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December 6, 2011 eNewsletter - Boston

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Featured Event from Our Network

Flip Over Chanukah: The Chanukah tradition of lighting the menorah illuminates the holiday's values of freedom, family and belief in the possibility of miracles. Create your own miracles as children flip, jump and bounce through a Chanukah obstacle course followed by a sing-a-long and more! Geared towards families with children ages 2-6 years. December 11, Natick, MA.

December 6, 2011

Dear friends,

  • 563,000: Number of visitors who came to looking for resources and contact information for Jewish professionals in their areas.
  • 172,000: Number of times our Jewish Holidays Cheat Sheet was accessed.
  • 2,040: Number of clergy referrals we made to families for life-cycle events.
  • 1,800: Number of donations we need by the end of the year from people like you to make all of this possible. Please help us reach our goal.

Greater Boston

Did you notice, last month, that you received a version of this eNewsletter that highlighted local content? We've started local editions, where we will be focusing on your local community in addition to highlighting the great content from In between our bi-weekly eNewsletters, check out more local content on the Greater Boston Community Page — and get to know your community!

Holiday Survey: Time is Running Out

Do you celebrate Hanukkah? Christmas? We are conducting a survey about interfaith families' experiences participating in Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. People of all backgrounds are welcome to take this survey and anyone who is a member of the Network is eligible to win the drawing of a $500 American Express giftcard. The deadline is December 11 — Take the December Holiday Survey!

December Holidays

Later this month — starting the night of December 20, and lasting eight nights — is Hanukkah. This winter festival is beloved by many children and families, a time to bring light into our homes and fried foods into our bellies. Want to learn more about it? Looking for recipes, a video explaining how to light a Hanukkah menorah, our guide to navigating Christmas and Hanukah in an interfaith family? Find these and more on our Hanukkah and Christmas Resource Page.

Hanukkah is one of the most home-based and family-centered of the Jewish holidays. But what is the holiday all about? Our new booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more! Read more in our Hanukkah booklet.

Jordyn Rozensky, of the Boston JCRC's ReachOut!, wants to know: Can a strong Jewish household celebrate a very not Jewish holiday? How do you navigate your own feelings? Read more in Christmukkah??

In 2003, Alice Hale converted to Judaism. And, suddenly, the girl who had bravely declared that she would always have a Christmas tree was ready to say goodbye to the whole thing. No tree, no carols, no gifts. She was ready to just accept the holiday as an extra day off from work, and leave it at that. But her kids wouldn't let her. Read more in Learning to Let Go of Christmas.

And on the Parenting Blog, Lisa Stein wrote about her family's approach to balancing Christmas with Hanukkah, warning that her approach may "potentially [be] unpopular." Read more in Christmukkah Redux.

Life Cycle Events

On the Wedding Blog, the Hitch, Yolanda posted about invitations (it seems doing it yourself might not be the best plan) and shopping for wedding dresses (finding something "modest" seems to mean "unattractive," but at least we're treated to photos!). Read (and watch) more in: Video 9: diy wedding invites with my best friend, Invitations are done! Woo hoo :) and Oh the joys of wedding dress shopping for a Conservative Jew.

And on the Parenting Blog, Lisa Stein wrote about a wedding her family was invited to. A sister of one of the grooms delivered the best line of the evening in her toast: "Here's to the day when we won't be celebrating a gay wedding, we'll just be celebrating a wedding." Read more in A Wedding to Remember.

SLP wrote on the Parenting Blog about her nerves and anxiety as she went to her synagogue for the first meeting about her son's bar mitzvah. Read more in Reality, on a green 3x5 card.


Ari Moffic blogged about bringing unaffiliated interfaith couples and families into the Jewish community, the importance of Jewish organizations to do so and the benefits for couples and families. Read more in New Question of the Week: The Home Front.

Rachel Baruch Yackley wrote about how, about eight years ago, a small group of Jews, along with several non-Jewish spouses, gathered to discuss developing a formal group of some sort. She and her husband were part of this group, looking to help bring Jews together in a community so lacking a Jewish presence that each initial participant felt she/he was "the only one." Read more in The Welcoming Community We Created.

I blogged about Israel's latest anti-community initiative, born out of a desire to reunite community: a hateful ad campaign encouraging Israelis in the U.S. to move back to Israel by tearing down Jewish life in America. Read more in Israelis Should Not Marry Americans, the Netanyahu Edition.

And on the Parenting Blog, Ketura wonders if, as our community continues to change, we need to think about re-structuring or simply adding more milestones on the Jewish pathway through life — especially for those who do not have children and families to celebrate. Read more in Milestones.


When Amanda Koppelman Milstein was a child, she was confused. Why did her mother talk about how she had a Bas Mitzvah, while Amanda prepared for her Bat Mitzvah? Why was the way her father pronounced Hebrew different from the way she learned it in Hebrew school? This article explains the history of different Hebrew pronunciations. Read more in The Case of the Missing Sav, and other mysteries in the transition of American Hebrew.

I blogged about American Hebrew, and one author's insulting opinion of something he's termed "Ashkebonics" ("the widespread use of this strange half-Hebrew, half-Yiddish dialect... the Jewish equivalent of Ebonics"). Read more in On Different Hebrew Pronunciation...

You may have seen Hebrew words written in Roman characters (transliteration) in many different ways, and translated in a variety of different ways as well. This can make learning Hebrew and saying prayers more confusing, but there are good reasons why all this diversity exists... Read more in Understanding Transliteration and Translation.

Enough of language... What's culture without food?! Updated with new foods, including common ingredients and how they are made, their origins, and even the best place to get a kosher cheesecake. Read more in A Jewish Food Cheat Sheet.

Pop Culture

In his regular column, Nate Bloom gives the inside scoop on Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve movie, Mayim Bialik's Jewish journey and favorite December holiday movies on TV. Read more in Interfaith Celebrities.

When Mark Whitaker, the trailblazing CNN news chief, wrote his fascinating memoir, he found many links to Jews. That's one piece of a truly American family story, he tells Jane Eisner. Read more in Newsman Discovered Links to Jews.

I reviewed MetaMaus, an inside look at the making of, and lives that have impacted/been impacted by, Art Spiegelman's Maus. Read more in MetaMaus: Look Inside a Classic.

Are you, or is a family member, Hindu, Muslim, Quaker, Buddhist or of another religion/faith with an interesting story to share about a ritual, spring holiday or life-cycle event with your interfaith family or interfaith relationship? I'd love to hear your story pitches! Contact me!

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Benjamin Maron, Managing Editor





Hebrew for "son of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a bar mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bar mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The female equivalent is "bat mitzvah." Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. Hebrew for "candelabrum" or "lamp," it usually refers to the nine-branched candelabrum that is lit for the holiday of Hanukkah. (A seven-branched candelabrum, a symbol of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, is a symbol of Judaism and is included in Israel's coat of arms.) A language, literally meaning "Jewish," once widely used by Ashkenazi communities. It is influenced by German, Hebrew and Slavic languages, and is written with the Hebrew alphabet. It is comparable to the language of many Sephardi communities, Ladino. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
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