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Oct 1 2014

The Things I Learned Teaching English in Israel

By at 4:13 pm

Israel-relief-map

When I made aliyah from Montreal, I never planned to teach English in an Israeli classroom. Aliyah was about leaving Montreal to become Israeli, rather than bringing a piece of Canada here with me. I soon discovered, however, that since everyone wants to speak English, teaching English is a much sought-after profession. As it turns out, it’s also a great day job for a writer.

I began the new school year by writing vocabulary words on the white board. The day’s assignment was to define and use certain phrases: “What is a relief map?” I ask them, quite certain they will be unfamiliar with the three dimensional map that portrays the ups and downs, mountains and valleys, of a geographical terrain. A hand goes up. A boy in the back. It’s always the boys in the back who give me butterflies in my stomach those first few weeks of school. We haven’t had our meetings with their homeroom teacher so I don’t know the family history of each student, which child might have lost someone close during this summer war in Gaza, which child might be struggling through their parents’ divorce, or who might be trying to hide socio-economic issues under fake designer labels.

There is still so much I have to learn before I can become an effective teacher. For now, each student before me is a tabula rasa. I have to ask their name when they raise their hands; I still have not matched the wire-framed glasses, the dimpled cheeks, or the intense hazel-green gaze to the names on my list. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 6 2014

When the Rabbi’s Wife Doesn’t Believe in God

By at 10:55 am

boots

What do you do when your power goes out for six days in the middle of an epic ice storm, coating the streets of Toronto in a polar vortex, and you’re 40 weeks pregnant?

And then you give birth to your third baby during this multi-­day power outage, followed by a life threatening surgical complication?

Rounded off by a subsequent burst pipe, flooding all four floors of your newly renovated house, making it uninhabitable and having nowhere for your family to live, one of whom is only 4 days old? Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 1 2014

My Husband and I Switched Sides of the Bed (and Our Marriage Survived!)

By at 2:49 pm

sleeping

When I told people that we were considering a change-up after almost a decade on our respective sides, they recoiled in horror.

“That would be grounds for divorce in our house!” they shouted. “We would move into separate rooms before we would swap! You will never sleep again!”

I have never been a middle-of-the-bed type of girl. In my unmarried years, I trended towards the side farthest from the door, probably with the subconscious thought that if someone nefarious broke in, they’d get to the first empty pillow and give up. When my husband moved in, there was no bed-side discussion; he simply filled the gap. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 24 2013

The Bar Mitzvah Diary: How I Prepared for My Son’s Big Day

By at 9:43 am

sharon clark bar mitzvah diary

We recently held my older son’s bar mitzvah. I had heard many stories about all the pitfalls of these events–which are really supposed to be focused on the meaningfulness for the young people involved– but assumed I would get around them and plan an event that would be successful and well-organized, without much of the tsuris that other families seem to have to deal with. I am an executive in the government, after all, accustomed to dealing with a wide range of stakeholders, conflicting priorities, and tight timelines.

Boy, was I wrong. Events conspired to bring me to a near state of panic, and my only way of coping was to start keeping this blog. In the end, humor saved the day. So enjoy.

November 2012: T-9 months

- Established bar mitzvah budget. Figured we should have no problem staying on budget. I’m an auditor, after all.

- Called local Museum to book room for Saturday night party. Museum tells me for my budget, I can order pizza from their cafeteria. Called Delta Hotel.

December 2012: T-8 months

- Delta tells me (more politely than the Museum) that they can’t do it for my budget.

January 2013: T-7 months

- Booked party room at City Hall. Room is good price and we can bring in our own caterer and buy our own booze. 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 →

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