When traveling, I always try to sample local cuisines, and I have yet to find a reason to exclude fast food from that maxim, provided that I can avoid pork, shellfish, and the mixing of dairy and meat. When in New York, I tried Shake Shack; in Tianjin, I enjoyed jian bing; in San Diego I developed a love for Mexican fast food, and in Los Angeles, the food trucks.

In Texas, we are offered Smash Burger, Whataburger, and Sonic. Yes, these choices are available elsewhere, but they’re difficult to find in California, so we sampled.

The results were not unsatisfying, but they did little to edify our diets or our spirits. If anything, I came away from this trip more convinced than ever that my long-term trajectory to a greater observance of Jewish dietary law was the right path – as much for my heart as for my soul.

Kosher Nostra in Tokyo


Tsukiji Hongan-ji
Tokyo, Japan
December 23, 2006

Guarding a lady (Paris Hilton, who was either a genuine lady or on her most gracious and classy behavior that day.)

This was the launch of the Motorola RAZR handset in Japan, just in time for the holiday. It was a massive pink tent in the courtyard of Chuta Ito’s elegant Tsukiji Temple, the venue and its setting creating an incredible contrast of the modern and the classical, the western and the eastern, the temporary and the permanent, and the earthly and the heavenly.

I think I subconsciously understood and appreciated all of this at the time, but I was really focused on making sure the event went smoothly (we had around 1,000 guests) while feeling deeply guilt-ridden about doing it on a Shabbos. It was also the heart of ten days away from home and family, capping off a total of a month’s worth of trips to Tokyo from Beijing to ensure everything went smoothly.

Boy. Cheder. Snow.



Ganeinu School
Kangyingcun Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
February 2006

Aaron and schoolmates at the Ganeinu school frolicking in the snow. He doesn’t look much like a four-year old, but he was.

The times at Ganeinu were happy for Aaron and happy for us. Morah Dini and all of her morayim made Aaron’s pre-school and kindergarten a magnificent mix of Judaism, Hebrew, Chinese, and secular learning.

Where it all Began

July 13, 1964
Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
Los Angeles, California

Cedars of Lebanon, (we just called it “Cedars”) was the oldest Jewish hospital in Los Angeles. It had already merged administratively with Mt. Sinai hospital when I was born in 1964, but it was not until 1976 that the hospital sold this elegant building on Fountain Avenue and decamped to the more modern and spacious Cedars-Sinai campus funded by the Max Factor Foundation.

Scientology owns it now, but I don’t care. I was born there, my little sister was born there, and my little brother was born there, and it will always be a special place for me. I’ll make it a point to drive by whenever I’m near downtown.