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Jul 14 2012 [Originally I spoke this piece at a meeting of the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis in 1970 when I was 30 years old. I had just returned from a week in Israel with other young leaders from all across the country and then a national conference of Jewish communities in Kansas City, MO. I reproduce it here verbatim not only for its place in my personal history of writings, but also for some of its current relevance.]

St. Louis Jewish Light, December 2, 1970

This report is a little bit different from most reports you hear about trips. Whereas it would be interesting to tell you the details day-by-day of my week in Israel, this can be done in private or at a different time. Again, whereas a detailed presentation of what I learned in Kansas City a weekend ago would be useful, this also can be accomplished in private. What I would propose would be to give you not what I did, but what I experienced as the results of my experiences.

If this report had a title, it would be “Wasn’t that a time?” There is an American folk song that, using the words of Tom Paine, states Our Fathers bled at Valley Forge,/the snow was red with blood,/their faith was warm at Valley Forge,/their faith was brotherhood./Wasn’t that a time/ Wasn’t that a time./A time to try the soul of man./Wasn’t that a terrible time.

Too often in our history have we looked back and we have said: “Wasn’t that a time?” Wasn’t that a time when Masada fell? Wasn’t that a time when Jews were mercilessly killed all throughout the Middle Ages? Wasn’t that a time [during] the Spanish Inquisition? Wasn’t that a time when the world stood by as Germany murdered six million? Wasn’t that a time when Jews were imprisoned and executed in great purges in Soviet Russia? Wasn’t that a time when the world virtually turned its back on Israel before and after the Six Day War?

So, as you can see, our history is filled with a retrospective reviews of the tragedies in our past.

Read more: Wasn't That a Time
Jul 08 2012 I’m a photographer, poet, long-time community volunteer in the arts, and we support the arts financially as well as attend plays, opera, visit galleries and museums. I’ve been asked how I got interested in the arts. Some important steps along the way:

·      Mother was an advanced amateur classical pianist, who just played for her (and our) own pleasure.

·      Dad was a photographer all his life getting new equipment to try as it emerged in the marketplace.

·      There was visual art all around the house: paintings, prints, watercolors, sculpture.

·      Our parents were active in arts volunteer boards, something that continued until they died.

·      The St. Louis Symphony had children’s concerts (Kinder Concderts) where we were all bussed to what was then Kiel Auditorium for an afternoon of music and learning.

·      We went to the Muny every summer, every show. We saw touring plays and opera.

·      Dad was head of an advertising agency where ideas and art came together.

·      Music appreciation (classical, opera, liturgical) was part of the curriculum at our high school.

·      We all went to what they called “Fortnightly” to learn ballroom dancing (and manners).

I could add to this list, but it’s an indication of our immersion in the arts as part and parcel of everyday living.

Where it led me includes:

·      I went to a dancing school for a few years learning jazz and tap, acted in school plays all the way through high school.

·      After early tries at the piano, clarinet, and saxophone, I learned how to play the guitar and was a song leader at national Jewish youth group summer institutes.

·      I became a photographer at about age 10 with my first camera: Brownie Hawkeye. At 15, I had a darkroom and did all of my own developing and printing. I was photography editor or co-editor in high school and college of the newspaper and yearbook.

Our own children were raised in similar surroundings and milieu as my sisters and I were. And each of them has a job in the arts. Which brings me to the point of all this.

Given:

·      the overwhelming level of activities (sports, clubs, etc.) that consume the time of parents and children;

·      an increasing focus on “I” rather than “we” with the iPad, iPod, iPhone, laptop, desktop vortex;

·      a serious decrease in arts funding at the school district, state, and federal level reflecting how low the arts have sunk as a priority;

·      the death and aging of the generations that gave serious money to support the arts;

will the next generation be as involved in the arts, be as interested in the arts, be as supportive of the arts as my parents’ and my generation?

Since I believe for a civilization to be great it has to nurture and value the arts, where will we be if we do not engage the upcoming generations so they have the arts as a natural and important part of their lives?

Jun 25 2012 I have written before about the confusing rewards for my BP VISA. This is about rewards and trying to figure out a rational way to deal with these credit cards. Okay, some “facts:”

·      American Express/COSTCO gives you 3% on gas, 2% on vacation/meals/travel, and 1% on everything else. You get it all at one time once a year with a check you take to COSTCO to cash and the card costs $100 a year. No upper limit on rewards.

·      BP VISA (Chase) has a complicated set of rewards related to “cents per gallon.” Gas is … well it’s hard to really know what the gas reward is and it has to be BP gas. Vacation/meals/travel are 2% sort of and all the rest is 1% sort of. Redeeming is skewed toward getting 20 gallons of gas at one time in one vehicle. If you want to get “cash” instead, you get docked a third of your reward “dollars.” And if you have a vehicle that takes less than 20 gallons at a time, you lose the balance of what you’d be owed if you had bought 20 gallons. Confusing enough for you? Oh, there’s no charge for the credit card. No upper limit on rewards.

·      Capital One Venture is another bird altogether. It’s the only card where there are no charges for foreign transactions. Other cards (like the two above) charge 1-3%. It looks like Capital One does not bundle a hidden charge into their exchange rate, too. The card costs $59 a year, first year free. The rewards are a flat 2% on anything and can be redeemed against airline tickets bought on this credit card. Oh, there are other ways to redeem, but let’s keep it simple. No upper limit on rewards.

So, I’ve come to some conclusions in all this:

·      For any transaction where the first two cards would only give me 1%, I will use Capital One.

·      For any foreign transaction, I will use Capital One.

·      For all non-BP gas purchased, it’s Amex.

·      For domestic restaurants, hotels, etc., it’s a tossup between Amex and Capital One.

·      All air travel, Capital One.

And the jury is still out whether I will keep the BP card. Not sure it’s worth the Byzantine redemption process even though my car does take 20+ gallons.

Jun 29 2012 I always asked a senior partner from a large public accounting firm to come into my management/cost accounting classes. Many of the students wanted accouning as a profession due to being good in math, liking bookkeeping in high school, or, perhaps, having a relative who was a CPA. In most accounting classes, especially those in financial accounting, tax, and auditing, the emphasis is on learning the rules and regulations so a student can pass the CPA exam. Alll important. 

However, what I wanted to demonstrate was what a successful career in accounting (both public accounting and corporate) looked like and needed after surviving entry-level positions. That's where a partner from a big accounting firm came in. He/she told the students that in order to be promoted to a higher or highest level, mere knowledge of accounting rules and regulations was not enough. A person needs to be able to write and a person needs to be able to speak (one-on-one and to groups of any size).

Unfortunately, many programs that train professionals don't recognize this. When I taught MBA classes, I could always spot those who had engineering degress. It's not too much of a stretch for me to say that most of them couldn't write a simple, declarative sentence. Even at an undergraduate level, many juniors and seniors in schools of business have poor basic English skills and limited ability to express themselves orally or in writing.

I saw students who were seniors and had never been given adequate feedback during their earlier years at the university. They were surprised and saddened to find out they really couldn't write. While the fault may lie with both K-12 teachers/schools and with university faculty overall, if students became aware of the importance of oral and written communication, they would pressure schools and universities to help them gan these skills.




May 26 2012 As I wrote earlier, I had my Amex card hacked with a charge to The Home Depot somewhere in the NY area while I was in North Carolina. Came to find out today that a relative of mine in North Carolina where I was visiting had her debit card hacked with charges at The Home Depot somewhere in NJ. This all happened within a week of one another. I got a replacement card and her bank restored the money that had been taken out of her account. Coincidence, dear reader?