Monday, July 12, 2010

Conversations With Naomi: Pamela Siegel Zarte

It is a pleasure to introduce my friend, Pamela Siegel Zarte, whose Twitter bio states: "Jewish vegetarian, aspiring chef and backyard naturalist, crazy about my family." In getting to know Pam I have seen a deeper part of her Jewish soul that is evidenced by her tweets and emails.

Naomi: Can you please explain the dichotomy of your religious views with your political belief? What is a considerate visionary? How do you feel about Israel?
Pam: I don't think there is a dichotomy between my religious and political views.I guess I'm just in the minority on this. Didn't most Jews, religious or not, used to be Democrats working for 'social justice?' Maybe I was left behind. I am striving for increased religious observance and consider myself a progressive liberal. I keep some of my political beliefs quiet at my synagogue. The rabbis do wonder why I'm a vegetarian. This is 'liberal' behavior to them (wasn't Hitler a vegetarian?) What I eat is not a political statement. It is a personal choice. I keep kosher at home and rarely eat out anymore. I am not yet Shomer Shabbos, but getting there in small steps. I attend as many Torah classes as I can.
I am totally supportive of Israel. Isn't Jordan where 'Palestine' should be? If in Israel, I would probably be voting right of center.
Why is it that sympathy for Muslim terrorism is a passion for SOME in the American left? However, I am not a one issue voter. Israeli security was not much different when Bush was in the White House. 
I am in favor of a single payer health care system. When it comes to 'hot-button' social issues, my general feeling is, "If you don't approve of it, don't do it." I do realize that part of my job as a Jew in this world is to love my fellow Jew (ahavath Yisrael). This would, I guess include suggesting ways to increase their observance. This would be hard for me. Open mindedness does conflict with some Torah teachings. I'll deal with it when I have to.  
I took a personality test on line, the results of which indicated I am a 'considerate visionary.' The test said I am trusting, slow to judge, and empathetic (considerate). It also said I am imaginative and see the world as the better place it could be (visionary). It could just be a way of saying I am an easy mark!  I do think that this is fairly accurate, although I am at times cynical. I try to look at and understand all sides of an issue.
Naomi: You have said: "So many of tea partiers and conservatives say their opposition is not racially based, merely political." You pointed someone out to me on Twitter recently, that really illustrates this statement. Can you please expound on this subject?
Pam: I have a suspicion that racism is at the root of some criticism of Obama (especially the knee jerk reactionary criticism.) People say they are not racist, that they just politically disagree with him.
Wondering if Obama was really born in Hawaii is just a way of saying, "He's not one of us." Whenever there is a chance people accuse him of 'reverse racism.'
This recent news about Black Panthers and Black Muslim Bakeries has elicited some more overt racism. Words like "barbaric, tyrannical, thug, inhuman, evil" can be racially charged. (The worst thing I ever said about 'W' was that he looked like Alfred E. Newman.) 
I found out from the example you cited that all it takes is a little poking to demonstrate my theory.
Naomi: Are you a confrontational person?  How do you deal with outright racism or Jew-hatred when you see it on twitter?
Pam: I run away from confrontation. It is a little easier on Twitter to confront someone, because they cannot yell or interrupt. It also is easier for me on Twitter because you have time to compose your response. I haven't confronted that many people on twitter yet, I'm working on it.
Naomi: How has tragedy in your family contributed to your evolution?
Pam: My father (OBM) died in 2004 from a brain tumor. He was at an advanced age, but one is never old enough. My sister (OBM) was diagnosed with stage 3-4 colorectal cancer less than a month after our father died. She died twenty-two months later. I helped take care of them both. My sister died at the home my mother and I share. I don't think I can say much more, I am crying just writing these words. I believe in G-d, otherwise I would not be able to get up in the morning.
Naomi: How did growing up in a small town impact you as far as being against racism? 
Pam: There were very few black people in the town I grew up in. I don't remember any Asians or Hispanics either. My parents talked about equality. I wasn't even aware of racist words until I used one in front of my father and he corrected me. I had heard the word on the playground and I thought it was a word for a cute little animal. History was my favorite subject in school and I had good history teachers. The enormity of the holocaust was like a cloud over my head. I connected antisemitism and racism and any other form of hate.
Naomi: What is it about doing crafts that seems to be calling you back?
Pam: I want to create things and have control over them! I love the creative process. You get in a 'zone.' It is a form of meditation for me.
Naomi: What encouragement can you give to me in believing that Moshiach is really coming?
Pam: One of my rabbis said that Judaism is the only religion to have been formed with so many witnesses. I cannot find the number just now, but I believe there were 600,000 to 2,000,000 Jews at Sinai who heard the voice of G-d. I love reading Jewish books about so-called coincidences. There are no coincidences. Moshiach is coming (may it be soon.)
Naomi: How did you discover Twitter and the Jewish Internet Defense Force? How has your perception of Islam changed since?
Pam: I started on Twitter last summer because my brother wanted us to use it to keep in touch while he was on vacation with his family. I still at that time had a very old cell phone that didn't do much except make calls. My brother has tweeted about six times in the year. He follows two people and I'm one of them.I loved it. It became a personalized window on the world. 
I think I discovered @JIDF during the shorty awards. At first I thought that the anti-Islam rhetoric was racist. I've come to appreciate David Appletree's point of view and his efforts. I realize that David is honest, that there probably is no 'moderate' Islam. I am not easily influenced. My respect for his work was solidified several weeks ago when David tweeted that people needed to be less trusting, that they shouldn't even believe everything he wrote, that he might make a mistake. I appreciate exploration and awareness of oneself.
Naomi: What can you say to other Jews that are apathetic to the JIDF cause and actually seem to wish him harm by their actions?
Pam: I do not understand arguing against one's self interest. Yet it happens all the time. This is another example of when ahavath Yisrael should be remembered. Love your fellow Jew. I think one can disagree without making threats or putting someone in harms way.
Naomi: What are you searching for in Judaism, or what have you found in your search in Judaism?
Pam: The knowledge that I have a purpose in this life, that I might guess what that might be, but that I may never know. Orthodoxy has given me a structure that I appreciate. Action is the most important aspect of Judaism. Do something and then you may come to understand it. Study, light Shabbos candles, give charity, eat kosher food, become Shomer Shabbos, etc.
Naomi: When you start your blog will you reveal more about yourself? Will you write about your sister?
Pam: I'm a woman of mystery! It would be fun to start a blog. I would feel as if my sister and I were doing it together. 
Naomi: What is growing in your garden? 
Pam: Geraniums, spider plant, rain lilies, and lemons. The yard is full of desert friendly shrubs and trees. We have deer, Javalinas, rabbits and pack rats who like to eat the plants. Most everything we grow is too large to destroy or hanging up in a basket. I would love to grow herbs and vegetables, but you might as well just toss dollar bills out to the critters.
Naomi: Please share a favorite recipe?
Pam: My signature dish is pasta Putanesca. Make your favorite pasta (I like penne.) Meanwhile in a large pan add a tablespoon of olive oil, saute onion, garlic, celery (and anchovies if you like) until onion is softened.Add one large can crushed tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, sprinkle some red pepper flakes to taste and then toss with pasta, kalamata olives, capers, flat leaf Italian parsley. Top with Parmesan cheese. You can also add a can of tuna, if you like. Yummy!
Naomi: Please discuss 'one burning issue" that the readers might want to discuss in the comments below, so we can keep the dialogue going.
Pam: Who do we follow/unfollow on Twitter and why?  I follow a wide range of people,from the left and the right. I follow rabbis, some of what I call 'talking heads' from TV news and commentary, lots of food tweeters, breaking news services, my congresswoman, and a few people who live in Israel. I never know whether to just unfollow someone or to block them. I mostly unfollow if the tweets have really offensive language or say awful things about women, race, or religion. I don't think that because I'm following someone, that I 'support' them. Do other people do it this way? 
A fellow from the NewJersey Tea Party started following me a few months ago. I followed him back.  Once in a while I send him some sarcastic and I hope funny message about how much I disagree with him. He seems like a good sport.
Naomi: Thank you Pam! You are a good sport and so much fun on Twitter. I highly recommend that everyone follow you and also please comment on Pam's burning issue below in the comments:

Pam: Who do we follow/unfollow on Twitter and why?


  1. I don't automatically follow a person as soon as they 'follow' me. I wait to see if they are kosher. In other words, who are they? Most importantly is who are they aligned with?

  2. Regarding the "burning issue" - I do believe, in general, if you follow someone, that you are endorsing them in some capacity. If you wish to see what someone says w/out appearing that you endorse them, simply put them on a private list. Now, for a while, I automatically followed everyone who was following me, to "return the favor" - I stopped doing that, though, when I learned it's against Twitter's rules. I certainly don't endorse everyone I'm currently "following." But if you have a low number of people you are following (as opposed to my 45K+ people), it certainly does make it appear that you are endorsing or supporting those people.

  3. Pam Siegel ZarteJuly 12, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Interesting.I never thought about having a private list. That's a good idea.Since I'm fairly new to Twitter, I probably have fallen into the "I want bigger numbers"mindset. I did recently unfollow a number of people who I followed simply because they were following me. They were boring marketing types who were following 10's of thousands of people.It's so much more fun to only see posts I am interested in.

  4. -Boring marketing types- an interesting concept, since I would hope that marketing types are not boring! But you are right Pam! Sometimes, for me, it is challenging to connect with those with huge followings. Occasionally I run into one with a huge ego. One of those, in my opinion, is @RayBeckerman. He has me blocked, it had to do with me calling him out on his use. I said I was sorry & tried to bury the hatchet with him but to no avail. The only big player on twitter that I know of that has real integrity is @JIDF.

  5. Pam Siegel ZarteJuly 12, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    I have a ? for both Naomi and @JIDF.I don't fully understand your criticism of "mainstream Jewish orgs".I know that a lot of your criticism is well deserved.(not fully supporting Israel and their bloated budgets that do more to maintain their existence than to help Jews or Israelis).Am I supporting them because I follow them&like to keep track of what they are doing? I've been involved at the local level with the Federation and Jewish Family and Childrens Services. There is good work being done in Tucson by both organizations.

  6. Now we get to the 'bucket of worms.' Yes, the JFeds have done some good work on the local level, although budget cuts have cut deeply into many of those services lately, while keeping the top dogs on salary & expense accounts (i.e. political pony William Daroff who spends an inordinate amount of time shmoozing and pandering to the wrong people.) My concern, and which JIDF has written and posted about extensively, are the JFeds alliances which include the New Israel Fund and their ilk. This concern includes the way they are sitting down with 'moderate Islamists' like Abbas. Just one example is that recently, JCC Manhattan co-sponsored an event with NIF. NIF is the demonizer & deligitimizer of Israel that has a $41 million dollar yearly budget and operates through NGOs that support Hamas and other anti-Israel tax exempt 'charities' that do everything in their power to hurt Israel, including funding the flotillas. Daroff and the Jewish Federations of North America are involved heavily in political agendas, for example: "Daroff, JFNA call on Holder, Napolitano to ease up on 'Son of Hamas." article in Washington Jewish Week:

  7. Good Article. Loved it. and yes I found about Islam last year when I Saw Robert Spencer video and then I found other videos and then even bought the Quran to verify myself that what i am reading is right and then I had to finally accept that Islam and Quran does preach hate.. I lost the battle with myself and hated it to think that a religion can say such things and 1.2 billion believe in it. Then came to twitter and found you and JIDF.It has been a learning experience .So much has been hidden from our eyes. So much fraud and so much brain washing

  8. Pam Siegel ZarteJuly 13, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    First,let me say that "boring marketing types" was poorly worded &exposed my general disdain for the "listen to me &grow rich,famous,happy"industry.
    I read the Washington Jewish Week article you mentioneed. I see your point.Even if his argument to "ease up on son of hamas"held any water,why is it the JFeds business?I completely agree that NIF seems bent on demonizing Israel.Jews who don't care about Israel are new to me.I hope it's a fad&that it doesn't last too long.

  9. Boy, you learn something new every day... deffinatly good to know about the Private list there are a few I follow that I would not want to endorse. As for people following me I have blocked sexually explicit followers (doesn't happen too often any more) and a couple others like SEIU and the PCCC. With that out of the way I just have to say Naomi, good interview! And Pam I am sorry to hear about your father and sister... we have something in common. My father passed away in 2003 and my sister in 2005 also the house I am living in is where my father took his last breath. My the peace of G_d be with you always dear one. LeniPenny

  10. Sorry about leaving your burning issue to simmer Pam, real life has a way of tripping you up when you least expect it.

    I only follow those who may say something which interests me. If I'm curious about people's views on the other side of the fence I'll just look them up or put them on a private list as @JIDF suggested. And it does depend on our passion and whether an issue or view is central to our being. I can accept a mate who thinks cats are better than dogs, but if someone wants to argue the toss over Israel's right to exist, then unless it's respectful and open dialogue, I'm not interested in talking to them. Naomi said something on twitter which struck a chord with me, about not having toxicity on your page. I've found having people who vehemently oppose your views attempt an argumentative dialogue every 5 minutes causes nothing but distress. It's not that I don't believe they're entitled to an opinion, I just don't have to see it if I choose not to. In recent times I've discovered even close friends are willing to throw names about and threaten me so I've become pretty dispassionate and selective about who I choose to communicate with. I'm not ashamed to admit that I do not just rely on my own intellect but other good people to guide me in this regard.

    Notwithstanding that, it's great to have an open, intelligent and respectful dialogue with someone who has a differing opinion. Keeps the mind sharp :)

    If you can manage to find and maintain friendships with people who have opposing views about things you're passionate about Pam then more power to you. I just haven't been able to manage that myself.

    This was a lovely interview Pam and a pleasure to read. Look forward to chatting with you!

  11. I am the follower of various categories: a few have something to say and I resonate with, some are interesting or might have the potential of being interesting - one day or another, maybe. For those with whom I really have something in common I created my private list of people I am happy to read and RT constantly. I don't follow automatically someone following me: I wait and see if it is worthy to use my eyes for reading what they do. I am wholeheartedly blocking promoters of hate and aggressive fools.

  12. Thanks, Naomi and Pam, I really enjoyed reading that.

    Personally, I don't recognise the concept of "reverse racism" - if you're racist you're racist, regardless of what race you belong to and who your target is.

    In my other incarnation as Frugal Dougal, I follow people who interest me. As Ed - editor of my village's magazine/blog - I follow people readers might be interested in, but I'm starting to suffer from leftie-fatigue: are there no right-wing woman vicars?