Child swinging

I Want My Kids to Feel “Jewish Enough”

Anna doesn’t want her kids to struggle with feeling Jewish enough, like she did

READ MORE
Ballet Slippers

Motherhood: Am I Doing it Right?

Motherhood: Am I doing it right?

READ MORE
Hanukkah decoration

Christmas Decorations: My Guilty Pleasure

Christmas is overtaking Hanukkah and it’s all my fault

READ MORE
Hebrew words on a building

How Will Our Kids Understand the Past?

How do I help my daughters truly understand anti-Semitism and Jewish history?

READ MORE
Generations of women

What Does My Jewish Community Say About Women?

On Simchat Torah, Anna questions, “How do we celebrate women in the Jewish faith?”

READ MORE
Sukkot decorations

Why We’ll Be the Family in Midwood Without a Sukkah

Can we get away with NOT having a sukkah in Brooklyn?

READ MORE
Helen at a pond

This Yom Kippur, I’m Hanging on to My Sins

This Yom Kippur, I’m hanging on to my sins as a parent

READ MORE
Coney Island

How I Ended Up as a Brooklyn Tour Guide for a Day

How Anna ended up giving a bus tour of Brooklyn

READ MORE
Peppa pig

How to Be a Kosher Vegan in an Interfaith Family

Kosher + vegan + interfaith family. This should be interesting!

READ MORE
Hebrew letter

Is it Time to Leave Our Orthodox Neighborhood?

Are we outgrowing the neighborhood I grew up in?

READ MORE
US Border patrol

When Faith Reaches the Border

The young girl in the photo looks like my Helen

READ MORE
Helen jumping in hoops

Why Do I Worry My Daughter Won’t Fit In?

It’s ballet class, not religious school–so why am I worried what they’ll think of us?

READ MORE
Helen opening a door

We Aren’t as Different as My Neighbors Think

Why my American-Jewish-Mexican-Catholic family confuses our neighbors

READ MORE
Pink flowering tree

Death is All Religions

Death is all religions, it is every faith and it shakes us

READ MORE
Anna and her daughter

I Was the Loca Lady at My Baby’s Naming

I never thought I would be the crazy lady in synagogue. But here we are

READ MORE

Helen Fell on Her Head and I Prayed to Jesus, Sort of

Helen Fell on Her Head and I Prayed to Jesus, Sort of

READ MORE
Stuffed animals

My Jewish-American, Mexican-Catholic Daughter Speaks with a British Accent…and It’s All My Fault

My Jewish-American, Mexican-Catholic daughter speaks with a British accent

READ MORE
Anna's daughters together

What’s in a Name

The second time around is totally different…from tacos to the name

READ MORE
Boy and Girl in a side embrace

How Two Faiths Collide

When my daughters question how Jewish or how Catholic they are, I can only hope that they meet a Spencer

READ MORE

Helen Turns 2 in English, Spanish and Hebrew

I can’t believe my first baby girl is already 2! In the beginning of this journey into parenthood I can remember the wise women of the synagogue next door to our apartment shouting, “Enjoy this time! It goes so fast,” as Adrian and I whisked Helen off to the park, to doctor’s appointments, to family […]

READ MORE

How to Rebuild on Yom Kippur

A few weeks ago my family had a hard day. It seemed that both my Jewish and my husband’s Mexican/Catholic faith were being tested. A 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico. The epicenter of the quake was in Puebla where my husband, Adrian, is from and where his immediate family still lives. We were at the laundromat […]

READ MORE

The Unraveling of Tradition

This year’s Rosh Hashanah became the beginning of a challenging New Year. Approaching the middle of my third trimester with a two-year-old at home I refused to cook. I spent the Wednesday afternoon before the festivities with my feet up while blowing bubbles for my daughter. There was only one small tantrum that occurred in […]

READ MORE

Why I Never Visit My Father’s Grave

Numbers are a big deal in Judaism. Hebrew is an ancient language, but numerology is hidden in every letter of scripture. This is something I learned very early on: Numbers matter. Our time on this earth—our nights and our days are numbered. So it wasn’t surprising that I grew up on 23rd street in Brooklyn and […]

READ MORE

Quincineara Barbie

It’s been two weeks of vacation for my family in upstate New York. Nothing but fun, sun, relaxing walks by the lake, fishing and Quinceañera Barbie. Wait…what!? Here’s how Quinceañera 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 […]

READ MORE

When I Panicked and a Stranger Stepped in to Help

It’s a Monday morning in the Midwood section of Brooklyn and my almost 2-year-old daughter and I have a date with my friend and her 10-month-old daughter to go to a read-along at the Brooklyn Public Library. We get downstairs with the stroller, enough snacks to feed a small army and a water bottle. Not to […]

READ MORE

Bringing Some Dharma to My Jewish-Catholic Household

Insomnia. It’s awful and I’ve never had it before. Until now. Part of this has to do with me getting pregnant again shortly after a miscarriage. Another part has to do with the anxiety, fear, loneliness, happiness, joy and gratitude I feel approaching motherhood for the second time. The second time is different, of course. […]

READ MORE

What’s in a Name: My Favorite Torah Portion

My middle name is Miriam. I am named after Mark, my mother’s brother who was killed at the young age of 39. My name is a remembrance of him just as my daughter’s name is a reminder of my two Grandmothers, Helen and Rose. Names (and often specifically Jewish names) have great meaning and what […]

READ MORE

How To Do a Mitzvah

In the local stores in my neighborhood it seems that everyone is pushing everyone else aside. People don’t say “excuse me” anymore. In the kosher bakery I get hit in the eye with a challah bread when one woman reaches past me, past Adrian and over Helen’s stroller. She really socks me one with the […]

READ MORE

The Kids’ Table

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday because it is mostly about storytelling. Every year, my family sits around the Passover table and tells the story of how the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt by blindly following Moses across the Red Sea. The story is about freedom, faith and most of all, food. We eat matzah […]

READ MORE

Loss and Gain

The doctor calls Adrian and me saying, “Congratulations! You’re pregnant!” Adrian hugs me and we lift Helen up and kiss her little 16-month-old cheeks. “Helen! Helen!” we cry, “Helen you are going to have a little brother or sister!” Helen pushes our faces away not exactly understanding and gallops into the bedroom in search of […]

READ MORE

Avoiding “That Look” on Purim

It’s Purim again and I’m afraid to leave the house. During Purim, my neighborhood is like being inside a disco ball at Studio 54 in 1976—only there are a lot more Jews and no sign of Bianca Jagger riding a white horse. When I was growing up, Purim was not one of the major holidays […]

READ MORE

Celebrating a Holiday That’s Not My Own

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m sitting in my car at 8 a.m. listening to a Jack Kornfield meditation talk called “Inner Strength and Kindness.” Did I mention that I’m also crying? Winter is never kind in New York and it’s been a rough month. I’ve been so busy and stressed lately that the only time […]

READ MORE

The Miracle of Light

This interfaith holiday season has been trickier than I thought. If there is a lot of planning, cooking and gift buying for one holiday, then the two holiday celebrating seems impossible. My family celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. But, we are not just a Jewish/Catholic home. We are a Brooklyn Jewish and Mexican Catholic household. This […]

READ MORE

To Tree or Not To Tree

The dual holiday extravaganza this season is more work than I thought it would be. But, it’s important for me to keep the traditions from both my own family and Adrian’s family in order for our daughter Helen to grow up understanding and respecting her two faiths: Jewish on my side and Mexican Catholic on […]

READ MORE

Gratitude, Love and Life

Being stuck in a car for three hours with my mother, Adrian (my significant other) and our baby girl, Helen Rose, is just part of the beauty of Thanksgiving. I should note that being born and raised in Mexico, Adrian doesn’t know a lot about our American holiday, so I began by explaining that sitting […]

READ MORE

How To Teach Love in an Unhappy World

Recently I had an article published on a Jewish site about a dream I had. It was a political piece, and during these rough, media-frenzied times I received a ton of comments, most of them not the loving kind. I am often asked to write pieces about my Jewish experience, my interfaith experience and my […]

READ MORE

A Mother’s Jewish Guilt

I burned myself last week. Right after Rosh Hashanah I went into the kitchen to pour hot water into a single-cup coffee filter and ended up with a pot of boiling water splashing down the right side of my body. On the week of the Jewish New Year, my 1-year-old daughter, Helen Rose, had a […]

READ MORE

How to Pray with Two Faiths

Our family has had a hard few weeks. Every day we open the news to a different headline about hatred and anger. Sometimes it feels as if the whole world has gone bonkers. To top it off, my significant other, Adrian, recently received a phone call from Mexico informing him that his mother is ill. Her diabetes […]

READ MORE

Two Faiths and Powerful Women

My daughter, Helen Rose Castaneda, wakes up one day at 10-and-a-half months old, pulls herself up in her crib and says “hola!” at the top of her lungs. “Hola, hola, hola!” This makes sense because Adrian and I speak to Helen mainly in Spanish at home. She says “hola” for an entire day and then […]

READ MORE

Our Attempt at Planning a Family Vacation and Baby’s First Fever

We had been planning our vacation to upstate New York for six months. The hotels book up by the end of August, so we made the reservation well in advance. Adrian, my significant other, got his freshwater fishing license, and we ordered our daughter a ton of new summer clothes. Everything was packed, even Grandma, […]

READ MORE

The Challenges of Keeping Kosher at an Interfaith Birthday

Growing up, my mother’s house was kosher. We had dishes for dairy and dishes for meat and we never mixed milk with meat. This goes back to the teachings of the Torah where it states on three separate occasions that a baby goat is not to be cooked in it’s mother’s milk. But our house […]

READ MORE

My Favorite Interfaith Children’s Book

When I was a child there were two books I wanted desperately to hear before bedtime. The first was Goodnight Fred. This was a favorite because the grandmother in the book comes out of the telephone to visit Fred and Arthur, her grandsons. I, too, thought my grandmother lived in the telephone and could come […]

READ MORE

Mourning, Friendship and the Future

There is a way to mourn in Judaism and then there is what really happens over the years

READ MORE

Strolling with Moses on Shavuot

My daughter is Jewish. My daughter is Catholic. My daughter is Mexican-American-Ashkenazi-Aztec. God is not angry. God is loving. It took me a long time to understand that.

READ MORE

The Word They’ll Learn the Best

First words. What was my own first word? Probably “Mama,” though now my mother doesn’t remember. She does remember my brother’s first word, which was “arrow.” This is because she was constantly driving around the block with him in his car seat trying to put him to sleep. He would see the arrow on the […]

READ MORE

But You’re Not Really Jewish, Right?

“But you’re not really Jewish right?” This has been a question I have been asked since I was big enough to walk. My family celebrates all of the big holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover to name a few. The women in my family don’t wear long skirts and the men don’t wear black […]

READ MORE

Community Comes Together for Baby’s 1st (Interfaith) Passover

A funny thing happened when I had a baby. People in my neighborhood whom I had never spoken to started speaking to me. They had seen me walking around Brooklyn since I myself was a baby. They had spotted me on my bicycle, buying candy and I’m sure some had seen me in my various […]

READ MORE

My Turn to Make the Passover Meal (with Grandma’s Potatoes)

Passover is approaching. The stores in my neighborhood have begun the process of taking the chametz (bread) off the shelves and replacing the inventory with matzah or other kosher for Passover items. This is a tradition and it is Jewish law. Because Moses led the Jews in escaping Egypt and the bread did not have […]

READ MORE

My Dad, Elijah and the Afikomen

Spring means color. Splashing greens and yellows. Purple tulips cascading over front porches and red robins bustling in the trees. Spring also means Easter for Christians, with blue and violet painted eggs. It means Passover for the Jews. For South Americans and Mexicans it means Semana Santa (the days of Jesus’s crucifixion). For me, it […]

READ MORE

Purim and My Mexican American Jewish Newborn

Purim in my neighborhood is an extravaganza. Limousines crowd the streets and rabbles of teenagers run in and out of houses dressed up as the main characters in the Purim story. A quick summary for those who are not familiar: There is Vashti, who is dethroned by the King Ahasuerus. Then Esther becomes the new […]

READ MORE

Jewish Mourning: A Lesson for My Newborn

When I was 8 years old I had a good friend who lived around the corner from me. His name was Nachshon. We took the same school bus to school and at the Orthodox Yeshiva we attended we were in the same class. I went to his house often after school to play video games […]

READ MORE

We Met in the Middle

Adrian and I met working at a restaurant. Some might call it an “interfaith restaurant.” Tucked away in Cobble Hill, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, La Vara was the restaurant that brought us together. Its menu is based in Southern Spain during La Convivencia. The English translation of the word Convivencia is to […]

READ MORE

Mysticism and My Newborn

    I believe in the mystical. Tarot Cards, Ouji boards, even the woman on the corner of Ocean Avenue who stares at me with one blue eye and one gray eye and says “you have a purple aura” when I walk by. Yes, I believe in her too. As I watch my newborn grow […]

READ MORE

The Ghosts of My Grandmothers or How We Named Our Newborn

Some people believe that when a child is born the angel of death and the angel of mercy stand in the room side by side. During the delivery of my baby I watched the monitor as her heart rate dropped and lifted with every contraction. “The cord is wrapped around her neck,” the doctor said, […]

READ MORE

A New Jewish Mothers First Attempt at Christmas Cookies

My mother lives three blocks away from me. Her house is filled with artwork. There is a statue of Moses and the Ten commandments on her piano, she has a ceramic dreidel collection in the living room and her Sabbath candlesticks sit on a high shelf in her dining room. Naturally, this December I decided […]

READ MORE

Our Jewish Catholic Mexican American Newborn

I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. My parents were liberals who met in the theatre where they had been professional actors. My father was a Brooklyn boy, born and raised in Crown Heights. My mother, a Baltimore native who said she always wanted to marry a Brooklyn boy, and so […]

READ MORE