Category Archives: Children

Last Minute Tax Tips On Tax Day

Tax Day is upon us. The fear, the anxiety, the pressure comes down to now. Most of us wonder if we’re really ready—or doomed to make mistakes. No one can take the anxiety away, but we can help you make a list and check it twice. Here are some of the most common mistakes made during tax season:

Math mistakes: The IRS regularly catches math errors, over 2.7 million of them on tax returns filed in 2012. Most of the time, the error is in calculating the amount of taxes taxpayers owe. Most people find it more efficient to file electronically. But check and double check you are inserting the correct amounts into the right boxes.

Incorrect account and routing numbers: It’s convenient to have your tax refunds deposited directly into your account, but make a mistake in citing the account number and your return may end up in someone else’s account. At the very least, the error will cause your refund to be delayed. Check that number once, twice, and thrice.

Forgotten tax deductions: Did you donate your car to a car donation charity such as Kars4Kids? Don’t forget to claim the deduction. You have it coming to you, after all.

Keep a copy: Just before you file the return, make a copy of the signed return for your records. File it away and keep it for reference.

Missed deadline: This year’s deadline was shorter by two weeks, which may have made it difficult for you to either get an accountant to help you or gather things together to do it yourself. It’s likely that the IRS will be generous with granting extensions, as a result. You can probably get an automatic 6-month extension by filing a Form 4858.

Forgotten payment: Many people are asking for extensions this year, but that works only for the actual filing. You still need to pay your taxes today, April 15th. Did you forget? You can pay electronically or send a money order payable to the United States Treasury.

Prominent Philanthropist Elie Hirschfeld noted, “When I give I feel good, I help people – and it’s the right thing to do.”

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Filed under Charity, Children, Education

Settled Case of Predatory Cochlear Implant Marketing Raises Fears on AB2072 Agenda

The Deaf Edge – The Cutting Edge News

July 5th 2010

By: Juda Engelmayer

Eugenics -  Twins-Height-Verschuer

Eugenics circa 1939.
Courtesy: Edwin Black

The United States Department of Justice has announced the settlement of a case that will come as no surprise to many who have been following the story behind the Colorado based manufacturer, Cochlear Americas. The whistleblower case, brought forth by the company’s Former Chief Financial Officer Brenda March in 2004, raised allegations of kickbacks and schemes to promote itself over its competitors. Under the set of rules known as the False Claims Act, Cochlear Americas was charged with paying physicians to prescribe the use of Cochlear’s devices which would ultimately be reimbursed by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid benefits. In the settlement, Cochlear Americas agreed to pay $880,000 to resolve the issue. (More)

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Filed under Children, Cochlear Implants


By: Noah Engelmayer

Living in New York, I would never have expected to find something as fun anywhere else. Here, I get to see it all, the lights in Times Square, great Broadway shows, the best hamburgers at Le Marais steak house in Midtown, and everything else New York has to offer. I take the subway by myself, I walk to my cousins’ home, and I can buy fruit roll ups at the store and get a pizza delivered at midnight. What more can I want?

While many of my friends had taken trips around the world by the time they were five, my parents decided to do something different. We chased storms and disasters around the country for fun. Instead of putting us on a 12-hour plane ride, we started with short car trips and worked our way up.

So we saw a slice of America that so many New Yorkers never get to see. I like to call it the Diners Drive-ins and Dives tour—kind of like the show my dad and I watch on the Food Network. The one difference:  almost every place we went was destroyed right after. There is something weird about that.

We spent a week in Biloxi. Mississippi—Hurricane Katrina made sure that we couldn’t do that again. What I remember fondly, however, are the white beaches and the glistening waters off the Gulf. I know it well because when nothing else was on, my parents always had the TV on HBO, and Tom Hanks is yelling at his best friend—a volleyball.

Now, back to Mississippi.

We were on a hot beach in Biloxi, I was four years old and swimming in the ocean. All I can remember is my parents laughing as I kept yelling “Wilson” to my imaginary Wilson Sports volleyball friend from that movie. I also remember my oldest sister kissing a sea lion and holding a parrot —she had just gotten over her fear of animals. We got a dog that fall.

That same summer we visited New Orleans; what a shame, Katrina got that too.

I remember playing “New York, New York” on the rims of wet glasses as a street vendor taught me how to play. There were so many odd people, and a man—I think it was a man—in copper paint holding a torch and looking like the Statue of Liberty. He kept following me and would stop every time I’d turn around. I guess the fact that he was always behind me was the clue that I needed. I distinctly remember saying that it was “always Purim” there; you know, that Jewish festival often compared to Halloween? The main difference is that on Purim we remember a time when the Jews were to be destroyed, but were miraculously saved—let’s eat and be merry. Oh, that’s the theme of every Jewish holiday…

So, the next summer we found ourselves in Nashville, Tennessee. We city folk found fun at the Grand Ole Opry and learned to like country music. Nashville is still standing, so that’s a good thing. We went walking in Memphis (that’s a song) and spent a day at Graceland, where Elvis lived and died. What a house, what a life. It was great. What struck me there was that he was big into Christian gospel, yet some of his biggest checks to charity displayed on his walls were large sums written to the local Jewish organizations. I found that nice. I also like the peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches he made so famous.

It didn’t end there, though. We saw an Elvis impersonator perform a whole concert. We liked it so much, we saw it again the next night. We couldn’t help falling in love with his music.

The next year we found ourselves on a cruise. It was supposed to be a cruise to somewhere, but ended up being a cruise to get away from everywhere. You see, we were supposed to disembark from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but the wind was so heavy that we were shuttled from the airport to Tampa. After that four-hour ride, we met the boat and were to head to the Florida Keys, the Everglades and Cancun, Mexico. The mean Hurricane Katrina thought otherwise. She destroyed much of the Glades back then and our boat ended cruising 12 miles off the coast of Cuba to stay away from the swells.

I remember docking at port in Cancun, and it was a beautiful day. As soon as we were far enough from the boat, the skies opened up and it poured like I had never seen rain before. Yet the beer was one dollar a bottle and they served kids my age. That was a fun day.

So our boat rocked and rolled and bounced us all the way home. Royal Caribbean ended up giving us half the money back. So that worked out well.

In Phoenix, Arizona, one year later. Yup, we went to the Sedona Red Rock canyons and had to run away when the wildfires burned out of control. We were dead center again in disaster—and trust me, Arizona is hot enough without a big fire. Still, it was fun. My cousins joined us for that trip. We went to a Wild West city and got locked in a jail.

Let’s not forget Dallas, Texas, and the Fort Worth Stockyards. I rode a Longhorn—then I ate one. We saw our first real rodeo in Mesquite, and a real stretch pickup truck with the longhorns on the grill. That’s country.

Yet, little compares to my time in Monroe, Georgia. We have these friends with such a large property, they let me drive cars and golf carts all over. It was all fun. We have done so much. I bet not many of the people I know from New York have seen our country as I have.

They should!


Filed under Children, Choices

All I Know I Learned in High School

It was back in Washington Heights, Manhattan in 1986, I was sixteen years old and in 11th grade at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boy – lovingly referred to MTA to this day, and we were quite a group of misfits. That school taught me everything I would need to survive; not much in the area of academics, though. Imagine Lord of the Flies set in Anatevka. Not to reinvent the wheel here, as I believe that my comrade Shalom Auslander who trailed me by a year, accurately captured my experiences in his brilliantly illustrated autobiography, A Foreskin’s Lament.

It was there in MTA, where often timid little naive Jewish kids, many from suburban neighborhoods, descended daily on the Dominican Republic’s satellite city in the very upper corner of Manhattan, that I learned valuable lessons on life. Some of us found drugs, some found religion, others found new friends and even new found inner strength. All of us, however, learned the value of money – that if you had it, you were treated one way, and if not, you were just cast out.

Two juniors took a freshman for a magic carpet ride on his first marijuana high. The kid broke down and told his parents who then told the principal. The junior whose father was a school benefactor was given probation and the junior from a family with somewhat less money and who was likely on scholarship, was expelled. That didn’t come as a shock, but it was one of the most blatant hypocritical contrasts to what we were taught about God and religion and the reality of everyday life. Yet, I cannot complain because I benefited too, no doubt.

My advantage wasn’t money, for I didn’t grow up with much. It was the next valuable lesson, influence. My father – who by the way, just successfully survived major surgery – was the executive editor at the New York Jewish Week back then; the Jewish publication with the largest circulation at the time and was also an important propaganda engine for the Yeshiva University network of schools. I had a bad habit of getting myself thrown out of school for doing little more than expressing my concerns for the quality of my education.

There was the time I was sitting in Talmud (Gemara) class, referred to as a Shiur, and the head of school came in to test us young men on what we knew – or didn’t. It was a random thing. Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen, a tall, thin, beady eyed man with a long white beard, soft spoken, with a deliberately and distinctively enunciated diction that sounded like a throaty Bostonian accent with an Eastern European twinge will always be remembered by me and hundreds of my fellow inmates for his performance in the Wilf Auditorium of the high school decrying the message of the one-hit-wonder pop song by Samantha Fox, “Touch Me!”

That day, he stood up in front of an entire school of young impressionable lads and started flailing his arms wildly, touching himself and yelling “touch me’, “touch me” as he went into a rant over inappropriate messages of modern music. Any one of us that day who did not know the song before hand, went out and bought it, or borrowed the cassette to copy. Good thinking rabbi.

That same approach was successfully employed by Mel Gibson’s folks earlier this decade when they had the Anti-Defamation League publicly oppose his movie The Passion of The Christ. ADL successfully raised funds for its organization, and Mel got better advertising than he could have otherwise afforded to fund for this project. Yet, I digress…

So, we were in Bobo’s class (not his real name, but we kind of referred to our rabbi by it; it was passed down for years before we ever got to his class), well known for being a den of miscreants. One of our esteemed class clowns was comedian Elon Gold, who had a sitcom on network television, many cable comedy programs and does stand-up. I like to believe that he tested many of his early jokes in this class. Now, Rabbi Cohen walked into our class one day and picked up the book of the Talmud that we were presumably learning from and he randomly called on students to answer questions.

We were learning from Tractate Bava Kama, but that didn’t really matter to most of us. He would pick out a word or a phrase and then call on a student to explain it. After a few students had their turn to varying degrees of success, he points his finger into the Talmud and quietly read the words “Esnan Zonah,” simply defined as money paid to prostitute for her services. Now the issue here was about whether an item given in exchange for this money may be offered as a sacrifice, but more to the point.

Rabbi Cohen stated the term and looked up from the book and called out, “Yehuuuudddaa En-Gel-May-errr.” I looked up at him and asked him, “Yes Rabbi?” He continued, “What does ‘Esnan Zonah’ mean?”

Being in an uncomfortable situation here, having to talk to a rabbi about such issues, I simply stated, “money given to a prostitute for her services.” He came back at me with, “What does it mean… what are you paying for, why does it matter?” I stared at him, and just restated “it is money paid to a prostitute for her services.” The rabbi looked at me, clearly bemused by what he saw as my vacant answer and said, “Services? Did she go down to Heshy’s (local coffee shop) and buy you a danish?” I gulped. All that I could mutter from my mouth, caught somewhere between fighting my instinct to be a wise ass and not wanting to have a conversation with this rabbi about what turning tricks is all about, was “Rabbi, if you’re not clear, I don’t think that I should be the one to tell you.” Bobo spit his soda out of his mouth laughing.  Sure it was funny, but I got kicked out of class and “expelled” for it.

So, I did what became habit for me, and I called my father and told him my version of the truth. He moaned, yet still did his part and called his friends at the Yeshiva University Board of Directors who wanted to maintain a positive relationship with the newspaper.  I was told to report back to school the next day. When I approached the school steps the next morning, the principal was standing there and said to me, “I don’t appreciate getting calls from the Board of Directors about you,” and I just said smugly, “Then don’t kick me out anymore.”

Lesson learned here: it’s not what you know, but who you know.

I graduated, life goes on. I learned so much about life at MTA; valuable lessons in street smarts, politics and diplomacy, and surviving. It was the kind of school where the smart kids did just fine and those who struggled continued to do so, just keeping their heads low so to stay off the administrator’s radar.

Fortunately, my children will never be in a place like that. Our hope is that the schools they are in will help them grow academically and spiritually, and will also gain some of the moxie we found in the dark corridors of that old musty building in Washington Heights.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR


Filed under Career and choices, Children, Christian Zionism, Education, Judasim

Musings as I Clear up the Writer’s Block

Getting over writer’s block seems to harder than I anticipated. The things that usually inspire me have been languishing in my head, and the events around us all do not generate the excitement I would hope for. Whether it is Swine Flu, Chrysler‘s imminent failure, GM’s collapse, Somali pirates or my Labrador Jessie living a comfortable and lazy life as she yawns and stretches and closes her eyes again, I seem to feel that committing thoughts to words right now is just a burden I don’t want.

Today is my son’s 11th birthday, and that is something I will take joy and excitement in. Watching him grow, watching all three grow, in fact, has been the best part of my adult life. When you see your own contributions to their evolution take shape, it should inspire the best in all of us. Tonight, we will take Noah out to dinner with a small group of family and friends. He doesn’t want a party for everyone, but a small group of those he cares about.

Come to think of it, all of our kids are like that. My oldest turns 16 in June, but doesn’t want a blown-up sweet sixteen celebration. Considering what it could cost and could entail, I ought to be grateful, and trust me, I am.

He will get a nice watch that he saw me wear and decided he wanted it. It’s a thin winding watch with a black strap, white face and pretty display. Lately, Noah has been taking more pride in his appearance, donning a pinstriped suit to synagogue. This week, he put on a crisp blue shirt and yellow tie and asked that I dry clean his shirts now. He said the home wash doesn’t leave him looking as he wishes. That’s my boy. When I saw his ensemble, I too wore a pinstriped suit, blue shirt and yellow tie to shul. I never thought of dressing my kids alike, or dressing like my kids. I usually find that whole situation plain goofy. I caved, it was cute. He was all smiles too.

Our middle child is heading to Israel on Mother’s Day with her class for their senior trip. This was such a memorable event for our eldest, she learned a love for Israel though exploration, study, prayer, camaraderie and just breathing the Mediterranean air. When we learned that the economy and Madoff’s thievery caused parents to withhold funding, hence canceling the trip – replaced by a visit to Pennsylvania and a theme park – we decided to try and raise the funds ourselves. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and quite selfishly, we didn’t want Talia to be the only of the three to lose out, assuming that in coming years it will be restored with ease and our 11 year old would go as is the normal routine.

Well, the school needed $25 thousand, we raised less than ten. It isn’t easy to do this at this time. We are funding the rest. It’s part of our tithe for the year. I guess our other charities are on hold, but I am so happy she will have this chance. As far as Israel, this will not be her first rodeo; yet the experience school offers: priceless.  She leaves on Mother’s Day and returns on the day I turn 40. I think I hear “Sunrise, Sunset” playing in my head now.

I guess that’s all for now. I have to work, Jessie moved from the floor to the couch and the Swine Flu and the imminent death of the Trans Am seem to be the news of the day. It reminds me of a good time and disappointment too.

My uncle taught me to drive on a yellow 1975 Firebird S/E with the hood scoops and a fire stripe across the car. It had the 455 V8, a white interior, honeycomb rims, it was fast, sweet and the coolest car I had ever driven (by the time I was seven. I have since driven cooler cars…). It was supposed to be my car when I got my license ten years later, but the car didn’t make it to my 17th. It was gone a year earlier. My first car was a yellow 1972 Ford LTD. Not quite the same.  My uncle later “upgraded” me to a white 1980 Buick Skylark, but it made me long for the Ford.  From that Skylark I went to the 1982 Dodge Challenger, then we upgraded to the first Ford Taurus 5 Speed called the MT-5, a 1987 to be exact.  Loving the five speed, but hating the underpowered 4 cylinder, we sold Boris the Taurus to our friends and picked up a very sweet 1990 Ford SHO in metallic red. We ended selling that to our friends who’s exact car was destroyed in the 1999 Seward Park Housing garage collapse.  We had kids and the trunk was too small.  We replaced it with a 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Woody.  In retrospect, we have had a pretty eclectic collection of cars through the ages.  These days we opt for new cars that tend to be more reliable.  Choices…

April 28th, 2015 –

I need to update this piece.  I wrote it on my son’s 11th birthday and he just turned 17 and got his drivers license,  To add to my own sense of having been deprived as child, he starts his driving days in a 2011 Ford Fusion AWD with a pretty cool sporty interior.

Noahs car

Noahs car

Noahs car

Noahs car

My ladies share a 2011 Buick Lacrosse SEL, and Debbie and I share a 2015 Taurus SHO and a 2013 Lincoln MKT.  Throughout the 2000s we owned a 1998 and 2001 Ford Expedition.  We traded to a smaller car in the 2004 Honda Pilot.  Then we drove the now out of business 2007 Saturn Outlook.  Then we took a 2010 Lincoln MKT.  When we moved, we took on a 2012 Taurus SHO which we traded for the newest one, and a MKT as well.

My 21 year girl is engaged and my 19 year old is smart as hell.

So that’s it for now. Hi Ho, Hi Ho.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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Filed under Children, Choices, Family, Life

Ain’t That America: Angel Food Ministries’ Little Pink Houses

Getting up at two in the morning to head to work is never fun, of that I am certain. Yet, this morning in Bakersfield, California, could not have been more fun, more interesting or even more meaningful.

We flew in late from Georgia, and landed at about six thirty Pacific time, having first worked all morning on the East Coast. First to dinner, than to an early bed in order to rise and be at the host site parking lot by three to meet the two tractor trailers from National Carriers, Angel Food Ministries‘ official carrier for this month’s 560 thousand boxes of food relief we just distributed. What made this trip so important to us – Pastor Joe Wingo and the Ministry Development team – was that this host site in Bakersfield has risen from an obscure new entry in a state with yet a relatively low saturation for Angel Food, to the single largest host site distribution point in America. Bakersfield Compassion Christian Center and its Pastor, Martha Johnson, began with AFM in November 2008 with an impressive opener of 304 boxes to the even more impressive 2858 boxes we handed out today.

With almost seamless precision, the cold and dark parking lot of the Center transformed before us. From a cosmic empty space with just two giant rigs lit with small running lights illuminating the area like a far off runway in the blackened distance of a clear sky, idling gently in the chilly California wind, into a professionally run open-aired warehouse where every item has its place, ready for the vast undertaking about to commence.

A small group of volunteers began maneuvering a donated forklift, easily taking every palette off the rigs and placing them around the edges of the lot, marked by tables with tags identifying the food items designated for the space. Within 90 minutes, both trucks were empty; the dry goods first, followed by the refrigerated items on the second semi. Now we just had to wait. The night sky was still deep, the stars shone bright and my two daughters, accompanying me for this distribution visit, stared out in wonder at the terrific sky, convinced that this is something they don’t usually experience looking up above our New York City skyline. We waited a while, and then, much like at the end of Field of Dreams, as the headlights appeared to spiral down the path to the plowed cornfield, people started to come.

As the sun rose, and the California night ebbed, bowing to the hot sun Southern California is known and loved for, the parking lot started looking like a day at a bustling street festival. A staging area was set with speakers and a sound system playing light fare gospel, tent areas were set with seats to protect those who sought it from the sun. A line was formed in the most orderly fashion that eventually wrapped around the block, while the most patient people waited to start collecting their Angel Food. The Christian Center set this up in a way worthy of duplication. The registration table in the center met the recipients, signed them in and a band of high school football players, the team coach and other students wearing orange vests acted as runners, and used grocery shopping carts to help collect the morning catch for every one of the seemingly unwearied.

There was prayer, music, coffee, cake, muffins and later, barbecue. There was media, and there was cheer and camaraderie. There were church goers, non-believers, whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, families, singles, seniors, young, straight and gay alike, and there was the spirit of America on that block, in the parking lot. It was a beautiful thing to see, as Angel Food Ministries stood over this blessed event as an organization that did not merely provide food relief, but as one that provided a reason to come out and spend a day volunteering and helping, talking among friends, playing and singing and eating. It hit me with great smile, as I read a biased news story out of York, Pennsylvania, these so called journalists don’t want to get it, but these people before me do. Angel Food Ministries is about community, family and building bridges. It about feeding people, but it is also about people helping people, and people wanting to help others and feel good about it.  It is about America at its best.

Looking at the simplest form of the business model, Sam Walton, of Wal-Mart fame became a multi billionaire and was revered, and still remembered, as a shrewd businessman. People may fault him for presumed contributions to the erosion of domestic trade, wage and benefit abuse of low income and even migrant workers, but no one attacked the wealth he amassed doing it. Arguably, Wal-Marts are exactly what destroyed communities as they moved in and wiped out the small business, chased families into poverty, and drove others away from small town America seeking elusive city jobs.

Pastor Joe Wingo, on the other hand, built a model that performs the very opposite of that. It makes people want to work for people, it builds neighborhoods and solidifies neighbors as friends, it brings people to houses of worship to pick up their food with the hope that some dynamic pastors, preachers or rabbis can convince them to come in for a service. It grows communities, plants churches and develops enduring relationships in towns and cities across America. Yet, for that insight and hard work, he has been vilified in jealous circles for making a salary. Mind you, it pales in comparison to wages earned by big corporation CEOs, and even the salaries of some of the large national non profit organizations that do little more than beg for money, simply to redistribute a portion back to people and initiatives for which each is set to do. Still, Joe Wingo’s salary and CEO of a $140 million organization that feeds hundreds of thousands without seeking donations, develops community minded programs, returns millions into local communities, and gives people hope in an era where hope seems to fade, is a source for contention.

As Pastor Joe walked around and greeted the eager people, he was received as a celebrity. A woman broke down and cried to him, saying that she was seeking a way to give back, and Angel Food was the answer to her prayers. Children shook his hand, silver foxes hugged our charming CEO, and the California Senate Majority Leader prepared a special award and proclamation for Joe and Linda Wingo. Apparently they are doing something right, and as long as the people who rely on this food for their well being are pleased, perhaps the naysayers should not matter. Pastor Wingo spoke to ABC television about his vision and the need for food, and we were handed food for the plane ride home.

Little Pink Houses lined the streets around the church where we were this morning, and all I could think of was John Mellencamp’s song.  Joe Wingo and Angel Food Ministries is the best of America, and helps ensure that the best in Americans come out with every order taken and every distribution made. Ain’t that America? We saw the America that I believe in, that we need to see more of and that my kids know they haven’t seen up close quite like this today.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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Filed under Children, Evangelsim, Family, Food Security, Media

Remembering our Loved Ones

In synagogue today, my rabbi took the occasion of his weekly sermon to talk about the weekly Torah portion of Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23). While all of the Ten Commandments were indeed discussed, he paid close attention to the part about honoring ones parents. Very poignantly, I recall, he said that it is a commandment that carries the benefit of long life should one adhere properly; in his opinion, rendering it both, important and very hard to do.  I know that to be awfully true. However, my rabbi framed the difficulties of that honor with age, and the burdens that an infirmed and immobile parent can have on children in the prime of their lives. While true too, it didn’t really speak to the very disparate issues of parents who have not truly fulfilled their roles as such, and thus, in a modern sense, may not merit the blind courtesy the Torah seems to require.

Not trying to disparage anyone, or use this forum as a patent setting for airing dirty laundry, but I am guilty of violating the very basic act of the commandment of Kibud Av V’aim (honoring your mother and father). Neither is infirmed or ill in the physical sense, but also, neither have been, in my father’s own words,  conventional parents (or parents at all) or the role models I would have hoped my children would have. It saddens me, it is hard to say, but it is the truth as I see it. In recent months, my mother has been trying harder and tries to see our children at least once a week. My father, who is a pulpit rabbi about 20 miles from our home, seems to have more classes, weddings, funerals and Bris celebrations to attend than days in a week and time; and our kids saw him last perhaps one year ago.

During the course of my rabbi’s speech, he acknowledged the 200th year anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln as a father of the country we live in, and our need to honor such parents as well. He then compared that to the 100th birthday of a scion in my synagogue and neighborhood, a founding father of the synagogue, and welcomed us all to this gentleman’s home to pay tribute to him, his birthday, his accomplishments for the community and family and just for being a long time friend of everyone’s.

This Centenarian, who still comes to synagogue when he can, and offers to help out when he does, must have truly been a devotee of the Fifth Commandment. What struck me, though, is that he was also a close friend, as I recall, of my mother’s parents, my dear bubby and zaidy, who were taken from me so young. In 1980, at the age of 72, Sam Schneider passed, and in 1983, at 63, Gertie Schneider passed – just a short while after my bar mitzvah.

The saddest feelings I have are their deaths, as those two were the parents to honor and the great grandparents our children should have known. It is through them that I learned the value of life, giving and honor, and it is through them that I felt security and comfort in what was a hard childhood for me and my siblings. While my rabbi was talking about honoring ones parents and the life of our Centenarian friend, I began to fathom notions I never truly focused on. You cannot make sense, or pretend to anyway, of divinely made decisions. If you believe and have faith, you just take it on faith; yet all that came to my mind was that neither of my grandparents may have honored their parents too well, for their lives were not extended. My grandfather would have turned 100 last year and my grandmother was to be 89. That would have been nice.

As the thoughts of them being less than perfect with their own parents ran through my head, I had to fast dispel those. It just isn’t what I want to believe. I then thought that if there is indeed a master plan for us all, reward and punishment, both here and in an afterlife, then perhaps their fate was such to be spared seeing the fruits of their life’s toils turn out as they had; yet I think their untimely deaths contributed to the chaos that beleaguered their own four children. Not to get too far into it, but of the four, one since passed on, they share very strained relationships with one another and arguably no relationship at all.

I then think that they do have five grandchildren and would have had ten great grandchildren with whom they could take pride.

So the sermon made me think and tear up, and still wonder why. As I wish Mr. Rosner a happy 100th birthday, I ask him if he remembers my grandparents. He always smiles and tells me that they were some of the best people he had known.

Me too.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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Filed under Children, Choices, Family, Judasim

The Audience Was Heavenly, the Traveling Was Hell

Traveling for my new job has become somewhat of a routine – for me. Out three to four days, home the rest. That takes a toll. While not little anymore, the kids need dinner, help with their homework and, even though they get wrapped up on their phones, text messaging their friends, and multitasking on their computers, they just like knowing their dad is just in the other room. Resilient as they are, it affects them. Even more, and shockingly not as readily recognized by me, it takes a toll on my dear wife.

Rationally knowing that I get to go out believing that our home is being cared for, I think at times I take that for granted. The dog needs walking, and the early morning and late night have been mine for so long; it is hers while I’m gone. The house needs tidying, the laundry needs washing, the shopping needs to be done and a host of so much else. Not to say that I do these tasks regularly, but my being home or on the way home allows these chores to be done with the comfort that a parent is around tending to our family.

With all that it takes to run a household, I suppose the years of being directly in it and having so much done around me have made me somewhat inadvertently insensitive to the daily grind. It is both, a labor of love and one of necessity, and she does it tirelessly. Yet, tireless is not the right word, because it does take its toll emotionally. In a talk the other night, after packing for my next trip, my heart fell and I found myself lacking the words to comfort. I consider myself astute and generally savvy, but I admit there are times that I am caught speechless and dense.

It isn’t so much that I am out so much, and isn’t that the weight of keeping our home running clean and strong. It is simpler. Although we talk everyday and usually again before we go to bed, albeit miles apart, I have yet to just say “thank you” and acknowledged that it is her very work, devotion and strength that allows me to do what I do, that I enjoy so much. The shame is that there is nothing I could say; she is right, and the words after being told that I neglect to say it, just wouldn’t seem genuine. I mean it, and know it, but just saying it – once in a while – would make such a difference.

We learn that words are so powerful; they have the force to help as well as to harm. I have made a career and a decent living on words, spoken and written, and when my wife tasks me with not bringing my work home with me, I don’t believe this is what she intended. With little else to say, but offer a sheepish apology, I sleep restless until my alarm sounds me at 5:30 AM. When people say that traveling for work is hell, they are onto something; yet, what is usually said selfishly about traveler might be applied to those left behind. As I wrote, I found my routine. I have a relatively fine time living out of my suitcase and loving the work and my workplace. Our kids are older, and we talk daily and trade Instant Messages from every port of technology we all have – it’s not great, but it is ok. My wife, however, who bears the brunt of essentially single parenthood, keeps it all going and makes it such that it all seems seamless and easy.

Appreciation is often best demonstrated by simple things. Flowers smell nice, but eventually they droop and get thrown out. Jewelry looks nice, but usually becomes an heirloom; worn on occasion and filling the jewelry box waiting for one of the kids to have an occasion to wear it out to one of their special moments. Simply saying it is more priceless and timeless than buying it, and is sometimes exactly what is needed.

Thank you for taking care of us every day with dedication and love! I know it isn’t easy, but you make it seem so and you always have.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR 

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