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Nov 1 2011

No Hanukkah Love From the Biebs

By at 1:24 pm
justin bieber with a menorah

This is photoshopped, in case it's not obvious.

Here’s a joke for you: what do a Jewish manager, a Hebrew tattoo, and the Shema have to do with Hanukkah? Apparently nothing, if you ask Justin Bieber, whose debut Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe drops today. And according to his inappropriately blunt manager, his testicles have dropped too, rendering him deeper than ever! Yay?

Justin sings two octaves lower on his new album, but for you pre-pubescent falsetto lovers, he’s also belting it out in his girly voice with Mariah. He’s a favorite amongst tribe members, but overlooking even a driedel mention could be detrimental for his rep in the holy land.

Me? I’ll be adding JB’s holiday mash up to my collection alongside Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Once Upon A Christmas and NKOTB Funky, Funky Christmas (don’t judge).  When I converted to Judaism, I surrendered three boxes of snowman ornaments, my Jesus cookie cutter (because Jesus cookies are delicious), and our annual tree-cutting – on ONE condition – I was able to keep, AND LISTEN TO, all of my holiday music.  I am totally THAT PERSON who programs my car radio to the Christmas station the day after Thanksgiving and belts out jingle bells with the car windows down in the middle of a snow storm. I’m hardcore, people. You couldn’t pry my precious holiday CD collection out of my steely grip if you promised me chocolate hands and painless childbirth.

I can’t tell you the number of people (including my husband) who have tried to tell me, “There really is some beautiful Hanukkah music out there, you should try it.” Does it include a boy drumming? Perhaps a serene chariot ride through the woods to your bubbe’s house? Does it talk about winter or snowy wonderlands? No. No it does not. And while there are a lot of things about Judaism that are just as special, if not better than Americanized Christian celebrations, winter holiday music ain’t one of them. Admittedly, I do own a few Hanukkah albums, including the Adam Sandler classic and my favorite Hanukkah song is by far, “Ocho Kandelikas” (I dare you to listen to that song without shaking your hips!) but there really isn’t a comparison and probably explains why my husband plays The Maccabeats “Candelight” on repeat for eight nights. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 28 2011

Was I Jewish Enough?

By at 10:15 am

I walked into the grocery store last week and saw a tower of gleaming honey crisp apples. As I carefully picked my bounty, I breathed in a memory of last year’s Rosh Hashanah when my husband and I toasted the new year by dipping our favorite apples in honey while our 8-month-old son gobbled up some homemade apple puree.  “This year, he’ll have apples and honey with us,” I smiled to myself.

Over the last few weeks, the anticipation of my toddler dipping apples in the stickiest substance on the planet and watching his eyes sparkle with delight still brings a smile to my face, but this time of year also reminds me that being Jewish and, even more so, feeling Jewish are very new to me.  Four years is not enough to time to have a full repertoire of Rosh Hashanah recipes tasted and perfected to bring to a friend’s house.  I don’t have crafts and decorations from years ago to pull out and hang around our house and my shofar blowing is spotty at best. I’ve never baked my own challah and I mourn the loss of my mother-in-law because we have no Jewish family to tell stories of my husband’s Jewish childhood. At a time when Jews around the world are reflecting on a year of works and worship – I find myself asking, “Was I Jewish enough?”

We only lit the candles a handful of times, but I perfected the art of cornflake chicken strips and we sing the Sh’ma every night.

We had a Hanukkah party and fumbled our way through latkes while my baby ate the wrapping paper on his gifts and returned the ‘present’ in his diaper the next day.

My best friend sewed an adorable King Ahasuerus costume for my son, but he fell ill with fever and we spent Purim in the emergency room.

My husband and I gave up chametz for the entirety of Pesach for the first time this year and I baked some delicious chocolate meringues and almond butter cookies.

And this past month, my toddler and I welcomed the return of Tot Shabbat at the JCC and I almost cried when I saw him clapping along to the familiarity of dinosaur Shabbat. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 1 2011

My Handsome Puerto Rican Husband Wraps Tefillin

By at 9:35 am

For those not in the know (and until yesterday, I counted myself among you), yesterday marked the first day of a new month on the Jewish calendar: Elul.

The morning begins like any other: our toddler twins wake up screaming, I change diapers, prepare breakfast, play with them, get them dressed, and call my parents so that they’ll Skype with them while I shower and give me time to actually wash my hair.  As I get the computer ready and open the door to the bedroom, wherein our linen closet lies, to find a towel, I realize that this morning is not like all others.  It’s the first of Elul.

I enter the bedroom and find my husband Marco wrapped in the tallis (prayer shawl) my parents bought him for our wedding, and my father’s tefillin (phylacteries).  Two Judaic reference books lay open on our bed, illuminated by the glow of his iPad, which is on.  It’s his first time laying tefillin, and he’s trying to follow the rules.

I’ve come in to hustle him into the shower—I need to get ready before the babysitter arrives so I can start my workday on time, and he needs to shower first and get out the door!  But seeing him dressed in the regalia of full Judaic manhood stops me in my tracks.

“Oh—I’m sorry,” I murmur, slightly embarrassed that I’ve walked in on him this way.

He looks up from the texts.  I notice a YouTube video streaming on the iPad: How to Lay Tefillin. “This is going to take some time,” he says.

I restore his privacy by closing the door.

Read the rest of this entry →

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