Rabbi Garber is the associate rabbi at Beth El Temple, West Hartford, CT. A 2005 graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Garber serves on the board of her community's mikveh and on several national committees of the Rabbinical Assembly, and is a member of Rabbis Without Borders.
The assignment seemed simple enough: For the culmination of their unit on nursery rhymes, my son’s kindergarten class was to create the “new and improved” Humpty Dumpty. Each student should…bring in their (parents’) creation and their “egg” will be tested on the school wall. The challenge: create a Humpty Dumpty that does not even need “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” to try to fix him. In other words, make a Humpty that’s not so Dumpty after all. While in our… >> Read More
We got out of our car at the aquarium, and before we even reached the entrance, I knew we had made a mistake. It was early in the morning so it was not yet busy, but it was chaotic, loud, and…over-stimulating. Everywhere we looked there were colors, sounds, animals, and flashing lights. People were shouting at us (words of greeting, but not quiet ones), taking our picture, stamping our hands. Music playing, lights blaring, food smells coming from everywhere. And in the middle of all of it, my precious 5-year-old son, holding his ears, closing… >> Read More
“Hey sweetie,” I nudged my 7-year-old son. “I want you to meet Rachel. She has a brother with Fragile X Syndrome—just like you do!”
My enthusiasm was a bit much. And yet, his eyes nearly…popped out of his head. We talk about Fragile X all the time, and yet here was someone else who also had a brother with Fragile X? I could see the wheels turning. We are a family with Fragile X, even though only one person has the full mutation. To my older son, Fragile X… >> Read More
We have entered new territory: medicating our child. Every morning at 8 a.m. we give our 5-year-old son a very small dose of methylphenidate (often known as Ritalin). And then every afternoon at 1…p.m., he goes to the nurse’s office in school (or to our kitchen on the weekends) for his second dose. It’s only been a few weeks, and we’re not yet sure if we’re seeing results, but I still cannot believe we are doing this. I am not a drug person. Never smoked. Never tried pot… >> Read More
My husband glanced up from the list of Thanksgiving recipes sent home by our son’s kindergarten teacher in preparation for their in-school Thanksgiving Feast.
“At least nothing has seeds,…nuts, or pineapple,” I offered, relieved that he would not have an allergic reaction to any of the foods. “Yeah,” my husband agreed. “But it’s all treyf [not kosher]!” And thus ensued an honest, heartfelt, and open discussion about our son, his special needs, and our Jewish observance. It was not the first time we’ve… >> Read More
My first son refused the bottle. He was tiny and hungry and nursed round the clock–for months! It didn’t matter if I was at work or out of town–he would only receive nourishment from me (and…lucky me, he’s 7 and still just about that stubborn!). My second son was just the opposite: we didn’t know in his early months that he had low muscle tone due to having Fragile X Syndrome, but he would almost exclusively want a bottle and refuse to nurse! He would only snuggle up to my… >> Read More
I loved wearing my bubbe’s old dresses on Halloween. Even as a young girl, my body easily filled out the elegant gowns that my petite and glamorous grandmother wore in decades past. It was an…exciting ritual to go through our family’s cedar closet, finding a treasure, and deciding if the dress made me look more like Purim heroine Queen Esther or Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold. Indeed, I was the kid with somewhat strange Halloween costume ideas. Even though I was raised as an observant Conservative Jew, we definitely celebrated… >> Read More
I am sending my 5-year-old son to school on the holy days of Sukkot. It will be the first time we’ve ever done this, and the decision is killing me.
We're an observant family; we've never sent…our kids to school on a holiday. We go to synagogue, where I'm the rabbi. But this year, we have decided to send him to school. And while I am still struggling with this decision, I know it is right for our family. The reason I’m finally OK with this decision might be surprising. Our… >> Read More
It’s my baby’s first day of kindergarten, and I am not there. I am not packing his lunch, nor am I strapping him into his 5-point harness on the little yellow bus that will drive him to school. I…won’t be there to witness if he has a meltdown. I know he likely will fall to the floor in tears, just as the bus is approaching. He will be kicking and screaming, due to the anxiety and stress this new situation. While change is hard for any child, it is even more challenging for… >> Read More
Soccer. Baseball. Swimming. Piano. Karate. Ice-skating. Religious school. Mad Science. Rock climbing.
No wonder my then-6-year-old son complained to us last spring that he was exhausted. What were…we thinking, allowing him to do so many after-school activities? The truth is, we weren’t really thinking. We allowed him to do whatever he wanted to do—within reason, we thought—so that he might explore and learn. Neither my husband nor I are athletic, but our son picks up any and every sports game or physical… >> Read More
“I don’t want to go in the water!” he cries.
“Why not?” I plead. We’re only two days into our week at the beach.
“It’s too wet.”
Are these words coming from my 5.5-year-old…son with Fragile X or from Captain Obvious? Is this a moment to celebrate that he is articulating himself so clearly or a moment to cry as his misery impacts us all, changing our plans for the day, the week? I love the beach: sand, sun, ocean, shells, and picnic lunches. But each and every… >> Read More
Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is one of two major fast days in the Jewish calendar. It’s largely unknown to most Jews since it occurs during the summer (and thus not while…religious school is in session!). If you ever attended a Jewish camp, you might remember this day as one that lasted forever and left a sour taste (food pun intended) in your mouth. Tisha B’Av is the day in which both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. In addition, the Jewish people… >> Read More
I was 13 when a boy in 7th grade introduced me to the metal band Guns N’ Roses. Before long, my room was plastered with pinups from Heavy Metal magazine and Hit Parader. I was obsessed. I’m not…sure if it was the music, with its chilling guitar riffs and explicit language, or the long-haired, tattooed lead singers, but I was soon in love with the likes of Axl Rose, Jon Bon Jovi, Bret Michaels, Sebastian Bach, and many more. I knew their birthdays, their tour schedules, and the lyrics to every song.… >> Read More
It was just days after my cancer diagnosis when Rachel showed up at my door. She’d been my neighbor but had since moved away. Her story of cancer diagnosis and recovery was one I had followed just…a year before. Her smile was warm and her arms were full. She carried a basket with sweet treats, books for my children, and one small box. I gratefully put the basket in the kitchen, and then, curious, I opened the box to find a thin silver necklace with a round pendant. “It’s from Israel,”… >> Read More
Remember those peanut butter commercials from the 90’s that told us “choosy moms choose Jif”? What does it mean to be “choosy”? Choice is not just about having options; it’s about…exploring, engaging, and eventually committing to something that is meaningful. I’d like to be a “choosy mom” too, though with peanut butter allergies in my house, I’m not choosing Jif! Instead, I am trying to raise my children to be “choosy” Jews-by-choice. On the holiday of Shavuot, we receive the Torah and, more specifically, the… >> Read More
This year my older son became interested in counting the omer—the ritual of counting the days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot. He's 6 and a half—no, he's 6 and 3/4—and he loves…numbers. So counting each night has been a fun addition to our bedtime routine. I love that he's reading the Hebrew words, saying the blessing, and doing some interesting calculations all in the name of Judaism. It's become so ingrained in our bedtime routine that I'm worried he may want to do it forever. In… >> Read More
It was the morning of my eldest son's bris, on the eighth day of his life. As he is my first child, it was also my eighth day of motherhood. I was sore, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Family and friends…were coming in from all over and I was expected to put on a dress, come to synagogue, and smile as my child endured a strange and ancient custom, one that I supported but still made me cringe. I am sure that the experience was more painful for me than for him. But when I… >> Read More
This article is part of our essay series, “Why Be Jewish?,” based off of “Why Be Jewish?”—a new book by the late Edgar M. Bronfman. Read the rest in the series here.
I come from a…family that cares about horticulture. You could say we’re “deeply rooted” in plants. My paternal grandmother, a “lady of leisure” in the latter half of the last century, would put on a smock and make a day out of watering and repotting her 100 or so plants around her Boston home. My maternal grandfather, a… >> Read More
Every year it happens in just about the same way: I pledge to stick to it. I create reminders and support systems. I beg my husband to join me in the daily routine. And then at some point, I…fail. No, I’m not talking about a fad diet; I’m talking about the ancient Jewish ritual of counting the omer. Every night, starting from the second night of Passover (at the seder), Jews count an “omer”—a measurement of grain that was brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem as an offering. Of course, now the… >> Read More
As a child, our Passover seder would end the usual way: I would find the afikoman and hold it captive until my grandfather was ready to redeem it. In my very early years, I would get cash (despite…the prohibition to handle money on Jewish holidays—what did I know, I was a kid!). My grandfather would shell out $50 bills from his wallet. As the years went on, my parents realized they could coach me, and thus began the great afikoman bargaining. I would approach my grandfather gingerly, prized-matzah in hand, with 45… >> Read More
I've survived cancer, and every day I thank God for that miracle. It was a grueling, scary, and painful experience. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Cancer is one of the most devastating plagues…of our time. There are others, to be sure, and as we approach Passover, I’ve been thinking about how we remember the plagues of the past and how we will memorialize modern plagues sometime in the future. Let me explain: For years, I've been adding shtick after creative shtick to our seders, including what we… >> Read More
I’m giving up. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it’s true. And it’s time. I’ve put in a lot of effort, a lot of sweat and tears (though thank God, no blood!), and we’re done. Enough!…Finished. My 5-year-old son with Fragile X Syndrome has been enrolled in karate—a regular karate class, with no supports—since September. And now, in March, we’re finally giving up. I can’t force him to put on his karate shirt anymore. I can’t keep pushing him back to sit with his class. And I can’t handle his… >> Read More
I’ll admit it: My Purim costume has been hanging in my closet since right after I ordered it on Cyber Monday. Yes, that’s correct: It was just days after Thanksgiving and I was already planning…for Purim. I will be dressed as “Where’s Wenda,” the feminized version of “Where’s Waldo.” My 6-year-old son requested a Darth Vader costume, so that’s what I bought him on Cyber Monday as well, and I haven’t thought about our Purim costumes since. But now Purim is approaching and it will be time to open… >> Read More
I love the water. I’ve always felt most at peace near an ocean—but the lake at camp or a swimming pool work too. I'm not a great swimmer though, much to my chagrin, even though I swam daily…during my first pregnancy, and dreamed of it daily during my second (my kids are just 18 months apart). Now I’m trying to get to the pool at least once a week for a few laps, while also taking a water aerobics class as part of my post-cancer recovery fitness plan. But teaching my children… >> Read More
"These are all the people," my husband explains as he points to the variety of seeds, hundreds of them, that have fallen off my son's everything bagel and now cover his plate.
"And of all of the…people, each one has different genes, different ways their bodies are made.” He goes on to explain to my son why they both have the same color eyes and why his brother and I share a head full of curls. “And then there are these people," he says as he separates the seeds into a… >> Read More