Oct 31 2014
“What are you reading?”
My 3-year-old had suddenly materialized next to the chair in my room. I was so immersed in my book that I hadn’t even heard her come in.
“A book,” I said, smiling.
“I love books,” she said. “What’s your book about?”
“It’s about love,” I said, telling her the slimmest sliver of the truth.
The truth is the book was “Paper Love,” by my friend and fellow Kveller writer Sarah Wildman. I highly recommend it–but the book is far from a typical love story. It is the true, well-researched story of Sarah’s exploration into her deceased grandfather’s romantic history, and the correspondence from the lover he left behind in Holocaust-era Europe, while he went on to America. He lived through the war. And she did not. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 20 2014
Last week, Kveller broke the story that a “punk rock” swastika ring was for sale on both Amazon and Sears’ websites. People were, understandably, outraged, and the story soon went viral, prompting even Carson Daley to talk about it on the “Today” show.
After getting flooded with angry comments on social media, Sears clarified that the item was posted by a third party in their free marketplace, and quickly took the item down, releasing this apology on their website. Amazon also quietly removed the ring from their website.
But wait, there’s more.
A concerned reader pointed us to several other Nazi-affiliated products currently for sale on Amazon, including: Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 13 2014
Got a hot date tonight? Nothing spells romance like a chunky black swastika.
Billed as an edgy fashion accessory, this giant swastika ring is part of Sears’ “men’s punk rock style” jewelry collection, and is also available from online retailers like Amazon. The product description explains that the rings are to be used solely for purposes of wooing the ladies: Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 4 2014
On Tuesday, when he started school, my oldest son was the only Jewish boy in his class of 30 kids. There are many schools in which that statistic would not be unexpected; an Orthodox Jewish day school is not one of them. But that’s the way it goes here in Birmingham, UK–a place where, we learned upon moving here from the US, the Jewish population has been dwindling for years, but where the Jewish school continues as a thriving, competitive primary school, serving kosher lunch and celebrating Jewish holidays and Israel’s birthday.
As in a typical American Orthodox Jewish day school, my son will daily recite Jewish prayers and learn “limudei kodesh”–a Judaic studies curriculum. He and the other boys will keep their heads covered, per the Jewish tradition. On Friday afternoons, before school ends (early, to give students time to prepare for Shabbat), all the grades will convene for a Kabbalat Shabbat program. A Jewish boy will play “Shabbat Abba” and a Jewish girl will play “Shabbat Eema,” and the Abba and Eema will host a Shabbat table with grape juice, challah, and guests. Most of their guests will be Muslim.
In a climate of growing antipathy between Muslims and Jews everywhere, I could not be happier to be sending my son to a school that will allow him to declare, as he did after a week of camp in the UK, “I made a best friend here. His name is Abdul!” Maybe Abdul-from-camp came from a family and/or community that liked Jews. Maybe not. My son didn’t get to know Abdul long enough or well enough to find out. But at his Jewish day school, which has a growing Muslim population (this year it is estimated between 60 and 70%), there’s no doubt that the Muslims are learning with and about Jews by choice. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 3 2014
Parenting and worrying go hand in hand. Some might say this is a stereotype of Jewish parents. Others might say it’s tradition. In either case, I think it is accurate to say that a large part of being a parent (whether one is Jewish or not) is being worried about your children.
If you had asked me what I worry about most prior to this summer, I would have told you that I worry most about the ways in which sexism will impact by daughters. I would still give you the same answer today. This is because I worry about rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment in the street and in the workplace. I worry about whether my daughters will be able to control their bodies. I worry about whether they will be paid less for their work because they are female. I worry about eating disorders and depression. I worry about the sexualization of young girls. I worry that they will follow a script that limits possibilities, discourages imagination and individuality, and diminishes them. And, I worry that my daughters will be judged by their appearance and their ability to procreate, and not the content of their character. And worse–that they too will judge themselves this way. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 2 2014
In the middle of an exhausting, first year of teaching in a public high school in southern Massachusetts, I, like most teachers who come in contact with hundreds of students every day, contracted a virus, and took my first sick day. In the middle of that sick day, I got a call from the gym teacher, who I hardly knew.
“Are you OK?” He sounded reluctant to ask. Something had happened in my classroom while I was out, but he wouldn’t say what. He was shocked that no other staff had called me. He wished me well and got off the phone quickly.
When I returned to school, I demanded to know what had happened. My department chair said it was “an unfortunate incident,” and that I should talk to the principal. I finally wrangled it out: a student had spray-painted a swastika on my classroom floor and etched another swastika on my chalkboard. Something about Jews had been scrawled but only partially erased, probably so that no one would be able to identify the handwriting.
Both the chalkboard and floor were scrubbed clean before I returned. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 6 2014
I am 5 years old. I am learning to spell my last name. N as in Nancy. A. U. M as in Mary. B U R G. No, that’s B U R G. I decide that when I grow up, I am going to change my last name to Whitney, like my best friend Elizabeth who lives next door. I’m not sure why her name seems so much better than mine, but it does.
I am 8 years old. I start learning about the Holocaust in school. My egocentric child’s mind becomes hyper-focused on figuring out whether or not I would have survived. I know that my father’s family were all German Jews (I wouldn’t come close to the truth of my mother’s family for years), but I have the blue eyes, light skin, and straight blonde hair that was the Aryan ideal. I tell myself that my looks would have saved me.
I am 14 years old. I am going to Spain for the summer on a student trip. I find my fellow travelers in the international terminal of Kennedy airport. I introduce myself; they respond with confused looks. “Naumburg? You’re Carla Naumburg? That’s funny. You don’t look Jewish.” Apparently they had been studying the roster for the trip, trying to decide who was Jewish and who wasn’t. I didn’t know how to respond. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 27 2014
Israel is in a tough spot right now. With the death toll from Operation Protective Edge rising, international opinion of the Jewish state is at an all-time low and lots of celebrities–from Rihanna to Selena–have taken to social media to voice support for the Palestinian people. Well, as it turns out, Israel supporters also have a few loud-mouthed Jewish celebs in their corner.
Enter Joan Rivers. She’d been waiting her entire life for TMZ to ask her to weigh in on the conflict. What started with a colorful analogy between Hamas and New Jersey somehow spiraled into a Selena diss (“Let’s see if she can spell Palestinian!”).
Video courtesy of TMZ: Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 25 2014
I’m scared, and I have no idea how, or if, I should be sharing this fear with my children. With my daughter, specifically. She’s seven months away from her bat mitzvah. Luckily, it’s summer vacation and she’s not watching the news all that much. She’s not on Facebook like I am, with a newsfeed filled with reports of violence in Paris and endless updates about what’s happening in Israel.
See, I’m new to being Jewish. I wonder sometimes, five years after converting, if I’ll always feel somewhat new to being Jewish. I don’t have a protective, defensive shell built up. When I talk to my husband, to my friends who grew up Jewish, they aren’t shocked by the recent waves of anti-Semitism. They expect it, almost. One of the questions the beit din (rabbinical court) asked me before we went to the mikveh was why I would want to become Jewish. Why would I want to be a part of a group of people who were so often discriminated against and the object of so much hate? I replied that I felt like I already was Jewish: I was married to a Jewish man and raising Jewish children. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 20 2014
1. How did you and your spouse meet?
Patrick and I met in a wine bar, in Kansas City. I was visiting family from out of town and went out for a drink with my mom. The bar was crowded, and Patrick gave up his seat so that I could sit down. We spent the evening talking (yes, the three of us!) and at the end of the night he asked me out. I almost didn’t go, because I lived in Vail, Colorado and thought I would never see him again. My mom encouraged me to go and enjoy a free dinner. I’ve been riding that free dinner for years now!
In the beginning, Patrick used to take 10-hour road trips to visit me, but within six months he had followed me to Vail and the rest is history. We moved to the DC metro for a couple of years after Vail and are now living in the Kansas City metro, near my family. Read the rest of this entry →