Busted Halo

Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.

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November 24th, 2010

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s only fitting to start thinking of what we’re thankful for. Whether it’s friends, family, health or career, everyone has a different priority. Naturally, for me music came to mind.


For the past four months I’ve been covering country music for AOL’s The Boot. Growing up, I wasn’t a country fan and never imagined I’d spend the day with Keith Urban or travel to Nashville and interview Martina McBride. Much to Farrah’s chagrin, I was a HUGE boy band fan. Backstreet Boys were my first love and I seriously (embarrassed to admit) thought I would marry Brian Littrell – the nice, southern, Christian boy in the group.

Boy bands aside, I’ve since acquired a strong appreciation for country music. The lyrics, the emotion and the story behind each song always manage to strike a chord. Before a Dierks Bentley show with friends at City Winery I spent the day listening to his MySpace page and “Better Believer” off his album, Feel That Fire spoke to me. Written by Bentley and Rivers Rutherford, I think you might agree.

Life is seen more clearly through our tears
Cause we all find some faith
When we face our

November 22nd, 2010

How much pain does it take to feel G-d? The people of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, worry about their kids and gangs, about drugs and homicide. They have the projects and they have their churches. But mostly, they have G-d.

The residents in this neighborhood hold more collective faith than any one community. You can just feel it. Every night, the churches host something for the community – anything – from youth programs to keep kids off the streets, to housing and foreclosure help to free HIV testing.


The residents here speak in gospel, and laugh with you like you are their good friend. I am a white, Jewish girl who spends a lot of time in this neighborhood on assignment as a writer. It blows my mind how much love the people have for others and how much G-d they have in their hearts.

A New York Times article this Saturday titled “A Long Road From ‘Come By Here’ to ‘Kumbaya’” is about the song we all know for camp fires and strum guitars, but once was and still is a song about a Black people’s despair. The song lyrics call on heaven to help in a time of pain, …

November 19th, 2010

Thank you all so much for your prayers and heartfelt comments on my post “Questioning God.” While the holidays will definitely be a difficult time for my family, I’m confident we’ll make it through.

The evening of the funeral I stayed up late to watch the video premiere of Lady Antebellum’s music video for “Hello World,” which managed to put life back into perspective.

Not one to cry, the moving video brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that life is way too short to spend so much time grieving or taking things so seriously.

Instead, I wanted to make a difference.

Back in September, I donated 10 inches of my hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit that makes wigs for children suffering hair loss from any medical diagnosis. In my head I thought doing a good deed would result in good karma with the certainty that my cousin would get better. When she didn’t, I decided to put together a benefit concert in celebration of my website redesign and donate the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. The day Silvia passed away I was angry that good karma didn’t seem to exist for …

November 10th, 2010

Journalism school really makes me want to spend all my spare time reading and watching films. There is a difference in watching a documentary, for example, and then watching it through the lens of how it was made.



Friday, Carmel, who is the Muslim voice of reason at Busted Halo, and I went to see a film called A Jihad for Love, a documentary on gay Muslims. The filmmaker spent five and a half years on the film, traveling to 12 countries to get a wide range of stories. One lesbian Muslim he filmed took him two years to have her open up on camera. When the question was asked of the director, “What made you do this film?” he replied, “Well, I’m gay and I’m Muslim.”

In class, we are assigned to make two-minute video stories. That can be overwhelming enough. To see what this director, and other filmmakers, can accomplish – and the issues they can bring to light – leaves me in awe of what a good journalist can do. It could even change a religious landscape, one that has imprisoned, shunned or even murdered a homosexual in some communities, just a tiny bit. …

November 8th, 2010

I posted earlier how excited I was to leave California (after an awesome time with my friends), and return to Brooklyn refreshed. It was a rough week back in New York. It was busy and stressful with work down to the final hour before Shabbat, when instead of emailing I should have been getting dressed for dinner.

I was invited to the Pinson family of Iyyun for Shabbat dinner and was so excited to finally have the opportunity to join them in their home. My friend came along and I was so happy when I found out a young couple I have become friendly with from the ‘hood was joining as well. Let me start off by saying that the Pinson home is adorable, just like the Rabbi’s wife, Rochie, and their beautiful children. Every dish (mostly vegan) was incredible, from the salads to the sweet potato-squash soup, to the teriyaki salmon and “creamed” spinach. It was so wonderful to feel taken care of, like I was at home. At the dinner table I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world and that Shabbat was really what life was about – as if the rest of the …

November 1st, 2010

In case you didn’t catch it in my last post, I was in California visiting some friends from New York.  What a long trip it was.  There are two things I learned from my ten (10!!!) days away from Brooklyn:

1. Just because you go on a trip doesn’t make it a vacation.

2. I love my Jewish community where I live.

When I left NY for a spontaneous trip to Cali, friends were shocked, jealous, excited and expecting me to come back with a tan.  No such tan happened.

I loved the opportunity to spend time with my gracious friends and hosts who took care of me, but I found myself really missing Brooklyn.  I missed being able to walk everywhere.  I missed the cafes and bars lining the avenues.  I missed Prospect Park on sunny days.  I even missed seeing the mothers pushing strollers down the street.

But what I also found myself missing was my Jewish community that has welcomed me from Day 1.  I felt uneasy being away from my synagogue for two shabbats and couldn’t wait for the calming joy I knew I’d feel my first shabbat back in New York.

Life has a funny …

October 30th, 2010

This week I locked myself out of my apartment. I locked myself out and immediately went on survival mode. I slipped through a fence, climbed over a tree, up a fire escape only to find myself teased by the slightly open window behind unyielding locked bars. I rang the doorbells of the other two apartments consistently with no luck. I convinced the mailman to at least let me in the building. And then I sat on the stairs and thought, and thought hard.

Photo Credit: Josh Swieringa

Photo Credit: Josh Swieringa

To my luck, the girl who lives upstairs was home sick and let me in to make calls and emails. All I had in my possession were car keys — no license, no money, no phone. I was starving without a dollar in my pocket. Instead of eating leftovers, I roamed around town, waiting for my roommate Farrah to return without being able to reach her if and when she did.

I felt homeless. I wasn’t scared because I knew, eventually, I would return to my cozy apartment, back on my mac finishing up my school work. But for those few hours that I didn’t have anything but a friendly neighbor and a …

October 28th, 2010

So just a few days ago I posted on how I’ve been feeling a bit, well, unsatisfied. These moments of dissatisfaction just peek up out of nowhere, usually when I see someone with more than me, and I cringe at the thought that this is the type of person I am. More embarrassing to admit is that I just wrote a story on a women’s homeless shelter, and am working on another story on crime and abuse, and yet don’t feel any more grateful in my life than I feel unsatisfied by seeing the other side.

This is completely unhealthy. I know this for a fact.

A few weeks earlier I picked up a book called The Art of Possibility from my (ex) boyfriend’s, and decided maybe today would be a good day to read it. I know that I should be making some sort of “what I’m grateful for” list but that seems to be such a time suck. Maybe even a little bit too sentimental for my personality. So I have avoided that at all costs. I also know that these feelings are all a part of my being too hard on myself. And so when I skimmed …

October 25th, 2010

I’m about to say something that may shock everyone. I am hardly ever satisfied. When I think I am, I soon after am no longer. It’s a disease that has hit 3 of every 4 Americans (statistic made up).

I’m not going to lie. It’s difficult for me when close friends and family are on the side of the haves, and I instead am debating if I should sell my car just to make $3,000. It can be difficult to see them move into expensive apartments and homes, pay for fancy dinners and buy whatever it is they’d like. These are people, after all, who were for a very long time on the same playing field as I was. Could I be there too? I suppose I could. But I’m not.

After hearing about my friend’s raise or after seeing my cousin’s stunning new apartment, it is difficult for me to not gulp and worry that I might be just a little crazy. I am after all paying to do what it is I love. I am paying someone else to work my ass off.  Why not instead find a job that will just provide for me what I love, …

October 15th, 2010

Every Saturday Jews in synagogues all over the world read the Torah portion of the week, where another section of the Old Testament is read. While we are reading a different story each week, it is believed that there is a specific energy that exists for the week as well.

The portion that will be read this Saturday is called “Lech Lecha” where G-d says to Abraham, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” (12:1)

Rabbi DovBer Pinson of Iyyun sent this Dvar Torah this week that I’d like to share with you:

Thus begins the journey of Avraham, beginning with the leaving of his “home land” and the place of his comfort zone, and journeying to the place of his destiny.

Avraham is invited to take this incredible journey of becoming a great and influential man, an invitation to self actualize and deeply discover the essence of his being. To do so, he must leave three things – his ‘land,’ ‘birthplace,’ and ‘father’s house.’

These three represent the things that we use as an excuse to stay inflexible and unmoving.

‘Your land’ refers to …

October 15th, 2010

It has happened to all of us. You hear a song that takes you back to a specific time and place. Whether it be your childhood, college or an experience that has drastically changed your life, for the good or the bad, you’re transformed back into that moment in time.

Last weekend Monica and I worked from home and she played music from her Gaslight Anthem Pandora station (we’re obsessed with this Jersey band so much so that I think we’ve convinced Farrah to come out to their next show). While some obscure bands came up that we never heard of, I was ecstatic when Jimmy Eat World’s “A Praise Chorus” came on.

“Are you gonna live your life wonderin’ standing in the back lookin’ around?
Are you gonna waste your time thinkin’ how you’ve grown up or how you missed out?
Things are never gonna be the way you want.
Where’s it gonna get you acting serious?
Things are never gonna be quite what you want.
Even at 25, you gotta start sometime.

Someone’s gonna ask you what it’s all about
Stick around nostalgia won’t let you down
Someone’s gonna ask you what it’s all about
Whatcha gonna

October 11th, 2010

I met a man this weekend at the Fort Greene Flea Market who explained everything to me, everything.photo

“With vintage, there is an imperfection,” he said. “They want the mirror that has a scar.”

In his retro sunglasses and what appeared to be fisherman suit, he told me the Chinese proverb: You’re not a human being until you take care of another human being.

He said this very much applies to people who take care of things too; people who want to preserve a certain quality to the items they possess, who hold onto the intrinsic value of that object. This man sells what he calls “objects of the past” and asks “What’s the fascination with new?”

So isn’t that why we’re here at Busted Halo? Aren’t we looking for that thing in life that has intrinsic value, aren’t we looking for something we care for and believe in enough that we want to preserve it? Doesn’t that explain religion a whole lot?

The rusted pages and the aged smell of a Torah from another generation will never compare to the latest books at Barnes & Noble. Neither will the findings of new science. It’s not the facts I’m looking …

October 6th, 2010

Early this morning, CNN.com peaked my interest with one of their top news stories. The teaser read:

“Victor Perez had been glued to TV coverage of the abduction of an 8-year-old girl in Fresno, California. Soon afterwards, he saw the suspect’s truck, then a little girl inside. What he did next made all the difference.”

After watching the video of Perez explaining what he did, I was in awe by the chain of events.

This man didn’t make it to work that day since rain made his day job cutting wine grapes difficult. Instead, he was watching news anchors describe a young girl’s abduction. He then went outside and recognized the van they mentioned in the news report drive by and hopped in his own truck to follow it, soon realizing the girl was inside, eventually bringing her to safety.

“I thank God that He put me here to help out that little girl,” Victor Perez said.

“It is truly a miracle of God that she is with us today,” Police Chief Jerry Dyer said in the CNN article. “We beat the odds today.”

Do you think it was divine intervention?…

September 30th, 2010

I’m about to turn into a pumpkin soon.  In less than 3 hours I will light candles symbolizing the start of a holiday, and that means unplugging.  Correct, no phone for me.  No email.  No touching of electricity, no spending money, and no public transportation.  For 73 hours.  The last two days of Sukkot are about to start, with tonight being Shemini Atzeret, and tomorrow night Simchat Torah.  Shabbat follows immediately after.   There will be dancing and singing and eating and drinking, as this holiday period is known as zman simchateinu – the time of our happiness.

So I feel a little conflicted.  On the one hand, I am dreading the third time this month where I can’t use my phone for 73 hours straight.  I find myself saying, “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over so I can be a normal person again.”  I wind up thinking about all the work I could be doing in that whole time and the events I have to miss as a result of it.  And I feel really guilty about it.  Because on the other hand, Simchat Torah is one of my favorite holidays.  All the singing and dancing …

September 30th, 2010

music-as-religionFor as long as I can remember, I’ve turned to music when questioning life and making major decisions. While some find solace in prayer, going to church or synagogue, I simply go to my iTunes playlist.


To some.

For me, not so much. My criteria is simple.

Major life questioning: Switchfoot

Simply unwinding: John Mayer

Nostalgic for my childhood: Backstreet Boys

And my most recent addition:

Sheer disbelief and being thankful: Pat Benatar

The last category is currently my favorite. You see, last month I interviewed the infamous Pat Benatar. The original “Heartbreaker” and the singer who will forever be known with her declaration, “Love Is a Battlefield.”

I’m still in disbelief myself.

A few days after my interview I got word that a friend of a friend had a pair of tickets to her New York show. Naturally I went.

While my avid church-going grandmother will surely roll over in her grave as I type this, I had more of a religious experience standing a few feet from the stage at Nokia Theatre than I have ever witnessed in a church. As Pat Benatar sang her second song, “Shadows of the Night” an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness enveloped …

September 25th, 2010

Is it ironic that the most Jewish thing I do is contribute to a Catholic website? I once did a lot more. I worked Jewish, I freelanced Jewish, my entire social life was pretty much Jewish. Not so much the case this year, and I’m kind of relieved.

Some of you who have read my blog in the past know I went on this sort of religious rollercoaster. From not growing up religious at all, to wanting to marry a rabbi and wear long skirts, I pretty much tested the waters wherever I could. And then a funny thing happened, I went back to exactly how I always was and who I always wanted to be, and couldn’t be happier.

In journalism school, where I am now, we don’t exactly get to go home early on Friday to prepare for Shabbat, or take off for non-high holidays such as Sukkot as we did in my old job. While Farrah participated in Sukkot services and celebrations, I was working on a video for class about cat callers. It became clear to me that by doing what I love, something else will have to give.

I look at the successes of my …

September 23rd, 2010

farrahThere comes a time in everyone’s life when they consider online dating.  “Too religious” for JDate (I keep Shabbat and kosher), but not necessarily religious enough for Frumster (I’ve been known to sunbathe on Shabbat), I often struggle with which box to check and which label to apply to my Judaism.  Am I somewhere on the line that spans widely in Modern Orthodoxy?  While applying that label loosely, it always feels like a sweater that never fit right.

Having started my religious journey nine years ago, I’ve had the privilege of slipping in and out of various circles that range from Chabad houses and Upper West Side “fashion show” Shabbats to Kabbalah Centres and soul searchers who are a little lost now and then.

See, I know the lingo now, and I secretly get great joy out of surprising religious men who stick out like sore thumbs in Brooklyn bars with my knowledge of halacha (Jewish law) while I’m wearing clothing that isn’t modest.  The looks on their faces are priceless, and I see the cogs turning trying to figure out how I know the things I do and what brought me to this place.  They don’t come from where …

September 23rd, 2010

Lately, I’ve been struggling to explain my religion to my roommates. With all the Jewish holidays, where does Catholicism come in? Why do I believe the things I do and how do I translate my faith to them? Often, it’s everyday situations that test your beliefs. Last week was no exception.

On Thursday, Monica and I went to my friend’s concert in Brooklyn. Since I brought my car to New York for a few weeks I decided to drive. Whenever I park in an area I’m not familiar with I always type the cross streets in my phone, but we were close enough that I didn’t bother. Big mistake.

After watching a phenomenal performance by April Smith and the Great Picture Show, we left. Our plans for the night were to venture to Brooklyn Bowl, a hip concert venue/bowling alley where The Roots’ ?uestlove was djing.

Unfortunately, we never made it.

We walked to where we thought my car was but couldn’t find it. “Maybe I parked on the next block?” I asked Monica. It still wasn’t there. Trying hard not to panic, I called 311 to see if I misread a parking sign and my car was towed. …

September 21st, 2010

This video was shot by my friend Liz Nord for My Jewish Learning in Union Square in New York City to capture Sukkah City.  I hope it will help explain a little bit about the holiday of Sukkot and what a Sukkah is.  For more information about the contest and Sukkah City, visit their about page.  I actually didn’t know that a Sukkah could be built on top of a whale or a wagon.  Did you?…

September 12th, 2010

Apple with honey, by Shirley

Rosh Hashana came to me this year as one of those holidays we often forget, like President’s Day. Oh, it’s President’s Day? What happens on President’s Day?

I didn’t prepare. I didn’t think long and hard about what I hoped for the New Year. I didn’t ask anyone for forgiveness. And I definitely didn’t make any Rosh Hashana plans. I let the holiday come to me like I would hope all things will come to me, easily.

I aimlessly trusted that my roommate Farrah knows what she is doing (and she does!) and so I went to the shul she started going to here in Brooklyn. I pretty much fell in love with the place, if not for any other reason than the decorative branches above the ark or their overly-joyed Rebbetzin. We prayed, we ate, we met friends, we heard the sound of the Shofar. It was a typical celebration, but somehow not.

Farrah was a trooper who stayed through most of the services, where I picked and chose which I wanted to take part in. This year I didn’t feel guilty for either not going to service or for not going to all of service, which burnt me …

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