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Feb 20 2014

Stuck in the Shabbat Limbo

By at 4:02 pm

Doing Shabbat, my way

It was my second time meeting with Chana with the hopes of renting her Jerusalem apartment. I was in Israel on a research grant and following an ulpan (intensive Hebrew immersion course) in Jerusalem, had moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to my university. After just a few weeks of living by the water, I felt pulled back to Jerusalem.

Chana went through a checklist of the idiosyncrasies of the apartment. It would be furnished and I would not need to, nor would I be permitted to, bring my own bed. The school across the street could be loud at lunchtime. There was no dishwasher, of course, but I was welcome to use the laundry machine provided. And then almost as an afterthought she added, “Shabbat. Of course you keep Shabbat.”

“Well,” I started. And that was the beginning of the end. “I may turn on the lights here and there.”

“No. No turning on and off the lights. You must keep Shabbat.”

“But—,”

“No. No. I cannot. My friend rented to someone like you and first she had a car accident. Then…” her voice trailed off. “No. I cannot take the risk.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 12 2013

How I Swallowed My Pride & Asked for Help

By at 10:09 am

jello

Last week was one of the hardest parenting weeks I can remember. My 14-month-old was breaking four molars and three incisors at once, which I figured could explain the endless screaming and fevers. That is until the 3-year-old started in with the fevers, and screaming, and saying his mouth hurt. After finding his mouth full of sores, I noticed the baby’s hands were also covered in sores and realized they both had Coxsackievirus (more commonly known as Hand, Foot and Mouth disease).

So with my husband out of town on business, I was house-bound for an entire week of rushing between two beds of screaming children all night, giving endless hugs and popsicles, and managing my own pregnancy-induced nausea.

At one point I stole away a minute to pee and as I passed the defeated shell of a woman looking back at me in the mirror I thought, “This is so hard, I wish I had help.” I was eating Ramen noodles because making a full meal for myself when my kids were surviving on Jell-O seemed ridiculous (and time consuming). I wouldn’t dare ask a friend to enter my home and risk bringing this hell back to their own child, but even if someone tossed me a hamburger from the driveway, at least it would be a hot meal that I didn’t have to make myself. Read the rest of this entry →

May 30 2013

Maybe Thank You Cards Aren’t So Bad After All

By at 2:10 pm

cara paiuk twinsAlmost two years ago, I wrote about my disdain for writing thank you cards, and I still have an issue with the premise that thank you cards should be required or expected. Are we not supposed to give a gift, do a favor, or extend a kindness without an expectation of receiving something in return? Do we need the thank you card construct to make us feel good? Rewarded? Acknowledged?

To this day I resent my family for forcing me to write engagement, wedding, and baby shower thank you cards. I especially resent the pressure to churn out thank you cards 24 hours after receiving gifts from people I hardly knew when I was a new mother who couldn’t find time to shower or eat. It just made me regret receiving the gifts in the first place! Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 12 2013

Friday Night: Desperately Seeking Mom Friends

By at 2:13 pm

lawn mowerThe weather is warming up and here’s a piece of advice for anyone thinking of moving to the suburbs: do it when the weather is nice.

Through the long winter months, I thought a lot about how living in the city forces you to be a part of the community in a way that the suburbs do not. Back in Brooklyn, I could easily spend a day alone with the kids but not feel lonely for adult company, because wherever I went, I was surrounded by people. If I sat on a bench with the girls at the park, other parents and their kids were inevitably doing the same at an adjacent bench and suddenly we had our own adult version of parallel play without meaning to. Lack of space indoors meant people were pushed out of doors, even in inclement weather.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 8 2013

In Praise of the Meal Train

By at 4:08 pm

I’ve never once been told not to eat when it came to my Jewish family. In fact, the opposite holds true. I’m usually not eating enough.

Have some more matzah balls.

Did you try the stuffed cabbage yet?

Here, take a little bit more tzimmes.

There’s never enough food. The food itself: warm, rich, and soul-satisfying made me feel loved and taken care of, just like I felt about the women and men who prepared it all for me growing up. I’ve taken many of the food-focused life lessons I learned in my Jewish household and have continued to practice them in my adult life. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 12 2012

Adoption in Brooklyn

By at 2:10 pm

When you run a Jewish parenting website, you hear about all sorts of great parenting resources. And of course you want to share the wealth. This is one of those times.

There’s an organization called the Jewish Childcare Association that’s running a series of programs on adoption here in New York. Their adoption program, Ametz, provides guidance throughout the adoption process, including support groups, information sessions, and all sorts of other resources.

And there are two upcoming sessions in Brooklyn that you shouldn’t miss, even if you’re just starting to think about the concept of adoption. The first is on April 17 and focuses on raising adopted kids in Jewish families–including the issues, concerns, and decisions that parents face. It’s appropriate for those who are considering adoption, pursuing adoption, or who have already adopted. They’ll give tips and tricks on how to create family traditions that celebrate adoption and the identities of adopted kids and parents. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 1 2012

Our Israeli Friends in Brooklyn

By at 10:54 am
Keshetot crowds

The scene at Keshetot one Sunday morning.

Last year I wrote a post about Israelis in Brooklyn, this amazing organization started by a local Israeli momma who wanted her kids to have a greater connection to their Israeli roots. She banded together with friends, neighbors, and community leaders to create  programming to help create that sense of community and belonging here in Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 19 2011

The Miracle of the Struggle

By at 4:22 pm

Photo via craftjr.com

I’ve been thinking about miracles a lot lately; not only is Hanukkah starting tomorrow night, but the song Miracle by the Maccabeats has been on constant repeat in our house lately, as it seems to be the only thing that will soothe my fussy toddler.

We throw around the word “miracle” pretty casually these days. By definition, a miracle is “A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment.” For example, while it may be a blessing when a baby is born, in most cases it’s not actually a miracle—thousands of babies are born every day.

Rather, the miracle I’m thinking about today is us. Right here. This blog, this community, the Jewish people as a whole. The reality is that we shouldn’t be here. Abraham could have walked away. Joseph’s brothers could have killed him instead of selling him. The Maccabees could have lost. There are many other examples, points in time when history could have taken a different turn, when the Jewish people should have been destroyed completely. As recently as a few decades ago, the Nazis could have won.

But they didn’t, and here we are. It’s not only a miracle that we are here, but we are a strong community, living in a free society. We can place menorahs in our windows without fear, and as we no longer have to focus our energy on staying alive, we can actively engage in the struggle of what it means to be Jewish parents raising Jewish children.

There is, perhaps, no more inherently Jewish act than that of struggling; we are the people of Israel, the people who struggle with God. Here at Kveller, we are connecting, we are having fun, but we are also struggling with the Godly work of raising Jewish children. From naming babies and circumcision to interfaith families and non-Jewish holidays, from discipline and rituals to divorce and making friends, we’re in it, and we’re lucky to be here. We’re agreeing and disagreeing, we’re trying to find our paths in a messy, complicated world.

We’re not all on the same page, and our lives and families probably look vastly different. But we all have one thing in common—a love for the Jewish people, and a desire to make our community stronger, one child at a time.

So, as we prepare to light our Hanukkah candles tomorrow night, I want to thank you all for the miracle that is our community. We shouldn’t be here, but we are, and I am grateful for it.

Nov 11 2011

Why Mayim Loves Kveller

By at 9:05 am
mayim bialik kveller

Mayim in the Kveller office (and yes, that's a "What Would Blossom Do" postcard).

I spent last weekend in scenic San Jose, California, where my husband is from. His mother still lives in the house my husband grew up in, and we visit several times a year with our boys, who delight at the fact that their Safta has saved every single one of their father’s toys.

The house is a veritable treasure of 1970s and 1980s Star Wars, GI Joe, Fisher-Price, and the like. It’s sort of Miles’ and Fred’s Shangri-La. Once we set foot in the door, they only come to us for food and to complain that we’re ruining their playtime when we request that they bathe and change their clothes once a day.

This past weekend, though, we were in San Jose so that I could speak at my mother-in-law’s synagogue. Once she began her conversion process (my husband, Mike, was raised Mormon), she joined the Reform synagogue where, coincidentally, my aunt and uncle have been members for over 20 years. I was asked to speak about the “Universal Values of Jewish Parenting: For Families of All Backgrounds.”

The talk and my 40 minutes of Q & A were very well received. I especially loved talking to people on the break and after the talk ended, including a man named Sheldon who had no clue who I was but liked my talk anyway (the irony of the fact that he shares a name with my on-screen boyfriend was lost on him). I also met a bunch of awesome mamas; many of whom are fans of Kveller. 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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