Daily Archives: November 8, 2010

News

The Berkeley Wire: 11.08.10

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UC Berkeley

After baseball brouhaha, how about some Quidditch?

Ron xxx gets ready to play Quidditch in Harry Potter movie -- costumes optional for UC Berkeley team
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If you’re looking for some alternative spectator sport fun this weekend — after coming down from the high of the Giants’ World Series triumph — you might consider supporting UC Berkeley’s Quidditch team as they take on Stanford at Memorial Glade on November 14.

As we reported in February, Cal held try-outs to form a Quidditch team after realizing that Harry Potter’s favorite sport was taking off on college campuses across the country — and, as team co-founder Charlie … Continue reading »

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Bus catches fire in downtown Berkeley, no-one hurt

bus on fire
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Assistant Fire Chief Rod Foster said the Fire Department received a call about a bus being on fire at about 12.30. Two engines and a ladder truck were sent to the scene. “The engine and back … Continue reading »

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Nosh

Cheating Farmers’ Market vendors in the spotlight

Farmers' Market produce should be in season and not have stickers
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The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is holding a “Farmers Market Listening Session” this evening, 5.30-7.30pm in Berkeley, after an exposé by NBC LA found vendors at Southern California farmers’ markets re-selling produce that they had not grown themselves.

This is one of several listening sessions being held across the state and is not the result of any similar findings at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets, said Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center which operates three … Continue reading »

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Government

Kriss Worthington confirmed as District 7 winner

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On election night last Tuesday, only one of the Berkeley local races was technically undecided. In District 7, incumbent Kriss Worthington has captured 49.69% of the vote, just short of the required 50%. So it was clear that, barring a total sweep of second-choice votes by rival George Beier, Worthington would be reelected.

That result is now confirmed, although the final, official tally is yet to be certified. If you’re interested in how ranked-choice voting works in practice, the … Continue reading »

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Sports

Your Neighbors: Sunday in the park with Ray

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Kim Aronson is an online community builder who has lived in Berkeley for the past decade. He makes short films on the side. Aronson plans to contribute occasional community portraits to Berkeleyside.

The first (above) looks at the softball community that Raymond Weschler has been running for the last 13 years. Ray is also known for the wonderfully written, often hilarious, emails he sends out to his softball players. Aronson calls him “a real Berkeley character”. The games take … Continue reading »

Arts

Berkeley native tackles circumcision in novel

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Lisa Braver Moss is a product of Berkeley — she grew up here, went through the public school system, and attended UC Berkeley. When Moss decided to write a novel featuring a Jewish doctor who starts to question the practice of circumcision, she set it in Berkeley. Moss, who now lives in Piedmont, will be speaking Friday November 12 at 1:30 at the Jewish Book and Arts Festival at the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center.

Berkeleyside caught up with Moss just days after the November 1 release of The Measure of His Grief.

Why did you decide to write a novel that has circumcision as its main theme?

The Measure of His Grief is a literary novel about a Berkeley physician, Dr. Sandy Waldman, and his Jewish identity, his marriage, his secrets, his grief over the death of his father, and the price he pays for being a visionary.  It’s also about Sandy’s wife, Ruth, a nutritionist and cookbook author who had a difficult childhood and who will lose patience with Sandy; and their teenage daughter, Amy, whom Sandy and Ruth adopted at birth and who spends a lot of the novel grappling with whether to make contact with her birth family.  So, while the book is very much about circumcision, it’s not a treatise on the topic; it’s literary fiction.

I first became interested in the circumcision controversy in the late eighties, after the births of my sons.  We’re Jewish and they were circumcised, but that decision haunted me because while it reflected my tradition, it did not reflect my spirituality.  I felt that in order to ensure that my sons would be accepted in the community, I’d been asked to separate myself from my biological urge to protect them.  I found myself wanting to write about my experience, and published a few articles questioning the practice from a Jewish point of view.

I went on to write articles and books on other topics, but remained interested in Jewish circumcision.  I found it surprising that despite all its psychological, sexual, medical and religious complexities, no novelist had ever taken it on.

Two things inspired me to make a foray into fiction with this topic.  One, I myself had become much more deeply engaged in Jewish thought and Jewish life and community as a result of the research I did to write those first articles.  The more I delved into Jewish writings to understand the circumcision tradition — in order to write in opposition to it — the more Jewishly engaged I felt.  I always thought that would make an interesting story, and that’s what happens to Dr. Sandy Waldman.  He’s grown up assimilated, for reasons different from mine — he’s the son of Holocaust survivors, many of whom didn’t rear their children Jewishly — but like me, Sandy discovers what Judaism means to him as he rails against circumcision.

The second inspiration happened when I interviewed several men about this topic, including a Jewish man who felt he had remembered his own circumcision trauma.  I learned about foreskin “restoration,” in which circumcised men stretch their residual tissue over a period of months and years to mimic the function of the lost tissue.  I was astounded by the fact that there may be as many as a quarter of a million men around the world who are currently engaged in this process, and I couldn’t seem to shake myself free of that information and its rich possibilities for exploration in fiction.  Also, the idea of that kind of repair struck me as very rich, since repair/healing, tikkun olam, is really the central tenet of Judaism.

So between the foreskin restoration aspect, the interviews I did, and my own strengthened Jewish identity as I expressed my opposition to circumcision, I began to realize I might have a novel — and that if indeed I did have a novel, I had a male main character.

Why did you set it in Berkeley?

I was born at Alta Bates Hospital and reared in Berkeley — went through the Berkeley public schools, graduated from Berkeley High, and then attended Cal Berkeley.  My father had a retail store right across from the Cal campus during demonstrations and riots, so I saw a lot, and Berkeley is very much a part of my consciousness.  It’s a great place to set a novel: beautiful, forward-thinking, yet also in some ways provincial, exasperating in its self-satisfaction.

Regarding circumcision, I find it fascinating that in a town where anything goes, and even among very assimilated Jews, circumcision generally remains the norm in Jewish families.  Things are shifting somewhat with the dropping circumcision rates in the general population and the prevalence of interfaith families in Berkeley and elsewhere.  But for the most part, circumcision is still regarded as a central emblem of Jewish identity even in Berkeley, a place that prides itself on thinking outside the box and abiding by its own version of correctness.  I wanted to explore that paradox.

That said, circumcision is a conundrum among progressive Jews everywhere, not just in Berkeley.  All non-Orthodox Jews who are patching together their decisions about keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath, and so on, must also come to terms with circumcision, which is often the one tradition that’s kept.

Another reason this book is set in Berkeley is that with all its tolerance of ethnic minorities, Berkeley is not an entirely comfortable place to be Jewish.  I wanted to explore that, too.

What was your Jewish upbringing in Berkeley like? Did your family attend temple? How did you obtain a Jewish identity?

I grew up mostly assimilated, with some observance of Jewish holidays but very little in the way of other Jewish practices or education.  I went to religious school for a few months when I was eight or nine, but I never developed a stable sense of community around being Jewish.  Yet I felt from an extremely early age that being Jewish was important.  To this day I’m not sure I could put my finger on how or why; it was something intangible, but even as a girl I knew I would always embrace my Jewishness in some way. … Continue reading »

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