Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bubby’s Menorah

by Janet Ruth Falon (Elkins Park, PA)

I never scrape off the melted wax
on my mother’s mother’s menorah.
I like the layers of color
and the textures of time
and underneath, the tarnish of greying age.

My mother, when she visits,
picks it off with her varnished fingernails
and the probing tines of a fork,
and then polishes the menorah with pink wax,
to a sparkle that again reflects flame.

Janet Ruth Falon, the author of The Jewish Journaling Book (Jewish Lights, 2004), teaches a variety of writing classes — including journaling and creative expression — at many places, including the University of Pennsylvania. She leads a non-fiction writing group and works with individual students, and is continuing to write Jewish-themed readings for what she hopes will become a book, In the Spirit of the Holidays.


Filed under American Jewry, Family history, poetry


by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)

I obsess about my daily concerns,
as if they were matters of great importance,
debating if this or that choice
makes much of a difference
in the overall scheme of things.
I wonder if people like me,
or why I continually lose things,
or whether my skills have diminished all at once.
Then, along comes Hurricane Irene,
shifting sand and water with a blustery blast,
moving car and house with comedic effect,
and banishing me to my TV set
to watch power outages and flooded streets.
I sit in the glow of the screen,
and realize that nature and I
have little to do with each other,
a further demonstration that
God and I are separate entities,
each doing what he or He wants
under trying circumstances.

The author of twelve books for young adults, Mel Glenn has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years.  Lately, he’s been writing poetry, and you can find his most recent poems in a new YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy,  edited by M. Jerry Weiss.

If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit:

1 Comment

Filed under American Jewry, poetry

The First REAL Connection!

by Cheri Scheff Levitan (Atlanta, GA)

Filling in bits and pieces of the Sheff Family Tree has become a daily activity. I easily spend an average of 2 hours each weeknight — and goodness knows how much time on the weekends – searching for information and clues about family members.

Late one Friday afternoon, when I should have been preparing Shabbat dinner, I was doing some last minute sleuthing and uncovered the name of another cousin, a Deanne Ruth Sheff. I added her to the tree and, lo and behold, learned that her name appeared in someone else’s family tree, too! Could it be? Is someone else somehow connected to my tree? Is this real live family? I quickly sent an email to “Tree Owner”:

Hi! I think we’re related. Deanna Ruth Sheff’s grandfather was Barnet (Barney) Sheff. He was my great-grandfather’s (Abraham) brother. Deanna and my dad, Stan Scheff, were 2nd cousins. Who are you? Do you know any of the Sheff family history?

Hope to hear from you,

Nervously, I waited for a reply. Mercifully, it came only a few hours later:

I am Kenneth Howard Platter. My mother was Deanna Ruth Sheff. I can provide you with plenty of family history as I am close with my cousin Debra Goodman who knows quite a bit. Our families all grew up together on Lotten Street in Brookline. You can call or e-mail me. So what is your name and where do you live?

I let out a loud “woo hoo!” David, my husband, thought I was crazy. I couldn’t help it. I had finally made a real connection. After months of sifting through records of deceased family members, I would talk to someone who was alive. I was elated! Now I could get somewhere with this project. A cousin of my very own who has information about the family. It was too late to call Ken that very second, but I was thrilled by the thought that we’d speak before the weekend was out.

I had to get it all straight in my mind: Abraham and Barnet were brothers; Grandpa Bill and Samuel were first cousins; Deanna Ruth and Stan (my dad) were second cousins; Ken and I are third cousins. Got it. Crystal clear. But was there anything to learn about Ken before I called him?

I snooped around on the computer looking for birth dates, names of siblings, etc. All of a sudden, a city directory entry showed me a past residence for the Platters. Could this be true? Had the Platter family really lived at 29 Michelle Lane in Randolph? My family had lived at 31 Michelle Lane, directly next door, until the summer of 1968. What are the odds of that? Was I imagining things? Had we been friends? Had we known that we were cousins?

It was time to call my parents to tell them what I’d been up to and get Ken Platter on the phone!


Cheri Scheff Levitan started researching the Sheff Family tree in January 2010. She shares her tale on her blog, Finding Me…a personal journey (, where this excerpt first appeared in slightly different form. It’s reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.


Filed under American Jewry, Family history

In the Beginning

by Arlyn Miller (Glencoe, IL)

Don’t Call it Night
The Hill of Evil Council
Falls the Shadow
The Unloved
Heir to the Glimmering World.

Inside, Outside –
The Winds of War
The Human Stain,
A God In Ruins.

Exit Ghost.
Undue Influence
Letting Go.
The River Breaks Up,
Blood Cries.

The Healer
Between Two Worlds,
Trial & Triumph
Invisible Mending.

The Open Cage
The Liberated Bride
The Hope–
Open Heart,
Everything is Illuminated.

In the Beginning:
The Book of Light
A Perfect Peace.

As writer-in-residence for Am Shalom, a reform synagogue in Glencoe, IL, Arlyn Miller oversaw a literary column for the synagogue’s monthly newsletter.  The column– “Meelem” (Words)– chronicled synagogue life over the course of the year. One evening, as she was perusing the synagogue library bookshelves, Arlyn was inspired to write “In the Beginning,” a found poem which is comprised entirely of titles from books in the fiction section.

A found poem is created from snippets of text found in other sources and pieced together.  If the idea intrigues you, you might try looking in the Tanakh, a siddur, Jewish magazines, newspapers, fiction or creative non-fiction books for inspiration.  Share what you find with your local Jewish community or with The Jewish Writing Project.

A poet, essayist and journalist, Arlyn also teaches creative writing in schools and in the community through Poetic License, Inc. and has recently launched Poetic License Press, which just released its inaugural publication, A Light Breakfast: poems suitable for breakfast reading. You can find out more about her work at:

“In the Beginning” appears in the July/August 2011 KOL, the newsletter of Am Shalom, Glencoe, IL. It’s reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Jewry, poetry