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February 21, 2012 eNewsletter - Chicago

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Featured Event from Our Network

Emanuel Congregation is a Reform synagogue along the Lake on Sheridan Rd. Join this diverse, welcoming community for a fun Purim shpiel (play) and carnival for the whole family on March 4.

February 21, 2012

Dear friends,

I know every now and again you skim this eNewsletter. Maybe you just read this blurb and don't go any further. But you should read on. Why? Not only do we have some great articles to share with you this week, there's a poll we'd like your input on, and we need your help getting word out about out first course in Chicagoland. Read on for more. No, really, read on...


Time's running out — only 7 days left to register for the first hybrid online/in-person class InterfaithFamily/Chicago will be offering this year: Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family! A one-of-a-kind, eight-session class for interfaith parents thinking about whether and how to bring Judaism to their home, their lives and their parenting. This class runs February 27 through April 27. Encourage your friends in Chicagoland to register now!

Still thinking about January's workshop for Chicagoland Jewish educators, Ari Moffic offered one example of an inclusion policy for synagogue religious schools' handbooks. Does your religious school have one? Could you imagine using pieces of this? Read more in Writing a Religious School Pledge for All Families.


Susan Goldberg challenges us by wondering if, when one mother in an interfaith, lesbian couple is Jewish and the other is not, Judaism's matrilineal descent should be taken for granted. If matrilineal/biological laws aren't used to define who a parent is in this family, should the same laws define their child's religion? Read more in When Interfaith Meets Same-Sex, Assumptions Get Challenged.

On the Parenting Blog, Chana-Esther shared three posts:

  • Her family's decision not to include extended, non-Jewish family at their son's bris (ritual circumcision). Is it too complicated? Is the potential for conflict too great? Read more in Merging the Jewish with the Non.
  • Her morning ritual with her son. Do you add any Jewish rituals to your young children's morning routines? Read more in Modeh Ani.
  • Her husband is not Jewish. She's Jewish and has a strict Shabbat practice. How can they find a balance while also teaching their son to love Shabbat? Read more in The Saturday Dilemma.

Wondering if there was a better (shorter, easier to trip off the tongue) label for "non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish kids," Julie Wiener suggested we have a contest to grab suggestions. Challenge accepted. Read more in Moms Need a New Name and don't forget to vote for your favorite!


Rodger Kamenetz meditates on Jewish Mardi Gras and New Orleans Purim. With Fat Tuesday about two weeks before Purim this year, can New Orlean's Mardi Gras be a warm up for Purim? He suggests that both "Purim and Mardi Gras involve masking, both celebrate turning the world upside down, both encourage inebriation: The two holidays are in many ways soulmates." Read more in Mardi Purim.

Want to get a jump start on your Purim preparations? Need to brush up on the holiday's history, customs, celebrations, treats and more? Check out our newly redesigned booklet, Purim.


What do marshmallows, Justin Bieber, 5 pounds of gummy bears, and an aufruf have in common? Yolanda and Arel explain in the latest Wedding Blog post. Read (and watch) more in Video 14: Aufruf and More.


Perhaps, like Jason Bortnick, you've been asked, "Has your interfaith heritage been more of a positive or a negative for you, and why?" And, perhaps if your parents chose to face intermarriage and two religions by raising you without any faith, you know it has had both a negative and positive impact on your life. But there are perks, like finding God in art, literature and Superman. Read more in What Would Superman Do?

Is religion something you're born into, or can it be a choice? Cathy Rein's Irish-Catholic parents felt strongly it was the former, but Cathy fell in love with Judaism. Read more in Becoming Jewish in the Eyes of My Parents.

Pop Culture

In time for Sunday's Oscar awards, Nate Bloom gives us the scoop on the Jewish and interfaith nominees. Who will bring home the Oscar? Read more in Interfaith Celebrities.

I blogged about Oprah's recent visit to an Orthodox neighborhood of Brooklyn, specifically to Chabad-Lubavitch. Her takeaway seemed largely focused on the small boxes affixed to the doorposts of homes, containing scrolls, known as a mezuzah. Read more in Oprah Likes Mezuzahs.

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





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." Hebrew for "doorpost," it now refers to a small box containing a scroll (of the Hebrew text of the Shema prayer) which is affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes. Strictly speaking, mezuzah only refers to the scroll itself, not the case in which it's housed. The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. Yiddish for "calling up," it's a celebration of a couple on the Jewish Sabbath prior to their wedding. It usually involves the honor of an aliyah (saying the blessing over the Torah). After the Torah reading, the congregation customarily sings a congratulatory song and may also throw candies at the couple. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) 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. Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."
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