New flicks with celebs in interfaith relationships and from interfaith backgrounds, plus their baby news!Go To Pop Culture
Itâ€™s been two weeks of vacation for my family in upstate New York. Nothing but fun, sun, relaxing walks by the lake, fishing and QuinceaĂ±era Barbie. Waitâ€¦what!? Hereâ€™s how QuinceaĂ±era Barbie came into my life.
My daughter Helen Rose is American, Mexican, Jewish and Catholic. The question from my Jewish-American side of the family is always, â€śAre you going to give her a bat mitzvah when she turns 12?â€ť And the question from Adrianâ€™s Catholic-Mexican side of the family is always, â€śAre you going to give her a QuinceaĂ±era when she turns 15?â€ť
Both of these ceremonies celebrate the move from girlhood to adulthood. At a bat mitzvah, a girl may read a portion from the Torah in synagogue and then have a big party or sometimes, itâ€™s just a big party. At a QuinceaĂ±era, there is a traditional dance that the girl does with a childhood doll. When the dance ends, the girl must give the doll away and then she is considered a woman. That dance usually takes place during a big party. Mostly, I believe these questions are brought up from both families because itâ€™s a hint that we should start saving money now, even though my daughter is just 2Â years old.
I hadnâ€™t given much thought to bat mitzvahs or QuinceaĂ±eras. Iâ€™ve been enjoying the part of my daughterâ€™s childhood where every moment and every new discovery feels like one big party. She finds bugs and runs through outdoor sprinklers on our vacation. She chases birds and learns new words in both Spanish and English: boat, burro, cook and hola. But, one day it starts to rain and so instead of having our usual barbecue by the water, we take her to a Barnes and Noble in town so that she can run through the kids’ section.
Her first choice in toys when we get there is a train set thatâ€™s been set up in the corner. But she quickly tires of the train set after she realizes there are other toys in the store. She reaches for Peppa Pig, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. She brings each toy over to me. She smiles and then runs to get another one. Finally, I spot her holding a large cardboard box with a doll inside. The dollâ€™s skin is the same cinnamon tint as my daughterâ€™s. The doll is wearing a long purple gown and at the bottom of the plastic that encases her, it says, in shiny silver letters, “QUINCEAĂ‘ERA BARBIE.” Oh help me.
I never had a Barbie. I didnâ€™t really want one. My brother was older than I was and he had G.I. Joes and all kinds of science toys so I veered more toward those. The only time I played with a Barbie was when I was at someoneâ€™s house for a play date. Once, at my friend Avivaâ€™s house, I took her favorite Barbie and shoved its head into her parents’ whirlpool (a machine used to make the bath into a jacuzziâ€¦it was the ’80s) in the bathtub. Iâ€™m pretty sure I broke the whirlpool when Barbie came out but her head stayed in. Her father spent two hours trying to shave Barbieâ€™s hair off to get her golden locks to break free from the whirlpool.
But there was my daughter, on a rainy afternoon, holding QuinceaĂ±era Barbie and waving her in my face. And there was QuinceaĂ±era Barbie with a glazed look in her eyes as if to say, â€śRemember me?â€ť She had also plucked two other Barbie dolls from the shelfâ€”Ballet Wishes Barbie and 2016 Birthday Wishes Barbie. But, QuinceaĂ±era Barbie towered over those two petite Barbie dolls and claimed her moment.
As my daughter ran off to get another doll, I wondered why there was no Bat Mitzvah Barbie. I imagined what she would look likeâ€”complete with her Torah scroll and equally shiny dress. As soon as my thoughts began to wander, I looked up everything having to do with Barbie dolls. What I found out shocked and surprised me.
Ruth Handler, who was the Jewish daughter of Polish immigrants, invented the Barbie doll. She actually thought of the idea after she saw her daughter playing with paper dolls. As I read up on her, I found out how she became one of the most successful business women in history. I then thought of the hilarity of my own situation. Barbie, even the QuinceaĂ±era Barbie, is Jewish! Sheâ€™s not only Jewish but sheâ€™s interfaithâ€”an interfaith Barbie! Her original creator is a Jewish woman named Ruth Handler and her identity in her current costume is that of a Catholic Latina girl about to enter womanhood! Iâ€™ve now become obsessed with the idea that any Barbie doll sold on the shelf of a toy store today is part Jewish.
I didnâ€™t purchase QuinceaĂ±era Barbie only because my daughter doesnâ€™t really know how to play with her yet. However, I do know that when my daughter is older and has questions about her two faiths, I will use QuinceaĂ±era Barbie as a model of something that incorporates a rich history of Judaism, Catholicism and invention. After all, as an interfaith child of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, reinvention is something we are very familiar with.
This is a post about the High Holidays. I know, youâ€™re not ready for them. Neither am I. Itâ€™d be way better if I just left you alone for two months and let you soak up every moment of summer. Good news, then: This is about that, too.
Two years ago, I wrote a post declaring my resolution to unplug on Shabbat for the Year 5774. Two months after that, I wrote and fessed up that I was not doing a very good job at unplugging. It didnâ€™t get much better. Entirely unplugging can be challenging – in my experience, when I really tried to do it, I was surprised to learn how many things I â€śplug inâ€ť to do that I hadnâ€™t fully considered up front.
Limiting screen use and unplugging all together seem like such important goals, ones that I am sure will be on many peopleâ€™s lists as they spend the Days of Awe considering how to be better individuals, and parents, in 5776. While I frame my pitch around High Holiday resolutions, hopefully this concept works across the spectrum of observance, parental status and whatever else makes your situation just a little different.
So I say, get ahead of the ball this summer. Summer is not without its unique screen time challenges. More leisure time for kids can mean more time spent asking for the screen. The lure of an air-conditioned media room can be very seductive when the temperature and humidity climb. And travel can lead to lots more excuses to pull your phone out of your pocket. But on the flip side, consider this tale from my very own July vacation.
Eric and I were very lucky to spend four glorious days in Northern New Mexico celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. While we were in New Mexico, Ericâ€™s family generously looked after our girls, and took them on a fantastic camping adventure high in the Colorado mountains. A kind of wonderful thing occurred in both locations – we had very poor cell service. Forget the challenge (and sometimes stress) of disciplining yourself to use less media – on the whole, our screens didnâ€™t work.Â Not having the optionÂ to plug in was so nice that I used a trick to spendÂ my vacation focused on, well, vacation. When a signal popped up, I put my phone in Airplane Mode. It simulated not having the option of technology (while still letting me snap a few pictures!) and helped me to focus on the task at hand – vacationing, taking in the beauty of my surroundings, and connecting with Eric.
Rocket science, I am sure, but a tip I plan to use again on a campground on Cape Cod, and in the woods of Maine. So I challenge you – take yourself to someplace without a signal, or, if that isnâ€™t your speed, put yourself in Airplane Mode. It wonâ€™t radically change your use of technology, but it is a great way to experiment. And thankfully there are still tons of wonderful places where plugging in is off the table. Where will you go?
Happy Labor Day weekend! Â Every year, I anticipate Labor Day weekend with both a smile and a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Â It always brings some kind of fun celebration, but in so doing it marks the end of summer (a particularly big deal for those of us who live in New England). Â Unlike last year, when the Jewish New Year collided with the start of the school year, we still have a few weeks to go before Rosh Hashanah. Â But for parents of school-aged children, Labor Day marks a transition into another kind of new year. Â A new year of earlier school day wake-ups, school uniforms to keep clean, and new groups of teachers, parents and children to get to know.
We have had a lot of fun this summer. Â It was Ruthieâ€™s first summer at real â€śbig kidâ€ť day camp, and a huge developmental period for Chaya. Â We had a great vacation in Maine, and a lot of weekend adventures. Â We made wonderful memories with family and friends.
As I prepare to for this last summer weekend, I thought Iâ€™d take a moment to count some of the blessings of the summer, and think about how I might carry them into the next three seasons. Â Here are some things Iâ€™ll remember:
Those are a few of the gifts from our summer. Â What are yours?
The night before I left for my family vacation, I paid a shiva call to a friend who had just lost her sister. Â In the middle of my visit, a rabbi friend-of-the-family led those present through the first nightâ€™s shiva minyan. Â Before we began the Mournerâ€™s Kaddish, the rabbi explained that this night was a very special Shabbat. Â It was Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Consolation. Â After the somber observance of Tisha Bâ€™Av, Shabbat Nachamu begins seven weeks of consolation, of shifting from mourning to comfort as we clear our minds and prepare for the New Year. Â It was a beautiful frame to put around this heartbreaking time, and gave those of us present a sense of purpose in being with my friendâ€™s family in that moment. Â It also fortified me as I prepared for my annual trip to the Maine lakes, a trip that my Mom organized for 29 years, including 2012, the year she, like my friendâ€™s sister, lost her life to cancer.
When I arrived at the lake, I sensed so many things that were missing, so many things to mourn. Â The plastic bins she packed neatly with games and crafts were missing, replaced by a mish-mash of last-minute items I had thrown into canvas bags. Â There was an empty seat around the campfire, and no easel set up on the dock, waiting for a sunset to paint. Â When I think of my mom in Maine, I see her smiling in the oversized neon green and blue plaid shirt she inherited from an old high school friend of mine, and her laughter echoes off of the lake. Â There are so many ways in which she is not there, and I mourn them all each year that I go up without her.
But this year I carried the rabbiâ€™s words about Shabbat Nachamu with me, and tried not to look back quite so much. Â There were consolations and small comforts all around me if I opened my eyes to the present. Â The beauty and tranquility of the lake are gifts that live on. Â My Dad, siblings, and our kids and partners are still a family: a family that treks hours through weekend summer traffic to be together, to cook hot dogs on an open flame and then to find a new stone to overturn – a new farm to visit, or a new craft project to undertake. Â I can see a paintable sunset and relish it, even if I canâ€™t paint it like my mom could. Â My nephew, whose entire life began after my Mom died, is making his way fiercely in the world and reminding me of how much of life remains for all of us to discover.
And then I found another new joy that surprised me. My girls are becoming friends. Â Not in the way itâ€™s been, where I can get Ruthie to distract Chaya with a book while I change my shirt, or where the girls sit beside each other at the table but interact on separate mental planes. A real friendship is blossoming between them, one which is uniquely theirs, and in which I am only a supporting character. Â While we were on vacation, they created their own games together, skipping rocks in the pond side-by-side and enlisting my sister and me for hours of â€śbeauty salonâ€ť activities. Â They sought each other out to try new jokes and held hands in the backseat of the car. Â And there was nothing as consoling as this friendship, which has to be one of parenthoodâ€™s greatest gifts.
One of my favorite Jewish notions is that of sacred continuity – that we must remember our past in order to best be in the present and plan for a better future. Â Shabbat Nachamu is a bridge from a recollection of loss to an appreciation of what is around us. During my week on the lake, I made a small pilgrimage over that bridge. And with the New Year approaching, I will carry the clarity I found in Maine and continue to seek out consolation and joy.
My family has a regular Shabbat observance. We either celebrate at home or attend our synagogueâ€™s family service and dinner. But while we religiously mark the Sabbath in Dallas, we are not very good about practicing this tradition when weâ€™re on vacation. In fact, when weâ€™re away we donâ€™t celebrate Shabbat at all.
My son Sammy keenly pointed out this fact during spring break. As we rode the chair lift to the top of a mountain in Colorado, he said, â€śMommy, its Friday.â€ť
â€śI know, one more day of skiing,â€ť I responded.
â€śNo, itâ€™s Friday,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s Shabbat!â€ť
â€śOh yeah,â€ť I said a little embarrassed that I had forgotten the significance of the day.
â€śHow are we going to celebrate?â€ť Sammy asked.
â€śWell, we donâ€™t have candles or matches and even if we did, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s safe to leave them burning in the hotel room while weâ€™re out or asleep,â€ť I answered. â€śWeâ€™ll celebrate next week when weâ€™re at home.â€ť
â€śWe can still say Shabbat Shalom,â€ť Sammy replied.
â€śYouâ€™re right, we can do that,â€ť I said.
â€śShabbat Shalom,â€ť we said together and gave each other a kiss.
It wasnâ€™t the most meaningful observance, but at least it was something.
After we got home and back into our regular Friday night routine I began to think about how we might maintain our ritual on vacation. I was motivated to find a way to do this before the start of our summer travels.
I knew packing candles and matches was out of the question since we would be flying, and buying Shabbat supplies at our destination would require too much effort. I wanted an easy and convenient solution. I wanted an app.
Now, I recognize that a Shabbat app is veryâ€¦un-Shabbat. Itâ€™s not exactly kosher to use an electronic device to mark a holiday on which you are meant to disconnect, but I decided to check my phoneâ€™s app store anyway. To my surprise, I found several options including iShabbat.
I chose iShabbat because it was simple. It allowed me to â€ślightâ€ť the candles by dragging a â€śflameâ€ť to the wicks and provided the words for the blessing in Hebrew, English and transliteration. A selection of traditional melodies such as Adon Olom and Sholom Aleichem could be played in the background while the candles â€śburnedâ€ť over a two-hour period.
With app in hand we embarked on the first leg of our month-long vacation in mid-July. On a Friday night in Seattle we test-drove iShabbat in a park near Pike Place Market as we watched the sun set over Elliott Bay.
We opened the app, and Sammy lit the candles as we recited the blessing together. Then we played Sholom Aleichem and wished each other Shabbat Shalom as we took in the beautiful view. It was a meaningful way to mark our family tradition and ensure that we carry Shabbat with us on vacation.