THE PRACTICE OF SECULAR JUDAISM- Social Erasure of Secular Judaism in Pew Institute Research

Digest

In this paper I shall explore the following: 1) The secular humanistic Jewish congregant. 2) The secular Jew with no synagogue affiliation. 3) The secular cyber Jew.

One of the components, which have given sustainability to diaspora Jews, is a facet of Jewry that perhaps deserves greater recognition. It is secular Judaism.

Secular Judaism contributes to the success of keeping Judaism alive, particularly here in the U.S.

The Pew Institute is the prevailing provider for information, which gives polling analysis on many topics, including religion.

If the Pew study is to be used as a measuring device to determine the status of American Jewry, then when we examine their conclusions, we should not be disheartened by the percentages of religious Jews. Instead, we should look at the 30% quantification of “no-denomination” and the 6% of “other” as a distinction that 36% of Jews are still Jews. [1]

The delineation that they are non-religious does not mean they are not Jews. It means the non-religious or non-affiliates are being viewed in the context of not practicing, thus creating a notion in the Jewish community that they are losing Jews.

My paper aims to categorically reject the over-used terminology of “non-affiliate” to be reconstituted as “secular.” This distinction is critical to bridging gaps within Judaism. It is the difference between the practice of secular Judaism and the apathy of Judaism. Apathy is defined as the “lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.” Apathy is the only threat to American Jewry, not being a non-affiliate or non-religious. I will demonstrate that secular Judaism is not only an important branch of Judaism, but it may very well be the most important component to this very complex and intricate concept called Judaism.

I shall additionally create a comprehensive and distinct picture of secular Judaism that lives in the minds of Jews, but it is not being cultivated as a form of Jewish practice, much in the same way we envision religious practice. By harnessing the ideals behind secular Judaism we can provoke a Judaism that is as ancient as the Tanakh itself. If we can awaken the sleeping secular Jew, we can reinvigorate the global Jewish community by understanding and demonstrating how the practice of secular Judaism can and should be embraced by all Jews. By recognizing the value of secular Judaism, Jewish leaders can elevate that 36% into a new category that is rightfully quantified in future Pew studies as “secular Jews.”

Outreach

            It is no secret that religious Jews have spent years working on how to connect with Jews who no longer attend a synagogue. There are numerous organizations, programs, activities, trips and non-religious delights crafted to entice the non-religious Jew, back into the fold. The error in this ideology is that although a Jew may be willing to go on a sponsored trip to Israel or see a play that their nephew is in at their synagogue; it does not inspire the Jew to become an active Jew- at least active in the context of synagogue life. What about Jewish life? What are the attributes of an active Jew?

If we can remain in the context of secular Jews, then we must break down what it would mean to practice secular Judaism. The Pew Institute knows the term secular Jew, but does not understand what it means.

Defining Secular Judaism’s Origins

            Secular Judaism can be described as Judaism that is non-religious. Judaism infact was not always a religion. We know that if we examine the trajectory of ancient Hebrews, through Israelite culture, we do not discover the religion of Judaism until Second Temple Period, as a response to the diaspora. Prior to this era, this group was an ethno-centric, ancient, cultic peoplehood.

Secular Judaism is embodied by the fact that it has its own language, history, culture, food, music, festivals, customs and literature. If you strip away the religion of Judaism, you have strong pillars that are grounded in traditions that can stand on their own. Modernity has given Judaism the grand contribution to expand beyond the description of religion. Today exists even broader expressions of Judaism. This would include poetry, film, art and politics.

We know that if we read biblical texts, such as Esther, Job and Song of Songs, we can see that G-d is downplayed or practically non-existent. [2]

According to David Biale:

“The secular tradition is anchored in the Jewish religious tradition, not                               just as a rejection of it, but as a dialectical working out of some of its                                 ideas, even some of its impulses, even if some of its impulses were not                                 entirely conscious to the Jewish religious tradition. Therefore, this                                          Jewish secular tradition is actually an integral part of the Jewish                                          tradition as a whole. It is a part of it, it is not a completely separate                          entity defined only by negation. “ [3]

 

Secular lies somewhere between holy and profane. It is a position in the middle. Jewish tradition itself opens the possibility that secularism is neither negative nor polluted- neither holy nor profane. Judaism does not reject an earthly world for a heavenly world like Christianity. [4] It is clearly rooted in great truth and even in great Jewish literature.                                                                                                                   The Hebrew word for a secular Jews is חילונים. Hilonim is first used in the Midrash, contained in the rather famous story about the Oven of Akhnai as well as discussions on the holy versus the profane. In the Oven of Akhnai, Kosher or not, all the Rabbis say it is unclean and one Rabbi Eliezer says it is clean. He is the only one with this position and asserts- the Torah is not in the heavens, it is here on earth. He proceeds deeper and claims that “we” will decide what it means. He believes God has endorsed this concept that it is not in the heavens. (Deuteronomy 30:11,12):

For this commandment, which I command you this day,

                        is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in

                        heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven

                        for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can

                        fulfill it?” [5]

 

I find this assertion rather rebellious towards the rabbinate itself. The rabbinate uses this to serve a purpose of human autonomy. The story demonstrates an impulse or mentality that there is autonomy from G-d. For our purpose, this is a possibility to exploit a later modern secular philosophy. The story also functions not to humiliate the person in the minority. [6]

Biale asserts that secular Judaism is an outgrowth of religious Judaism. The change is a dialectical outgrowth rooted firmly in tradition, which took the institutionalization of Judaism and transformed it into an ethical vocation. If we

understand Biale’s assertion, then we can say that Jewish identity is no longer a matter of destiny; it is a matter of personal choice. [7]

The Pew Institute does not ask specific and relevant questions, targeting secular Jews. If they did we could learn more. There should be current research and focus on a deliberate campaign that identifies secular Jews. What would American Jewry do with that information? Biale also points out the conundrum of secular Judaism.

It is not a movement, at least not anymore. Secular Zionism, and Bundism- particularly among Eastern Europeans of the late 19th and 20th centuries- had a political climate that was ripe for such activities and unified coalitions. The conditions that promulgated this type of activism and ideology no longer exist in today’s culture. So if secularism in a “movement” fashion is no longer alive, what is it?

Who Is a Secular Jew?

We know that the Talmud says if one’s mother is Jewish, then one is Jewish. We also know in Reform Judaism that patrilineal Judaism is accepted, thus the Torah itself marks the Jewish bloodline through patrilineal descent. We know that sectarianism exists within Judaism and we know that Jews can be born into one sect and perhaps move to another. If secular Judaism is not a sect, is one automatically secular if they are not members of a synagogue? I will assert that even if one is born Jewish, yet has no exposure to Jewish history, tradition or activity, including the absence of religious life, they are not much of a secular Jew. In order to qualify a Jew as secular- would they not have to engage in something specifically Jewish in nature that is not religious? At some point, Jewish exposure has to occur in the life of the Jew. I will posit that a secular Jew has experienced Judaism at some point in their life (perhaps childhood) and they built a construct of a Jewish identity through their own experiences outside religious participation.

What Does Secular Jewish Practice Look Like?

            We could go easy on ourselves and use a Maimonidean negative theory to describe a secular Jew, by defining what he or she is not. However, it is the distinguishment of activities and behaviors that lend identity to the secular Jew. This provides a broad spectrum of secular Jewish archetypes. We have the secular Jew who may never step foot in a synagogue, but they are a member of AIPAC. They may not pray or read Torah, they may not keep Shabbat, but they may celebrate Hanukkah.

What about the secular Jewish organizations such as B’nai B’rith? A couple may opt to never send their child to a Jewish summer camp, but take advantage of a free trip to Israel for their teenager paid by the Jewish Federation. The teenager may not return back to the U.S. ready for synagogue membership, but they will have seen Israel and experienced that it is a geographical place, not simply a story out of a book for the Jewish people.

A Mitzvah is a Mitzvah, Right?

At the beginning of my essay I referred to the practice of secular Judaism. If the Pew institute could cloak practice in the performance of a mitzvah, wouldn’t the secular

Jew who visits a sick relative be demonstrating Judaism itself? Is there a distinction between a secular Jewish mitzvah and a religious mitzvah? There are only mitzvot.

Was the Jew conscious that he or she had performed a mitzvah when a visit to a sick relative took place? Perhaps not, perhaps they know on some sub-conscious level the act is a mitzvah. Yet if we live our lives in such a way that the day-to-day behaviors are consistent with Jewish ethics, then our lifestyle choices become second nature. The mitzvot becomes involuntary to the Jew who has embraced an ethical Jewish life.

The Theology of Secular Judaism

            Is it not an oxymoron to call upon the term “theology” when discussing Jewish secularism? This is where we get to obliterate stereotyping the secular Jew. Are secular Jews Atheists and Agnostics? Let us turn to one of our greatest forerunners of secular Jewish thought: Baruch Spinoza, in his Theological Political Treatise we see that Spinoza is a Pantheist. G-d is in everything and there is nothing outside the world that is transient. The world is God therefore they are inter-exchangeable. This is not atheism. [8] On the other hand, a secular Jew might say G-d is totally imminent. Or perhaps a secular Jew might say G-d could be described as completely transcendent and therefore shares nothing with the world, thus making G-d abstract.

The Pew study does not in any way designate a specific shred of theology.

It may show that Reform is 35%, but does that 35% believe the Torah is divine? Are there Reform Jews who view the Torah as a cultural text? Pew does not break down the individual beliefs, only the delineation of how many identify with a sect. This is not useful data because it is too ambiguous.

 

I have personally met Orthodox Jews who are strictly observant and claim to be Atheist. They pledge their commitment to the act of honoring their ancestors, not the G-d of Judaism. Thus the mitzvot they perform may appear to be religious, yet the intent behind it is not. This makes the mitzvah (or practice) secular in its intent.

The Flaw of The Pew Institute

The Pew study does not reveal the percentage of secular humanist Jews. To be clear, I realize there are secular humanistic Jews who could be mapped through the Pew study because there are congregations who define themselves as such. This could create yet another sect and cut into the pie chart. Indeed, this would not be a difficult task and should be integrated into the data. Secular humanistic Judaism has been an unofficial fifth arm of Judaism. [9] Yet representing those congregations is another issue altogether for a different type of paper.

However, I am suggesting the Pew study address the Jews who are not affiliated with a synagogue of any type, but quantify them as secular Jews. Is this not a direct conflict and extra complication to say there are congregations who distinctly call themselves secular humanistic Jews, while simultaneously saying there are Jews who are not in any synagogue because they are secular? No, and here is why:

According to the SHJ (Secular Humanistic Judaism), there are twenty-seven secular humanistic Jewish congregations in the United States, which are affiliated under the leadership of this organization. [10] This is to say nothing of the secular humanistic Jewish congregations who are neither affiliated members of the SHJ, nor the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism). An example of a non-affiliated secular humanistic Jewish congregation would be Congregation Beth Adam of Cincinnati Ohio. Pew neither reveals the numbers of secular humanistic Jewish congregations, nor the number of Jews who are secular non-affiliates. If Pew would make it a priority to provide this necessary research and meaningful data, the Jewish community in America could begin to do something very important.

American Jewry could explore possibilities for continuity and integration into Judaism. American Judaism could cease the act of bifurcating secular from religious and examine the totality of a clearer picture with an accurate account of what American Jewry looks like in actuality, not in theory. This assertion could be the beginning to a myriad of solutions. Solutions to what, does American Jewry have a problem? I cannot answer such a question, however I can assert that unifying all Jews is to the benefit of Judaism.

The Cyber Jewish Community

            I have already suggested that the Pew Institute give representation to secular humanistic Jewish congregations and to quantify secular Jews who do not attend synagogue (because they are still Jewish). Yet there is another category that is so vast, Pew would have to create a whole new division to address the incalculable amount of Jews who live their Jewish life exclusively in the cyber world. I am now referring to Jewish websites, blogs and social media. More academic research would be needed to deepen the span of questions to understand cyber Judaism. In order to create a digestible case study for this untapped group, I will use my own preliminary research on the cyber Jewish community. Although it is anecdotal, the lack of source material for this particular matter says a great deal. It is the absence of what is not in the Pew data that prompts this line of questioning. For example: Out of all of my Facebook “friends”, there are over two hundred of them who identify as Jewish and I have never met them in my entire life. They live on every continent, in every time zone and I have more interaction with them, than my real-life synagogue community. I belong to thirteen Jewish oriented groups on Facebook. Each of these groups has anywhere from ten members to 10,000 members. This is to say nothing of the thirty “pages” I follow which are a conglomeration of Jewish blogs, websites and organizations. These pages I follow, each contain thousands of followers. Now factor in the number of Jewish figureheads or personalities I follow, which is around fifteen and consider the hundreds and thousands of followers each of them have. Do you see the infinite web of Jewish identity that is splitting at the seams? I am only one person who has the ability to practice Judaism in a whole new, undefined way. By interacting with social media, a Jew can receive education on simple to complex levels about numerous facets within Judaism. A Jew can connect with other Jews and experience Jewish life in a way that is just as meaningful as sitting in a synagogue. One can follow the teachings of Rabbi’s, become an activist in Zionistic causes, expand their Jewish recipes, learn Hebrew online and remain a cultural Jew.

Here is an even more perplexing context for this cyber Jewish matter: Imagine the Jews who are already in the pie chart with a religious delineation. Take for example Chabad. Are they absorbed into the Orthodox tent of Pew or are they a separate sect? Perhaps they should be there own sect and for ample reason. I will use Chabad as a basis for comprehending the vastness of one singular Jewish cyber community.

Not only does Chabad have a website and Facebook page, but they have their own apps. Moreover, they have multiple Facebook pages to represent each of their communities. According to Chabad-Lubavitch, there are 4,000 emissary families that oversee 3,300 institutions. [11] This is physical space I am talking about- the real world, bricks and mortar. This does not represent the thousands of Facebook “followers” on each individual Chabad page.

The same could be said of endless non-religious Jewish entities. Take the popular United With Israel; they boast three million supporters. [12] The Jewish Daily Forward currently has over 60,000 “likes” and My Jewish Learning has over 48,000 “likes.” [13] The “likes” represent those who receive continuous information in their newsfeed about these entities. This is non-stop, 24-hour, 365-days-a-year information in your hands with no effort. The “synagogue without walls concept” is already here, it is alive and well and living on the Internet.

I assert that social media, blogs and websites have done more for global Jewry than any movement or denomination in all of Judaism. Synagogues now have live streaming for their Shabbat services and High Holidays. This means if you are a congregation of two hundred, you can expand your audience to a thousand or more. My meager findings alone prove that The Pew Institute is providing outdated, vague, ambiguous data, which does not capture the state of American Jewry. I unabashedly make the claim that Judaism is not dying- it is growing rapidly at a pace that Pew simply has not been able to wrap its arms around. In my digest section I claim that apathy is the demise of American Jewry, not being non-religious or non-affiliate. Pew is missing the thousands of Jews who practice cyber communal Judaism. Out of the multiple questions posited on a Pew survey, they are not asking the right questions.

How Does Pew Work?

            On July 2, 2013 Pew released a polling and analysis report, which stated the following: [14]

                        The new, nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s

                        Forum on Religion & Public Life asked Americans whether

                        having “more people who are not religious” is a good thing,

                        a bad thing, or doesn’t matter for American society. Many

                        more say it is bad than good (48% versus 11%). But about

                        four-in-ten (39%) say it does not make much difference. Even                                             among adults who do not identify with any religion, only about

                        a quarter (24%) say the trend is good, while nearly as many

                        say it is bad (19%); a majority (55%) of the unaffiliated say

                        it does not make much difference for society.

 

The most disconcerting element to this data is that Pew goes on to disclose the religious affiliations of those who participated in this particular study. I could not find one labeled “Jew.”

On October 1, 2013 Pew released another polling and analysis report called A Portrait of Jewish Americans. This is one of the few times I have discovered where Pew touches on self-identification as a secular Jew. [15]

 

Secularism has a long tradition in Jewish life in America, and

                        most U.S. Jews seem to recognize this: 62% say being Jewish

                        is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15%

                        say it is mainly a matter of religion. Even among Jews by

                        religion, more than half (55%) say being Jewish is mainly

                        a matter of ancestry and culture, and two-thirds say it is

                        not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish.

 

My purpose for quoting this portion of the study is to demonstrate that Pew is cognizant of the idea of non-religious Jews, but they do not know how to address it, quantify it or bring tangible meaningful data to their polling and analysis.

The only source I could find who attacks Pew, was posted in My Jewish Learning. An article written by J.J. Goldberg stated the following about Pew research on American Jewry: “Besides, we know a great deal about what non-religious Jews don’t do or believe, but very little about what they do. Nearly all the survey tools for measuring Jewish behavior describe religious rituals.” [16] According to Goldberg, “Pew counted 6.3 million Jews this year (2013). It also offers a second possible figure, 6.7 million, which includes children who are being raised Jewish “and something else.” He also goes on to quote Brown University sociologist, Sidney Goldstein, who in 1990 wrote in the 1992 American Jewish Year Book: “more likely that the core population will decline toward 5.0 million and possibly even below it in the early decades of the 21st century.” [17]

Yet, here we are at 6.7 million in the U.S. …

My question for Pew is this: If one fifth of American Jewry says they have no religion, yet identify themselves as Jewish, what does that mean in the scope of its data? Pew does not know what to do with this, thus they do nothing at all. They have failed to not only ask the proper, more specific questions, but they do not comprehend that Judaism stands on its own with a secular component. As indicated in this paper, the appropriate questions should include: Do you light Hanukkah candles? Have you ever sent your child on a sponsored trip to Israel through a Jewish philanthropic entity? Do you belong to a JCC (Jewish Community Center)? Tapping that research, while including the expression of secular, cyber Judaism is a whole new Judaism without representation.

Extrapolations

            If the Pew Institute were to act on this information and conduct new methodologies on polling and analysis in order to publish accurate, relevant statistical data, what would the American Jewish community do when they discovered that Judaism is not dying, it is thriving- just not in the synagogue. Are Jewish leaders prepared to step into the cyber arena and cultivate those secular Jews who live a Jewish life online? Are they prepared to dedicate resources to connect with those Jews who have found a home in front of their computers and hand held devices?

Based on my cyber Jewish life, it is far more exciting than my real life Jewish existence in my synagogue community. I have included a list of my personal favorite Jewish groups via Facebook. The only way for this paper to have any meaning or carry any weight is to visit these pages on social media. Think of it as a field trip, only instead of getting in your car and driving to different synagogues or Jewish community centers, you are touring the pages of Facebook and blogs dedicated to secular Jewish life. It would not take long for any Jew, religious or secular to quickly find a niche of where they fit in and what they can omit from their personal Jewish experience.

I must ask the most apparent question of all in this examination: What is so attractive to secular Jews about the cyber Jewish experience? I have no data for this either. Perhaps they feel safe because there is a certain amount of autonomy that comes with the Internet. Maybe it is the fact that the individual can control how much or how little they participate because there is no expectation.

Indeed, there is something beautiful and enticing about being a part of a Jewish community that promotes flexibility and is so far ahead of the learning curve on matters such as pluralism. Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Secular all coexist in this space without physical designation. We communicate honestly and learn from one another. We have the opportunity to learn so much about multi-faceted Judaism and each day we break down stereotypes, we destroy age-old Jewish archetypes and the tropes we have been taught have no authority in the Jewish cyber world. They exist, but one can avoid it easily, if they so choose.

Perhaps that is another lure, we choose. We know we are the “chosen” people, but the secular cyber Jewish community demonstrates what it truly means to be the “choosing” people.

 Conclusion

            There is a dearth of source material to build the construct for my argument. As I mentioned earlier, it is this fact that lends weight to my argument. All of the research data I found on American Judaism was devoid of specific data on secular humanistic Jewish congregations, secular Jews who do not attend a synagogue and the absent yet titanic, prodigious category of cyber Jews. A broader Pew study could remedy much of what I have discovered. I will assert that my findings are good news and should encourage the Jewish community of America to take heart and get on the Internet. Judaism always has and always will find a way to survive, even if that includes reinventing itself, entirely as a new community. I have laid out three unaccounted categories in this paper. 1) The secular humanistic Jewish congregant. 2) The secular Jew with no synagogue affiliation. 3) The secular cyber Jew. What is most critical in my examination of these three groups is that they all practice secular Judaism.

 List of Jewish Websites, Blogs and Facebook Groups:

Hevria (blog)

Progressive Zionists (Facebook)

United With Israel (Website)

My Jewish Learning (Website)

Stand With Us (Facebook)

Times of Israel (Online journal and blog)

Israellycool (Blog)

The Accidental Talmudist (Facebook)

Zeek (Jewish cultural journal)

 

Bibliography

Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. The Jewish Study Bible, Eds. (New York, Oxford        University Press, 2004)

 

David, Biale. Not in the Heavens, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press,      2010)

 

David, Biale. “Jewish Secularism.” Lecture, The New School, New York, New York.

 

Chabad Lubavitch. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/36226/jewish/About-     Chabad-Lubavitch.htm (Retrieved March 24, 2015).

 

 

J.J. Goldberg. Pew Study About Jewish America got it all Wrong, The Jewish Daily            Forward, October 13, 2013. http://m.forward.com/articles/185461

 

Asher, Knight. Drawing Boundaries and Limiting Elasticity: What Did the Reform             Movement Learn from Beth Adam’s Membership Application to the UAHC?

            Rabbinic Thesis for HUC-JIR, 2007.

 

Pew Research Center. July 2, 2013. Growth of the Non-Religious.   http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-   culture-survey/ (Retrieved April 2, 2015).

 

 

Pew Research Center. October 1, 2013. A Portrait of Jewish Americans.     http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-            culture-survey/ (Retrieved April 2, 2015).

 

Secular Humanistic Judaism. “Find A Community.”             http://www.shj.org/communities/find-a-community/ (Retrieved March 29, 2015).

 

Baruch, Spinoza. Theological Political Treatise (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett             Publishing Company, Inc., 2001)

 

United With Israel. “About Us.” http://unitedwithisrael.org/about-us/ (Retrieved April      1, 2015.

 

[1] Pew Study, June 2014. (Pie chart p.16)

[2] Biale, David, Not in the Heavens (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010) 59.

[3] Biale, David, “Jewish Secularism.” The New School. Manhattan, New York. June 13, 2011.

[4] Biale, lecture.

[5] The Jewish Study Bible, Eds. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. (New York, Oxford University Press, 2004), 436.

[6] Biale, lecture

[7] Biale, lecture

[8] Spinoza, Baruch, Theological Political Treatise (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2001) 72.

[9] Kight, Asher, “Drawing Boundaries and Limiting Elasticity: What Did the Reform Movement Learn from Beth Adam’s Membership Application to the UAHC?” (Rabbinic dissertation, HUC-JIR, 2007), footnote 92, 81.

[10] “Find A Community,” retrieved March 29, 2015. Secular Humanistic Judaism. http://www.shj.org/communities/find-a-community/

[11] “About Chabad Lubavitch,” retrieved March 24, 2015. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/36226/jewish/About-Chabad-Lubavitch.htm

[12] “About Us,” retrieved April 1, 2015. United With Israel. http://unitedwithisrael.org/about-us/

[13] Facebook data taken April 4, 2015. (Anyone with a Facebook account can access this information, but it changes daily.)

[14] Pew Research Center, (July 2, 2013). [Growth of the Non-Religious]. Retrieved April 1, 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/07/02/growth-of-the-nonreligious-many-say-trend-is-bad-for-american-society/

[15] Pew Research Center, (October 1, 2013). [A Portrait of Jewish Americans]. Retrieved April 2, 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/

[16] Goldberg, J. “Pew Study About Jewish America got it all Wrong”. The Jewish Daily Forward, October 13, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2015. http://m.forward.com/articles/185461

[17] Goldberg.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ANTI-FEMINIST WITHIN

As a society we need to protect women and that begins with women.

How do women treat each other?

For one thing, you will be treated the way you treat your sisters in this world.

We must stop judging, betraying and harming each other.

This means we must stop name-calling.

Stop calling women who really like sex “sluts” because a slutty woman is a woman, who really enjoys a lot of sex, right…? If a man enjoys a lot of sex, there is no name for him.

Stop calling women “whores.” A whore is compensated for sex in a monetary way.

A woman gets to pick and choose whom she has sexual relations with and no one gets to decide this for her, only her.

Stop shaming women who are confident.

Stop shaming women who want to wear whatever the hell they want.

Stop analyzing women just for how they look.

It is a woman’s prerogative to be whatever she wants, say what she wants and express herself to the fullest. If a woman wants to celebrate her femininity, her sexuality, her confidence, do not disparage her from it. She is strong and you are tearing her down, which makes you a weak little bitch, get it? Cheer her on and she will cheer you on too.

We fat shame the fat women and we fit shame the fit women. We make fun of women who are unattractive and we make fun of women who are beautiful. This has got to stop and it is squarely the responsibility of every, single WOMAN.

Feminism:

The women of today have hijacked this ideology and perverted it, misrepresented it and created an imposter of what once was actual feminism. Women today are afraid of this word and will actually say- “Hell no, I’m not a feminist.”

Well guess what bitches, I am a motherfucking feminist and here is why.

I want to be judged on the merit of performance in the workplace. I want to be remembered for my brain, my skills and ability to solve difficult matters with unconventional solutions.

I am divergent.
I develop in different directions.
I interpret all matters differently.
I use unfamiliar premises as bases for inference.
I avoid common limiting assumptions in making deductions.

No one gets to tell me I am a man hater or I want to assume a masculine role in society.

I am feminine and my feminine power is understood esoterically, literally and multi-dimensionally in order to convey to every man and woman that I wield my feminine power benevolently, not weaponize it. Few women understand this and many women hate the women who do understand this.

This definition ^ I just gave for feminism will not be found in Vogue magazine, it won’t be on The View, NPR or CNN. This is my definition and I claim it as my own. No one gets to define feminism for me, hence the entire point of feminism. A self-actualized feminist is fierce and cannot be destroyed by anything. A true feminist will advocate for her sisters, even when she doesn’t agree with them.

I compete with no woman because no woman competes with me.

Sisterhood, bitches or GTFO.

Stop treating beauty like a competitive sport.

You cannot look up a picture of beauty in the dictionary and find a picture of it.

Quit telling ordinary women they are not pretty enough or good enough and quit telling pretty women with self-esteem they are narcissists because they own it.

Quit gossiping about women.

Quit focusing on other women, focus on you. Do you.

Quit hating women for what they have done, or not done.

Quit hating women for being different than the “squad” or saying, “fuck the squad”.

Quit hating women who give not one single fuck what basic bitches think of them.

Women are destroying women today. They think it is men who are their oppressors, I disagree 100%. Guess what? I see women shitting on each other every day, not even close to how men have treated women in the last twenty-five years.

Take responsibility ladies, look in the mirror and admit it. You cannot expect the female species to improve and get what they want in life if you are destroying feminine energy from within.

Part of being a true feminist is the acceptance of all women. This means you have to embrace otherness, difference in opinion, politics, religion, sexuality, self-expression and taste. If you call yourself pro-woman and you shit on other women, via gossip, trolling, secret hatred and JEALOUSY (HOLLLAAA), you are not pro-woman.

Don’t judge a bitch. Worry about your own damn self.

This world makes it hard to be a woman for so many reasons, but I can think of no greater challenge for a woman than to have to function in a world of petty, yenta women who are not women, but little girls…

 

 

 

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THE SOFTER SIDE OF RAPE (is still rape)

I am reading a book right now by Sarah Tuttle Singer, Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. She gives more than one description of her rape/sexual assault experiences. They are actually the most accurate portrayal of rape/sexual assault I have ever read. Many will likely read it and think, WTF- was that really even rape? I mean, he didn’t hit her or hold a weapon to her- so why didn’t she just throw a good kick or punch at him?

The problem with our culture is they think rape is what they have seen in the movies or read about in a novel. The fact of the matter is rape is not violent much of the time. In fact it can be slow, calm and measured. There is a moment and STS captures it perfectly. The moment is where you realize the man wants intercourse and is hell bent on putting his penis in your vagina. You say, “no,” “don’t,” “please stop it”… in that moment you suddenly know that it will only stop if YOU are the one to become violent. In order to make it stop, you will actually have to throw the first punch. For most women, they have never been in a violent confrontation in their lives; they’ve never brought a fight to anyone, women were not schoolyard bullies as little girls, beating up on everyone. It is a moment that you cannot explain- it is paralysis. Unless you have been raped, you do not understand this paralysis I speak of.

I was sexually assaulted in the Old City last year and didn’t tell a soul. When I read STS’s experience, I realized what she and many other women know here. The Old City is not a place for a single woman to ever be alone. Period.

Why aren’t there signs posted? Why don’t we warn women of this? Why is it that the people who live in the Old City know this fact, but don’t talk about it?

Our culture thinks rape is about a bloody nose, a broken wrist or a black eye. The world doesn’t understand that most of the time, it’s only bruises on the forearm, which goes away in a couple of hours. Women don’t fight. We have centuries of an engrained value that teaches us to be peacemakers and agreeable. The idea of having to become a violent, aggressive person is so foreign to the female psyche.

Hollywood shows us feme fatale’s, super heroes and badass characters with weapons, martial arts training and stealth moves. I don’t know more than one woman like this. I did once meet a guy who was a total badass. He had weapons training and was a black belt. Yet he had been jumped twice- both times mugged and said that all of the training in the world cannot predict how you will respond when attacked. So if this badass guy can’t handle a violent confrontation, why should we be surprised that a woman with a man on her back can’t quite pull it together either?

This is also why women don’t report rape or call the cops. The only time it would seem like a good idea is if you have in fact been beaten to a pulp. Every woman I have spoken to who is sexually active has admitted to me that there has been at least one incident where they had sex, but didn’t want to, said “no”, yet it still happened.

Women have advocated for learning self-defense, which I support 100%. I think every female, starting at Junior High age, should begin learning. Do men advocate for learning restraint and respect for women? Do men teach their boys starting at Junior High age that when you want to have sex and she says “no” you have to stop? Do they remind them of this throughout their lives?

(As a side note, the sex talk with your children shouldn’t be a one-time lecture. It should be an ongoing dialogue throughout their lives. I never wanted my daughter to learn about sex through her friends, porn or sex-ed class. I wanted her to learn it from me, her mom.)

I recently read a blog about a woman who was freaked out because she got wet when she said “no” and struggled to get away from the guy. She was so confused by this and I read the comments of other women who shared the same detail. Why would I get wet if I’m being raped? She was not turned on psychologically, yet her body had a physiological response. Fortunately there was an educated remark by a medical professional that said that when our sex organs are stimulated, the reaction is physical. That physiological response is two fold during a rape: 1. The vagina can and will get wet via touch and 2. The brain will always intervene to protect itself during a trauma. If a woman gets wet during a rape, it isn’t because she is cooperating, it is the intelligence of our bodies working to protect us from harm, and otherwise we would rip down the middle.

To take this a step further, one woman said that she and a guy were on a date kissing and of course she was totally turned on, but that didn’t mean she wanted to have full-blown intercourse. Sometimes a woman wants a sexual experience, but not necessarily sex. She said she was wet and aroused, but when he pinned her down and started removing his pants, she said “no, I don’t want this now”- he continued and yes- he raped her. There shouldn’t have to be a fight or a struggle. There shouldn’t be a split lip or a broken nose as evidence it happened- neither an injury to the woman or the man for that matter. The shit just needs to stop. The act just needs to be shut down.

Let’s get more specific, let’s be more graphic, shall we? It’s not easy to say no to sex when you like the guy and are into him. Yet there are times when we don’t want it and this does not nullify our attraction to him. Just because a woman says “no”, does not mean anything beyond the context of that specific moment. She may very well want sex at some other point and time in the relationship. She may have one reason, a dozen reasons or no reason for saying “no” and that’s ok. She may get all hot and bothered, hell; she may even be brought to orgasm orally or manually. Guess what? That’s ok too and she STILL GETS TO DECIDE IF THERE WILL BE INTERCOURSE OR NOT.

Sex is only going to happen if the woman says so. Period. Full stop. Back off buddy. Accept this fact of life.

…And let’s talk about the other non-consent gray area. What about when you are in a relationship and it is sexual, but he wants something sexual that you are not ok with. You explain this to him, but he pressures you, guilt’s you out, brings it up often, sends you porn gifs of it and makes you feel like you are a disappointment if you do not do this particular sexual act. What do we call that? I mean, if he wore you down and you gave in because it was just was making you feel shitty, is it rape? Yeah, it is. How can it be rape if you eventually gave consent?

Because you said “no”, and the only reason you gave consent is because there would be CONSEQUENCES if you didn’t. Well he didn’t threaten to harm you, so how can you interpret it that way?

Because being judged is not love.

Being coerced is not love.

Being manipulated is not love.

If your man cannot respect “no” and has to resort to exploiting your need for validation from him in order to get what he wants, that consent you gave is bullshit, it was not sincere and you did it under pressure as the result of him ignoring your effort to not do it in the first place.

Dear men of the world, you are NOT a man if you do this, you are a failure of a human, not worthy to be called a man.

Instead, couples should communicate their hard limits and soft limits.

The difference is this:

A hard limit is something that you absolutely cannot do.

A soft limit is something you do not really like, but it could be negotiated if done rarely and under the terms the woman sets.

I also think this conversation for men is important in order to dispel the myth that rape has to be severely violent to qualify as rape. There are men who do not see themselves as one who has committed rape because they didn’t hold the woman down, tie her up, gag her and there were no broken bones or blood- so nope, it wasn’t rape. If men consider what I am describing in this informal essay, then it is likely all men have committed rape at some point. Suddenly the word rape isn’t such a terrifying, gruesome violent act of misogyny. In the specific terms I am laying out here, rape is common, it happens all the time and everyone has experienced it either on the receiving end or the doing end.

Am I making light of rape? Hell no. I am making a point that rape is non-consensual sex and that words like “don’t,” “stop” and “quit” mean non-consent. What I am trying to point out is that I think all women have been raped and all men have rapped.

So where do we go from here? Here’s a thought: TALK ABOUT IT FIRST. It is a sign of pure immaturity if the guy starts to make his move to put his penis in your vagina without having a conversation first.

People ask strangers on the bus if the seat next to them is taken to clarify if they can sit next to him or her. People will say, “excuse me” if they accidently bump into someone. There is a courtesy that should come with a man putting his penis in a woman’s vagina. In many states now, the law has been amended to say that there has to be verbal expressed consent to intercourse. This means you have to ask for it. How difficult can that be? I’ve been having sex for thirty years and can say that it’s totally cool and acceptable to utter such a simple phrase.

What about rape play? What about the notion of women who fantasize about rape?

Here we go kids, now put your grown-up hats on because this is serious adult shit we are talking about. If you are in a nurturing, CONSENSUAL relationship with someone you TRUST and RESPECT, then indeed, the sky is the limit. The two of you together should decide what is acceptable in your sexual relationship.

If the woman (or man) expresses a sexual rape fantasy, that means they trust you to not judge them. They feel safe enough with you to divulge this. That is to be taken quite seriously. Rape play is carried out as a scene and the rules are to be clearly established- including a safe word. Outside of the context I have just described here- you don’t get to ‘play rape’ someone because you feel like it.

Communication, communication, communication. No means no, stop means stop. If you can’t handle that, then you are immature and don’t deserve her or any part of her body.

Even when you are in the middle of sex, if she says, “stop”, you must pull out. If you remain inside, that’s rape my friend. She gets to change her mind. She may be uncomfortable, experiencing a cramp or some other issue- doesn’t matter. There is no entitlement in sex. Sex is about communication and if you don’t have that, you have nothing to stand on.

Litmus test:

Ask yourself if what you are about to do was done to your mother, sister or daughter- would you think it’s appropriate.

 

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The exception is not unique

When people talk about a common disaster, everyone assumes it is so because others who share a similar tragedy speak of it so similarly. Yet when someone shares their experience of the same catastrophe, but their version is quite different that the others, we assume it is not the norm and call it the exception. Statistics are based upon numbers and facts. If those whose experience is out of the ordinary and are not the norm, yet they do not speak up because it defies the stereotype; then we have no way of knowing the frequency in which their version of hell occurs. This makes data unreliable.

For example, if in the popular show 13 Reasons Why, a boy getting raped by a group of male high school students, with his head in the toilet and being sodomized with a broom- stick was disturbing to watch, then we must examine why no one gets outraged when a show depicts a girl being raped. The version of the boy rape is not the common rape scene. It is not the norm, it defies the archetypal standard of a rape. Therefore, we assume this is the exception. However, after this episode was released, many men and boys came forward to talk about their own rape experiences and as it turns out, it is not so rare and unusual.

This is merely one example of how our working knowledge of any common scenario is useless. We are unaware of the exceptions and just how frighteningly normal and frequent they actually are.

Please consider this the next time you open your mouth to judge someone’s tragedy- you don’t know the dirty circumstances, do you? Just because someone shares, doesn’t mean they are beholden to reveal all. Keep your mouth shut and be supportive. When people spill their guts, it’s not so you can psycho analyze them with your lay and lame views.

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IN DEFENSE OF MOM JEANS

IN DEFENSE OF MOM JEANS:

I have been annoyed, yet tolerated the low-rise pants for women. It is odd this cut ever made it in the fashion industry because even for skinny women, it hits right at your hips and creates what is called ‘muffin top’. The zipper is a tiny thing that is barely an inch in length and you wonder why it is even there. I have talked to so many women who have agonized over the spillage of their hips and how this unflattering cut has lasted longer than it should have.

I am slender and was able to pull it off, but I never liked it. I have always loved high waisted pants because I have a long enough torso and a flat stomach so that it is flattering. Yet as I have gotten older I have found that having pants that give mid section coverage to my stomach actually feels more comfortable. The older I get the less willing I am to be uncomfortable, ever.

When you are young, you will go to the club wearing very little in the dead of winter and you don’t care if you freeze to death. When you are young you suffer in 3 or 4-inch heels 8 hours a day at work because it looks awesome. Yet as you mature as a woman, you begin to judge your quality of life in hours, not days. You begin to think things like- Can I really stand in this line for an hour without getting to sit? Do I really want to be on this uncomfortable bus with no A/C? Then when it comes to attire, if you are me- then your highly developed sense of aesthetic takes over… until it doesn’t. I will not sacrifice aesthetic for comfort, but I will go to great lengths to merge the two and forfeit a particular look if it is excruciatingly painful, but still look sick AF.

I bought my first pair of non-running shoes last year to actually wear in public. They are classic black Adidas. I remember putting them on in the store and being blown away how good they felt. I also had to swallow my Kara pride because it wounded my ego to wear them instead of clogs, hand made sandals or some other badass shoe.

My daughter bought a pair of Mom jeans over the winter holiday while I was visiting her in Chicago. They looked awesome on her and she loved how comfortable she was. The skinny jean certainly looks flattering and with the added stretch factor, any body type looks good in them. Yet, I found that it resembled a straight jacket and that feeling of a straight jacket reminded me of a deeper psychiatric context for feeling miserable due to poor choices. I quit wearing my skinny jeans and would occasionally wear one of three pairs of jeans that were either- Flare, Wide Leg or Boyfriend cut, yet distressed. Even if I were in yoga pants, when I would return home from practice with my yogi, I would immediately peel them off when I walked in the door of my home. I put on my jammie bottoms when my day ends. This could be as early as 3:00 in the afternoon, depending on the day.

Then it happened. I was in the brand new Urban Outfitters in Jerusalem and I saw what not only were Mom jeans, but they were a bit wide legged too. I had always wanted to own one pair, just to have the option. Why hadn’t I done it? Because my man, who was picky and close minded to me wearing anything other than yoga pants seemed to feel that Mom jeans were not flattering to any woman’s ass and certainly not Wide-Leg either. Our relationship ended months ago and it was horrid. I learned that everything I thought was true was a lie. The day I walked into Urban Outfitters and saw the monstrosity of these Mom-Wide-Leg jeans, a switch was flipped.

It was an act of rebellion

It was an act of liberation

It was an act of me doing what the fuck I wanted

It was an act to demonstrate my independence

It was an act to say fuck you, I am wearing this

It was an act to say, I want to be comfortable

I want to feel good instead of like shit

I tried them on and bought them hesitantly. These pants were truly the anti-sexy of denim wear. I needed anti-sexy and I needed it now. I wanted to know that there was an article of clothing that I could put on that would be a male deterrent. I wanted to know that there was a piece I could put on my body that would erase my own sex appeal. You see, I need to be dateless right now. I need to date myself. I got fucked over because I gave my trust to a person who lied to me for a year. So now, I need to recover and be alone. I don’t want to attract any man and I need to hit the reset button to my soul. These Mom jeans would become the icon of my healing.

I wore them to Tel Aviv one day with a sleeveless onesie. I managed to get through the day without being hit on and that felt like an achievement. I decided the pants had a special power to make me invisible. Simultaneously, it made me loathe the male species because I realized that if all I had to do was conceal my shape from the waist down, that made me unsexy. Are you kidding me? This style of jeans, which hides my ass and my thighs, is the reason men are leaving me alone? Wow, what assholes- Am I right ladies?

I went into a boutique and two Israeli women stuck up a conversation with me. They were like- “Wait, you are American?” I’m like- “Yeah, why?” They were like- “You look so cool, American’s don’t dress cool.” Hmm… Women dressing for women perhaps? Ok, I’m down.

Then suddenly before I was about to head home, I realized I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. Duh, when you are grieving that you were lied to for a year, you forget to eat. So, I stopped off at a public beach, sat down and ordered a big meal with a nice cocktail. I sat there basking in my ability to blend in for the first time in my life. I wanted to be invisible so that I could be unfuckwithable. I had finished my meal and was drinking a bottle of water to rehydrate for the journey back to Jerusalem. Suddenly I get a pop up on my iPhone saying so-and-so wants to airdrop you 10 photos and a video. For those of you, who do not have an iPhone, let me blow your mind.

Your camera roll can be shared with ANY iPhone user in close proximity. Those fellow iPhone users will AUTOMATICALLY pop up on your phone to share photos with you. This takes dating, rapey weirdness and sexting to a whole new level of wrong. So basically you can be chilling, minding your own business somewhere and suddenly a stranger will pop up on your phone wanting to send you presumably a bunch of dickpics. Yeah. That. Of course I declined.

When I payed my bill, I stood up to use the restroom and realized- hey, you’ve been sitting down this whole time. He never saw your Mom jeans. Now that I was walking away, I knew he would be looking at me and see this horrific, anti-sexy vaccine on my body. As I walked out of the restaurant, the guy that had been sitting next to airdrop dude came running up to me and said- “ hey, I think you forgot your purse.” I said-“ no, I have my purse right here.” But he knew that…

 

 

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LESSONS LEARNED IN ISRAEL

You must advocate for yourself, no one else will.

Slowly slowly

No attachments

People not things

Opinions are useless

Only action counts, not words

Arabs lie and it’s ok

It’s ok to be a misanthrope

Protect your energy

Treading water only hurts when you hit dry land

Eat fresh food made daily & respect the growing season

Cooking cures depression

The physical body and the soul cannot be divided- they must be synched

Shaving my head saved my life

 

 

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WHEN YOUR LOVER’S WIFE FINDS OUT ABOUT YOU

When your lover’s wife finds out about you, she thinks it was only an affair. This unnerves you that she is using a downgraded status as a coping mechanism; because she clearly cannot handle the truth that the two of us were deeply in love. Not only that, but we believed we were soul mates and destined to spend our lives together.

It bother’s me that the man I love is married to a woman who thinks we are two horny perverts, that just hooked up. It bothers me that she believes it was just sex. It bothers me that she thinks I am some cheap whore and her husband was just some asshole that wanted a piece. It delegitimizes our relationship. It also makes me out to be this evil vixen and her husband a victim horn-dog who just couldn’t help it. It removes the act of a labored choice, the responsibility we took on and it erases the facts- replaced with a trite, cliqué with zero comprehension of the truth.

We were two adults who went into this with our eyes open and made a deliberate choice. This relationship spanned three years and three countries. For fuck sakes, if he just wanted sex, he would’ve fucked someone in his own damn country and the same goes for me. This started out as sex. It began as an affair- and then something changed. We realized we were madly in love and not only wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, but to get married and show the world our commitment publicly.

I was tired of sneeking around, I didn’t want to be a mistress anymore, I was totally done with operating in the dark. I wanted the lights turned on, I wanted the relationship to be public, proud and celebrated, so did my man. I didn’t even want to see him until he was legally separated. This is when our lives became unmanageable.

This post isn’t about airing dirty laundry or sharing what happened. The point is that sometimes when two people meet, it is meant to be and timing can ruin it; fear and most of all guilt can sabotage the greatest of relationships.

I want to be able to admit to myself that my man valued lies over truth, deceit over transparency, a double life over a life one could defend and that he ultimately succumbed to ego, toxic guilt and fear. He has shown no penitence, no shame, no formal apology or effort towards restoration. He in fact is still fighting to keep up a façade that must surely be tormenting. Yet he will do everything in his power to make sure I am the sacrificial lamb. He will cast me off like a worthless item of no value.

Ladies, never flirt with a married man.

Never kiss a married man.

Never text a married man.

Never meet a married man.

Never trust a married man.

Never take a risk on a married man.

Never give any part of yourself to a married man.

Never believe the words of a married man.

My guy told me his son was dying and the only way to save him is that he and his wife would have to have another child because umbilical cord blood could save him.

He lied.

His son was healthy.

He got the idea because his wife had a cousin whose baby was going to die unless it had umbilical cord blood.

He made this story up to get rid of me.

He got his wife pregnant while leading me to believe the following:

-That he and his wife had discussed divorce and she had accepted it, but was very upset, yet knew they were not in love and hadn’t been for a long time.

-That contractors were working on the house in order to sell it.

-That he was working on a promotion at work in order to have the funds to secure an apartment for us.

-That he would be brining me there soon and that we would finally be together.

 

The shock of learning all of this was monumental. It nearly destroyed me in every way. I am writing this not only for catharsis because writing heals me, but I am writing it because I know there are thousands of women who fall for married men.

Society demonizes us, not them. Feminists betray their ideology when this happens. Suddenly they side with the man and scorn the woman as an evil temptress. Men are held to a pathetically low standard in the name of – “…he couldn’t help it, she manipulated him, it’s not his fault, he’s just a man, they think with their dicks.”

Ladies of the world, I have shed my ego, my pride, but not my dignity. I speak from experience when I say, there is no upside, there is no good news, there is no happy ending when you love a married man. Hell, even if it is just an affair, even if it is just sex, be careful because love can sneak up on you and wreak havoc on your soul.

I don’t know my man’s wife, I’ve never met her and I have zero relationship with her. I know him though, I know the way he sounds when he sleeps, I know how to soothe his pain when he eats because he has achalasia. I know that no one has ever loved me as much as him. I know that I have never loved any man as I do him. I know that they will be in a perpetual state of pure hell from now on, whether they remain married or not. It will be a distasteful, bitter event that will forever shape their lives. The trust is destroyed and the worst part is that he will always know the truth, which is that he promised to love me, to come for me and make an honest woman of me. He will have to carry that around.

As for me, I am alive, I survived this. I just wanna be alone. I wanna date me. I wanna heal myself. I wanna let other women know that when they meet that someone that flips the switch inside their heart, that they must walk away if it is a man who is married, it will not end well. Men cheat to stay in their marriages, but women cheat to get out of their marriages. Ladies, do not devalue yourself, do not disrespect yourself and allow such a scenario to minimize your right to happiness and love.

I used to hold this story as a private, severe secret. I have learned that secrets are given power by virtue of placing such a high level of importance on concealing a truth, that carrying the secret becomes an albatross. It is a heavy burden to bare such a painful thing in private. By sharing my secret with you, I have just freed myself of its power. Secrets also feed the ego, it tells our brain that it is so significant and defining that our ego thrives on the suffering of this huge, epic dark thing that only we know. This is destructive and it will only cause you to live a life of seclusion, isolation and ultimately fear. Today I have no secrets. I have no fear. Nothing can hurt me because my ego isn’t here anymore. She is gone and has been replaced by truth, living for only today.

Ladies, self-care is the greatest gift you can give yourself. You don’t need anyone to complete you; you have the entire universe inside you. Protect it and don’t let any man take it from you. Keep your power with you. Don’t ever relinquish it to anyone else.

 

 

 

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