Nina Badzin lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. She's a columnist for The HerStories Project and for Tcjewfolk.com. Many of her essays have appeared in Brain, Child Magazine's site, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere, and her short stories are published in various literary journals and anthologies. She tweets at @NinaBadzin, blogs regularly at ninabadzin.com, and is on Facebook here.
The last hamantaschen has been devoured, and the Passover cleaning will not start in earnest for a few weeks (at least not for me). We are Jews between the holidays. Yes, we always have Shabbat, but…in these weeks when there’s a lull in both the excitement and the pressure of a holiday, it is the perfect time to turn inward and to explore other ways to feel and act Jewish. It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of so many of our holidays and of Judaism in… >> Read More
On Monday in the New York Times, Michael Paulson reported on the “Pay What You Want” model some synagogues are implementing to reduce the financial barrier to membership. Paulson estimates about…30 synagogues across the United States are trying voluntary dues. In Paulson’s words, these changes have come from “an acknowledgement that many Jewish communal organizations are suffering the effects of growing secularization, declining affection for institutions, a dispersal of Jewish philanthropy and an end to the era in which membership in a congregation was seen… >> Read More
This is the year I’m changing my attitude about Hanukkah. Why? Because for the past 10 years, which is as long as I’ve been a parent, I’ve been a Hanukkah downer.
“Hanukkah is my least…favorite holiday,” I’ve said and written countless times. Considering some of the other Jewish holidays I’ve embraced with passion like Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get on board with Hanukkah. What’s not to like about lighting the menorah with family and friends, playing dreidel, eating latkes and… >> Read More
I used to have the right idea for Yom Kippur. I liked the notion of an entire month to clean up my messes from the past year, and I worked hard to deliver carefully worded apologies. The promise of…a clean slate appealed to my resolution-making personality. And I appreciated the fact that the obligation to make life improvements deeper than, say, eating better, differentiated the Jewish New Year from the secular one. I was a High Holiday superfan. This year, however, I’ve found it difficult to focus solely on my faults, my wrongdoings,… >> Read More
Recently I wrote an article for Kveller titled “Are Jews Too Concerned With Seeking Out Other Jews?” In that piece, I discussed my tendency to feel an instant connection with a “member of the…Tribe” whether it’s on the sidelines of our kids’ soccer games, in a professional context, or anywhere, really. While many readers strongly related, in a positive way, to this warm and even mystical element of the Jewish community, a side issue of exclusion came out of the discussion as well. Several readers--Jews and non-Jews alike--commented… >> Read More
Sometimes I worry that I talk about Judaism too much. As much as I use the words Jew, Jewish, or Judaism, I’m saying them in my head even more. It’s become a tic of sorts, a knee-jerk reaction…to the random information that comes at me all day long. What’s more, I have this habit of looking for fellow Jews in situations where a person’s religion or heritage is irrelevant. I worry that it’s gone too far. A friend tells me her sister met a great guy. Is he Jewish? I think, but… >> Read More
My friend Anne recently posed an excellent question related to keeping the dietary laws of Passover. “For those of us who are gluten-free,” she asked, “is cutting
really a…hardship?” What Anne was getting at, I believe, is the underlying observation that it can be a challenge to get in the right frame of mind for Passover if giving up wheat and other grains is nothing new. Many of us unknowingly (or knowingly) rely on the physical aspect of our holidays to access the… >> Read More
I’m a fan of Purim. Yes, I love the costumes, the hamantaschen (chocolate filled, not fruit), and the general revelry that’s vastly different in atmosphere from other holidays. What I…surprisingly like most about Purim, however, is the way it forces me to think about the spark of the Divine in my life, or I guess you could call it a higher power. Okay, I’ll just say it without any euphemisms. Purim makes me think and even talk about God, which is a strange sentence… >> Read More
I’m a Hanukkah purist. At least a purist from that sacred era of the 1980s, a time before the expression “Hanukkah craft” entered the average Jewish mother’s vernacular.
My parents and my…friends’ parents knew that Hanukkah could never compare to Christmas. I don’t remember this community-wide hand-wringing over how the Jewish children could accept why radio stations and stores exclusively played Christmas music without including some versions of Dreidel Dreidel and Maoz Tzur . Nobody was worried about hurting Hanukkah’s feelings or making sure everyone’s holiday… >> Read More
The words “We need help thinking of a good ‘Jewishy’ name for our baby,” arrive in my inbox from time to time. After writing about the baby names I would use if we were having more…kids, as well the situation that resulted in my husband taking over the naming of our fourth child, I have made myself known as a baby name fanatic. When people ask for my advice, I tackle the job with dedication and pure joy. My baby naming “career” began when Kveller’s editor, Deborah Kolben, wanted ideas for her… >> Read More
I have unexpectedly become an evangelist for Sukkot. Though like any born-again-anything, I wasn’t always such a fanatic for this particular holiday.
Once upon a time I saw Sukkot as an event that…only took place as part of a religious school’s curriculum. Along with the other students who came to Hebrew school three times a week, I’d help decorate the synagogue’s sukkah, stringing wire through bizarre looking gourds on the temple’s enormous property overlooking Lake Michigan. The next Sunday morning we’d have apple cider and cinnamon-sugar doughnuts… >> Read More
I remember how the cost of taking pictures used to add up quickly, and how tedious it was to keep track of your film. On my teen tour in Israel in 1993, for example, I was always judicious as my…finger hovered over the shutter. I would never have considered snapping a picture of every person on my trip standing in front of the same stack of rocks on Masada. Who had the time, energy, money, and interest in developing all of those pictures? Did I want to load a new roll of film in… >> Read More
I have a surprisingly bad attitude about Passover. I say surprisingly because I'm that enthusiastic kind of Jewish friend who is always inviting people to join us for Shabbat. I invite people to…challah making sessions or to interesting Jewish book events and Torah studies. I generally tend to see the best in our holidays and traditions. In fact, my aunt once told me that even as far back as high school I was known in the family for trying to sell Judaism to anyone who would listen.… >> Read More
I participate actively in the email culture. Like most people I know, I use email from everything from work communication and checking in with friends and family, to discussing issues with my rabbi,…my kids' teachers, and even our family doctors. It's fast, convenient, and for better or worse, we can go back to old emails to recover information if necessary. What's not to like? I'll tell you what's not to like--the sheer amount of messages in my inbox. The joy of email's ease and speed will drown… >> Read More
I have a hard time staying away from my iPhone. Too often my phone is on the table during lunch with a friend. I'm drawn to it while standing in line or whenever there's two minutes to spare. Trust…me, I'm not proud of my attachment to the thing. In my defense, I at least draw the line at using my phone inside the walls of a synagogue. It seems that not using cell phones in shul was once standard practice among all synagogue goers from the most frequent to the occasional bar mitzvah… >> Read More
We Jews have two choices in our approach to the Christmas season: resent it, or embrace it. I for one vote for a big, sloppy embrace. In the name of love thy neighbor and tolerance, I say we hug it…out with Christmas already and teach our kids to do the same. Why? We expect our non-Jewish co-workers, friends, and neighbors to show heaps of interest and concern in all things Jewish. During the High Holy Days we ask our kids' teachers not to assign big tests after those long days at shul . We… >> Read More
The Hanukkah I see in children's books demonstrates families playing dreidel
and eating latkes while the menorah shines brilliantly in the window. Then
there's the inevitable illustration of the…kids' utter elation when the parents unveil a bag of gelt night after night. The scene sounds delightful, but I can't imagine it's realistic in all Jewish homes. Let's be honest: starting in October, lots of Jewish kids obsess over the "holiday" (aka Christmas) catalogues that arrive daily in mailboxes around the country. Right or wrong, at some… >> Read More
As I was planning my daughter's 6th birthday, I had to ask myself why so many of us continue to throw big parties complete with an enormous pile of presents. I recognize that the parties are large to…avoid hurt feelings, but can we agree that the amount of presents the kids receive as a result is objectionably over the top? I'm not against the idea of gifts as a rule. It's wonderfully celebratory to open some beautifully wrapped presents that someone took the time to choose. But when parents feel pressured to… >> Read More
Fellow baby name fanatics: We have an assignment, and we can't waste any time. Kveller's editor, Deborah Kolben, is due in early November, and she wants our help. This baby girl will not go without…the perfect name. Not on my watch. Friends and family know that I'm something of a baby name enthusiast, to put it mildly. At one point I seriously considered changing our third child's name when she was already 2 years old. Things got so out of hand that my husband demanded full naming rights to… >> Read More
My husband and I have been disagreeing about the music we let our kids listen to in the car. Bryan's concerned that kids today know too much too soon. Keeping their song choices "wholesome," he…continues to argue, will help them stay innocent and, well, wholesome a little longer. At first I said he was being uptight. Furthermore, we have four kids ranging from 10 months to 8 years old. They all have different tastes and interests in music. He asked me to consider how hyper-vigilent our culture is about seat… >> Read More
Five years ago my husband and I completely ignored Shabbat for the last time. Eager to arrive at our friend's 30th birthday party, we kissed our (then) 3-year-old son and baby girl goodnight, gave…the sitter cash for pizza, and made for the door. By then we were hosting traditional Shabbat dinners most weeks. I liked the idea of a weekly ritual that brought our family together, but I didn't want to feel shackled to it either. As we walked away our son yelled after us, "But what about my Shabbos dinner?" The… >> Read More