When my husband read an early draft of this essay, he asked, "Why doesn't her partner have to support our daughter? After all, they agreed to raise children as Jews." What does it mean to raise a Jewish child?Go To Parenting
I cannot believe that Sukkot starts tonight and I have nothing cooked. I’m afraid that I’m going to be bringing a bag of unpeeled carrots to the potluck at our
We had a great piece by Jane Larkin about making Sukkot meaningful for her family by tying it to the harvest of their home vegetable garden. After we published it, she wrote me to say that her family is also donating vegetables from her garden to a local food pantry in Dallas as part of their holiday observance. Contact your local food bank to find out whether they take garden produce. In my area in Boston, you can donate leftovers from catered events to the Greater Boston Foodbank. If you are having a wedding or a bar or
Hospitality isn’t only about feeding hungry people, though that’s a mitzvah one can never do too often. It’s also about extending welcome to new people. You might bring meaning to Sukkot through the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs topical Family Experience Guide for Sukkot, a pamphlet on immigration reform. My Havurah has made protecting immigrants a core social action issue, so I’m stoked to have this as a way to tie the issue to the holiday.
I just want to brag for a moment about my friend Steven Edelman-Blank, a newly minted Conservative rabbi, putting a message of welcome to interfaith families into his first High Holiday sermon, in which he discussed passing along the welcome he experienced in synagogue to other people.
Another exciting welcome: the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent has decided to run same-sex marriage announcements. They framed the decision with language about the meaning of Sukkot.
Wherever you are this holiday, I hope you find welcome and get to extend it to others.
Most years I spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sitting in a synagogue. Sometimes, I feel inspired by the singing and spirit of the congregation, but in recent years that has not been the case and I have wished I was someplace else. It is not that I would like to be at work or a mall, but I would rather be on a hike or exploring my own questions and interests within Jewish spirituality. As we start Sukkot/Sukkot_101.shtml">Sukkot, the holiday where we build sukkahs (temporary dwellings outside which are reminiscent of biblical times) and celebrate the coming of autumn and the traditional fall harvest, I am hoping to find some time to go on a hike and enjoy the change.
This week I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Finkelstein of Adventure Rabbi, a Denver based organization that brings Jews back into communal religious life through innovative religious programs which combine the outdoors and Jewish practice. Adventure Rabbi offers many programs including retreats for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. You can also book a private ski weekend, in which Rabbi Jamie Korngold not only guides you on the slopes but through Jewish spirituality. To me a weekend exploring the Colorado slopes and my own spirituality sounds ideal.
I admit that I’m a bit bookish. I emit an undignified squeal of delight whenever I get a nice review copy, even though there are so many books in my apartment that one could build a pretty decent fort out of them. For example, I was eager to read One More Year, the subject of today’s hilarious featured article by Vicki Boykis. Sometimes you can get a reviewer to share enough of her own experience that reviewing the book is just the beginning for something deeper. I can’t always figure out a way to get books reviewed that brings out the themes of our website as well as that, and I occasionally try to make up for it by offering mini-reviews here. For example, Nextbook sent me Douglas Century’s biography of Jewish boxer Barney Ross and I was blown away by how vividly it evoked the world of early 20th century immigrant Jews. It was a nearly cinematic book. I also found Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza to be nearly perfect, somehow the ideal combination of personal reflection and intellectual explanation, making something very difficult accessible. She places Spinoza in his Jewish historical context, but is able to explain why doing so absolutely contradicts everything in his thought.
We don’t usually offer reviews of books that are self-published, but since I’m not a crafty person, not particularly good at coming up with arts projects for my art-project-loving kid, I was very impressed with the promotional website for Celebrating With Jewish Crafts. The book is a little expensive, but I can see that some of our readers could use it. We’ve had requests for holiday crafts in the past, and this website shows some classics, like honey-comb wax wrapped Havdalah candles, and some that were new ideas to me, like a Rosh Hashanah honey dish made with homemade play-dough. This isn’t a review, just a heads-up.
“Shiver me timbers, it’s time to sing Avinu Malkenu and blow the shofar, mateys! Arrrrrr, me hearties, if you don’t pass me the teiglach, I’ll make ye walk the plank! Smartly with the grog, me beauties, ’tis kiddush we’ll be havin’! L’Shanah Tovah! Arrrrr!”
My husband doesn’t think this is funny.
(I know, we won’t be blowing the shofar or singing Avinu Malkenu this year on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, because it falls on Shabbat. But would a pirate know that?)
It’s difficult to explain Tisha B’Av, a fast day that starts this evening and goes until tomorrow evening. In our Jewish Holidays Cheat Sheet, I described it,"JewishHolidaysCheatSheet" wrote:
This fast day commemorates the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. In the medieval period, Jews began attaching other calamities to the day, including the expulsion from Spain in 1492, making it an all-purpose day of mourning.
I think it’s hard for people in our generation to appreciate the level of trauma that the Jewish people experienced when the Romans destroyed the holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. I’ve been able to enhance my historical understanding as I read Yonah Lavery’s Talmud Comics. Even texts I’ve actually read before come alive because of the art work. Lavery does a great job presenting berachot%2056b.jpg">the psychological impact of the loss of the Temple, and helped me to see, through her art, how this sense of loss was made real through study to Jews throughout our history.
In the 20th century, Tisha B’Av lost a lot of its punch. First, because of the Holocaust, and second, because of the creation of the State of Israel. When Israel was created, the majority of the Jewish people there and in the diaspora chose to commemorate the destruction of European Jewish communities with Yom Ha-Shoah, rather than following the older tradition of tacking all catastrophes onto the destruction of the Temple. After Israel retook Jerusalem in 1967, my husband’s grandfather, an Orthodox Jew, began to follow a minhag (custom) of fasting for half the day. After all, Jews had access to the Holy of Holies. A recent op-ed piece in Haaretz makes a persuasive case for the half-day fast–though not on Jewish textual grounds.
In my Reform congregation growing up, we didn’t mark the 9 of Av. I learned about it in the wider Jewish community–at JCC overnight camp, and elsewhere. It’s always felt awkward to me. Mark Washofsky, a professor at Hebrew Union College in Cinncinati, a Reform rabbinical seminary, wrote “Why We Mourn on the Ninth of Av” for the Forward. He says,"MarkWashofsky" wrote:
This Thursday evening is the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish holiday when we celebrate the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It is actually quite a fun holiday. One tradition for the holiday is to stay up all night studying Torah at a community event called the Tikkun Leil Shavuot. There is also a custom to eat dairy food on this holiday. One reason I’ve heard for this custom is that prior to the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people did not know the kosher laws. Once they learned them, they realized that they weren’t eating meat properly, so they had to eat meatless meals. Perhaps that’s why we eat dairy meals today.
This year I am struggling with how to make this holiday meaningful for my family. I do not have the energy to stay up all night and I certainly don’t want to give my two year old son any such idea! So far, I am planning to retell him the story of Ruth and Naomi, which is chanted on Shavuot morning at the synagogue. We will make a lasagna and chocolate milk together. We are also going to our neighbors for a dairy dinner. Other great ideas for Shavuot with children are available on Jewish Everyday website.
I was recently introduced to Jewish Everyday and its creator, the Bible Belt Balabusta. I am much impressed with its multi-denominational approach and the way it offers ideas from different bloggers and Jewish organizations — including ours — on how to introduce Jewish living to your children not only on Shabbat and holidays, but every day. I have already book marked it.
I didn’t mean to let the entire Purim holiday go by without a greeting on our blog! Today I was the designated parent at home with my son, who has the bug that is going around. I think I’ve caught it too. I feel achy and chilled.
It’s not a hangover, though it feels like one. It’s traditional to get wasted on Purim but that’s one tradition I didn’t think fit my lifestyle this year. Nope, I didn’t have anything alcoholic to drink at the megillah reading last night. (The megillah, newbie Judaism fans, is the biblical Book of Esther, written on a scroll and traditionally chanted in Hebrew. Some people call it “the whole megillah.”)
Purim is a great holiday if you like to party and act silly. This is the first year in about 20 that I haven’t contributed writing to a purimspiel, a play that parallels the plot of the Book of Esther and features contemporary satire. It’s performed at the megillah reading. I did appear in other people’s sketches in the one we performed last night. (I got to wear a black cape!) It was fun, but I was sad that my son couldn’t be there. He’s been gearing up for Purim for a couple of weeks at Hebrew school. He was excited to dress up and be in a play. He was too sick and my husband decided to stay home with him.
This morning, there we were with a pile of articles that need to be edited for IFF, a stir-crazy child and a huge box of sugary treats. My mom sent a special new noisemaker for the kid to use during the megillah reading, and he was making head-splittingly awful noise with it.
I remembered one year when I was little that my parents read us the Book of Esther in English translation instead of taking us to synagogue to hear it read in Hebrew. I decided we could do that. Continue reading
Purim comes but once a year and when it comes you know it’s here–because people get really silly. I am not sure whether this article about Christian salt is for real. Yes, OK, maybe there is someone out there who doesn’t understand that Jews use kosher salt for removing the blood from meat and feels weirded out by salt with a Jewish star on it. But this part of the article made me think this could be a put-on:
Oh come on, people! This has to be a Purim joke!
On the other hand, that Christmas decoration that looked in the photo like someone is burning a cross on your lawn that was all over the web last December turned out to be a real product from a real organization, so who knows.
Matthew Scott, who wrote a nice article for InterfaithFamily.com about being in an interfaith relationship and learning to cook and eat Jewish food, was one of several people to bring the Christian salt story to my attention. He was also the first person in my network to find the new 92nd Street Y Purim video, Meshugene Men–though I’d read about it on jbooks.com, in a fun interview with comedy writer Rob Kutner, who made the video. I’ve embedded it below the cut. Continue reading
It has been awhile since I blogged about my adventures with my almost 2-year-old son, Ariel. I am happy to report that Ariel and I have been taking a Friday morning class together. We are taking Shabbat in a Box, a class sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston’s (JCCGB) PJ Library. The premise of the class is simple. Each week we meet for the Shabbat blessings and Shabbat themed songs, stories and crafts. The PJ Library is this wonderful program where every Jewish child is sent a Jewish themed book once a month for free or a very reasonable cost.
My son’s favorite song is “We’ve got the Shabbat Spirit.” I think he likes the little dance we do as we sing about how the Shabbat Spirit is inside of different parts of our bodies and within our inner-self. Every week we do a craft, which goes in our special Shabbat box. So far we have made candle sticks and candle holders. Next class is “Things that Cover: challah covers and yarmulkes.”
The class is wonderful. Ariel understands the content and now we sing and dance about Shabbat every week. When it is time to light candles, he covers his eyes and then he loves to hold his kiddush cup up high above his head. Every week Ariel is able to participate in more of our Shabbat routine.
I hope the JCCGB’s PJ library continues to offer programming which interests and educates him, preferably on Friday mornings. Most of the parents in the class are there because, like me, they do not work on Fridays.
Another Shabbat in the Box class is starting up in Ashland, Mass. under the sponsorship of the Jewish Family Network. The first session is on March 6.
If you know of any innovative programs that we should be listing on InterfaithFamily’s calendar, please send me an email at email@example.com.
I wrote a Guide to Hanukkah for Interfaith Families. Originally, I mentioned in the opening line of the guide that Hanukkah is a minor holiday. Our publisher told me, “To our readers, it’s not minor.”
I think that I have joined the ranks of the people for whom Hanukkah is not minor. Why? Because I am the parent of a school-age child now.
My son, super kindergarten kid, goes to public school, which ends long before my workday here at IFF. After school, he participates in two different afterschool programs: one at his public school for three days a week, and a nifty Hebrew afterschool program for two days. It’s like Hebrew school, only mellow and relaxed, which is good because he’s just a little guy.
All the children at the Hebrew program are excited about Hanukkah. It’s their favorite. Some come from households with two Jewish parents, some from households with one Jewish parent. So?
They are learning to sing some of the songs we sing here at home: “Maoz Tzur,” which I first learned in English as “Rock of Ages,” and Ner Li Ner Li. (“I have a little candle.”) The Israeli teachers got all the children singing “Banu Hoshekh L’Garesh,” We Have Come to Banish the Darkness, an old Israeli song about cooperative action. “Each one of us is a little light and together we are a great light.” I can get behind that! Continue reading