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Jan 16 2014

A Lesson from The Lorax on Tu Bishvat

By at 9:39 am

hebrew-lorax

Deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say, if you look deep enough you can still see, today, where the Lorax once stood just as long as it could before somebody lifted the Lorax away.

One page into Dr. Seuss’s timeless classic and Jewish symbolism is abundant. The presumed gravesite of the Lorax, protector (creator?) of the trees, is surrounded by stones. In the animated movie adapted from the book, the Lorax and forest creatures bring stones to surround tree stumps after they have been cut in vain. Similarly, in Jewish tradition, small stones are placed at grave sites and when we bring these tangible stones and roll them around in our fingers, we can still feel our loved one; we can still feel the impact that has been made on this life.

The Lorax is often mentioned when we talk about Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, the Jewish holiday associated with environmental conservation. In Genesis, Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to “keep it and watch over it.” And the value of bal tashchit, “do not destroy,” has become the Jewish earth day anthem. The book absolutely teaches us that trees are sacred, but if we look deeper there is so much more. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 8 2014

What to Do About the Bris When He’s in the NICU

By at 1:59 pm

icu

For most Jewish couples expecting a son, the decision to have a bris isn’t really a decision at all. It is a time honored tradition, a mitzvah, a tenant of the Jewish religion.

I, however, wasn’t so sure. Our daughter was our first, so when I got pregnant with my son, it was the first time I really gave a bris any thought. To be honest, I just wasn’t sure I wanted the circumcision to take place outside of a clean hospital without a physician. After much thought, and knowing how much this meant to my husband and family, I agreed to the bris. And since I am the consummate planner and organizer, I planned the details down to where we’d get the bagels and lox.

As I entered my third trimester I had a typical plan in my head for my baby boy’s first week. I knew I was having a C-section so after four days in the hospital we would go home and on his eighth day, our family and friends would celebrate my son’s bris. There is a Yiddish phrase that translates to “When you make a plan, God laughs.” When I had a placental abruption at 33 weeks and my son was whisked off to the NICU for what would turn out to be a month-long stay, my plans went out the window. Read the rest of this entry →

May 13 2013

Let’s Stop Fat Shaming at the Bris

By at 12:40 pm

tray of home baked cookiesLast Monday morning, my family gathered for the bris of my new nephew. He’s the first in his generation, and after several rough years with many funerals, my family was really ready to celebrate. I had offered to bake for the bris, and my sister (the proud mama) accepted, so I spent Saturday night baking up a storm, making some classic family recipes that are delicious, and that would bring the memory of my mother and aunt into the celebration.

Standing around before we got started, the women of the family looked at the trays of goodies that I had baked, and immediately began the traditional recitation of guilt. “Uch, this is SO BAD. I should NOT eat any of this.” “Don’t let me have ANY of this.” “This isn’t going to help me stay good.” And on and on.  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 24 2012

Photo Tips: Capturing Special Occasions & Parties

By at 2:04 pm

My beautiful Little Bird recently had her first birthday. In preparation for her big day, I decided to plan a decent sized party at a restaurant. As a photographer, I also decided to have a friend take some photos to commemorate the day.

blowing out candle

Ok, so you are probably thinking, “Why the hell would you want to spend money on a photographer for a first birthday?” Or for that matter, why pay for a photographer to document other important events in your little one’s new life, besides the obvious newborn shoot and maybe 1-year photo shoot. But I can tell you, I have shot my fair share of brit milahs, baby namings, baby showers, and first birthdays and it is nice to be able to look back and remember those moments. Not having to be the one behind the camera or relying on a friend or family member for the photos makes it even better. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2012

Traveling and Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Always Go Together

By at 2:02 pm

airplane flying through the skyIn about one month’s time, God-willing, my newest niece or nephew is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Dallas, TX. The following week, family from all over the country will descend on the Lone-Star State in order to welcome him or her into our family and into our covenantal people. I, however, will be making the trip alone. And it saddens me.

Different families have different approaches, I have discovered, when it comes to family simchas. As far as my family goes, presence at a family celebration, be it a college graduation or a baby naming, is de rigueur. Even when it involves cross-country flights. Distance was never considered a barrier to attendance. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, were finances. Somehow there was always a way for the family to be together.

Which is why my decision to travel solo next month is a painful one. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 3 2012

How to Name a Child

By at 12:12 pm
Tamara Reese's Baby

Naming a Jewish child comes with much responsibility

Naming another human being is a tremendous obligation.

It is the first of many duties of a parent and the name you choose will grace your child from the moment they are born. It is how you as parents will come to know your baby and how his friends will eventually call to him on the playground.

Naming a Jewish child comes with added responsibility. A boy’s Hebrew name will be spoken by his parents during prayer and blessing. It is the name by which he will be called by the Rabbi to the bimah on his Bar Mitzvah and the one his wife will lovingly commit to under the chuppah. And, God wiling, after a long, fruitful life, that same name will be whispered in Yahrzeit by his children and grandchildren.

One of the main sources of inspiration we use when naming our children, for both their Hebrew and English (secular) names, is a family tree. My husband and I both come from diverse backgrounds and we feel compelled to give our children meaningful names that reflect what we have passed on both historically and genetically. Read the rest of this entry →

May 22 2012

We Don’t Love Our Firstborn More, We Swear

By at 4:07 pm

little boy eating yogurtOne day my daughter will ask me, “Daddy, why was my naming ceremony a small gathering in the synagogue while Asher’s bris was a large bash at our house?”

Yes, my princess, you might be thinking it’s because your religion is sexist and your parents already like their firstborn son better. And perhaps this writing is nothing more than me trying to convince myself it’s not the case. But here’s why I don’t think so: first, right now, your brother is covered in yogurt. A few minutes ago, he screamed and fell on the floor when I took my car keys back from him. So, I don’t like him better. And is your religion sexist? Maybe you should read about exactly what goes down at a bris. Read the rest of this entry →

May 1 2012

Bris Tips (ha!) from a Mom Who’s Been There

By at 9:49 am

Uncanny resemblance, right?

Six years ago, when I was expecting my first child, my husband and I debated ritual circumcision. We finally concluded that we would do it for the sake of shalom bayit, for the peace of the family. Now our house is overrun with boys: I have a 6-year-old and 1-year-old twins. That’s a lot of brit milah.

A bris usually takes place in the morning because Jewish tradition declares that a mitzvah be performed early in the day. But each bris I planned had a slightly different flavor than the traditional. Both took place in the late afternoon to allow time for out-of-towners to arrive. One was held in Boston with tons of New York family and local Jewish friends. The other was held in Atlanta with a handful of out of town family members and many non-Jewish friends. Each time we chose a Reform, female, mohel with an MD.

Here’s some hands-on advice for the foggy, postpartum days when you’d rather take a nap but find yourself hosting a bris for a cast of thousands. Parents of twins, there is a special section for you. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 2 2011

Big Fat Canadian Bris

By at 11:21 am
Gifts at the bris

Just your typical gift table at a Canadian bris.

What is the plural for bris? Whatever it is, I have been to many. But none compare to my BFF’s big fat Canadian bris.

My BFF lives in a small windswept Canadian city with a tight-knit Jewish community. It is small enough that there is no local mohel, so when a baby boy is born they have to fly in a non-yokel mohel. Because of this, the time of the bris is determined by Air Canada’s flight schedule. If the plane lands at 7:00 a.m., you will have a 9:00 a.m. bris, and if it lands at 3:00 p.m., you’re not the only one getting the shaft because you’ve got a 6:00 PM bris on your hands.

An explanation is in order. The time of the bris dictates what type of food must be served. A 9:00 a.m. bris means you can get away with serving bagels, lox, fruit salad, and pastries. But at a 6:00 p.m. bris, dinner must be served. Problem is, although it is a Jewish tradition that the whole community is welcome to a bris, no one takes this literally except in small-town Canada!

I thought it would be really cool if I, the sophisticated New Yorker, brought something yummy and kosher from the center of all yumminess and kosherness. When I offered to bring a couple of babkas from the famous Zabar’s in New York, my friend laughed uncontrollably. She appreciated the gesture, but she said three babkas would be bupkes. “How many people could possible show up?” I asked. “You’ll see.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 20 2011

Will Natalie Portman Circumcise Her Son? Should We Care?

By at 3:03 pm

What will Natalie do on day eight?

I have gone back and forth on my place in this circumcision “debate” more times than I can count.

Should I write about the proposed ban on circumcision in San Francisco and (almost) Santa Monica? Should I put myself out there to be (again) attacked with vicious hate language for my adherence to Jewish law? Should I voice my feelings of conflict and simultaneous joy to fulfill this most difficult of commandments?

Should I strike back at the anti-circumcision folks with the tools they have given me; namely, the anti-circumcision comic book with images like this of “Foreskin Man” and  “Monster Mohel”? Should I use sarcasm and anger and a smidge of Holocaust-driven paranoia or deal with the issues at hand minus sarcasm, anger, and paranoia? Should I speak up?

No. I decided I am not gonna do it. I am hyper-sensitive by nature and it’s been too hard of a week. I wish I had more in me to handle this, but I don’t right now.

So I will instead ask you this: what will Natalie Portman do? (In case you live in  cave or don’t read Kid-dish, Natalie had a baby boy last week.) Not that it’s my business, but will she or won’t she? Circumcise, that is. Will she even make public her decision about what to do on day 8 of her son’s life? (Mazel tov, by the way, Nat.)

Do celebrity Jews have some sort of obligation to the Jewish community at large to let us know about their observance especially when it puts a “good” face on observance? When Sacha Baron-Cohen discusses kosher food options or working on Shabbat, it really touches me. When Matisyahu puts himself out there as a successful and devout observant Jew, it amazes me. When Natalie Portman conducts an interview in Hebrew (check it out for yourself on youtube!), it thrills me.

So at this time of public discussion about circumcision (at least in some circles), I will be paying a little more attention to any baby news from Natalie’s corner.

Whatever she decides, God bless her right to exercise both her freedom of religion that our country guarantees, and her free will, which our religion guarantees.

Whatever she decides, I respect her right to exercise both her freedom of religion that our country guarantees, and her free will, which our religion guarantees.

Want more Mayim? And to see all of our Natalie coverage, go here.

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