Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

images[11]Kristin Battestella (, who is young enough to be my daughter (or am I old enough to be her mother?) writes erotic vampire horror romances. That’s four out of four genres I don’t write or read. She plays ice hockey. I hate all sports, participatory and spectator, and am allergic to any form of physical activity, except bird watching, which I can do from the car or a window. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her dressed in any color except black; if I wear black, it’s as background for something colorful. Halloween is her favorite holiday; mine is any one when I can sleep late and not have to cook.

imagesCAG69HSHMaryAnn Diorio, who is much closer to my age than Kristin, but is a grandmother, has a Ph.D. in French and Comparative Literature, and has taught Italian. I’m lucky I’m fluent in English. According to her website (, in 1979, she accepted the call of God on her life to become a writer. Since then she has written extensively, and much of it could be classified as Christian inspirational. I write humorous Jewish mysteries and non-fiction. She has a D. Min. in Christian Counseling. My earned doctorate is in education, although I do have an honorary D.D. from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, along with all my classmates on the 25th anniversary of our ordination. She is a life coach. I could use one.

So why do the three of us meet on a regular basis for lunch? Lunches, by the way, that last 2-4 hours.

I have no idea what we talk about for that long. But talk we do. And talk. We are the most unlikely of friends, but I do consider them friends. Obviously, we must have something in common, besides being published writers, especially as writing is one of the things we seldom discuss. (Outside, that is, of the obligatory “How’s the writing going?” question.)

We met originally online. We’re members of the NJ Writers Network, an informal group that offers free panel discussions to libraries and other groups that will allow us, in turn, sell our books and give us some PR.
Living as we all do in South Jersey, wedged between New York and Philadelphia, we were tired of all the writers’ events that are skewed more toward the Central and North Jersey/NY metro area. So Kristin began a group called the South Jersey Women Authors. We are more of a support group than one that presents programs – although sometimes, the NJAN panels may be all women – and we try to share events and other marketing opportunities with each other.

For some reason, Kristin, MaryAnn, and I were the only three who seemed to be available to meet for lunch in the general Cherry Hill area. One time, when we tried something different, Kristin and I were the only two who showed up for dinner in Deptford, although we had a larger showing on a different evening date in the same area. There’s a group that gets together in Vineland, but it’s usually on a Friday too close to Shabbat for me to get there. And a Monday AM breakfast group in Deptford, but I need to be at my day job then.

It was fortuitous that Kristin, MaryAnn, and I met. I can’t imagine any circumstances other than our being writers that would have led to our friendship. But, as I said before, our talks together range far wider – and deeper – than writing. Religious and philosophical beliefs, family, genealogy, personal health issues, nothing is off the table (except the food, as our server hovers nearby and clears off the empty dishes).

If I had to come up with one reason for our improbable friendship, it would be respect. We may have different backgrounds and life experiences and belief systems, but it doesn’t matter. We value each other’s opinions. We may disagree, but we allow each of us to have her views. We don’t argue or proselytize; we discuss. And we laugh. What else can we want from friends?


  1. Great post, Rabbi Ilene, from a wonderful lady! As one of “The Three Musketeers”, I agree that, yes, we do respect one another, and we do have a lot of fun. 🙂 I thank God for allowing our paths to cross. He certainly has a sense of humor! 🙂



  2. P.S. I’m older than you, Rabbi Ilene. 🙂


  3. Actually, we’re the three Mouseketeers – as in computer mouse.

    Ever seen a hoopoe? To me, that’s proof that the divine has sense of humor!

    As for our ages, I was being politic. 😉

    • Yes, you are right. The Three Mouseketeers. Thanks for the correction and the reminder, Rabbi Ilene. 🙂

      You are too funny re: our ages. I am 67. 🙂 Thanks for being politic. 🙂 Another of your special traits. 🙂



  4. I loved this. Wish I lived closer to join you all. I will get the opportunity to meet Rabbi Ilene at the PSWA conference–we both think we met before and in July we’ll know for sure. Looking forward to it.

  5. I just searched Google images for a hoopoe as I wasn’t sure I had ever seen one. I had. What an amazing bird! The photo made me laugh. Yes, you’re right about God’s sense of humor revealed in the hoopoe. And the giraffe, too! 🙂 Now I want to research funny-looking birds and animals. 🙂

  6. Awl!! Hey now, hey now. I’m not that young and you gals are not that old!! Especially judging by our conversations, sometimes I’m the uptight stuffy old hoot!! Great essay Ilene!!

  7. Kristin, I never find you uptight and/or stuffy. 🙂

  8. Joan Busby said:

    Great thoughts about friendship. I enjoyed this and thanks for posting.

  9. Yes there is a time and place for stuffy, and it isn’t our sessions!!! Actually, I think I am more quiet with you guys just because I like to listen and learn Normally, I’m the one who can’t shut up!

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