Sep 19 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Nitzavim. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
To a mama friend who is currently having a rough time:
I’ve never been a fan of the, “We’re only given what we can handle,” line. Extra rough things happen only to people who are better equipped to deal with them? I just don’t believe that.
But I do believe the opposite of that line. It is precisely through dealing with hard things, that we become strong. And that is exactly what you are doing. Read more →
Sep 19 2014
I am not a sports fan. I might even describe myself as the anti-sports fan. Occasional viewing is fine, and so is mild fandom, but for many years I neither encouraged nor approved of sports-obsessing. (In my mind the only things worth obsessing about are politics, Springsteen tour dates, and the odd celebrity scandal). It all seemed silly, pointlessly aggressive, and boorish (sports, not politics. OK, maybe both).
When I first got married I made my distaste for sports-watching immediately known–and no sport was more disdained by me than football. I must have read a New York Times editorial at some point in which I learned that domestic abuse cases spiked on Super Bowl Sunday. I would stand in between my husband and the game on the TV and announce this fact each time I found him watching. He wasn’t really enough of a fan to overcome the power of my withering glare and incessant preaching. Eventually, football went away.
It went away until my boys found it and brought it into our home with passion and glee. At first, I tried the same tactic that had worked so very well on my husband. I had no luck. A trusted friend advised me: If you can’t beat them, join them. They are going to watch it anyway; if you don’t get involved you’ll be cut out of the equation. I suppose this argument could be made to all sorts of things that I am not about to try watching with my boys (ahem), but for football, it worked. I watched. I followed. I encouraged their insane fandom. Read more →
Sep 19 2014
It was a no-brainer for me to send my daughters to a Jewish preschool. I loved the program, the teachers, and the sense of Jewish community. The school didn’t celebrate Halloween or Christmas and the students dipped apples in honey for Rosh Hashanah and made latkes (OK, they were frozen from a bag) for Chanukah. They ate lunch in a pre-fab sukkah once or twice every fall and sang Jewish songs and read Jewish-themed books. I knew my kids would go to public school starting in kindergarten, but at least they would go to Jewish preschool.
The school sent home lots of things about being Jewish–Jewish parenting articles and Jewish activities we could do at home. And then one day, when my older daughter was 3, they sent home a challah recipe.
My daughter and I had enjoyed some simple baking projects before, and I wondered what baking a challah would be like. Of course, baking a challah is more complex than, say, chocolate chip cookies, but I was willing to try it. So that Friday, I set about making my first-ever challah. I didn’t own a Kitchen Aid mixer at the time, so I mixed and kneaded the entire thing by hand. With risings, it took about four hours from start to finish. I made a roast chicken, carrots, and potatoes to go along with it. Read more →
Sep 18 2014
I will never forget the first time my parents took me to Kol Nidrei services, and the congregation stood, as the night fell, to put on their tallitot (prayer shawls). After the blessing, those who were standing like a forest of people all around me picked up their tallit and draped them over their shoulders. The movement of hundreds of people in silence all together was stunning. That silence was incredibly beautiful–and the wind that I felt from the lifting of the fabric felt to me, a small girl, like the wings of angels beating.
Eileen Price’s recent post on Kveller, “I Won’t Force My Kids to Attend High Holiday Services,” prompted me to respond. In my opinion, it is incredibly, incredibly important to bring children to services for the High Holidays. There are so many reasons, but to my mind, it all boils down to two simple ones:
1. No matter how Jewishly observant a person is the rest of the year, this is a time when all Jews come together as a community. Read more →
Sep 18 2014
I call myself a “shitty mom” at least once a day. OK, more than that. A few times a day, minimum. That’s vague enough. Definitely every day those nine letters float across my busy brain.
I feel like a shitty mom when I don’t walk my kindergartner to his classroom because I need to make my 8:30 a.m. exercise class and he knows the way on his own. When I don’t buy my 8th grader the protractor he needs for tomorrow because I can’t face dealing with the Walgreens parking lot at rush hour for one protractor, and I thought I’d go later but one thing became 10 and I didn’t. When I don’t make dinner every night, or even ensure there is something, anything, to eat some time between 6-8 p.m. When my kids hear me curse, when I yell at them again, when I don’t volunteer for the class party. When I forget to remind my son to wash his face and put on deodorant (seriously?!), or when I tell my daughter her hair looks terrible. (I’m like Karen from “Will & Grace”: “Honey, what’s up with that hair?”)
Shitty mom, shitty mom, shitty mom. Read more →
Sep 18 2014
Every year around this time, Jewish families visit the graves of their relatives. Tradition. The high holidays are lurking around the corner. The shofar gets sounded in synagogue on a daily basis during the month of Elul, a time of eager anticipation. Maimonides teaches that the shofar is a type of alarm clock for all of us immersed in a spiritual slumber. Wake up, cries the ancient ram’s horn.
Somberness has been my recurring theme these past several months, given the violent climate of our world: The war in Israel. Violence in Ferguson. ISIS’ ongoing murderous rampage. I have also spent my summer working as a chaplain in a hospice, having been inspired to do so after my bubbe’s passing last winter. And I realize, as much as I would like to, I’m not quite emotionally ready for an alarm clock just yet.
I feel overwhelmed. How do we release ourselves of the imminence of traumatic feelings, especially when the disasters have not fully resolved? Read more →
Sep 18 2014
The Binah School is a new, 21st century all-girls Jewish middle and high school in Sharon, Massachusetts that integrates project-based learning with real world problem solving, text-based Judaic studies, and academic excellence. Founded by two Orthodox women and working mothers, Michal Oshman and Rina Hoffman, the Binah School has already won national attention for its commitment to affordability, research-based methods, and its emphasis on global citizenship in Jewish education.
Can you tell Kveller readers what makes the Binah School different from other schools for Orthodox girls?
The Binah School is a warm and nurturing middle and high school setting for Orthodox girls whose curriculum weaves together academic subjects and traditional, text-based Torah study with learning about social justice issues, independent and small group work, use of arts and technology, and project-based learning. Read more →
Sep 18 2014
One of the duties thrust upon us as Jewish parents is to live a Jewish life so that our children may also develop a Jewish identity.
I must admit that I am a failure at that most of the time.
See, I have an autistic daughter. Read more →
Sep 18 2014
Football is a big deal in my house. Between my husband and three sons, there are seven fantasy football teams to root for. We have two Jets fans, one Giants fan, and one (ever hopeful but disappointed) Raiders fan. As you might imagine, it is not a quiet house. Especially on Sundays.
My 9-year-old son has a huge collection of football jerseys; he wears one to school each day, selecting it with care to coordinate with his fantasy players for the week. Recently, as I was hanging up his laundry, I perused his jerseys. Many belonged to players whose names I didn’t recognize. And then I came across three that I did: Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Michael Vick.
The jerseys were purchased when these players were football heroes on the field, before we knew of their (alleged) crimes against their wives, children, and animals. My boys looked up to these football stars and were proud to wear their jerseys. Unfortunately, these players instantly transformed from esteemed athletes to abusive criminals when their shocking stories were revealed. Read more →
Sep 17 2014
I’ve endured only pregnancies from hell. Not the run-of-the-mill variety either, involving scary pre-eclampsia or placenta previa, but rather, pregnancies that have left doctors befuddled while I became best friends with the porcelain thrones in my home. With my pregnancies, nurses took my blood on a weekly basis to monitor the function of various organs, and my OB/GYN’s assistant would regularly call me with the test results, always the bearer of only bad news. I was admitted to the obstetrical high-risk in-patient unit more times than my OB/GYN, my husband, my family, and I would’ve liked during both of my pregnancies. But I’m grateful that I walked away from both experiences with my life and my organs intact, and with a healthy baby in my arms each time.
But while having a baby is the end goal, watching my body betray me while playing alien host, I came to feel that I was owed something a bit better than a purple star or medal of honor for having lived in the trenches. I wanted a push present. No, I deserved a push present.
A push present is defined as a gift from a spouse to the one who’s pregnant and gives birth. There is no price tag associated with a push present–it can be as inexpensive as the candied diamond ring inside of a Cracker Jack box, or as costly as a canary diamond pendant necklace. Cost may matter for some, but ultimately it’s the thought that counts. If a woman doesn’t believe in receiving a push present that’s her right, just as it is another woman’s right to believe that having a baby should come with one. The push present is the gift that keeps on giving, and ultimately becomes a family heirloom that is bequeathed to the child for whose birth it recognized. Read more →