Celebrity news from Hollywood including an interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and an update on Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo.Go To Pop Culture
My children believe in Christmas elves. And leprechauns. Â They also believe that there are little elves who live in our backyard. Last year when spring came, the elves moved in to our pine tree and set up a mini Adirondack chair, a white picket fence, and a miniature watering can outside. And they nailed a small 12-inch door into the tree trunk. Last weekend, while everyone was taking a nap, they left a little note on the counter announcing they were back and leading the kids on a scavenger hunt around the yard. These are our stretelech, Yiddish for magical little people.
My husband discovered the stories of stretelech at the Conference ofÂ American Jewish Educators conference after seeing David Arfa speak. Later he asked his Yiddish-speaking grandmother about them. She confirmed that as a child she was scared of the shtretelech. Like many fairy tale creatures over the past century, they have morphed from evil trolls into mischievous pranksters.
So who are these little Jewish elves? Apparently they live outside for most of the year, but relocate behind our stoves during the winter. Children are excellent at spotting stretelech in the woods, but adults have trouble identifying their tracks. Some stories identify them as musicians. Others as shoemakers.Â Â One Yiddish folk teller says the Elves and the Shoemaker story about the poor shoemaker who wakes one morning to find that someone has mysteriously made a pair of exquisite shoes, is a stretelech tale.
One of the things I really loved as a kid were fairy tale creatures. I remember chasing the end of a rainbow with a very real belief that there would be a pot of gold, guarded by a mischievous little leprechaun. Â And even though I never really believed in Christmas elves, I loved the idea of tiny people making toys and singing Christmas carols. So I was excited to learn about the stretelech, and since there is so little known about them, I could make their storyÂ whatever I wanted.Â I read (in the Encyclopedia Britannica) that Jewish fairy tales are â€śconspicuously absentâ€ť from Jewish legends, â€śbecause fairies, elves, and the like are foreign to the Jewish imagination, which prefers to populate the otherworld with angels and demons subservient to God.â€ť Well! This just isnâ€™t true, not when I know there are a group of stretelech who live in my backyard.
For a picture of what a stretelech might look like, click here. Otherwise, youâ€™ll have to search for one on your own.
Passover requires an intense amount of cleaning. Â I have read numerous articles about how it really should only take a few hours of cleaning. Â Dirt isn’t Chametz.
Chametz can make it’s way around the house though. Â The office is upstairs, a plate of crackers and a coffee while working on the computer. Â A snack downstairs while watching a little TV. Â The living room is connected to both the dining room and the kitchen.
I also have a very cute, very adorable little 18 month old son, who manages to get food every where. Â He munches on a cracker and sets it down for later. Â He finds it and then mashes it up (sound familiar?)
I need many hours to clean the house of Chametz because there are so many areas to clean. Â I also have the regular every day stuff to do too. Â It isn’t like life gets put on hold while Passover cleaning takes place. Â There are dinners to make, laundry to clean and put away, bathrooms sadly, do not clean themselves.
I used to do a full on Spring cleaning when I did my Passover cleaning. Â It just seemed to make sense. Â That was B.K. Â Before Kids. Â Now that I have my adorable son, I’ve limited the cleaning to actual Chametz only. Â But it still takes me a few weeks, working a few hours hear and there, until it’s all done.
How do you plan the Chametz Detox in your house? Â How long does it take?
This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.
One of the themes of Purim has to do with the hidden becoming revealed. Â Esther hid her identity as a Jew within Achashverosh’s castle. Â When the time was right not only did she reveal her true self, but she revealed Haman’s evil plot to destroy the Jews. Â All the coincidences within the story of Esther all come together in the end and reveal a rich and interesting story. Â G-d’s name is not mentioned at all in the Megillah (Scroll) of Esther, but is hidden within Esther’s name itself, which means Hidden.
My husband and I celebrated Purim with a local Jewish organization. Â I dressed up as Time Flies (I had wings and clocks) and my husband dressed up as Father Time. Â Father Time was a priest with clock picture on his chest. Â We felt this was funny on a few levels, since my husband isn’t Jewish. Â I think he appreciated being dressed up as a character that is distinctly not Jewish. Â He could be his non-Jewish self openly when all through the year he feels like he has to downplay and maybe hide the fact he isn’t Jewish.
We had agreed that our son would be raised in an entirely Jewish environment and my husband isnâ€™t/wasnâ€™t very religious so it didn’t seem like a big deal. Â It does mean though that he gets submerged and swallowed with Jewishness. Â Kosher food, Shabbat meals, Jewish holidays… heâ€™s surrounded all the time.
We celebrate Purim by hiding behind masks and pretending to be what we arenâ€™t (or briefly live a fantasy of who we would like to be), just as Esther pretended she wasnâ€™t Jewish. Â My husband got to enjoy the party being openly non-Jewish.
My 4 year-old son’s BFF is a Christian boy named Connor. The two are not only inseparable; they have been in the same daycare class since 5 months of age.
I’ve been explaining to Oliver that Connor doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah. It’s been a fruitful conversation to talk about how we don’t share all of our holidays with some friends and family. Connor may not celebrate Hanukkah, but he does celebrate Christmas, and we want to be sure to wish Connor a Merry Christmas. So Oliver decided that he wanted to give Connor a Christmas gift, and he specifically wanted to make a Christmas ornament for Connor’s tree. So I pulled out some red felt, cut a large circle, and threaded a piece of silver ribbon through the top. “Ok,” I told him, “Now you have to decorate it.”
Oliver thought for about 10 seconds and then retrieved a marker and started drawing. The Christmas ornament has a giant blue menorah on it. Knowing Connor’s parents, they are going to be touched by Oliver’s Christmas ornament. And I’m sure they’ll hang it on their tree.
Shalom. I struggled with that salutation — Iâ€™m a Jew by choice and converted 4 and a half years ago, and the language can still feel clunky at times. I should be able to write that salutation without it raising the hair on my neck, but it does make me feel like an impostor sometimes.
My son, Oliver, is also 4 and a half, and my daughter, Esther, is 2 and a half. They attend a preschool/daycare program at a Jewish Community Center, and last week one of the teachers asked if we were Jewish or not. To be fair, not that many of the kids who attend our JCC seem to be Jewish. So it was kind of the teacher to ask rather than assume. However, I suspected the teacher had made an assumption that we werenâ€™t Jewish becauseâ€¦ well, I could come up with a list of reasons why my family of four is not passing as Jews. But most of those reasons have less to do with other peopleâ€™s perceptions than with my own struggle to assert my place in this faith.
The reason Iâ€™ve decided to become a blogger on the InterfaithFamily Parenting Blog is because I felt confidant in my Jewish faith, in my Jewish marriage, in my Jewish parenting, and in my Jewish practice until my kids started becoming talkative Jewish know-a-lots. Then I realized that there is a major difference between converting to a faith as an adult and being raised in it. That shouldnâ€™t be some huge revelation, I realize, and if my beit dein (rabbinic court) had asked me, â€śWhatâ€™s the difference between converting to a faith and being raised in it?â€ť before my mikveh, I probably could have responded confidently. But as with most things, children make you question a lot of your assumptions, and they keep you honest. This morning my kids were chasing each other around the breakfast table singing the motzi (blessing over bread) at the top of their lungs. In that moment I realized (1) their Jewish experience is going to be different from mine, and (2) we are not imposters. Iâ€™m excited by all the things Iâ€™m learning from these little Jewish know-a-lots, and Iâ€™m glad youâ€™ll come along with me on this journey. Shalom.
As Iâ€™ve posted on here before, our bedtime routine is pretty typical â€“ bath, pjs, stories, songs, lights out. While the pjs and the stories chosen might vary each night, the songs never do.
Each night, the request is the same: first, â€śTake Me Out to the Ballgameâ€ť (no, Iâ€™m not kidding; he actually wants to hear this EVERY night); second, the Shema; third, â€śLa La Luâ€ť (the lullaby from Lady and the Tramp).
Lately Sam has started to sing the songs with me. I know he doesnâ€™t fully understand it yet, but I love that Sam is already starting to â€śprayâ€ť with me at night. I hope his â€śbedtime songâ€ť helps to open the door for him to easily talk to G-d as he grows.
If you incorporate prayers into your evening routine, when did your kids start saying them with you? When do you think they started to understand that they were more than just words or pretty tunes?
Our schedule is crazy lately. I know, I know, whose isnâ€™t? My two big boys are both playing baseball this spring, and will soon be starting up select basketball. Both sports run concurrently (so, 2 boys playing 2 sports = NO free time, really) through early July. This schedule, plus a 30-minute drive to synagogue means we donâ€™t get to services nearly as often as Iâ€™d like. And while there are nights I could go on my own, or just the baby and I could go, it just doesnâ€™t happen. Much as I love our congregation and rabbi, Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m brave enough to go (and wrestle my munchkin into some form of quiet-ness for an hour) on my own.
Lately, with some stuff thatâ€™s been going on, Iâ€™ve NEEDED a reconnection with something bigger than myself. Iâ€™ve needed something to remind me that some of the pettiness and general sometimes-it-stinks-to-be-a-grown-up crud Iâ€™ve been dealing with is, really and truly, small potatoes. I donâ€™t really have a church home anymore, and, honestly, Sunday mornings are one of our FEW quiet times as a family, so I enjoy them at home. So, whatâ€™s a (gentile) girl to do?
Iâ€™ve found great comfort in us lighting the Shabbat candles lately. Itâ€™s not always right at sundown, and I donâ€™t always get to rest or study or simply enjoy their gentle glow. But I do get the reminder that thereâ€™s something bigger out there than me and my daily struggles and joys. I get to share the blessing with my boys. Most times, Daddy lights the candles and says the blessing. One week, I did it. I loved doing it. Bubba found one of the babyâ€™s books that has the transliteration of several Shabbat prayers (Iâ€™ve mentioned it here, before, My Shabbat) and pulled it out on his own to try to sound through some of the other simple blessings. Bear got in on that, too. Itâ€™s still all â€śfunâ€ť for them, but I like that theyâ€™re curious enough to try, and to ask.
More recently, Iâ€™ve lit the candles on my own, when Daddy and the big boys were out, and it was just Baby Boy and me. I even braved last weekâ€™s Tot Shabbat (once a month at our synagogue) â€“ just Baby and me. (He loved it, by the way, danced and sang and wanted to go â€śup dereâ€ť on the bimah, and cried and cried when it was time to go home.)
So, while I continue to work on my own spiritual journey, I hope to continue at least lighting the candles on Friday nights to bring me back out of myself and the myopic view of life I tend to develop during our hectic weekdays. And even if my journey doesnâ€™t lead me to any kind of conversion, I think I probably will always need Shabbat.
Our Passover Seders are typically enjoyed at the home of one of Hubbyâ€™s Aunts and Uncles. They always do an incredible job, and are some of the few people we know who are equipped to handle 20+ people for dinner (and make it look pretty darn easy, even though I KNOW itâ€™s not). Last year, I have to admit, I was dreading the Passover Seder. Baby boy was almost 1, he was mobile, and I just KNEW he was going to be a handful. I was pleasantly surprised at pesach/">how well it all went.
Of course, that doesnâ€™t mean that I WASNâ€™T worried about this Passover… on the contrary. Baby boy is now almost 2, and all that goes along with that. His big brothers, while typically well-behaved, have a penchant for egging him on (mainly because heâ€™s so darn cute, but also because, well, theyâ€™re big brothers). Add to that the fact that I realized about half an hour before we needed to leave that I never procured a travel high chair. I had no way of
Again, my fears were *mostly* unfounded this year. As he climbed the front steps, Baby boy excitedly called out â€śAunt Su-san house! See. Aunt Su-San!â€ť (Try to read that in your best squeaky-toddler voice.) Baby boy was pretty good, if somewhat restless. He mostly sat in my lap, until he realized that Zayde was at the next table, and then heâ€™d sort of roam between Mommy, Daddy, and â€śZalieâ€™sâ€ť lap. He didnâ€™t eat much dinner (not that I expected otherwise; heâ€™s definitely in the â€śpickyâ€ť stage of toddler eating), though he did ask for more and more â€śapple-cinn-monâ€ť (charoses). He wore his kippah, (he kept calling it his â€śhehmetâ€ť because anything that goes on oneâ€™s head right now MUST be a baseball helmet) except for when he shared it with me or Daddy. (Even showing him that his big brothers were quietly and calmly wearing their â€śhehmetsâ€ť didnâ€™t persuade him to keep his on.)
There were a couple â€śextraâ€ť (i.e., not related to us) kiddos at this yearâ€™s Seder, which made the hunt for the Afikomen even more exciting! Bear found it this year, and after some pretty intense negotiations for its ransom, we had to have a little â€ślessonâ€ť with Bear about the ransomâ€™s fair division between his co-searchers. All the kids did GREAT on their reading (and considering the youngest reader is only in kindergarten, Iâ€™m SO, SO impressed), and they all (with the exception of Baby boy) behaved very well at the table. It was a late night, as usual, and maybe a little wilder than in years past, but Iâ€™d still say it was a very successful Seder. Maybe one year Hubs and I will be brave enough to have our own
Tonight was the first time my family â€“ my husband, me and my two boys â€“ said the Hamotzi (blessing over the bread) at home â€“ outside a Jewish holiday. It’s not that I am opposed to giving thanks before my meals â€“ I know how many blessings I have and am thankful for them daily â€“ I just don’t express my thanks to G-d on a daily basis. But maybe I should.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, my father-in-law, who’s Episcopalian, always leads the Grace before dinner. This year our very chatty two-year-old thought that Grace was the greatest thing ever â€“ getting to hold everyone’s hands before dinner. And his way of saying Grace was by saying “I love my family” â€“ what could be better than that. My father-in-law’s version of Grace is also very universal â€“ thanking G-d for our many blessings, for the meal we are about to enjoy, thankful to the family we are gathered with and also thankful for those who are not able to be with there. Then it’s chow time.
Tonight however, my in-laws were not having dinner with us, it wasn’t a special meal or holiday. It was just a regular Monday night. Just after we all sat down, our seven-year-old asks, “Can we say the blessing?” And I respond that there are different ways â€“ Grace is what Christian people say, the Hamotzi is what Jewish people say and then our younger son’s version â€“ I love my family. He immediately picked the Hamotzi, as if that was what he was trying to think of on his own, which we then all sang together. Even his little brother joined in â€“ he has lots of practice from weekly Shabbat celebrations at the JCC pre-school.
Just a little story about how a regular Monday night turned into a really sweet moment for our family who might consider saying some form of thanks on a nightly basis.
Hamotzi lechem min haaretz,
Sometimes I think what will be written on my headstone when I die is She had a lot of faith. As Roman Catholic raising Jewish children, I spend a lot of my time in houses of worshipâ€”three hours in the synagogue on Saturdays and an hour at Mass on Sundaysâ€”preparing for and celebrating holidays, and talking about God and religion with my friends and family.
The truth is I love it. I love being Catholic and I love that my family is Jewish. I am by no means a religious expert or theologian. I have studied Judaism for the past twelve years since I met my husband and as much as I have learned, I do feel like I have barely scratched the surface. Once when I was talking with a (Jewish) friend, trying to understand the differences between the Jewish denominations, he finally said the different denominations are about five minutes old in the span of Judaism, and I should not worry about the difference between a Conservative Jew and a Reconstructionist Jew. He told me to study the Jewish holidays, interpret them for my family, and all will be well.
I am sure some would take exception to that advice, but it has worked for me all these years. I cannot expound on all facets of Jewish religion, tradition, and customs, but I have found my way living a Jewish life with my family. I am grateful for all of my teachers along the way, my childrenâ€™s preschool, their Jewish summer camp, our synagogue, great friends, and resources on Interfaithfamily.com. And I cannot forget the secretary at my church who recommended the mohel we used for my sonâ€™s
My son is eight years old and my daughter is six. I am happy to share that they are thriving in all aspects of their humanity, they are healthy, they are socially agreeable, and self-identify as Jews. They know I am not Jewish and love me anyway. Last year when William was seven and Sarah was five, we took them to our local mikveh to be officially converted. Of course some lines of Judaism recognize patrilineal descent, but it was important to us to have them officially converted for their Jewish legitimacy to be recognized by most modern denominations.
On the appointed day, William and Sarah went through the ritual immersion for Jewish conversion at the Community Mikveh in Wilmette, Illinois. One at a time, they entered the small holy pool and immersed their whole bodies under the water three times. After each immersion, a prayer was said by the beit din (rabbinic court officiating the ritual) blessing them into the Jewish religion.
William and Sarah loved the experience. My husband and I prepared them for it in advance. The mikveh is a special place. The water is the most special water you will ever feel on your skin. You will be sealed with Godâ€™s grace in a very special way. Enjoy it; savor it because it will be a long time before you can go into a mikveh again.
Enjoy it they did. Sarah went first and made us promise she can come back again one day. William dunked himself at least six times. He treaded water. He swam around. He stayed in as long as he could.