamber music
South Florida can get ready for some really great musical performances when the 2013-2014 Friends of Chamber Music gets underway with its 57th season. The season opens on Sept. 23 with the Ehnes Quartet at Coral Gables Congregational Church. Since the quartet was founded in 2010 by concert violinist James Ehnes, it has already been established in the top echelon of the world’s string quartets.
In addition to Ehnes, who appears in solo roles with other leading orchestras throughout the world, the quartet includes violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, the former concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony; Robert deMaine, Los Angeles Philharmonic principal cellist, and Richard O’Neill, a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Tickets for the entire season are still available. The subscription price for all eight concerts is $250 and $350 for preferred seating. Individual tickets are $35 and $40 each and student tickets are $10. All weekly concerts will begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday concerts at 4 p.m. Concerts will be performed at Coral Gables Congregational Church and the University of Miami Gusman Hall.
Other performers for the concert season will include:
Oct. 1 — Cyprien Katsaris, pianist, William DeRosa, cello, and Roberto Diaz, viola, Coral Gables Congregational Church.
Oct. 17 — Anton Kuerti, pianist, Coral Gables Congregational Church.
Nov. 19 — Valentina Lisitsa, pianist, Coral Gables Congregational Church.
Jan. 5 — Ricardo Morales, clarinet, Roberto Diaz, viola, and Joseph Kalichstein, piano, the University of Miami Gusman Hall.
Feb. 9 — The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, University of Miami Gusman Hall.
March 27 — Wallis Giunta, soprano and Ken Noda, piano, Coral Gables Congregational Church.
May 6 — Benjamin Grosvenor on piano with the Escher Quartet, University of Miami Gusman Hall.