Busted Halo
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Frances Silverglate :
5 article(s)

Frances Silverglate, a grandmother of four, is an attorney in New York City and previous contributor to Busted Halo.
January 27th, 2010
Reflections on a good deed gone awry

No good deed goes unpunished.
How many of us have used that phrase at one time or another? Sometimes it means that we secretly wanted more gratitude than we got in return for our trouble. Sometimes it’s a preemptive excuse for not going to the trouble in the first place. In general, it is a lousy phrase, and I hate it when I hear myself using it.
Nevertheless, I have learned that there are genuine risks to trying to help others, and it is best to stop and anticipate those risks before leaping into situations we may not fully understand. Otherwise, the results can be the very opposite of what we intended to achieve.
I think of Jack Henry Abbott, the self-educated career criminal whose book on life behind bars, In the …

September 23rd, 2009
A Jewish grandmother thinks about identity and intermarriage

I’m not a fan of circumcision, though the bris milah is required for male Jewish children and is considered an essential component of Jewish identity. I do know some modern Jews now have the ceremony of the bris… without the actual circumcision. When my sons were born in 1962 and 1963, I didn’t want to have them circumcised, which was an unusual position in those days. My husband felt strongly about the boys being circumcised, however. I allowed him the final decision and actually I’m glad I did: as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more aware of the value of our family’s connection to its Jewish heritage.
When my oldest son and his wife had a son, there was no consideration of the baby

October 6th, 2008
A Parent, A Child, A Knife—and a Command from God. What Would You Do?

A few years ago during Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday on the Jewish calendar, I was in a little wooden synagogue on the Lower East Side of New York City. The rabbi, a venerable man whose voice carried throughout the temple, was extremely charismatic. For the first time in my temple-going life, I found myself listening intently to the sermon.

March 3rd, 2008
A Jewish Mother Considers Family, Tradition and the Pain of Belonging

Eight days after birth, a Jewish male infant is circumcised in a ceremony called the bris milah (bris means “covenant” in Hebrew). It’s a party: relatives and friends gather to watch; the baby gets a drop of wine to dull the pain and then sits on his grandfather’s lap; his grandfather holds him steady. The mohel…—a specialist trained in both the Jewish ritual and medical procedure of circumcision—says the prayers and then quickly cuts off the baby’s foreskin. The whole thing is done in less than a minute, and then the guests talk and eat while the infant, after a storm of crying, usually falls asleep, exhausted by the commotion.

Bris Milah is the oldest ritual in Judaism,

January 17th, 2007
Revisiting the faith of my father

It was a cold day in October, and I was walking down a street on New York’s Lower East Side, toward a small wooden building with a flight of steps at the front. Built in 1820 as a synagogue, it had only recently been reconsecrated and put back into use as a place of worship. At the doorway stood members of the congregation, welcoming the small stream of worshipers climbing the stairs. “Come in, welcome, join us,” they said, and I could feel my heart beating faster. I was excited but frightened. It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement—the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—and I was about to step into a synagogue for the first time in more than fifty years.
I am 72 years old, and though I was born…

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