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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March 1st, 2012

When Monica first suggested that we look for an apartment with Annie over a year and a half ago, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing for me. I was concerned that my religious practices would be compromised in some way. I also wasn’t sure how I felt about living with someone I didn’t really know. But looking back on that time, it was all for nothing. I was given a gift of so many opportunities.

I wanted to leave Monica and Annie to the writing; I never saw myself as a blogger. I was merely a girl who would write poetry when compelled. Yet it was on this blog that I found an audience of people who were all seekers in some way –- like me –- no matter what faith we’re from. I felt like I had people supporting me at home, with Monica and Annie providing advice when I felt my understanding of my faith wavering, and being a sounding board of ideas, questions, and uncertainties about the future.  But the Busted Halo community also provided advice, asked questions, and reassured me that no matter what everything would be okay.

Busted Halo community, thank you. For …

February 27th, 2012

We’re now in the Jewish month of Adar.  It’s the month of the holiday called Purim, where the Jewish people were persecuted by King Achashveirosh and his evil official Haman [booooo (when the name Haman is read aloud from the Scroll of Esther, it is customary to make noise and stomp to blot out his name)], but were saved by the merit of Queen Esther.

It’s said in the Talmud “Mi she’nichnas Adar, marbin b’simcha” – When Adar arrives we increase our joy.  Despite knowing this popular phrase, I was having trouble rejoicing.  I felt like I was holding on to some bad energy lately, and that was bothering me.  Really, really bothering me.  I had gone to hear a Rabbi speak at a friend’s house to hear some inspiring words, yet I couldn’t help but feel truly disconnected.  And that bothered me as well.  Where was this version of 5 years ago me who really felt like a spiritual being?

As a result, I have decided to make a shift in my way of thinking.  I’m working hard to bring more positivity in my life, and hopefully more spirituality.  I still believe that, like I told Monica and …

February 12th, 2012

It’s hard to believe nearly 18 months ago Monica, Farrah and I moved to Brooklyn. Remembering the fun times, it seems to have blown by. But, when looking back on each of our posts for this blog it seems like a lifetime ago. While I know each of us will admit this was a difficult task to take on, I’m glad we took the challenge.

As a result, we spent the majority of the last year questioning our faith, discovering what is most important, and sharing it with each other and Busted Halo readers. I think we all learned a little more about ourselves in the process too.

Before I met Monica in college I didn’t have any Jewish friends. So, when I moved in with her and Farrah I was quickly introduced to many new traditions and beliefs. I attended my first Shabbat when Farrah hosted one at the apartment and soon learned to steer clear of her kosher cookware. Farrah’s unwavering faith and my heart-to-heart talks with Monica made me question my Catholic upbringing and the majority of my posts have reflected this as well as intertwined my love of music.

Writing for Busted Halo opened me up …

February 6th, 2012

Full disclosure: I never thought much about prayer before Farrah, Monica and I started this blog. Praying wasn’t something I did on a daily basis and I certainly didn’t openly talk about it. But, a change of events and a new job opportunity has made me reflect on the power of prayer.

When I was in Madrid this past summer covering World Youth Day and went to confession for the first time in 10 years, the priest told me I should pray every day and talk to God as if he was a friend. I had trouble doing this at first as my prayers and thoughts in my head would ramble. So, I decided to write them down instead and found this to make more sense.

Going to church each week made it easier to pray and reflect and though I often prayed I felt weird asking for things. I didn’t want to be selfish when so many people were worse off than me, even though it became clear that I needed a new job or to take on more freelance work to remain living in Brooklyn.

After talking with a friend, she stressed that its not wrong to ask …

January 31st, 2012

Earlier this month, I wrote about one of my resolutions to go to church every Sunday. After doing some research I was surprised to learn that there are five Catholic churches within walking distance of my apartment. Now I really don’t have an excuse to not attend.

However, when I woke up New Years Day after hosting a New Years Eve party the night before, church was the last place I wanted to be. But, when Monica told me one of our friends woke up early to head back to Jersey for church I knew I couldn’t complain, especially since the Mass I planned on attending was right across the street.

So, I went.

But the next Sunday I didn’t.

Feeling that Catholic guilt I’ve heard so much about but never experienced firsthand, I decided to find a Mass to go to during the week. Determined not to break my resolution I realized while attending every Sunday is ideal, sometimes life gets in the way of things. But, that doesn’t mean I have to forfeit church the entire week.

Freelancing from home gives me the flexibility to take a break during lunch and head to the 12:15 service, which I …

January 15th, 2012

As my friend Esther calls it, what occurred a month ago was the shave heard round the world. Yes, famed former Chasidic reggae star Matisyahu, aka Matthew Miller, did what the general public saw as a drastic act, a visible break from Chasidic Judaism, leaving some to question if Matisyahu was even Jewish anymore.

I saw the photo in the morning via comedian Ari Teman‘s comment on Facebook.  Yes, it was surprising, and it took me a minute to realize what I was looking at, but I don’t think I gave it more than 5 minutes of thought.  So he shaved off his beard.  So what?  Yet mine didn’t seem to be the popular opinion.  Soon posts about Matisyahu’s beard, or lack thereof, were all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Gossip sites and news outlets were reporting on it.  Fans were in a panic, as if Matisyahu’s beard was responsible for his talent.  Religious Jews were scared that he was headed “off the derech (path)”, questioning his observance.  Even my friends were asking if I heard about it and what I thought this meant.  My only concerns were for his three young boys – that they should be …

January 15th, 2012

Happy (belated) New Year! 2012 is finally here and each person I come across has such a positive feeling towards what this year will bring, as do I. I’ve made a few resolutions this year and while I’ve failed to achieve some years prior (ie. learn guitar), others I’m determined to keep. This year, one of my goals is going to Mass each week.

A rather lofty resolution, after writing about and questioning my faith over the past year-and-a-half on this very blog, I’ve been reflecting on a lot of the comments I’ve received, many of which have advised me to spend time in church every Sunday. I admit I’m still conflicted on why it’s a necessity to go to Mass each week, especially when my friends or family ask me why this was my major resolution of the year. But, today it all came to me, fittingly while sitting in the Catholic church a block away from my apartment.

After the priest talked a great deal about vocation and how important it is that more young Catholics consider a career with the Church, he went on to explain how Jesus often asks us what we’re seeking from life. Which, …

December 31st, 2011

Earlier this week, a friend sent me an article that linked to two YouTube videos Ben Breedlove posted a few days before his death on Christmas Day. At just 18-years-old, Breedlove lost his life to his battle with a heart condition. Having cheated death several times, Breedlove posted his thoughts and fears when he approached that “big bright light” above him.

What struck me most about Breedlove is that he is just like all of us. Though he had a severe heart condition, he hoped that “I could be the same as everybody else. But that is one thing that I learned to live with and accept.”

At the age of 4, he cheated death for the first time and recalls when he saw that “big bright light.”

“I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. And I couldn’t help but smile,” he wrote. “I had no worries at all, like nothing else in the world mattered. And kept smiling. I can’t even describe the peace, how peaceful it was.”

In his second video, he discusses the third time he cheated death, only a few weeks before Christmas. His heart stopped for three minutes and he says, “When people’s …

December 27th, 2011

I said goodbye to my Birthright group in Ben Gurion airport outside of Tel Aviv.  I was a little sad to see them go, but happy to see my friends.   I arrived at my friend’s apartment and after 10 days of already being in the country, that’s when a feeling of jet lag started to creep in.

Life got pretty normal.  While many just assumed I was on vacation for a month, I dove into catching up on work and finding cafes suitable for the freelance life.  Of course I went out, saw friends, ate my way through Israel, and eventually made myself talk to strangers to practice my Hebrew.

It was nice to be back, but I have to be honest – I didn’t feel torn the way I usually did.  I was definitive about where I wanted to live.  I missed Brooklyn.  It had become home, and I missed my synagogue and my community.  I missed my friends and the potluck lunches in the park and my bike.  I missed cheap drinks and bars that weren’t pretentious.  I missed bodega coffee for a dollar – in Israel my pockets were emptying from the equivalent of $4 coffee.

Friends …

December 27th, 2011

It’s been an exhausting 16 months, to say the least. No one told me it would be this hard to go back to school. I actually thought it would be more party and fun and less heartache and headache. Many times I said I would quit. Thankfully, my closest friends and supporters rooted me along until just a week ago (phew!) I graduated.

It was in the New York Times Center where, with my mom, roommates, and my closest 90 friends graduating alongside me, I finished the marathon. It reminded me of that hilarious sign (see below) during the New York City Marathon that read, “No one made you do this.” That’s how I felt. That I finished something based purely on passion and a will to pursue a goal. No one made me do it.



Blame it on the holidays, or getting my social life back, but I am a strong believer that everything comes to an end when we’re ready for the next step to begin. Arianna Huffington had said that when we put our 10 percent in, G-d puts in the 90 percent. After so much hard work, I am surprisingly eager, excited and optimistic, …

December 21st, 2011

I haven’t been able to get into the Christmas spirit this year, which is strange for me. Maybe it’s because we didn’t decorate the apartment until yesterday. Or, possibly it’s because it hasn’t snowed enough yet. Either way, I haven’t even blasted holiday music around the apartment (shocker!).

All that changed this Friday when I saw the New York Pops performance of “John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey Wish You a Swingin’ Christmas.” Putting a twist on the holiday classics we know and love with so much energy and prowess, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a rare and special treat to be seated in the audience at Carnegie Hall for the first time.

The New York Pops performed a truly touching performance of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” intertwined with “Seasons of Love.” Pizzarelli sang powerfully the part of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” while his wife, Molaskey sang “Seasons of Love.”

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I’m sure …

November 30th, 2011

Last week, I wrote about being thankful for having faith. I found it serendipitous that a few days later, when attending the commissioning of my cousin Ray as a pastor in New Jersey at Christian Community Chapel, his entire sermon was about faith.

After he handed out packets of mustard (something I’ve never witnessed before at church), he addressed the congregation with his message, appropriately titled “The Possibilities of Mustard.”

I soon learned that mustard dates back to the Romans who first started experimenting with the seeds. During the 4th and 5th century, recipes containing mustard were found in Roman cookbooks. It’s obvious where you use mustard: on food. You wouldn’t use it as oil in your car or as hair gel (pretty disgusting when you think about that). Just like mustard, faith has it’s rightful place, Ray said.

Quoting Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Ray’s message struck a chord.

“If faith doesn’t work its way into the core of who you are, you are not walking in faith. Faith is day-to-day trusting God and God’s word knowing that even if you don’t see it or understand it, He’s wise and He’s good, and He’s right and …

November 25th, 2011

As Thanksgiving arrives, it’s hard not to think about what we’re thankful for. Perhaps Madison Square Garden is an unlikely spot to feel gratitude, but I was overcome with gratefulness Monday night while covering Taylor Swift’s performance.

After I picked up my press tickets for the show I was shocked to find out that my seats were three rows from the stage. For over two hours, I was transported into Taylor’s fairytale world where dreams come true, Prince Charming sweeps you off your feet and, most importantly, love exists.

At a time when Occupy Wall Street is all I hear about, I’m continuously worried if I’ll be able to pay my rent next month, and the scary realization that I’m now much closer to 30-years-old than 20, I’m thankful for everything Taylor Swift represents. A hopeless romantic and optimist like myself, it’s a blessing to know someone like her exists in today’s society. A respected role model, her songwriting alone is like none other. The ability she has to have her listener relate is a feat in itself and something I wrote about in my MusiCares submission, “Changing Lives One Song at a Time.”

Earlier this month, I …

November 21st, 2011

As I said in my earlier post, Birthright Israel is a free trip for young Jews who are 18 -26 years old (Christian and Catholic philanthropists ought to start a similar program as well!).  I went on my Birthright trip in 2003 and I can honestly say that my life has never been the same.  I was bit by the Israel bug.  I instantly fell in love with the landscape, the nature hikes, the people, the language…everything.  So much so that I felt like 10 days in Israel wasn’t enough – I needed to go back and I needed to go right away.  So 2 months later off I went on a similar, but heavily subsidized trip.  We were given more freedom, as this trip was designated for young campus leaders who had been to Israel before.  We had been there and were trusted to know enough about where we could and couldn’t go on our own.  While it was a different trip than my Birthright trip (and included much more promiscuous behavior), it continued to solidify my love of the country and the people in it.  I wanted more and I let everyone know it.

The following June after …

November 10th, 2011

It’s been a while since you’ve last heard from me, so I’d like to bring you up to speed. When I last posted I had recently broken up with (ex-)boyfriend. End of August, it was the perfect time for a change. And that’s when I learned that sometimes life just happens. The Universe does what you don’t even need to ask it to.

A friend who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) and works for a Birthright Israel trip provider, asked me out of the blue if I wanted to staff a trip that was leaving in a week and a half. For those of you who don’t know, Taglit-Birthright Israel is an organization that sends Jewish 18-26 year olds to Israel on a free 10-day trip. It’s an experience of a lifetime, and while I went on the trip 8 years ago, I had never gone back as staff.

I partly blame that on selfishness. I mean, if I’m going to be in Israel I want to hang out with my friends, right? But this time it was different. I finally felt ready to contribute positively to someone else’s experience of Israel. And I needed to get out of New …

October 31st, 2011

Last week, Monica posted her reaction to a film we saw together, “Mister Rogers & Me.” I interviewed filmmaker Benjamin Wagner before the New York premiere and was excited to finally see the film he had been working on for the past seven years.  As a result, Monica and I walked out of the theater inspired and with a new outlook on life. Below are 10 takeaway quotes that left a mark on me.

1. “Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”

The premise behind the film, when Wagner explained his position at MTV, Mister Rogers simply responded, “You know Benjamin, I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.” In the end, life isn’t about material things. It’s about the relationships you have with one another and yourself.

2. “There’s something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Throughout the film, those closest to Rogers explained that he left a great impact after their first encounter. His ability to focus on the person he was talking to as if they were the only person that mattered to him was unlike any other. When you’re …

October 25th, 2011


Annie was so kind to take me to see a documentary last night called Mister Rogers and Me. The premise was about these two filmmakers, Chris and Ben Wagner, who actually were neighbors with Fred Rogers, the “Won’t you be my neighbor” man himself. What the filmmakers wanted the world to know is that the person on camera was the same person off camera.

The film could have been a quick look through the life of the man’s career on and off the 40-year run show, but instead was an 80-minute life lesson that I hope to take with me as I go through my own life.  Here are the lessons that stuck with me the most and that I want to share with you:


1. TV can be a congregation

Nothing is good and nothing is bad in itself. It’s how we choose to use it. While Mister Rogers was a religious man, attending church once a week wearing his brown cardigan sweater, he once said that TV is his church. It’s a reminder that we can do good anywhere – in our homes, in our job, in traffic. It’s how we choose to use it.…

October 19th, 2011

For five years, Gilad Shalit was held captive by Hamas for fighting for his country, Israel. After the global fight to get him back – the art work, the protests, the diplomacy and the hundreds of Facebook users who put his photo as theirs, he returns home. This week is the celebration of Sukkot, a holiday we celebrate our good harvest. And for an exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, Israel got their harvest as one soldier returns.

Yesterday, I saw a performance by the soulful singer India Arie together with Idan Raichel, the Justin Timberlake of Israel (only a very different kind of music). Together they performed songs in Hebrew, sang one another’s lyrics and celebrated for a brief moment the return of Shalit. While the Beacon Theater was filled seat to seat mostly with Jewish and African American New Yorkers, it was incredible to see the global effort that was taking place on that stage. Despite color, religion, sexual preference, background, the two brought in artists from all walks of life to join them on the stage. They hope next year they will have Palestinian musicians on their stage too.

Just to get a glimpse of how magical they …

October 7th, 2011

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a journalist. As a writer my dream has always been to help people. Whether its to allow them a brief escape from the struggles of everyday life, or to introduce them to a new band they never heard of, it’s really always been the same goal.

After I received much animosity from an article I wrote last year I’ve been scared to write so candidly. To be shunned by the people who matter most to you is a feeling I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Although it was impossible to imagine at the time, the good outweighed the bad in the end.

That article garnered over 300 comments from people who related and shared their own personal tales with me. It also pushed me to move to Brooklyn …

September 30th, 2011

When people ask me  how I came to be a music journalist I have a few stories. Usually it consists of a combination of:

a. I’ve always loved to write

b. I grew up going to concerts

c. I realized I could combine both these passions when I saw “Almost Famous” for the first time

d. From the moment I covered my first show (Gavin DeGraw for my college paper) I was hooked

But, when someone asks me what it is I love most about music (as my roommate Monica did recently) I’m often stumped. It’s really not a difficult question, its just that it’s so hard to pin it down to one thing. However, while seeing Coldplay up close last week and covering the show for Rolling Stone, (two dreams accomplished in one night) and hearing one song in particular, it all hit me:

What I love most is the ability music as to take you back to a specific moment in time.

As Coldplay began “Clocks,” I was instantly transported to senior year of high school when my crush at the time recommended the song to me. It’s funny actually, how the moment frontman Chris Martin began …

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