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Memoir Writing in Fairfax

This page features a creative writing piece submitted by participants of the Adult Services Department's Memoir Writing Group in Fairfax. Stories and opinions of individuals are not necessarily those of the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.

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"Moments" by Jane Rosenthal

Shadows and light

Exposing the truth buried beneath the headlines

Lives disrupted, icons smashed

Freedom and justice restored

The Statue of Liberty burns brightly

A shot in the arm promising deliverance

Hopes and dreams ignited

An unbreakable bond between

We the people and elected leaders

Trust renewed

The scourge scraped clean

The Capitol prevails

Oaths honored


"Go Away Coronavirus!" by Eda R. Pickholtz, Fairfax, VA, March 27, 2020

A virus suddenly appeared from the East 

Causing death and destruction in each country it reached

It started in China, and before anyone knew

Spread to Korea, Spain, and Italy too

It was then called a pandemic, how quickly it spread

First hit old people, then all people, left many dead

No country was prepared for the necessary tasks

Shortages of everything, such as surgical masks

Not enough doctors, nurses and hospitals too

People are worried how we'll ever get through 

We need more gowns, rubber gloves, and kits for testing 

Ventilators, hand sanitizers, and beds for resting

We're short of so much, no country prepared

From young to the old, leaving everyone scared

A wise man appeared, Dr. Fauci, in the U.S.

He tells us the science behind this virus

What we must do to make this plague leave


The restrictions are strict and daily we grieve

No hugging or kissing or any contact

"If you get too close, I'll have to fight back"


"Social distancing" it's called, "Stay away six feet

Otherwise this virus will never be beat"

People were told to scrub their hands

Twenty seconds or more is the demand

Sanitizers were used to scrub down the house

"Don't touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth"

Walking outside is always permitted

However remember to keep your distance

Companies converted to help win this race

To make surgical masks at a great pace

Stores closed around us, no restaurants, no bars

No libraries or gyms, or even the parks

Schools had to close, kids had to study

Only with family, never a buddy

Thank goodness the food stores were open, to help

However, many necessities flew off the shelves

No wipies, towels, no toilet paper

"Come back again, we'll stock up later"

No airlines will fly, no sports to play

Everything's closed down, even Broadway

Have you ever heard of Disney Parks closed?

And movie houses to add to our woes

The only things left to help us feel free

Are texting, phone calling, and watching T.V.

We don't know how this darn thing will end

Meanwhile our neighbors become our friends.


"Zoom in 2020" by Eda R. Pickholtz, Fairfax, VA, April 16, 2020

We all should be happy with Zoom

We're no longer alone in a room

We could learn with just one

Or one hundred and one

To help beat this pandemic gloom


We all should be happy with Zoom

We're no longer alone in a room

Your family's suddenly there

With virtual cocktails to share

To help beat this pandemic gloom

We all should appreciate Zoom

We're no longer alone in a room

You can wear your old clothes

Because nobody knows

To help beat this pandemic gloom


"Lift Up Your Feet and Dance" by Eda R. Pickholtz, Fairfax, VA, May 2, 2020

When the world is filled with doom

You want to shake this virus gloom

Make some space within a room

Just lift up your feet and dance


Use some music with a quick beat

Jazz and mambo would be neat

Do what you can to beat defeat

Just lift up your feet and dance


2020 is our virus year 

Your friends and family need some cheer

We want the virus to disappear

Meanwhile lift your feet and dance.


"Wash, Rinse, and Repeat" by Joshua Greene, November 15, 2020

Thanks to the virus Covid-19

The days have a sameness, or so it seems.

Rise early, read papers, stretch, and wash,

Then feed the cat and have a quick nosh

After which comes walk number 1:

Forty-five minutes at not quite a run.


After the walk it’s time to eat:

Citrus and yogurt, with bread that’s whole wheat,

Some veggies and fruit; must limit the sweets.

Then it’s off to check e-mail or some work to do

After which lunch, and then walk number 2.

Once back from the walk I can finally read

Although chores or activities may intercede.


Do economics or play the piano,

Read a textbook or watch a video.

If drowsiness comes, take a short forty winks

Then back to reading, perhaps with a drink.

If hunger arises, there’s time for a snack

To be followed by walking to the next cul-de-sac.

Then back to reading, or writing, or working online

Beware of Facebook, which can take too much time.


When dinner time comes, we can choose what to eat:

Fish or chicken or beef, all to reheat

Accompanied by vegetables and some more bread

With blessings before and afterward said.

Another walk follows, and then back inside,

Watch a play or a concert, call friends, or just hide.


By 9:30 or 10, with eyes getting droopy,

It’s time for bed, before becoming loopy.

Turn off the computer, brush teeth and take pills,

Then under the covers and ward off the chills.


Though the days have a pattern, some are unique:

With activities the schedule will tweak.

On Mondays, up early, to the cleaners before 9,

To collect things the same day, all ironed quite fine.

Monday evening is trash time, so search far and wide:

Empty baskets and cat litter, then put trash cans outside.

Wednesday evenings a ZOOM call, 6:30 to near 8,

For the Singapore minyan – which we hope won’t run late.

On Fridays, a mad rush to prepare for Shabbos,

Sheets and towels must be washed

Before maids clean and polish.

Friday night we light candles, have kiddush and challah,

Eat dinner, chant birkat, brush teeth, and read parashah.

Saturday, I rise early to walk and eat quickly

Before services on ZOOM, a short chat, and ha-motzi.

The rest of the day is at leisure: walk, read, and have dinner

Then ZOOM once more for Havdalah – just five minutes, a winner.


And throughout it all, I’m blessed with my wife

In the house, for company and to sweeten life.

As a pair we go shopping, run errands, and talk,

Watch TV (she more than I) and perhaps jointly walk.

With our son living nearby, working late or at home,

And a daughter and son-in-law we can contact by phone

We feel lucky indeed. We wish others the same:

A life full of meaning and health, free from pain.


"Masks" by Jane Rosenthal, Springfield, VA, November 15, 2020

What’s underneath the mask?

Dare I ask, and hope

To find eyes that reflect the soul.


Eyes that are a window

Letting in the light of reason

Probing our assumptions

Grappling with hard truths.


The barriers we create are man and woman made

The masks we hide behind obscure our true intentions


Do we wear them to protect our community,

Our friends and relatives

Or do we fear the scourge we ourselves unleash


"The Promise of Hope" by Jane Rosenthal, Springfield, VA

The promise of hope springs eternal

Spirits rising

Spreading peace and justice

Sharing the fruits of the earth.

A better world

One day together

Striving for the light

Preventing despair, sickness and famine

One planet waking up

We are all in this together

All connected

Through our dreams

Facing the future

Memoir Writing

Joshua Greene: Memoir
"Music at Reform Congregation Beth Or in the Early 1960s"

Music at Reform Congregation Beth Or in the Early 1960s

Those who have never attended a Reform Jewish service, or who have only done so in recent years, have little idea of what American Reform services were like during the 1950s or 1960s. Services were stately, even decorous, with a rabbi, organ, and solo and responsive readings in English interspersed with Hebrew prayers, many of which were sung and marked for the Choir. Dress at services was formal, with men in suits and women in fancy dresses. Men prayed with uncovered heads and without talitot, while women wore hats, with many sporting large, elaborate creations that commanded attention. Some of my fondest memories were of women at our synagogue reading dramatically from the bimah, dressed impeccably and wearing broad-brimmed hats that added to the dignity of the occasion. I especially recall hearing them recite the Haftarah for Yom Kippur morning as if at a stage performance, intoning “Is this the fast that I have chosen?” to an awe-struck congregation hanging on every word.

Before the 1970s, few Reform synagogues had cantors. However, music was an essential part of services, and most synagogues had choirs, often with soloists, some of them paid professionals. At Beth Or in the 1960s, the choir sat in a prominent location at the front of the sanctuary, on the right, facing the organ. An adult choir, whose members wore black robes, served during evening and High Holiday services, while a children’s choir dressed in suits and dresses sang during Shabbat morning services. An adult member might join the organist and a few children to provide music during daytime services for Sukkot or Pesach on weekdays. A larger choir would sing during Shavuot, when confirmation ceremonies generally meant a large attendance. Later in the 1960s, the synagogue hired professional singers, and I remember hearing one of them rehearse during the afternoons when I occasionally stopped at the synagogue after school. I recall one moment during the Kedushah section of the Amidah when the soloist, to begin singing at a loud volume, would turn beet red before exploding with sound. Many years later the liberal congregation in Singapore with which my wife and I were affiliated used the same music at High Holiday services, and I shared the story with the visiting cantor, to our mutual laughter. 

For several years I served in the children’s choir, attending rehearsals one night a week and singing Saturday mornings. About a dozen of us, generally below bar or bat mitzvah age, would gather each week to rehearse and then reconvene Shabbat morning in our good clothes to sing at services. While we occasionally horsed around, we usually quieted down enough to practice and then perform well Saturday mornings. At the time, the Reform movement’s Union Prayer Book I, for Shabbat, Festivals, and Weekdays, had different texts and music for each week of the month. My favorite services were the first in the month, which were longer, especially if we included Hallel – psalms of praise – in honor of Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. Then we sang a pretty version of “Hodu L’Adashem” – very Romantic and totally different from the more traditional settings my friends at their Conservative synagogues would hear. I also liked our version of “Mah Tovu”, in which the words “Anei-ni be’emet” (“Answer me in truth”) were sung to a melody that sounded very much like “I wish you a Merry Christmas.” I still have my loose-leaf book from choir with music we used for services.

A special privilege of being in the children’s choir was the opportunity to serve as a soloist a few times a year, which provided the chance to sing several special passages. Among my favorites was chanting the “Y’verechecha” (the Priestly Blessing) at the end of the service, after the rabbi pronounced it with raised arms over the congregation’s bowed heads. Another was chanting Kiddush. Just before the “Y’verechecha” the soloist sang the solo parts of the Kiddush, with the choir and congregation joining in “Ki vanu ve-charta”, supported by a swelling organ. After chanting the Kiddush, the soloist got to drink some of the wine, and I remember once the rabbi at that time tapping me on the shoulder and announcing, “You don’t have to drink the whole thing,” to everyone’s laughter.

After I left college and graduate school and became involved in Washington D.C.’s Fabrangen chavurah in the late 1970s, I became more familiar with the combination of traditional Ashkenazic settings and modern folk music that were typical of chavurot and other informal congregations of the time. Music at Reform synagogues, in turn, changed by introducing both more traditional melodies and new, folk-rock settings, often performed by rabbis and cantors strumming guitars. While all this is fun, particularly for younger attendees, it would be fun to re-experience the synagogue music of my childhood, at least on occasion.

Joshua Greene Bio:

Dr. Joshua Greene is a macroeconomist with a specialization in public finance. Retired from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he served for more than 28 years, including 6 years as Deputy Director of the IMF-Singapore Regional Training Institute in Singapore, he is currently a Visiting Professor and Interim Director of the Applied Economics Track in the Master of Science in Economics program at Singapore Management University in Singapore.

He is also a consultant for the Asian Development Bank and has served periodically as a consultant for the IMF, the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), and Bank Negara Malaysia (Malaysia’s central bank). He has also taught macroeconomics at George Mason University. Dr. Greene has done research on a variety of subjects, including African debt, factors affecting private investment in developing countries, the U.S. balance of payments, public debt issues facing the United States, and ways of accelerating growth in the United States.

He is the author of two books: Public Finance: An International Perspective, and Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy: A Systematic Approach, both published by World Scientific. His research has been published in IMF Staff Papers, World Development, the Journal of African Finance and Economic Development, and other journals. A past president of the Society of Government Economists, he has a Ph.D. in economics and a law degree from the University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Dr. Greene is also active at the Pozez JCC, having served as a Board member, past vice-president, and treasurer, and on the Film Festival Committee, which he co-chaired during 2011-12. 

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