Monday, January 31, 2022

From Hollywood To The Holy Land: A Spiritual Odyssey, Book Review

We live in strange times. The media keeps hyping a television reality show that follows a formerly religious Jew who traded a life of mitzvot for money, traif and fame, and here I am reviewing another autobiography/memoir about a Jew who discovered that a life of Torah and mitzvot in the Holy Land has literally saved his life, From Hollywood To The Holy Land: A Spiritual Odyssey, by Tzvi Fishman*. You can read my review of Miranda Portnoy's Making Meaning Out of Madness: A Jewish Journey, here. What should I call this genre?

Fishman wasn't trying to escape a life of disappointments, failure and/or poverty when became interested in Judaism. He was a Hollywood success, scriptwriter of movies that had made it to the screen, a published novelist, friends with celebrities and could get any woman he wanted besides "invitations" from those he didn't. And if he had wanted a "quieter life," his father would have set him up in business in The Virgin Islands. Most people would call that "the American Dream."

But suddenly Fishman's body began to rebel and he developed severe ulcerative colitis. The treatment is steroids, which made him swell up, and as soon as he finished the prescribed period of treatment, the bleeding returned. This pattern went on for months and months, wreaking havoc with his life.

Fishman tried all sorts of cures, diets, Indian master swami, yoga, holistic medicine and more, but none helped his body heal.

Then his buddy Daniel asked a simple innocent question:

"Why don't you know anything about Judaism?"

Fishman realized that it was true. Over the years he had studied all sorts of academic subjects, philosophies and trendy ideologies, but his knowledge of actual Judaism was virtually non-existant. Slowly he began to search and learn. Later on bit by bit he took on various mitzvot, and his ulcerative colitis became history. 

I can't do justice to Fishman's amusing way of describing his journey to Torah Judaism and life in Israel. You really must read it all in his own words. In person Fishman is as entertaining as his book. For a few years he lived across the street from us in Shiloh, and I know the family well. But Fishman never talks about his past, only the present and plans for the future. So it was a real eye-opener to read From Hollywood To The Holy Land

In addition to the great story, there are lots of photos helping the book truly come to life. We get to see what Tzvi looked like way back when, scenes from his former life and people and places mentioned in From Hollywood To The Holy Land.

From Hollywood To The Holy Land is highly recommended. It's very well written and the story comes to life, yes, like a movie...

*Yes, this is the same Tzvi Fishman who wrote "Arise and Shine," More Adventures with Tevye and many other more serious books.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (August 23, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1082429406
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1082429408

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hearing Aids Report #2

I guess everyone knows by now that I sport hearing aids. A couple of weeks ago I wrote Report #1, so now here's Report #2.

The deal here in Israel is that we "try out" the hearing aids for just over a month. If they are disastrous we can return them and won't be charged. During that time we are scheduled for a couple of appointments to help us with the hearing aids. 

A couple of weeks ago, when I really wasn't feeling comfortable with them, I was given an extra appointment. I kept the one for today which I had scheduled earlier on, and I'm glad I did.

At my first Medton-Hedim appointment I made sure that I could ask for extra appointments whenever I felt the need. That was one of my conditions for choosing them over the competition. And BTW there's lots of competition. I'm sure that some of the other places also give good service, but not all work with my kupat cholim, sick fund. I chose them, because a neighbor recommended them, and I trust his judgement.

Today my main question concerned what I felt was the short life of the batteries. I had been expecting them to last much longer. As we discussed my use of the hearing aids, it ends up that my favorite thing, listening to music, Torah classes etc. is what uses lots of battery power. It may be worth using my old headphones sans hearing aids at various times. The Bluetooth headphones are easy to charge.

I was wracking my brain to think of something else to report when I felt the hearing aids sort of "moving around." They don't always stay in my ears properly. So I mentioned that to the technician. He quickly took a look and said:

"You may need larger buds/tips/plugs/domes." 

So he took out a different size and replaced the ones I had been using. He was right. They are better. They stay in place, so I hear even better than before.

Honestly I was surprised, but I'm glad that the staff knows their stuff. 

There was no need to make another appointment, though I was told that I'm always welcome to call and they'll fit me in.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Making Meaning Out of Madness: A Jewish Journey, Book Review

Making Meaning Out of Madness: A Jewish Journey by Miranda Portnoy is a memoir, though written in a penname, plus some additional "disguises." 

Miranda Portnoy writes of her very difficult childhood in a dysfunctional Jewish American family with a physically and emotionally abusive mother and difficult father, who eventually left them. Portnoy is closest to her grandfather, but is unable to save him from her father's systematic and eventually fatal abuse. It's made even worse, because the authorities refuse to believe her. 

Despite her toxic family, being taken advantage of by her longtime lover and a vicious conspiracy against her at the university, Portnoy somehow manages to escape to Israel where she survives and thrives as a Torah observant Jew.

Portnoy's story is one of those that sounds too amazing to be believable fiction, but it's true. 

During Portnoy's difficult times, she did find people to help her, a professor who introduced her to Torah Judaism and various therapists. She was even hospitalized at one point; that's how bad things had become. 

I found Making Meaning Out of Madness very readable. It's a well-written and compelling story even though the narrative sounds like a "horror story." I don't like the horror genre and rarely finish such books. Portnoy's innate strength comes through the writing even when telling of her most difficult times. She doesn't give up or give in to the demons who plague her.

Portnoy's life eventually turns around when she starts observing Torah Judaism, moves to Israel, and after one failed try, finds the perfect women's Torah seminary for her needs. It's a fairy tale ending when she's introduced to an amazing man and they marry.

Besides protecting herself by changing all identifiable names, Portnoy isn't shy about letting us know how horrendously difficult her life had been. I highly recommend Making Meaning Out of Madness. It's wonderful to read such a great survival story. 

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ (November 28, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 388 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1647188814
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1647188818

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Hearing Aids Report #1


I've had my hearing aids for almost a week, but I must admit that I skipped wearing them Friday and Shabbat. 

In all honesty, the first few days I wore my hearing aids, it was a relief to take them out at night. My ears had begun to hurt. Besides that, I had to keep checking where they were. I had discovered that they had "exited" where they should have been. Of course, bli eyin haraa the part with the battery was still behind my ears and under my scarf.

Friday morning I had gone to swim in the Ariel Pool and forgotten to insert earplugs. That's another new routine I must adopt, earplugs for swimming to keep my ears dry. So I just decided to take a break from the hearing aids. On Shabbat there was no real need to wear hearing aids. My study group was "cancelled for corona," and I haven't been to shul for almost two years. We also didn't have guests. My husband speaks loud enough. Besides that on Shabbat I can't turn off and on hearing aids, so they'd use up a lot of battery power. My ears definitely needed the two day break.

Sunday mid-morning I reinserted my hearing aids, and my ears felt better, though they still seem to pop out, though less. I made an extra appointment for tomorrow to check them out. One of the reasons I chose Medton Hedim is that they had promised I could nudge as much as I felt I needed.

Besides all that, you want to know:

Do I really hear better with my hearing aids?

  1. I keep lowering volume when I have them in, the tv, my phone...
  2. Suddenly I hear strange sounds. For some peculiar reason when my husband takes something from plastic bags from the kitchen, and I'm in the den, I hear what sounds like someone's grinding glass.  And even worse are the sounds that come out of his phone. I can't make out what's being said, but it sounds louder than the television. And this is when I'm in a different room.

  3. Inexplicably, one battery finished before the other. Due to the "magic" of Bluetooth communication before the hearing aids and my phone, I was notified that the left one was about to go "empty." So I changed that battery for a new one. So now the left is full, and the right at half.
  4. Pre-hearing aids I always had to make the TV louder or I couldn't understand what was being said. I'd ask my husband: "Can you really hear that?" And he'd answer "Yes." Suddenly this evening I saw him grabbing the remote and pressing volume. "Are you really making it louder?" I asked in shocked surprise. He was, so I guess my hearing has improved.
Do you have any questions for me about my experiences with hearing aids? If so, please ask in the comments.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Better Mask-Tying Makes Better Protection


I'm not exaggerating to say that a very high percentage of those who wear masks as protection against catching of possibly inadvertently infecting someone with COVID corona wear their masks so loosely that they are almost totally useless.

Even those whose noses are covered, sometimes wear their masks very loosely. One weak sneeze and it's gone. There's another problem with loose masks, fog. Yes, since there's no real barrier between one's nose and glasses, for those who wear them, especially in cool weather we find our glasses fogging up.

And using the elastic behind the ears can be be quite problematic. Earrings and even hearing aids can get dislodged and disappear. 

Now that I've joined the hearing aids set, I have to be very careful in how I wear my mask. I now tie the mask with a long shoelace or jersey yarn from my crocheting projects.

I find this the best way to keep my mask on. It's not all that difficult to do. 


Let me know of your successes.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Hearing Aids All The Rage With The Senior Set

I've been enjoying multifocal glasses which double/triple as sunglasses for a number of years, and now I've gone "hi-tech" with hearing aids. 

If you look really, really carefully you can see a pale wire entering my ear from under my scarf. 

After too many years of saying "What?"  "What? I cant hear you." or missing out on important information or just tuning out, since what's the point....

Yesterday I finally got hearing aids. As I type this, I'm in shock that my gentle taps on the keyboard actually make noise. It's a whole new world out there for me. Since I got home, I've been lowering the volume on the television, my cellphone etc. 

Last year when I sort of mentioned to my doctor that I thought my hearing had badly deteriorated she disagreed, since I could hear her. But this year I insisted. So many of my friends who seemed to hear much better than me have begun wearing them. It was embarrassing at people's homes having to raise the volume on their TV's. Now I can easily raise or lower the volume of my Oticon hearing aids via my cellphone. 

To be approved for hearing aids and a subsidy to cover much of the cost, I needed a hearing test which I did in a clinic in Ariel University. Then I needed to be examined by an ENT Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to make sure that my hearing loss wasn't due to a curable illness. Finally I went to the Jerusalem branch of מדטון הדים Medton Hedim. It had been recommended by a neighbor; there are many different places I could have gone to.

At Medton Hedim I had a more detailed hearing test plus a talk with the "technician," or whatever he is. Then my Kupat Cholim, sick fund had to approve their subsidy. I paid much less than the "real" price. The subsidy is for a pair of hearing aids every three and a half years. Then I can get new ones if needed at the lower price. I paid less than I had paid for my latest multifocal eye glasses about a year and a half ago. They had also been discounted by the sick fund.

Yesterday was the day. I was taught how to insert the hearing aids and care for them. I set up the app on my phone to control the volume via Bluetooth. There's a lot to remember. Just like after getting new glasses, I was told to keep them in from now on except for sleeping, bathing, swimming etc. Of course there's a follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks, and I can always call to ask questions.

When I left the office, I was amazed by the sounds I hadn't been hearing. Then I went by lightrail to the other end of Rechov Yaffo to buy earplugs in the Speedo store. The good news there was that my points --really thanks to friends who use my membership when buying in the Ariel Pool branch-- covered the price of the earplugs. 

Next I have to get another new phone, because the Bluetooth in the one I bought recently isn't compatible with my hearing aids. One of my descendants will certainly enjoy that recently bought phone.

The joys of growing old....