Nov 24 2014
Credit: Office of MK Erel Margalit.
I tend to put things out of my head that create anxiety. Often I feel that if I don’t, paralyzing fear would take hold of me all of the time. Anxiety comes with the territory of being parents. There is a moment–during pregnancy or soon after birth–when we realize that now we have something to lose that we absolutely could not bear. Lately I’ve been trying out an alternative to evading worry, at least with regard to the safety of my children: action.
I have lived in Israel for 21 years, having made aliyah with my family at age 14 from Cleveland. In high school, I lived through that awful spate of bus bombings, including my local neighborhood buses, the 14 and the 18. When I was a student at Hebrew University, the Second Intifada exploded and my parents were sick with fear at my traveling by public transportation every day. I was scared, of course, but nothing like the visceral fear that I feel now as a mother.
Snatching my babies out of bed with every siren this past summer and schlepping them half-asleep down the stairs of our building–that was something new for me. If I had been on my own, I would have probably taken the time to find shoes and put on a nice robe before stepping out into the common stairwell. Read more →
Nov 21 2014
This week, I’ve cooked five dinners that included a different lean protein each night, an exciting vegetable and some kind of whole grain. I’ve made five breakfasts that are healthy, protein-filled and free of junk. I’ve packed 10 school lunches and 10 school snacks.
I’ve also nagged my kids so much more than I wanted to—“stop playing video games,” “do your homework,” “stop procrastinating,” “stop fighting,” go to bed,” “hurry up we’ll be late,” “for the last time please put away/turn off the electronics.”
I now breathe a sigh of relief. All of the homework was completed, everyone was driven where they needed to be driven after school and then back home again, that little crisis with one of my kids that popped up all of a sudden on Monday seemed to have resolved itself by Friday. Read more →
Nov 21 2014
Journalist and Kveller contributor Sarah Wildman is the author of the recently released “Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind” (Riverhead Books, 2014). Over the six years it took Wildman to research and then write the book, she also became the mother of two girls, aged 5 ¾ and 17 months. She chatted with me about the motivations and challenges of chasing down this extraordinary love story on both sides of the Atlantic.
How would you characterize your relationship with your grandfather as a child?
My grandfather was larger than life, the patriarch in every way we think of that word. He was incredibly warm, incredibly charismatic, and he made everyone feel that he or she was the only person in the room. He used to kiss my hand, like a Viennese gentleman. I was in awe of him, a bit.
How did you happen to find out about his paramour, Valy, and what drew you to learn more about her? Read more →
Nov 20 2014
Nearly two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my son’s kindergarten teacher that has stayed with me. My first thought upon seeing the school’s number on caller ID was “Uh-oh, who did what now?” Though I am generally a positive person and I have been blessed with children who, for the most part, seem to thrive in school, for some reason, a call from that number always makes me think the worst.
Even after the teacher reassured me that, “Everything is OK,” I still found myself holding my breath, anxious to hear what was coming next. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that she was calling because my son had done something in class that brought her, the other teachers, and the rabbi great nachas—the Hebrew word for pride. Read more →
Nov 20 2014
I remember my summer in Israel when I was 16 years old as being one of near-orgasmic bliss. I wasn’t dating anyone seriously, but I did have a lover. My lover was sleep. And he was hot.
Every Friday afternoon, I would take the bus from the small town where I was living to my parents’ friends’ apartment in Tel Aviv. They were an American couple my grandparents’ age who were in Israel for the summer, long-standing family friends whom I loved as much as my grandparents. Fortunately, the feeling was mutual, because every week, after Friday night dinner, I would go to the guest room in their apartment and fall asleep. I would fall the way a skydiver falls out of a plane, with wholehearted abandon. And I would sleep. And sleep. And sleep. Read more →
Nov 19 2014
Last night, hours after the terror attack on a synagogue that killed five men, maimed many others, and left prayer shawls, prayer books, and teffilin to soak in pools of blood, I sat on the couch with my husband and expressed my increasingly intolerable fear.
He asked me a very important question: “What were you thinking when you came here?”
I came to Israel in 2006 right after college without a real plan. I followed an old romantic interest of mine; I was ready for adventure and I was a Jew who was anxious to figure out precisely what that meant. I didn’t know if I’d stay forever, and when people asked me things like, “Are you prepared to send your future children to the army?” I couldn’t relate. I was barely 21 years old, children were an abstract concept, and I still had that good old American feeling of invincibility. I knew that violence came here in waves but the truth is—I wasn’t thinking much. I was yearning for something that I suspected I’d find in Israel. Read more →
Nov 19 2014
I was 7 years old the first time my mother told me that the fate of occupied Europe was in my hands. I remember it clearly. My mother sat me down and explained to me that if, when I grew up, I failed to marry a Jewish girl and raise Jewish children, it would mean that Hitler won. I, in turn, explained to my mother that Hitler had already lost the war, and also that girls were gross and that I had no intention of getting married to anyone ever.
I suppose some people might consider that sort of conversation odd, but my mother grew up in Belgium during World War II and had lost both her parents in the camps. My sister and I were told and told often that we had special responsibilities as the children of a survivor. To my mother that responsibility was clear. It was my job to have Jewish children. For many years, when I was growing up, my mother would quote the words of Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The words were meant to tell me that I must always help those who needed my help, but in truth, for my mother, they were always at heart an acknowledgement that it was the Jews who’d have to look out for the Jews, since no one else ever would. Read more →
Nov 19 2014
The images are gruesome. Heartwrenching. So much blood. I don’t want to see. And for a while I don’t. Not really. I scroll quickly from one post to the next. Four killed in terror attack. Har Nof. Rabbis. Synagogue. Even as my heart is rushing and the tears are falling, my fingers slow down. To read. And to see. To really see.
A blood-soaked tallit (prayer shawl) crouches in crumpled horror. The red-splattered bookshelves stand feebly by. They are a quiet, ueseless protection to the forever stained siddurim (prayer books) they hold. Kehillat Bnei Torah Synagogue is a bloodbath.
“No. No. Nonononono,” I whisper, now unable to stop the onslaught of image after horrific image. Read more →
Nov 19 2014
My daughter’s imaginary friend is named “N.O.K.” Since she was very small, she’s been talking about her, as in: “N.O.K. loves cherry ice cream,” “N.O.K. is the only one who will play games that aren’t ‘princess-y,’” “N.O.K’s mom is in Israel this week so she’s staying with us.”
When my daughter had to make a list of her best friends for school, N.O.K. was at the top of the list.
N.O.K has a big heart, a quick wit, and a terrific sense of humor. But until last year, she had no face. And then, one day, it happened. Read more →
Nov 18 2014
When my two youngest children decided they were ready to embrace the internet experience like their older siblings and friends, I panicked. Even a 53-year-old seasoned parent like me gets panicky sometimes. So I said no, which was of course totally thoughtless and unoriginal, especially to a 12-year-old. But I said it to buy time.
Recently, my daughter’s classmate came to school with an announcement. She was getting an iPhone because she had proven she was old enough to handle it. “My dad said if I can fast the whole day on Yom Kippur like an adult, then I can have an iPhone like an adult. So I did and he added me on to his plan.” Read more →