Nina Badzin is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and mom of four. Her essays, short stories, and book reviews have appeared in numerous sites and literary magazines. She is the co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio, blogs weekly at http://ninabadzin.com, Tweets @NinaBadzin
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.
The question “Why…Be Jewish?” is impossible to answer in a short blog post. Edgar Bronfman, of blessed memory, explored the idea in an entire book, providing him the opportunity to describe the lessons he gleaned from the last decades of his life when studying Judaism was a central passion. Since I only have this small space, not… >> Read More
I host Shabbat dinners often, easily a majority of the Friday nights in a year unless it’s one of the occasional but glorious dates when we’re invited to someone else’s house. Yes, glorious.…While I love the satisfaction of providing a good meal and Shabbat experience for my family and other families, I can’t adequately describe the joy of having a week off from planning and preparing the feast. If I’m hosting so many Shabbat dinners, why is my family not invited to others’ homes more often? The… >> Read More
In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people receive the Torah. More specifically, the nation hears God proclaim the Ten Commandments, which become the ethical (no murder) and practical (take a…day of rest) principles that have guided the Jewish people for thousands of years. Far less life-altering but no less universal, I’d like to suggest some commandments (ten, obviously) for bringing order to the chaotic world of texting. No, I don’t think I’m God, but I can recognize a society in need of order. The… >> Read More
Last year, I promised to stop spending the holiday season defending Hanukkah from the influence of Christmas. I said then, “When I see stores selling Hanukkah stockings, Hanukkah tree toppers, and…Hanukkah tinsel or wreaths, I’ll take a deep breath and not let it send me into a tailspin of worry about the future of pluralistic Judaism. It means I will remember that it’s not Bed, Bath and Beyond’s responsibility, nor Amazon’s, to preserve the logical thematic separation between Hanukkah and Christmas.” Since then, I’ve made… >> Read More
For years I’ve been hearing about a so-called “teen tour to Israel for Moms” or “Birthright for moms.” I’ve noticed (OK, stalked) the trips through Facebook all while telling myself that…these kinds of trips were not for me because I’ve been to Israel several times. I told myself that the next time I go to Israel it should be with my kids. What’s more, I didn’t think I could ever leave my kids and husband for 10 days. Even as my interest in going to… >> Read More
Two essential parts of preparing for Rosh Hashanah, our clean slate for the year, is asking forgiveness from anyone we wronged and making a list (mental or written) of the ways we fell short since…the last time we heard the shofar. Ideally that hard work of going to friends, family, and anyone else deserving of our forgiveness happens in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah. By the time Yom Kippur rolls around 10 days later, we should be ready to confess our mistakes as a community, having already… >> Read More
So I’m pretty sure Tisha B’Av is the yoga of Jewish holidays. But before I tell you why, I first have to acknowledge that there’s debate in Jewish circles about the compatibility of yoga and…Judaism. I’ve heard arguments that elements of yoga border on idolatry, and I’ve heard other knowledgeable Jews maintain that yoga is a form of exercise, not a religion. I’m one of those Jews who attends yoga classes for the body work, not as a spiritual endeavor, but I do happen to like the closing line… >> Read More
I’m guessing that the average high school senior wants a gift card for a graduation present, or even better, cash. I remember being 18 and appreciating either of those options as well as any item…emblazoned with my college’s name, like a pair of mesh shorts. (This was 1995!) I also liked gifts with my name on it such as a pad of paper, an address book, one of those wrap towels with velcro across the chest, a toiletry case, or a shower bucket. Yes, freshman year of college felt… >> Read More
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. >> 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. >> 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