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Oct 13 2014

Why Didn’t I Give That Homeless Man Money?

By at 10:32 am

Homeless-man

His sign read simply, “I’m homeless–need help.” It was scribbled on a rumpled piece of cardboard with black marker. Growing up in Los Angeles, my children will see many curious things, just as I did. But that day, as I drove on Hollywood Boulevard with my son, I found myself entirely unprepared for how one otherwise ordinary interaction would impact me.

My son asked me to help him decipher the words on the sign. I strive for honesty, so I read them to him without edits. “What does that mean Mommy?” he asked.

I hesitated. After a considerable pause I replied cautiously, “It means that he doesn’t have anywhere to live and he is looking for something or someone to help him out.” I waited for the barrage of questions that often followed, but it never came. “Oh,” my son replied, and left it at that. Somehow my answer was sufficient to satisfy his inquisition, but I wondered if and when more questions would follow, and I felt anxious about how I would field them. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2014

This Rainbow Loom Dress Can Be Yours for Just $230K

By at 12:08 pm

Rainbow-loom-dress

Turns out those teeny tiny rubber bands all over your carpet are good for something.

Behold: the Rainbow Loom dress–available on ebay for a mere $231,000.

Hand woven by Helen Wright, an out-of-work single mom from North Wales, the novelty dress is actually really cute! Here’s the full photo, modeled by Wright’s daughter:

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

That Time I Almost Picked Up a Hitchhiker with the Kids in the Car

By at 3:52 pm

hitchhiking

I saw a hitchhiker this morning. It was a woman. She looked like she was in her mid-40s. Scraggly, blond hair, a tiny butterfly tattooed on her neck, a defeated look in her gray eyes.

My first instinct was to pick her up. In fact, I slowed down and pulled up so close that she slung her grungy backpack over her shoulder and started to move towards our car. The lines by her mouth rippled out into a tight lipped smile.

“Who is that, Mama?” Evi strained to get a better view. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 3 2013

Birthday Parties: Is Asking for Donations Instead of Gifts Too Preachy?

By at 10:03 am

lego set with falg“Partying all night” now means the yearly ritual where my husband, my son, and I open his birthday gifts after the last cranky guest has left for the evening. (This year, my night-owl daughter may well join us.) Hey, it’s the closest thing we Jewish families have to Christmas.

Amid fallen streamers and crumpled napkins, we paw at tissue paper to discover sets of Legos, puzzles that beep mysteriously, rickety railroad sets. With delight, Josh and Sam extract the toys, even ones we already have (in their view, there’s no such thing as too many Imperial Star Destroyers) and squeeze them into the mounds of crap climbing every inch of our wall space. When they move on to the next gift I quietly salvage the packaging and pocket the gift receipt, mapping out my return route for Monday. If it doesn’t have a gift receipt, I’m even more determined to try. Refund or bust! Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 18 2012

A Hanukkah Without Presents: A Report From the Trenches

By at 4:29 pm

“On the first night of Hanukkah, my mommy gave to me,” my 13-year-old son began singing, as the 9-year-old and 5-year-old joined him in the chorus, “Absolutely no-ooooo-thing!”

Well, it’s not like they weren’t warned.

A good week before Hanukkah started, I informed my kids that, due to the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, with people not 50 miles away losing everything they owned, not to mention the high unemployment rate, the millions of people going hungry all around the world, and the fact that my children already had so much stuff they couldn’t even manage to keep their rooms clean, there would be no Hanukkah gifts this year. Instead, we would spend the eight days of the holiday doing good deeds, and the eight nights discussing them as we lit our candles. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

The Fifth Night Project: Teaching Giving During Hanukkah

By at 11:15 am

box of toy donations for charityLet’s face it; in order to help Jewish children from feeling left out of the Christmas season, Hanukkah has lost much of it’s traditional meaning and has become a holiday based around eight nights of presents. Customarily, Hanukkah is celebrated with candles, dreidels, and latkes; the eight crazy nights of toys and books was only added to compete with Christmas. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2012

I Never Liked Hanukkah, But I Do Like Tzedakah

By at 9:43 am

So–it’s almost Hanukkah, just about everyone’s favorite holiday. Gifts, gelt (Yidd., money), no fasting, no standing in shul for hours, no cooking for big family meals, nice lighting-the-menorah ritual.

Well, I never liked it. Despite the gifts, I didn’t like it even as a kid.

As a first generation American on my father’s side (especially grateful to this country since everyone who was not here were killed by the Nazis,) and a third generation American on my mother’s, I am a very patriotic American with a strong American identity.

But every Hanukkah, I felt like the “other.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 6 2012

How to Donate Without Opening Your Wallet

By at 9:44 am

Donate clothes your children have outgrown or just don't wear

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Women, Work & Money, Alina Adams shares her strategy for donating time and skills instead of money.

When I wrote my earlier piece about how to save money by (primarily) not caring about what other people had, I stressed that it applied to those in your higher and comparable financial strata. Caring about people who have less than we do is a completely different issue.

However, when it comes to tzedekah, I have chosen to teach my children that there are ways to contribute other than monetarily. Not only because, as a teacher and a writer living in New York City with three kids in private school we don’t have a lot to spare, but also because I truly believe that giving means more when you actively do something to heal the world, rather than merely pay someone else to take care of what you perceive to be a problem. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 19 2012

Helping the Needy When You Are the Needy

By at 12:57 pm

canned food driveOne day my kindergartener came home from school and excitedly announced, “Our class is collecting canned foods for the needy!” to which I snidely replied under my breath, “We ARE the needy!”

Of course as soon as I said it, I wished the words had never left my mouth. Especially when my son’s teacher stopped me the next day at school to report that he had repeated my exact words to her. Luckily, she had a great sense of humor and found it pretty funny. “You’re telling me!” she said with a look compassion and irony. Of course I felt myself blush. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 3 2012

My Fancy Night Out with Mayim & Other Powerful Jewish Women

By at 4:19 pm
carla naumburg mayim bialik

Kveller BFFs Carla and Mayim.

Last Thursday night, I had the opportunity to go see our very own Mayim Bialik speak at a charitable event in Boston hosted by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. To be sure, it wasn’t the Emmys, but it’s about as close as I have come to the red carpet. In honor of my big night out, here’s my Mayim-style recap:

1. Clogs–not cool. Huh. Apparently most women don’t show up at high-end fundraisers in Boston wearing Dansko clogs. In all fairness, I literally raced from a presentation at a social work conference (where clogs are part of the dress code) to the event, but a more fashion conscious (and organized) Mama would have had a spare pair of heels in her bag. Whoops. (Note to self: buy a pair of heels.) Read the rest of this entry →

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