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A Look at Our Religious Beliefs…or Not

Palais Royal Paris, France
The Palais Royal


Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as a Young Woman

The Notorious RBG is gone. The definition for “notorious” is “famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed.” “RGB” stands for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and nothing or no one else. She was our Goddess and our religion of the 21st-century. (Photo: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as a Young Woman)

Was this U.S. Supreme Court Justice really “notorious” for some bad qualities or deeds, or because of all the good she did on behalf of all humanity, and particularly for women? The term stuck to her thanks to a law student who referenced a late Brooklyn-born rapper, The Notorious B.I.G., for her “fiery liberal dissents.” It fit well in a strangely sarcastic way for someone who did so much good for so many.

Ginsburg died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah at the age of 87…way too young in my book, especially for someone who the U.S. and the entire world needed so badly to keep us on the straight and narrow path to treating all human beings equally. According to Rabbi Richard Jacobs, “One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah suggest that very righteous people would die at the very end of the year because they were needed until the very end.” (

We needed her longer than that. We prayed she’d stay alive until after the next election, and you see now that there’s much debate in the U.S. Senate about who is going to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. As we expected, President Trump wants to appoint his own choice as quickly as possible. Interestingly, this contradicts a previous ruling by the Republican-controlled Senate used to deny President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in February 2016. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” “n’est-ce pas?”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Portrait by Supreme Court of the United States, Public Domain

Let’s hope the Senate has enough good sense to remember Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s words in 2016: “The American people are about to weigh in on who is going to be the president, and that’s the person, whoever that may be, who ought to be making this appointment.”

By constitutional law, the pick is in the power of the president, but with the advice and consent of the Senate. A change in the rule in 2017 now allows a confirmation of 51 votes, instead of the 60 in the past. Once the president makes his selection, it goes to a Judiciary Committee (12 Republicans and 10 Democrats) to investigate the nominee’s background, normally a 30 to 45-day process. Then, a public hearing is held to question the nominee. (And guess who’s on the committee? Vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris! Aren’t we thankful?)

Members of the committee are already campaigning to delay the Senate approval (made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents) until after the elections and the next President is inaugurated. Timing is the key, but this is a first—a vacancy has never been filled so close to an election.

I’ll say this about Donald Trump’s four years in office…there’s never been a dull moment. Quite honestly, I’d be happy to have a few! But, let’s not think about him at this time of mourning. Let’s celebrate the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

If you don’t know much about her, then by all means, you should. Be sure to watch the films about her life.

And here are more links you might enjoy on the subject or RBG:



Beth Israel in the Time of Adrian New Orleans

Beth Israel in the Time of Adrian (New Orleans)

The Jewish New Year slipped by me, as it always does. I grew up in an quasi orthodox family that followed only some of the traditions (it’s tough to keep kosher in New Orleans surrounded by Catholics and sea food), but belonged to an orthodox synagogue. I wasn’t allowed to take Hebrew lessons or be “Bat Mitzvahed” because girls didn’t have that privilege. That pissed me off from the beginning, so instead I moved to Israel and learned the language for myself, becoming even more religiously reformed in the land where just about everyone was Jewish and wearing the religion on one’s sleeve was no longer necessary.

Every year as the high holy days roll around, I can hear my mother’s voice in my head berating me for not attending services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I always feel a small pang of guilt, but it quickly goes away when I think of people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also a Jew, who fought for women’s rights, so contrary to orthodox Judaism.

My sisters in New Orleans attended services this year as they always do, but it wasn’t the same as usual. One wrote me: “Services are different. Only 28 people were allowed in shul [synagogue]. We were all spread out. It’s a strange, terrible new world.”

Jack Lampert

Jack Lampert, Not in His Underwear

Then, I received an email from my old friend, Jack Lampert, who lives in Paris part of the year, that I must share with you. It sums up so much of what I was feeling and others might, too, but not have the guts to say!:

September 19, 2020 at 11:56 PM

I just wanted to share that I have had the best Rosh Hashanah in recorded history…that’s right…in all of, at least, my history to this day.

I am not a religious person and even though I had a Bris [Jewish ceremony in which a baby boy is circumcised], went to Hebrew school and Sunday school from the age of 5 until 13, I never really connected. It just wasn’t me and even though I could read Hebrew as a youth, I have lost that ability even     though I was Bar Mitzvahed.

But today was like being “born again.” I now know what being “born again” is all about. Seeing the light, connecting with God, tasting from the fountain of the all mighty.

When I woke up this morning it was like any other day. Bleary eyed, I made it to the bathroom to put some water on my face and brush my teeth. I wandered into the other room and sat down in my easy chair. Picked up my phone and opened my mail and the Internet. Sad, sad news of the passing of one of the great minds of our time. RBG died.

What a terrible day. Wait a minute…it is Rosh Hashanah! I have been in Paris on Rosh Hashanah for the past 15 or 20 years and have not celebrated     the holiday much. I did go to Synagogue for Kol Nidre [declaration recited in the synagogue before the beginning of the evening service on every Yom     Kippur] and experienced a flashback to my youth on South Broadway at B’nai Zion [synagogue] where I was raised: Lots of chaos in the     sanctuary and noise galore. I stay about 1.5 hours and then wander off after the beginning of the service. My religion for the year.

But this year is different. What makes this Rosh different from other Roshes? Wait a minute, that is a question for Passover. I get them all mixed     up.


The Difference is that I am home, locked in my house, in almost isolation. My memories are of hot weather, being dressed for the fashion parade,     parking at a lot and taking a bus to the synagogue, finding my seat and being told I can’t sit there because the seats are being saved, waiting for
the service to begin while eyeing who is there, blowing kisses, talking and then finally being bored for anywhere from two hours to all day. Man, I     have to go to the bathroom and navigate this crowd and have everyone notice how often I get up and how often people around me tell me to “sheket     bevakasha”…be quiet.

Well, today was different. I looked at facebook and saw my daughter’s post about services on line at Temple Israel. What the hey…I’ll tune in to see     how they do that. I attended services in my UNDERWEAR. No heat, no parking problem, no fighting the crowd for a good seat. I sat in my chair, went to the bed, walked around the house. All the time listening to not only the service at Temple Israel but tuning into CRC [Chicago Rabbinical Council],     Shaare Emeth [a congregation in Saint Louis], and maybe a few more.

BUT, best of all, I attended services this year in my UNDERWEAR. How great is that? Finally, I connected with the God who understands me and my needs.

That is, until I ran off to the bathroom a few times…but no one noticed.

The Maccabeats

The Maccabeats

For fun, check out how the Maccabeats celebrated their Rosh Hashanah!








Lee Holden Qigong Global Summit

Lee Holden for the Qigong Global Summit

My new religion is Qigong (pronounced chee-gong). Ever since confinement, I’ve been doing up to 30 minutes of Qigong every morning and feeling like a new person. It’s centuries old (4000 years!), and it’s Chinese—part of martial arts training, but don’t let that scare you. Basically it’s just a system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality…and martial-arts training. “Qi” (chee) is “life energy” and that’s no joke.

Qigong Global SummitThere is no evidence that it actually has any therapeutic effect, but I’ll argue that point to my death. Just try this one 10-minute routine with instructor Lee Holden and I promise you, you’ll be back for more.

Then, don’t miss the upcoming Global Summit online event starting tomorrow—September 22 to 25. You will be forever thanking me for this new religion that has no churches or synagogues.


The annual Journées du Patrimoine inconveniently fell on Rosh Hashanah, but as you now know, it didn’t stop me from visiting a few monuments…or at least trying.

The Tour Jean Sans Peur—a building one misses easily, located at 20, rue Etienne Marcel in the 2nd—was classified as a historical building 115 years ago, but wasn’t opened to the public until many years later. As part of the annual celebration of France’s heritage, I set out to finally visit it, but luck wasn’t with us Advance reservations were necessary to enter the centuries-old tower, which we didn’t have. “Tant pis,” we moved on to another venue…

Tour Jean Sans Peur

Tour Jean Sans Peur

The Banque de France, located in the Hôtel de Toulouse, was top of the list of things to visit, as it seemed for a lot of people. The line to enter was around the block and over an hour’s wait. Just as we got in line to bear the burden of the wait, the guards cut it off just before us and we were rendered visit-less.

Banque de France

A One-Hour Wait to Visit the Banque de France

The Hôtel de Toulouse was built between 1635 and 1640 by François Mansart, for Louis Phélypeaux, seigneur de La Vrillière. Many other illustrious aristocrats occupied it until it was confiscated as a “national property” during the French Revolution. It became the “Imprimerie de la République” (printer) in 1795, but Napoleon I decreed the sale of it to the Banque de France in 1808. It became its official seat in 1811. It gained more fame as it was used in a scene from Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette,” with its famous Galerie Dorée as a room in a palace of her youth.

Galerie Dorée in the Banque de France

Galerie Dorée in the Banque de France

Next year at the Banque de France. We moved on to another venue…the Palais Royal. It is here that the French Federation of Vintage Vehicles (FFVE) exhibited 20 vintage vehicles in the heart of the Palais-Royal gardens.

Palais Royal Paris, France

Antique Car Show in the Palais Royal

“Vintage vehicles are an integral part of the national heritage. They are much more than wonderful machines. They are the witnesses of a formidable technical, industrial, economic, cultural and sporting adventure more than a hundred years old, which over time has generated millions of jobs, and shaped our lifestyles in a lasting way. And France, which was at the end of the 19th century, the startup nation in the automotive industry, now has two world leaders.”

The federation brings together 1300 member clubs, 400 vintage vehicle professionals, 45 museums and represents more than 230,000 collectors, owners of more than 800,000 vintage vehicles. I just wanted to hop in and ride away in at least one of the 20. Tough to decide which was my favorite…perhaps the Peugeot 404—”très élégant.”

Peugeot 404

Peugeot 404

Antique cars must be a religion for some and after seeing all of these, I can understand why.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - Paris, FranceAdrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(at Beth Israel Synagogue on the Occasion of Her Sister’s Wedding)


Harriet Welty RochefortP.S. Join author Harriet Welty Rochefort at The American Library in Paris where former Paris New York Times bureau chief and cultural correspondent, Alan Riding, will interview her about her latest novel, Final Transgression. It is a free event and open to the public. You and your friends are most welcome to attend. Visit The American Library in Paris website for more information.

Final Transgression by Harriet Welty Rochefort


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