Judaism: A Question & Answer Session with Betsy

I am so excited to have my friend Betsy here with us today. Betsy and I have talked quite a bit about religion via Twitter and she has become someone whose voice I really value. This blog post grew out of one of our conversations on religion and we thought it might be interesting for my readers, who are mainly Christian, to read a bit more about Judaism and Betsy's experience as a Jewish woman in today's society. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Betsy grew up in Washington, DC and, after spending nearly a decade in New York City, Paris, and London, moved back to her hometown where she now works as a fundraiser in the arts. She was raised Jewish, became a Bat Mitzvah at age 13, and is a practicing Jew today, though she isn't terribly observant. She went to an Episcopalian school from the age of 5 through 18, studied early/medieval Christianity in both undergrad and grad school, and her husband is culturally Anglican, so she thinks about interfaith dynamics a lot!

Betsy currently (occasionally) blogs at btransatlantic and can be found on Twitter and Instagram, where she shares microstories about her dog, her home, and her cooking.

What would you argue is the most fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity?

Well, from a theological perspective, the primary difference is that Jews don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah or that he is the son of God. Jews are monotheistic, which means that we believe in one God and one God only, so we'd argue that the Trinity is incompatible with monotheism. Beyond that, though, a lot of the core teachings are the same - after all, we share the Hebrew Bible (your Old Testament) and the Ten Commandments!

What does being Jewish mean to you in today's society?

Honestly, it means being "other." I live in DC and spent four years in Manhattan; I've almost exclusively lived in cities with significant Jewish populations and have usually been able to find a synagogue to attend. However, the default across the United States (with some rare regional exceptions like certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn) is that the people around us are Christian - or, at the very least, they know about Christianity and they don't know much about other religions even if they aren’t themselves practicing Christians. It's why many stores are still closed on Sunday mornings - because the assumption is that people are or should be in church then - but why an acquaintance wouldn't hesitate to ask me to hang out on a Friday evening, despite the Jewish Sabbath starting at sundown on Friday evenings. The default in this country, culturally and commercially and, yes, legally, is that being Christian is the norm, and that makes me feel other.

Some of the comments in Cassie's post on privilege touched on this already, but here's a good example of how Christianity is the default in today's America: December 25 and January 1 are federal holidays. I don't know anyone who doesn't work at a Jewish organization who gets a holiday for Rosh Hashanah (our New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). We have to take the two holiest days in the Jewish calendar as PTO or vacation time, whereas Christmas Day and New Year (by the Gregorian calendar, which was commissioned by Pope Gregory XII in the 16th century) are freebies. That feels really marginalizing.

I am proud to be Jewish and I love my faith and the history of my people, but I do feel like I have to constantly be aware of being Jewish and prepared to explain Judaism, which I don't think I would if I were Christian because it would be assumed and understood.

According to the FBI, Jews are the primary victims of religious hate crimes. What can you tell us about hate crimes against Jews?

The short answer: hate crimes against Jews are really scary because, historically, they've led to the murder and genocide of Jews. I got my degrees in Medieval History, and I remember that when we learned about the Crusades my professor told us that thousands of Jews were sort of incidentally slaughtered during the Crusades because people (Christians) thought, "Why should we travel all the way to the Holy Land to kill infidels (Muslims) when there's a whole community of infidels (Jews) in the next village over?"

Of course, the more recent situation that gets referred to is the Holocaust. It's not like Hitler woke up one morning, decided the Jews needed to be exterminated, managed to convince everyone relatively quickly that he was right, and went from 0 to genocide in a short period of time. Anti-Semitism had been brewing in Germany (and in France and in Poland and and and) for centuries, and it was given an opportunity to flourish by the Nazis . The slope from "Jews control the media" to "we need to take Jews' businesses away from them" to "let's round up all the Jews and make them live in one confined place" to "Jews don’t deserve the full rights of citizens of this country" is very steep and slippery, and many in the US are afraid we've already started the descent.

However, because the Holocaust was so extreme, people who seem to think that something isn't anti-Semitic if it doesn't reach the point of premeditated physical violence directly against Jews. Skeptics say that the bomb threats called into dozens of Jewish Community Centers were just hoaxes, as if that makes them harmless, and that graffiti on the side of a building or in a subway car doesn't hurt anyone. But, actually, these acts and this thinking does assault people. For example, my husband and I are supposed to go to our synagogue this weekend to celebrate our friends' wedding. Since the new wave of bomb threats against Jewish organizations earlier this week (including against the ADL on Wednesday), I've considered not going because I'm afraid that our synagogue might be a target. Therefore, even if my life isn't in immediate danger when I practice my faith, these threats inhibit the free exercise of my religion, which damages our country and the principals on which it was built. It’s all part of the slide down that slope.

Something that adds a new dimension to anti-Semitism today is that Israel exists, which it didn't during the Holocaust. I hear a lot that it's impossible to be anti-Semitic and be pro-Israel at the same time, but that is not the case at all. Wanting a strong state of Israel doesn't have to have anything to do with the preservation of the Jewish religion or the Jewish people – just about ensuring a particular geopolitical balance/structure. The safety of Jews in the United States is irrelevant to the security of Israel as a national ally in the Middle East.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Cassie! I really enjoy sharing my faith in this way and would be more than happy to answer any other questions your readers might have.

If you have more questions for Betsy, please leave them below in the comments! Thanks for reading along!


Sage Synopsis v. 9

//T H O U G H T S 

I am SO happy with my new blog design. I am so grateful for my friend Amanda who worked with me to create exactly what I wanted. It's definitely inspiring me to return to this space a bit more!

Some of you have asked me about how my pregnancy is going and although I don't plan to talk much about it here, things are going really well. I'm currently 23 weeks and our little boy is right on track. I had my first baby shower a few weeks ago while I was home in Arizona and it was lovely.

//P O P U L A R  L A T E L Y

The "P" Word: Privilege. This blog post started quite the dialogue! It was so nice to see people talking openly about issues to that matter to me. I'd love to hear your voice in this important conversation. 

What I Didn't Know About Pregnancy After Loss. Natalie's writing gets me every time. Definitely worth giving this a read if you missed it a few weeks ago. 

//G O O D  R E A D S

I am off to a good start on the POPSUGAR 2017 reading challenge. There is still time to join me! If you don't want to join me, hop on over to this post and give me all your recommendations! 

You Don't Bring Me Cliff Bars Anymore. I love Outside Magazine and I found this post really special and quite different from some of the others they share. 

I'm still really struggling with President 45. This article, Let the Record Show, is well worth the read.

//A U D I B L E S 

When I was in elementary school I was completely obsessed with Alanis Morissette. Talk about angst. My mom sent me this a few weeks ago and I literally laughed for five minutes straight.

//I N S P I R E 

//B L O G G E R  L O V E 

I wrote a guest post on Natalie Brenner's blog a few weeks back. I'm going to toot my own horn a bit and ask you to go give it a read!

Over, Under: Weaving a Strong Marriage out of Everyday Moments by Brittany L Bergman. 


2017 Reading Challenge Update II

I am currently participating in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. Throughout the year, I am hoping to do monthly(-ish) updates on my progress. This is update TWO for the year so far. I feel like I'm making some great progress lately. Let's hope I can keep up the momentum.

2017 Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian:
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
A book of letters:
An audiobook: Prodigal God by Tim Keller (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book by a person of color: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly 
A book with one of the four seasons in the title:
A book that is a story within a story:
A book with multiple authors:
An espionage thriller:
A book with a cat on the cover: A Man Called Over by Fredrick Backman 
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read (horror): The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
A book by or about a person who has a disability:
A book involving travel:
A book with a subtitle: Banished: Surviving my years in Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book that's published in 2017: Are you Sleeping by Kathleen Barber 
A book involving a mythical creature:
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile:
A book about food: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (Completed in January; 4/5 stars)
A book with career advice:
A book from a nonhuman perspective:
A steampunk novel:
A book with a red spine: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Completed in January; 2/5 stars)
A book set in the wilderness: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book you loved as a child: Chasing Rebird by Sharon Creech
A book by an author from a country you've never visited:
A book with a title that's a character's name:
A novel set during wartime:
A book with an unreliable narrator: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
A book with pictures: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (In Progress)
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Small Great Things by Jodi Picot (Completed in February; 5/5 stars)
A book about an interesting woman:
A book set in two different time periods:
A book with a month or day of the week in the title: Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
A book set in a hotel:
A book written by someone you admire: Adnan's Story by Rabia Chadry 
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017: All the Bright Places (Completed in January; 2/5 stars)
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (Completed in January; 4/5 stars)
The first book in a series you haven't read before: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead 
A book you bought on a trip:

A book recommended by an author you love:
A bestseller from 2016:
A book with a family-member term in the title:
A book that takes place over a character's life span:
A book about an immigrant or refugee:
A book from a genre/subgenre that you've never heard of:
A book with an eccentric character:
A book that's more than 800 pages:
A book you got from a used book sale:
A book that's been mentioned in another book:
A book about a difficult topic:
A book based on mythology:

*I still haven't decided if I plan to complete the advanced portion of the challenge.

Books read in 2017: 8
Progress towards reading goal for the year: 8/50 (16%)

I am still looking for recommendations for some of the prompts! You all have given me some great ones so far. I would love more recommendations if you have any!

Would you consider joining me for the challenge? It's not too late! Get a printout of the challenge HERE

P.S. You can always find my reviews by following along with me on Goodreads.

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The "P" Word: Privilege

Do your eyes glaze over when you hear the word privilege? What about white privilege? What kinds of feelings does that phrase stir in your heart? Do you feel defensive? Do you stop listening? Well.. I hope today you'll push back whatever your gut response is to the "P" word and stick around a bit to learn about my own journey with privilege.

Something I commonly hear my clients, friends, and family say is "I'm not privileged because..." this usually ends in something like: I grew up poor, I had to work for what I have, nothing was handed to me, and so on and so forth. And those arguments are valid, however, they don't diminish your privilege. Let me explain. 

Peggy MacIntosh describes privilege well:
“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.”

See, privilege isn't just about advantage, it's about power. Those with privileged identities experience advantages individually, institutionally, culturally, and so on due to their identity. Those with oppressed identities may have certain advantages, but they lack the power of the privileged group. Privilege is inherently tied to power. One of my favorite shorthands is: "If you don't have to think about it, it's a privilege." Now, this is a VERY simple explanation, so keep that in mind.

We all have many different identities such as age, race, ability status, citizenship, and so on. So, while you may be privileged in some identities, you may also be oppressed in others. Below are some examples from my own life. 

Race: White (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: I am never asked to be the spokesperson for other white people. When I open history books, I can find people that look like me. I can be certain that flesh colored band-aids will be similar to my skin tone. 

Ability Status: Able-bodied (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: I never have to worry about whether a building will have accessible doorways and restrooms. I don't have to be concerned about whether or not a television program or movie will have closed captioning.
*side note, here's a great podcast episode about ableism I loved.

Language: English (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: I won't have to worry about whether restaurant menus will be in my preferred language. I can expect that important documents like tax forms and legal information will be in my dominant language. 

Religion: Christian (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: All of my religious holidays are also federal holidays. I can worship freely without threats of violence.

Size: Small/Thin (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: I can be certain that I will fit in most chairs and seats. I can purchase clothes in my size in most stores. I can find people that share my body size in the media and advertisements. 

Sex: Female (oppressed)
Disadvantages: Chances are high that I will be paid less than my male counterparts in the workforce. When sharing about my experiences with sexually harassing comments made by men, I might be told I am "in the wrong crowd."

Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual (privileged)
Privileges/advantages I experience: I can get legally married in any state and rest assured that I can find someone to marry me. I can talk openly about my relationship and partner. 

This is only a small snapshot of my various identities and the advantages/disadvantages I experience as a result. As you can see, I experience an incredible amount of privilege. So, it's not that I haven't have a hard life and it's not that I didn't have to fight for where I am in life, but instead it's about the fact that society is structured to serve many of my identities. I experience particular advantages because of my identities.

It's important for us to be aware of the various privileges we experience and to be allies for those who do not share the same privileges. Just as I want those who are privileged to stand up for me in the areas where I experience oppression, I want to be able to recognize my own privilege so I can stand up for those who are oppressed. Doesn't this feel extra timely in the current climate of our society?

So tell me, what are your thoughts on privilege? Which identities do you identify with that are privileged and which are oppressed? If you haven't thought about this before, I encourage you to take this opportunity to do so! I want this to be a safe space where you can process these things without fear of being attacked. 

Want to learn more? Here are some of my favorite reads on the topic:


Sage Got a New Look!

Hi friends! See anything different around these parts? Sage was in dire need of a facelift and I'm so grateful to my friend Amanda over at Knock on Wood Designs for making this new design possible! She took my dream of a minimalist design and made it unique to my needs. I highly recommend her if you are in need of a new design or even some small tweaks to your current design.

As you may have noticed, the categories on my sidebar have changed a bit. I am hoping that Sage's future will include more dialogues about social justice as well as some of my more traditional topics like faith, health, and reading! This blog will continue to be a space where you can expect vulnerability and openness. I hope you'll hang around to read more.

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2017 Sedona Marathon 10K Review

Disclaimer: I received a free race entry to the Sedona Marathon 10K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! 

This was my second year participating in the Sedona Marathon Series Race (10K). You can read last year's review HERE.

Packet Pick-Up
This year the packet pickup was a little different as the expo was the day before with no day-of packet pickup. The parking for the pick-up was accessible and we were in and out with our race bib and t-shirt in less than 10 minutes.  The volunteers were wonderful, as always and we knew exactly where to go to get what we needed. The pick-up was also on site for the pre-race dinner, which made it really convenient for those participating!

The shirts this year were the basically same as last year, but white instead of blue. I'm not a huge fan of white technical tees, but they are still nice shirts as always! No other swag was included but there were some vendors at the expo. The information booth was stocked with at on of important information where you could get any last minute questions answered. They also had a cute bib-making station where you could make a bib for yourself or send your kids for some free entertainment.

Parking and Accessibility
Last year we rode a shuttle to the race start from our hotel, but this year we drove to the start and parked. It wasn't too bad to find parking once we found the right location, and it was a short walk to the start line. Traffic control was present which made things flow pretty smoothly. I highly recommend taking the shuttle to the start line if that's an option.

Race Management
The race was well-managed, as usual. The starts were timely, crowds were managed well, and everything you needed on race day was available. The aid stations were adequate, but I wish they were better managed. You had to wait for water to be poured at some of the stations and others had fuel (e.g., bananas, gu) haphazardly placed on the table. Otherwise, the aid stations were on-par with other races I have completed. One thing that happened last year, and I noticed again this year, was that the more elite runners were running on our left-hand side on their way back to the finish line. They should have been on our right. I assume this was done to get on the inside of the course, and thus have to cover less distance, but it was a little odd to have runners going the opposite direction on both sides of us. Finally, the bag drop was quick and easy!

The hands-down best thing about this race is the scenery. Sedona can't be beat and I just love the course, hills and all! This race isn't for the faint of heart and hill training is a must! I love that the Sedona community comes out to watch the runners. They often bring along signs, funny outfits, and music which can really be a big help as some of the course is pretty desolate. This year included a lot more walking than usual (hello, 21 weeks pregnant), so I felt like I really got to slow down and enjoy Sedona.

The medals were the same as last years, but sadly, I feel like they were cheaper quality. I also wish they would give different finisher medals for the different distances as those who ran the marathon surely deserve something a little unique, for example!

Overall, this race is a must simply because of the location. If you ever have a chance to visit Sedona and participate in this race, you won't regret it!

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Stunt Puppy Review

Disclaimer: I received a Stunt Puppy Leash to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Aspen ran about 300 miles with me in 2016, all of which were using our regular walking leash. This probably isn't a big deal for most people, but Aspen loves to lollygag, stop abruptly, and use the bathroom about 5 different times on a run, making her regular leash a pain to use. When I first heard BibRave was partnering with Stunt Puppy, I couldn't be more thrilled.

Stunt Puppy is a hands-free leash for your favorite running companion. The leash is stretchy which means no pulling! It took Aspen a bit to get used to her range on the leash, but once she did she did awesome and the pulling was kept to a minimum. The waistband part of the leash is super adjustable; it even fits my five-month pregnant belly like a charm! I found it to be super comfortable and easy to adjust as needed. Stunt Puppy's leash is also reflective which adds an extra layer of safety for you and your four-legged friend.

Stunt Puppy has a variety of colors to choose from including orange, red, and black. We chose silver, which is pictured in the images above. Their leashes also come in fun patterns if you aren't looking for the running specific leash.

This leash has definitely become a staple in our home and Aspen really loves it. I don't think I'll ever be able to go running again without this hands-free device. I didn't realize how nice it would be to have my hands freed up during our runs together! I highly recommend the Stunt Puppy leash to anyone in the market for one. Even if you are just a walker, it's so nice to have your hands available!

What tips and tricks do you have for running with your pup?

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