Days of Awesome

There are many advantages to working here at InterfaithFamily.com. One is that Jewish holidays do not sneak up on you. We’re starting with the High Holiday content this week! Can you believe it? It’s the beginning of Elul, the Jewish calendar month before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I wrote a Guide to the High Holidays for Interfaith Families. There will be no excuse this year when I fail to buy myself new clothing or a white shirt for the holiday, no excuse for scrambling around like a maniac to arrange the holiday meals. Also, my husband (who reads this blog, right?) will remember to start practicing blowing the shofar starting on Sunday, the first day of Elul. Maybe. We’re going out of town and it might be a risk to take it on the airplane. I don’t know how airport security feels about people taking ram’s horns on planes.

(Doesn’t this photo just rock? I got it from flickr.com–it was from a whole neat Rosh Hashanah sequence by an Israeli photographer.) More goodies below the cut!

I have a new coworker here who took a look at my Guide and wished I could include a sound file of Barbra Streisand singing Avinu Malkenu. Well, it is here on Youtube–I can’t embed it, but I don’t mind–it’s schmaltzier than what I usually like. That’s OK, we’re all about the pluralism here! If you like it, click the linked text (and tell me all about it, I want to know!) I was kind of excited to find a video of a jam by the band Phish from 1999 that ends with a long riff on Avinu Malkeinu–but I’m not embedding that either, because it’s over 7 minutes and Avinu Malkeinu comes after another song. It made me think of my Judaic Studies students from UMass Amherst back in that year who were totally into Phish, and loved it that they played something Jewish.

I think instead I’m going to embed this adorable song from Michelle Citrin from last year, “I Gotta’ Love You Rosh Hashanah,” because it’s so cute. Is she wearing a t-shirt that says Brooklyn Bubbelehs? Now that’s awesome!

We Have the Technology

Did you buy yourself an iPhone? Here’s a cool application for you–kosherme.com. You’ll need iTunes to get it. With this program, your iPhone can tell you which blessing to say over any meal or snack, in Hebrew, English and transliteration. They have omitted all blessings that one would say on the Jewish sabbath, because traditional observance dictates that you not use your iPhone on Shabbat.

stock photo of lightningWhy do Jews have so many blessings, anyway? Blessing before you eat, blessings after you eat, blessings on thunder and lightning, blessings on seeing people of learning–there sure are a lot of them. If you believe in God, it’s what they call in computer software jargon a feature. It’s like Jewish culture has built in opportunities for gratitude and mindfulness.

If you don’t believe in God, you could use that moment to be grateful and mindful of other the human beings who worked to create your food, to keep your body healthy and to provide the roof over your head that protects you from thunder and lightning. (Though perhaps then you won’t want to pay the seven bucks to buy the application for your iPhone!) Continue reading

A Jewish Children’s Museum

I’m a big advocate of Jewish-themed museums as a potentially potent tool for reaching unaffiliated intermarried and interdating Jews. They lack the religious baggage of synagogues and the political baggage of Israel Independence Day festivals. Unlike JCCs or synagogues, there is nothing clubby about them–they are essentially public spaces marked more by anonymity than community. And the less you know, the better–museums are fundamentally giant adult learning centers. Unlike almost all other Jewish institutions, museums make no assumption that visitors will come in with a pre-existing capital of Jewish knowledge.

A new addition to the Jewish museum scene is the Jewish Discovery Museum in Tampa, a temporary interactive exhibit where kids can learn about Judaism. The exhibit includes interactive components such as Noah’s Ark Theater, painting and weaving at Joseph’s Diverse Dreamcoat and Mr. Abraham’s Neighborhood, where children can learn to set a seder table.

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