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Oct 13 2014

Talking with Camp JRF, the Jewish Camp That Takes Inclusion Seriously

By at 10:00 am
via Camp JRF Website

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik via Camp JRF Website

 

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik is the Executive Director of Camp JRF, a Reconstructionist sleepaway camp in the Pocono Mountains. Recently, Camp JRF initiated a big push toward inclusion with a capital “I.” Now that campers have returned to school and their parents eagerly fill out forms to sign them up for next summer, Rabbi Saposnik had some time to chat with me about camp, diversity in the American Jewish community, and the importance of asking questions.

What makes Camp JRF different from other Jewish sleepaway camps?

The Reconstructionist movement has always been inclusive, so welcoming gay campers and staff, LGBTQ parents, campers from interfaith families, campers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and physical abilities, is obvious for us. But this year, we took a step back to re-examine our practices because there’s a difference between saying we’re inclusive and actually being inclusive. We want our camp community to reflect the tapestry of the modern Jewish community.  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 8 2014

Welcome Sukkot With This Adorable Song From the Macaroons!

By at 1:40 pm

Sukkot-Macaroons

The harvest festival of Sukkot has arrived. The air is crisp and leaves are everywhere. It’s time sit in huts, and eat under the stars. If you’re lucky you may just catch the lunar eclipse tonight.

And what better way to welcome the holiday than with this adorable new sukkah song from The Macaroons:

Chag Sameach from all of us at Kveller!

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That Time I Became Too Religious For My Father

By at 12:36 pm

light-switch

When I first started exploring Jewish learning and observance in my late teens, all of my family and friends thought I had lost my mind. But there was one person who was especially opposed to my newfound interest–my father.

Oh, he wanted me to be Jewish all right (from the youngest age, my sisters and I understood intermarrying would leave my pork-eating parents sitting shiva for us); I just was not allowed to be too Jewish. So when I began observing Shabbos every week during my senior year of high school, replete with unscrewing the light bulb in the fridge and taping lights around the house (so I wouldn’t be left in the dark–literally), good old dad would follow my trail and screw-in and un-tape. No daughter of his would become one of them. 

My father had treated “ultra” Hasidim from some of the most extreme sects when he was training to be a doctor in Manhattan and was convinced that I was on a similar path. “You’re becoming a zealot,” he would tell me over and over again, even though I was making small changes at a responsible rate and I had no intention of ever leading an extreme life. Read the rest of this entry →

Will Sukkot Be the Same If We Leave the Farm?

By at 11:17 am

Sukkah-Tanya

On Sunday afternoon, our family walked around the farm looking for a place to build our sukkah. I like to have a new location each year so we can have distinct memories of each Sukkot.

We chose a sandy spot near the barn on the top of a hill that we called the beach when we first moved in because it is the sandiest soil on the farm. It is a spot where you can grow Mediterranean herbs and not much else, where you can imagine a desert, imagine the land of Israel. Imagine a new home.

Sukkot is always one of our favorite Jewish holidays. We love building our sukkah right on the edge of our fields in the midst of the fall harvest. Sukkot is the perfect holiday for Jewish farmers like us, connecting us directly with farmers from long ago, celebrating the bounty and enjoying the first cool days. Read the rest of this entry →

Since My Marriage Ended, I’m Left Wandering

By at 9:52 am

Sukkot

During Sukkot, we remember how God freed our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. We build sukkahs, flimsy booths meant to recreate the temporary dwellings used while we wandered across the desert, leaving home behind.

I have been on my own wandering journey for about 14 years. I was brought up in a knowledgeable Reform Jewish home. As kids, my siblings and I lived in Upstate New York, and regularly attended temple services. The congregants barely filled two rows of pews if you mashed us all together. I loved it. I loved the hired soloist’s resonant soprano melodies, and the warmth of cuddling up to my father’s corduroy-patched sport coat. I jumped up and down out of my seat a million times, inhaling the rich aroma of coffee and wandering the lobby to sneak glances at the desserts piled high on the kiddush tables.

I knew that when I grew up, I was going to marry a Nice Jewish Boy, even though my parents had never planted the idea in my head. After the requisite years of adolescent angst, which involved piercing things you couldn’t see and dying my hair a variety of vibrant colors, I grew restless. I took a year off of college, worked, and traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. There, in the city of Jerusalem, I found hope and inspiration. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 7 2014

Why I’m Dreading My Son’s Bar Mitzvah

By at 4:58 pm

Reading-torah

My son’s bar mitzvah is this weekend. I’m recently divorced from my non-Jewish husband. My ex offered to pay for some of the bar mitzvah, but on the condition he bring his girlfriend–the same person with whom he had an affair and broke up our marriage.

We have agreed that he will pay for half of a small evening party, but the cost and preparation of the Kiddush lunch are all on me. And due to some logistical issues regarding the second day of Sukkot, I’m going to have a hell of a time getting lunch ready for 100 guests and 100 congregants (yes, we are cooking lunch for 200 people). A caterer is helping out and I hired servers to set up and clean up because I’ll be in the sanctuary. But no matter how you do the math, there is no cheap way to feed 200 people.

I’d be the first to understand that this sounds like a giant whine. And it is. Because our synagogue hasn’t acknowledged anything but the two-parent family model (gay and lesbian families are very welcome, but they have two parents). I’m a divorced mom. I have multiple sclerosis. I have full custody of two teenagers and the ex has alternate weekends. I work part-time and am fortunate to collect child support. My parents have both passed away and my siblings live far away. I have fewer financial, emotional, and time resources to put together the same event that two parent families have. It is literally all on my shoulders. Read the rest of this entry →

The Nine Most Bizarre Moments in the History of School Lunches

By at 3:47 pm

french-fries

As we speak, folks in Washington are quibbling over what to feed your kids.

Each day, schools dish out 30 million school lunches that are substidized by tax payers. A revealing feature in The New York Times today offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of school lunches in the United States, and how getting healthier food in cafeterias has become “a political battleground.”

You can read the article in its entirety here, but here are the most interesting takeaways, in case you’re short on time. Read the rest of this entry →

Curly Jewish Hair May Be Trending, But I’m Sticking to the Straightener

By at 11:41 am

Curly-hair

I’ll be 48 this year.

And I’m still at war with my hair.

I read in The New York Times last month that curly hair is making a comeback. The article by Marisa Meltzer entitled, “Curls Get Their Groove Back” featured all these really cool beautiful women who are letting their hair dry au natural. Meltzer writes, “… a curly look is both natural and modern.” Read the rest of this entry →

My Daughter *Actually* Loves Hebrew School

By at 10:42 am

hebrew-school

Growing up I spent much of my time after school at Hebrew School. I did not enjoy it very much and would try many tactics to get out of it. My favorite was holding a thermometer under my lamp. That worked very well for me.

Because I went to overnight Jewish summer camp and learned quite a bit about Judaism there, I felt bored during the school year in Hebrew School. I have heard many stories from friends about their “Hebrew School torture,”and the one common thread was the lack of creativity in the lessons. Unfortunately, that was my experience. It simply was not fun.

But now, my 4-year-old daughter loves going to Hebrew School. We are incredibly lucky to belong to a synagogue that offers a wonderful preschool curriculum and every Sunday morning she attends for three hours. The lessons include reading books, doing art projects, special services, and music where my daughter is learning about the upcoming holidays and so much more. This week she came to me and said, “Mommy, shmi Iliana. That means my name is Iliana in Hebrew.” I thought I would cry I was so proud of her, and so glad that she is absorbing so much from this class. Read the rest of this entry →

Which Soviet Jewish Baby Superstition Will Mila Kunis Try?

By at 10:05 am

Mila-baby

As even Kveller has reported, actress Mila Kunis has given birth to her first child, a daughter. The dad is her former “That 70s Show” co-star, Ashton Kutcher.

On Friday, they revealed the baby’s name: Wyatt Isabelle.

And my first thought was: Mila’s parents will never be able to pronounce it. Read the rest of this entry →

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