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.
My son’s bar mitzvah was three years in the making–ever since he told me his “good news”: that he “wanted to be Jewish.” This was only about nine months after I adopted him and his older brother from Brazil, as they were turning 9 and 12 years old. Though he had barely mastered the English language, my son Davi was anxious to start learning yet another language… and Hebrew, no less.
To change over from their previous beliefs in and practices of the Christian faith in favor of becoming Jewish was not an expectation I had for either of my sons. I wanted their religion to be their decision–more important to me was that my sons be spiritually connected, and live a just and moral life. Davi’s decision took me completely by surprise. There were no real clues about his thinking beforehand, yet once he started out, he never looked back. Read the rest of this entry →
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 →
Apparently 2014 is a good year for bar mitzvah boys.
Earlier this year, 12-year-old Josh Orlian wowed and/or horrified audiences with his verrry dirty comedy routine on “America’s Got Talent.” Then viral bar mitzvah boy Sam Horowitz resurfaced with his very own fashion web series. And now, in time for the High Holidays, we meet Eitan Bernath, of Teaneck, NJ, the new star of the Food Network’s show “Chopped.” On September 30, the show is airing its first-ever teen episode, featuring contestants in fifth and sixth grade.
Amit’s journey from the moment he was born until today has been extraordinary. Born with a rare orthopedic condition, we have had the fortune of connecting with many wonderful individuals and organizations all over the world in an attempt to ease his pain and live his life to the fullest. Read the rest of this entry →
My oldest daughter will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah this December. I have a bit of chip on my shoulder about it.
Actually, it’s not just her bat mitzvah that I’m cynical about, it’s the whole bat mitzvah “thing.” (I’m using “bat mitzvah” here to include bar mitzvahs too, of course.) As Patrick Aleph argued persuasively in Kveller last year, there are a lot of problems with this ceremony. Despite this, we’ve seen examples lately of young Jews who transform their b’nai mitzvah into something powerful. We just read last month about the young Jews in Chicago who are building a playground. There’s a young Jew at our synagogue who is riding his bicycle from Mexico to Canada to raise funds for the Sierra Club. But even without the grand, headline-making accomplishments, there is significant untapped potential for this rite of passage to be better reflective of the status-change it is intended to complement.
My daughter’s day school education has been, on the whole, truly wonderful. However, one constant struggle for her has beentefillah (daily prayers). It’s not that she has trouble learning them, it’s that she has trouble engaging with them. Her teachers have been very consistent in their reports that she doesn’t seem interested in participating–she doesn’t follow along in the siddur (prayer book), and is frequently just spacing out. Our daughter confirms that she finds tefillah to be awfully boring. Read the rest of this entry →
A crumpled up map of the city of Jerusalem. A ticket from the Israel Museum. A black and red card for my favorite falafel place in Jaffa. A guide to the tunnels under the Western Wall. A pinkly pale and gray shell I found on the beach in Herzliya.
These smudged, damp, and crinkled remnants of our adventures gently spill out of my new turquoise made-in-Israel bag like the fine grains of Dead Sea salt that scattered on the bathroom floor from my bathing suit this evening.
Meet Marc Luban and Ariana Handelman, a pair of 12-year-old BFFs from Chicago who have decided to forgo the modern bar mitzvah party, often ostentatious affairs featuring celebrity performers like Christina Aguilera (rock on, Sam Horowitz), in favor of helping other kids their age. In a partnership with their temple, Anshe Emet Synagogue, and the nearby Bright Star Church, the 7th graders will design and physically build a playground to serve the Bronzeville community on the South Side of Chicago, which is plagued by high crime and has few safe places for children to play.
The kids of Anshe Emmet and Bright Star Church have teamed up in the past for several events and projects. In fact, it was when Marc and Ariana visited the church to watch Barack Obama’s second inauguration that they noticed the area lacked a decent play area. Read the rest of this entry →
And for many other reasons, too. Because our kids had never been and we wanted to show them the land of their people, because we love beach vacations and no matter where you are in Israel you’re seldom further than an hour from an incredible beach, and because the food is amazing (never mind the shwarma and falafel, even frozen schnitzel and french fries are delicious here–especially if you eat them on the beach!). Because you can kayak down the Jordan river and ride a wobbly camel in the Judaean desert, buy fragrant spices and the freshest challah at the bustling Middle Eastern market in Jerusalem, and find the most exquisite shoes at the beautiful mall just steps away. Because Israel grabs you by all five of your senses and never lets go…
But mainly we came to celebrate my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. He’s been practicing his Torah portion for almost a year. I’ve heard him once or twice–he doesn’t falter, never hesitates. He has spent hours with our rabbi in Oakland learning, discussing, preparing his speech and his words of Torah. Read the rest of this entry →
Michael and Dylan Douglas (Courtesy of City of David Youtube)
After nearly breaking a hip dancing the Hora at his son Dylan‘s bar mitzvah, Michael Douglas flew down to Israel with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and their two kids for a post-party trip, staying in the presidential suite of the King David hotel in Jerusalem. During their stay, the Douglas family explored the “City of David,” an archeological dig.
Here’s a clip of Douglas kvelling for the camera with Dylan at his side (can we get an “awwww”?):