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Following up on the last post

12 Dec

…and then I plan to never write about this guy again (save for any major new developments, of which I hope there are none).

My last post about the anti-Semitic rant I received via customer service emails inspired some pretty incredible reactions. I was genuinely touched by all of the compassion I received. Friends I talk to every week, as well as friends I haven’t talked to in 5-10 years, rallied together to stand up for me. I got comments, likes, shares, texts, tweets, emails, and calls from people throughout the day and well into the next one. And I can’t even begin to describe how much that means to me.

Before I posted it, I had started gaslighting myself. Was this really as big of a deal as I thought it was? The answer, from all of my friends and family, was a resounding YES.

So other than the single comment from a Holocaust denier on my Facebook post (which was offset by texts from two separate friends and comments responding to him from two other friends), I really felt like I was part of a community who cared about each other.

(I also appreciated that about four or five separate friends were of course offended by the anti-Semitic remarks, but seemed more upset by the customer service he provided. One friend in customer service pointed out that he refunded the third plushie without asking me first how I would like to proceed. One friend pointed out that not only did he acknowledge scolding me, he defended it. One friend called his customer service worse than Comcast.)

I want to follow up here and answer a few frequently asked questions about the experience.

Can you escalate this? This guy’s boss has to be told.

The short answer is no. The long answer – I did some research into the company, and it seems that Zac pretty much is the company. As far as I can tell, there isn’t anyone higher up to talk to about it. I also couldn’t find a single website for his overarching business, but could only find individual websites for each of his products.

Can you leave reviews about this so the public knows before they buy?

Once again, the short answer is no. None of the websites offer a place to leave reviews. Some of the products seem to be sold through Amazon or Etsy, but since I didn’t buy from those, I don’t feel comfortable leaving a review there (especially since it would only be on that product, rather than on his company as a whole). One friend sent me a screenshot that she was giving one star to the Legendary Suitjamas on Amazon anyway and expanded upon why in the comment section. I also tried searching on the BBB website for every company name related to him, and couldn’t find a single listing.

Can you tell the people who own the comic about this?

Once again – nope. The comic is crowdsourced, so anyone on the Internet can draw one and post it. There’s no single owner to tell. It seems his company was able to make the plushies due to funding through a Kickstarter campaign.

Are you going to send this to the media?

No, I’m not. I sent it to family, friends, and Jewish groups both local and national – but not the media. The main reason is simple: I’m not trying to publicly shame this guy. My goal, instead, is to make this experience a rallying cry. There is a lot of hate and bigotry out in the world, no matter how safe we may or may not feel. Please, remember to speak up for those who don’t have a voice – whether they’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or any religion, race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc. I don’t think there’s much point in arguing with strangers on the Internet, but please try to have important and thoughtful conversations in real life.

But seriously – does he have at least some point? Did you have the option to change the shipping costs?

No, I did not. When I got to the PayPal confirmation page, the shipping cost was $9.95, take it or leave it. If there was a cheaper option, I would have taken it. (I’d also like to note that the website did not say the $2.95 + $1 per ball was an estimate, as Zac explains it was. And it still says exactly what I saw at the time – I just took the following screenshot today.)

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What else does this guy sell?

I’m not sure if his company’s name is ZBOSS, Inc. or Borrowdale Group, Inc. I also can’t tell where the company is based. But regardless, they sell the countryball plushies, the Legendary Suitjamas, and Knight Hoodies. Not including links because I don’t really want to improve his SEO right now.

***

Again, thank you for reading, and thank you for the overwhelming support I received. I plan to move on, and I hope you’ll join me in remembering the impact just a few emails had – and in continuing to be a voice for the unheard in the future.

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Yesterday, I Received an Anti-Semitic Rant

8 Dec

You may know (either from knowing me in real life or from reading this blog) that I am American and my boyfriend is Israeli. We each live in our home countries and only get to see each other every few months. So I am thrilled that for the first time in our almost 3-year relationship, he’s able to fly here for the holidays (for what I’m calling #BabysFirstChristmas).

I’m unemployed and living at home, so money isn’t exactly on my side right now. But when it came time to think of the very first Hanukkah present I’d get to give him in person and watch his face as he opens it, I wanted something perfect. I had a million ideas to start because luckily, he and I share countless nerdy obsessions together. Should I scour ThinkGeek? Or The Tinker’s Packs? Or Marvel gifts? Or Book of Mormon musical gifts?

But one idea stood out above all the rest. A few months ago, he mentioned offhandedly how much he loves the countryball comics and that he would love to find toys of them. (If you aren’t familiar with the comics, this one is my favorite.) Being the good girlfriend that I am, I took note of the comment and squirreled it away for future gifting – which, I decided, would be used this Hanukkah.

With a quick Cyber Monday-inspired search, I found a website that sold adorable plushies of the countryballs. Since their pricing meant that I could order three almost for the price of two, I decided to order USAball, Israelcube, and UKball (the last one entirely because it has a top hat and a monocle).

At the time, the website said that shipping would cost $2.95, plus $1 for every plushie ordered. I had just ordered presents for several other loved ones, so my wallet was already hurting, and shipping for $5.95 seemed like a good deal. But when I went to confirm payment through PayPal, it said shipping would be $9.95. Since I wanted to be sure to order them in time for a holiday arrival, I agreed to it and decided to figure it out later.

When I got the automatic confirmation from their store, I saw that it was from an Info email address and decided to ask about the shipping cost discrepancy.

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A few days later, Zac from the company responded.

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The easygoing part of me wanted to be satisfied with the response. But the part of me that tries to stand up for myself, encouraged by the part of me that is almost four-months-unemployed and scared by the numbers in my bank account, wasn’t really satisfied. So I emailed him back.

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A few days went by and I didn’t hear from them. But then I got an email that said my order was ready to be shipped soon – just the US and Israel plushies. I wasn’t thrilled about how this was going, so I followed up.

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And this was the response I received. I’d like you to pay special attention to the last sentence of the first paragraph, just like I did.

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After reading this, I had the new experience of literally shaking with anger and I couldn’t seem to get warm. I didn’t want to give this person my money, and I knew I could never look at the plushies without remembering this email. So I asked him to cancel the order.

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Perhaps I should have known at this point that Zac would want the last word in this conversation, so I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when he responded with this (and once again, please pay special attention to the last sentence as I did).

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A part of me wanted to respond to Zac and let him know that my concern over $4 didn’t come from being Jewish. The concern came from being unemployed, having more debt than income, living at home with my family, and trying desperately to afford thoughtful holiday presents for my loved ones.

But I didn’t.

The initial reason I didn’t respond was because I don’t owe Zac an explanation. But the more honest reason was that I don’t want to receive another email like these from him. Not only do I not want to receive more scolding – I’m a little scared, and I hate admitting that.

A lot of thoughts went through my mind last night as I tried to process this and couldn’t sleep.

Clearly, anti-Semitism is much more real than I want to admit.

I can’t exactly organize a boycott of this individual website, or the site that seems to be their parent company based on the emails, Legendary Suitjamas (which is really too bad, because I like How I Met Your Mother and didn’t even know this existed in real life).

I didn’t want to spend this holiday season being forcibly reminded of anti-Semitism on a personal level.

Would he have sent this kind of response if my email was from a man’s name?

Regardless of the anti-Semitic statements in each email, they seem like a bit of an overreaction.

When they go low, you go high.

Ironically, based on the length of his emails, he seems to care a lot more about these $4 than I do.

And on top of all this, now I have to find a present for my boyfriend with only two weeks before the holidays.

So, before I end this, I’d like to ask something of you, good readers. Please like this post, whether on WordPress or wherever you found it, so that I can remember Love trumps Hate this December. Please share this story with others so we don’t forget that bigotry is still out there, alive and well. And, most importantly, please show each other love and respect by being there for others and for unifying against hate, no matter how small a comment may seem. Because it may shake the entire world of someone on the receiving end of it.

I’m going to go leave some reviews.

Challenge Accepted

20 Nov

My last blog post was, in a nutshell, a “whatcha gonna do about it?” piece. And if I want people to actually do something (much like Russell Brand implores in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), I gotta step up and start the ball rolling myself.

So, I’d like to share what I did and am doing. Because no matter how many think pieces you share on Facebook, the world keeps a-turning and we’re going to have a political administration for the next several years that might do some serious damage to causes we care about.

In the span of about an hour from the comfort of my bed and laptop, I did some research and then:

I wish I could donate more (#unemployment), and that there were more potential volunteer opportunities for the environmental groups. But as it stands, I signed up to be reminded of them on a regular basis so I can stay involved with them and remind Future Allie that they exist. I’d like to look into women’s groups and LGBT groups as well, but will leave that for Future Allie because I have to get going.

(Oh, and I’m still volunteering for the animal shelter! I don’t think even the far right hates puppies, so it’s not exactly a political stance. But it’s still a fun way to be involved.)

And now, it’s your turn. Leave a comment – how are you getting involved?

(And no, sharing articles, even this blog post, does not count.)

The Next Steps

12 Nov

I’ll be honest: I’m sick of election reaction posts.

…But I haven’t shared my thoughts yet, and this is my blog, so here’s another one.

I’ll skip the immediate reactions of election night and my thoughts on that. We were all there, and if your political leanings align with mine, then we’ve probably all seen those same thoughts a million times on our Facebook news feed.

But one particular post stood out to me, from one of only two friends who I know voted for Trump. I won’t share this person’s name, but here was the post:

“We did it! I’m proud to say I voted for Trump. The bottom line has always been about the issues we face as a nation. Time to unify as a country and get things done!”

That one gave me pause. Because, well, let’s be honest: If Hillary had won, my news feed would have been filled with that sentiment. And because Facebook really only shows us people we like and agree with, I wouldn’t have known the frustration and disappointment of the other side.

But the reality is that, as Hillary supporters understand, it’s going to be very, very difficult to unify as a country and get things done. And I don’t know if we would have understood that as well if we had seen our candidate chosen.

It would have been easy to forget that half of the country voted the other way, many of them passionately so. It would have been easy to dismiss Trump supporters, saying “they’ll learn to accept it.” It would have been easy to expect great things from Hillary.

Most of all, it would have been easy to settle back in to our everyday lives, and it would have been easy to only get political once every four years by posting a selfie with an “I Voted Today” sticker and saying “#ElectionDay! Everyone go vote!”

Our country is more divided than most of us like to acknowledge. Because, obviously, we don’t want to discuss politics with the people with whom we disagree. I can’t advise everyone to have those tough political conversations with family and friends, because it’s hard to justify ruining a relationship because of politics. If that’s a path you want to take, more power to you.

Instead, my suggestion is what occurred to me the day after the election. I was on a bus in Chicago, and was thoroughly depressed. Everyone was more or less silent (whether because of the election or because it was public transit in Chicago, I couldn’t tell). But at one point, the bus driver stopped a little too quickly for the comfort of one woman – and she started yelling horrible things at him. Nothing was racial or political, but it was still pretty awful. She got off at the same stop as me shortly thereafter and continued yelling at him as she disembarked.

Her rant insulted me on a personal level. I felt like I was in mourning, and I knew I couldn’t be alone in this feeling. When someone is in mourning, you don’t scream at strangers around them. As I got off the bus, I turned to the bus driver, met his eyes, and quietly said, “Sorry.”

I made it my personal mission that day to just be as humanly nice as I could to everyone. I challenge everyone else to do the same. Supporters of candidates other than Trump are going through a very difficult adjustment period, and some friendly support could go a long way to building the bridges we so desperately need. It’s certainly helped my attitude, and I hope it helps yours too.

And, if you’re worried about America’s future beyond the people you interact with, do something about it.

Concerned that Trump is appointing a climate-change skeptic to head the EPA? Get involved. Donate to (or get involved with) the National Resources Defense Council, or World Wildlife Fund, or the Sierra Club, or the National Wildlife Federation. Volunteer with local groups to pick up trash on beaches. Make a commitment to bring cloth grocery bags to the store, or to rely on a reusable water bottle instead of disposable plastic ones.

Concerned about America’s relations with Mexico and Mexican-Americans? Donate to (or get involved with) the National Council of La Raza, or the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Volunteer at your local centers to help in English classrooms or provide other useful services. Make a commitment to learn more about your neighbors, or learn a bit of Spanish.

Concerned about America’s treatment of Muslims and refugees? Donate to (or get involved with) the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, or the American Refugee Committee, or the US Council of Muslim Organizations, or the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Volunteer with local interfaith organizations to learn how to build connections between Muslims and people of other faiths. Make a commitment to learn about the needs of refugees and what you can do to supply them.

(Important note – I just found all of these organizations with a few quick Google searches; so I can’t specifically endorse them/their work. Do your research, and you can likely find many more incredibly worthy organizations to get involved with.)

The list could go on and on. There are amazing organizations out there supporting LBGT rights, women’s rights, world peace, social justice, and every other cause on earth. It’s time to stop telling yourself you’ll get involved someday. The time to become an active American citizen is now.

And, most importantly, don’t forget your motivating force – be a fellow decent human being.

Leave a comment with your suggestions or plans for becoming involved, or ways to be nice to each other!

Update: Here is a helpful list of nonprofits, and links to get involved with all.

Truth Hurts

12 Oct

Today is Yom Kippur. I won’t get into what Yom Kippur means, or represents, or should be. (If you want to hear more about what it’s like in Israel, check out my post from my working abroad blog.) But I will share one thought.

Elad and I have what we call a Smell Pact. The pact is simple: if one of us smells, the other has to say something. We’d rather know, and we’d rather know from each other.

Today, Elad had the kind thought to tell me my breath smelled (thanks to my keeping the fast). Although the exact phrase he used was “like a dead body.”

In short, coming to terms with your own shortcomings can be hard. So with this new year, may we all be able to face the truth (no matter how difficult), accept it, and do our best to make things right.

I’m gonna need a mint.

Shanah tovah l’kulam.

Light

19 Sep

My synagogue asked its members to write a brief passage on the theme of light for the coming new year (Rosh Hashanah). It was difficult to write metaphorically again, considering I’m no longer a wide-eyed 15-year-old writing for the high school literary magazine, nor am I a wise and experienced old soul. I’m 28. But it was fun to get the metaphorical gears turning again, and I’m proud of the results. Enjoy, and in a few weeks, shana tovah!


There’s an old saying that goes, “One candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

And while the other candle has everything to gain, it might be hard for it to see its own lighting as a good thing. It’s a big, new change, and everything is different.

We’re all that second candle at some point – or rather, at many points – in our lives. Illuminating change arrives, and it’s hard to see in the new light. Maybe the dark was better.

But once our eyes adjust, we can find good in this new light. It helps us to see what we couldn’t before, and shows us a new way to be. Once we accept the light, we can take to it. We can own it. As that second candle, we can make that light a part of ourselves.

It can be hard to accept new light, no matter the form in which it comes. But by remembering that there is light ahead, and a new future with it, hopefully we can find the bright side to our situations.

With this new year, may we all work to accept new lights in our lives – and may we all appreciate the candles who bring that light to us each and every day.

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Move Over, Leslie Knope

12 Sep

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I’m filling out an application for a job that requires being very organized. In fact, one of the questions asks what my daily planner looks like – and it’s taking a lot of self-control not to submit the application RIGHT NOW so I can fill out everything about how lovely and wonderful my planner is. (No, self, no – edit your cover letter again later!)

But I have an itch to pull out my planner and show someone…and since I’m sitting alone in a coffee shop, I can either tell the blogosphere or walk back to the nearby statue of A Man And A Cat Named Yitz. In the case of the latter, I would show Yitz, not the man. At least Yitz has the decency to have a name.

Yitz, come see my planner! Yitz? Eyes on me, Yitz. Ugh, forget it.

Ok, blog, are you ready to meet my planner? It doesn’t have a name (yet), but it’s very pretty! The cover says “Not all those who wander are lost,” which is one of my favorite literary quotes, and the spine both repeats this sentiment and even pleads “take me with you!” How can I argue with such a polite planner?

I have four tabs sticking out of the planner for easy access to the most important sections. Let’s explore them, shall we?

  • The purple tab on top is the most important one (hence its position at the top of the page). It marks the week of the planner I’m on, and the week features a big blank space for each day. The day boxes include notes about my plans and the relevant plans of my loved ones, but more importantly they feature checklists of tasks I need to do that day. I feel SO MUCH BETTER when everything is written down, and having a little box next to each task for me to check it off makes me feel accomplished. Plus I’m trying to write down what I did at the end of each day as a substitute for journaling. I like remembering what I did.
  • The blue tab on the side has a little list I started of tasks I want to do while I’m in Israel. These were mostly dreams for the future that I made while I was stressed in America. I had so much to do that I had to wait for the fun tasks. But now I have time for things like writing in my blog again (ta da!) and finishing a belated addition to the boyfriend’s birthday present.
  • The pink tab on the side has my list of job hunting websites and apps. ‘Nuff said.
  • The green tab on the side has the list of Hebrew words and phrases I ask about. I have a habit of asking someone “what’s this in Hebrew?”, learning it, repeating it, and then promptly forgetting it. Well, with my planner, I shall forget no more.

The planner has lots more fun to explore, but I think that’s enough geeking out for now. Except now it’s PHOTO TIME!

What? I don’t have a baby or a pet…