Barry Newman

Potpourri: Morsels of what’s going on around us

What’s being looked at today:

  • A proud chapter in professional sports has unfortunately been closed
  • How Tevya’s five unmarried daughters would fare as members of Generation Z
  • The incompatibility of hotel reviews and April showers

Bidding Farewell to a Legend

Fans of the National Basketball League (NBA) who are part of the Baby Boomer Generation was saddened to hear that the great Boston Celtic Center, Bill Russell, recently passed away. Among the many well-deserved tributes and accolades he received was the honor of having the number 6, the number he wore on his uniform jersey, retired from use from this point onward not only by the Celtics by throughout the NBA as well. Although my allegiance has been – and always will be- to the New York Knicks, I have much admiration for and fond memories of Russell’s brilliant dominance on the court. That he basically revolutionized the concept of team defense and made it into an essential component of the game is but only one of his many achievements. What was indeed impossible to overlook was that despite his great height he was quick, superbly balanced and demonstrated remarkable athleticism.

It’s worth pointing out that even though Russell had very little contact with Jews as he was growing up, he developed a very strong bond with the Celtics’ Jewish coach, Red Auerbach. It’s not at all unlikely that Auerbach, a proud if not religious Jew, had a great influence on Russel’s attitude toward equality and race relations. The Jewish and African-American communities in the United States often stood side by side in the struggle against social injustice; the respect and esteem the two had for each other is not at all surprising, and not only because of the accolades they earned as a legendary basketball team.

There is, though, a bit of context called for, particularly those who might be no more than marginally familiar with American sports. Two other professional athletes have had their player numbers retired from use throughout the sport they had their careers in: Jackie Robinson (baseball) and Wayne Gretzky (hockey). While Russell and Gretzky were most certainly pillars of the game in which they performed and truly merit having their numbers retired from use, Jackie Robinson is an unparalleled beacon of accomplishment and his number 42 should be enshrined in a Temple of Professional Sport, should such an institution ever be established. As the first African-American to be part of a Major League Baseball team, the pressure on him to be successful was enormous. He in fact exceeded all hope and expectation to the extent that, in 1962, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The superstar LeBron James is currently wearing Russell’s number 6, and has been given “grandfather” entitlement to the number for the duration of his playing days. I wonder how James feels about this. It would not be at all unlikely that he, too, will deserve having his number retired from use. Russell, alas, beat him to it.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

The twenty-something population of Generation Z is considerably different that those of the previous generations. In the waning decades of the previous century, there was still a more or less defined familial structure – husband/daddy earned the bread, wife/mommy toasted it for breakfast. Women have, thankfully, escaped from this stereotype and are now fully engaged within the entire professional and political spectrum. Standards of suitable partners for life have, understandably, been modified to reflect this revised paradigm creating, as has been  pointed in various Internet forums, something of a crisis in the dating world, particularly in the world of the modern orthodox community.

That a successful career and happy marriage are by no means mutually exclusive, they nonetheless involve challenges, compromises and adjustments that were unheard of forty or fifty years ago. Are young adults of today setting requirements that are unreasonable? Maybe, but then again, the high rate of divorce cannot be ignored. Marrying for the sake of marrying, as the statistics reflect, just doesn’t work.

Even more troubling is the tendency of many young Jewish couples – bona fide, halachically kosher Jews – deciding to marry without the involvement of the rabbinate and forsaking the splendor and significance of the Jewish wedding ceremony. Cyprus, it seems, has become the New Vegas, at least as uncomplicated marriage goes. This means, of course, that we’re no more than a step or two away from having civil marriage implemented in Israel, something that will prove to be nothing less than tragic for the continuity of the Jewish nation.

Let’s, though, think optimistically, and cling to the hope that somehow these challenges will somehow work themselves out. How, then, do we solve the problem of singles not becoming doubles. As a firm believer of bashert, I have little trust in shadchanim or indirect matchmaking. Two souls that were meant to be together will somehow bump into each other without the need for third party intervention. This is not to say that a nudge here or there would not be unhelpful. For example, I recently suggested the possibility of adapting the idea of supermarket dating which was, some years ago, popular throughout the world. The idea, unfortunately, never took off. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot (

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella

I came across an article not long ago that focused on a study proving a theory that the less sunny and bright it is outside, the less complimentary are hotel reviews. Rainy days, in other words, dampened not only our clothing but our spirits as well. Is this, though, as novel as the authors of the study would have us believe. I suspect that a causal relationship between weather and mood has been documented as far back as the Tanakh, although I cannot, off the top of my head, cite specific references. Others, no doubt, will have little difficulty quoting relevant chapters and verses.

What does immediately come to mind, though, is the literary Ishmael, the seafarer created by Herman Melville in Moby Dick. Ishmael had, by his own admission, bouts of restlessness and despondency, which, at times, was characterized as a “damp, drizzly November” in his soul. During those imagined feelings of cold, nasty rainfalls, he would have to intentionally restrain himself from knocking the hats off the heads of innocent bystanders. It is not difficult to imagine that same Ismael, more than a century and a half later, submitting offensive online reviews during periods of churlishness due to inclement weather.

Without suggesting that the referenced study and analyses are in any flawed, I’d be curious to know the time frame in which the data was collected, and if the Corona-related period might have had some measurable effect on the content of the online reviews that formed the basis of the rendered conclusions. It can be assumed that during rainy days there is a greater likelihood of remaining at home and responding to these online requests for reviews and evaluations; the restraints imposed by the pandemic might have resulted in similar findings. It might be prudent to ensure that rain, which we sorely need and pray for throughout much of the fall and winter seasons, is not being solely blamed, unfairly, for any negativity toward hotels, restaurants or medical facilities.

Someone should nonetheless clue in Israeli hotel and restaurant owners of this study and advise them that extra care should be taken to provide top of the line products and service during foul weather. If in fact there is a direct correlation between the falling rain and unsatisfactory reviews, some additional effort to achieve excellence is most assuredly called for. As the depression-era song suggests, raindrops just very well may be pennies from heaven.

About the Author
Born and raised on New York’s Lower East Side, Barry's family made aliya in 1985. He worked as a Technical Writer for most of his professional life (with a brief respite for a venture in catering) and currently provides ad hoc assistance to amutot in the preparation of requests for grants. And not inconsequently, he is a survivor of stage 4 bladder cancer, and though he doesn't wake up each day smelling the roses, he has an appreciation of what it means to be alive.
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