Some days we are lucky. And we see how the stars of our life align and arrange perfectly to create one of the million constellations in our individual galaxy we call life. Yesterday was such a time.
Flashback to tens year ago: I was not the vocal person I am now, both in speech and in writing. I was enrolled in a biweekly class, Current Events (CE), a much dreaded class by every single Bais Chana High School freshman. Looking back, we probably were just intimidated, since our CE teacher was one of the very few secularly and university-educated teachers we had and would continue to have all throughout our time in that “blessed” educational system. Living in an insular community and abiding by both off- and on-campus strict school rules that tried hard to keep us insular, I was perplexed by such a class as CE. It deliberately made us seek out knowledge outside our small world. What a slightly scandalous suggestion! I wonder how that class even slipped through the class curriculum cracks…
Of course, being where I came from, I only knew that the Los Angles Times, Newsweek and many other internationally acclaimed journals were too liberal and far too unkosher. So, thinking to play it safe being in BCHS (because let me remind you, there was a whole tally of books we were forbidden to read), I chose to pick up the Jewish Journal (JJ) every Thursday to keep myself updated on current events and survive CE.
Low and behold, I entered a new world and quite ironically, the JJ was not that conservative journal template I had in mind. And that’s why I loved it. The neighbors, my family and my friends, to whom I raved about JJ for a long while, thought I was meshugah. No one could bother me when I was reading JJ. Eventually (after some nuanced and nuscianced nudging), I got my family to read it. Since then, I have had to get a couple extra copies each week because us siblings want to read JJ at the same time. (On a side note, instances like these are the reasons my mom says we never had a puppy as a kid.)
One time, my cousin and I sort of made it into JJ’s editorial column and we felt like celebrities. In the elaborate and detailed description of the audience at an intimate Matisyahu concert back in 2009, we clearly were spotted. (See if you could find which description was of us, back then.)
Now, can you guess which articles my siblings and I loved to read? The weekly singles column, My Single Peeps, by Seth Menachem. It was hands-down hilarious! Reading it Friday nights around kiddish became our weekly religious ritual. Our father would have to tell us to put it away during Shabbat dinner, but of course I sometimes sneaked it under the table. My siblings would get in a fury if one of us spoiled Seth’s article before the other one had a chance to read it. Seth created funny, thorough, elaborate and very detailed descriptions of the single friends he wanted to set up. And we had a ball. Yes, we talked about those singles. Yes, we had our favorites and our not so favorites. (What do you expect of kids?!)
And, sadly, one day there was no more singles columns by Seth. Every once in a while, in the ensuing months, my brother or sister would ask if his column resurfaced. Seth had set up all his single peeps. Mazal Tov to them. Oy gevald for us.
Despite the end to those columns, I became a #1 JJ fan. I had my go-to writers, like Gina Nahai, Naomi Pfefferman and Afshine Emrani. I truly learned a lot about writing style and grammar from reading and analyzing those JJ articles; I never forgot Seth and his fun, creative style. He definitely became a key writing influence in my life.
(Here are some reruns of his singles column)
Over summer break, I chanced upon Seth again via the wonders of social media. A beefy, highly-verbal and opinionated conversation about the effects of idealized unhealthy fashion models on body image among young girls ended with sweet fare-well wish from Seth. He hoped I would continue to write and I took it to heart. Lo and behold, a few weeks, later I became staff writer at Ha’Am. A few months later, I became a content and copy editor. All this thanks to the interconnection of a CE class I dreaded that got me to read JJ, love journalism and be inspired by brilliant, witty, smart and talented writers like Seth.
Last night, I chanced upon Seth at a local rooftop bar. Though a tad tipsy, I was starstruck. Yes, we are in Hollywood, but I do not stop or blink my eye for countless actors. I see Seth as a true celebrity (and a wonderful Jewish mensch as well), using his art, talent and charisma to make a positive and uplifting difference in the world — whether it is setting up his single friends or encouraging a mere college student to write. And so there was Seth just as funny, personable and friendly in person as he is in his writing.
I need to mention the reason I was at a bar last night (no, not to drink the misery of midterms away): to catch up with a special friend, Sarah Nessah Isaac-Silverstein, who truly and tangibly aided me in becoming a writer. During high school, she would look at my essays, deeply criticizing it and showing me ways to edit on my own. Over the years, long Shabbat conversations with her about life and religion encouraged me to really cultivate and own my unique perspective of life and people. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, let alone writer, without her. On a less-sentimental note, I wouldn’t have noticed Seth had my friend’s hubby not tried to squeeze out of taking a group picture by schmoozing with strangers.
It’s funny, how the world works. It’s all connected. No telling which star will lead to the next. And so, last night was one of those times when I saw how what may have seemed like mere sporadic speckles of dust in my life, were actually a perfectly arranged constellation of stars in my galaxy.
About Seth: Seth Menachem is currently a Marriage and Family Therapist trainee and will be graduating this September with a Masters in Clinical Psychology. His latest article is “My Son Wears Dresses and That’s Okay with Me“ which is a widespread hit. For more of Seth, follow him on Instagram @sethmenachem.