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Jul 25 2014

When I Converted, I Never Expected It Would Come to This

By at 10:13 am

Boycott-Israel-Protest

I’m scared.

I’m scared, and I have no idea how, or if, I should be sharing this fear with my children. With my daughter, specifically. She’s seven months away from her bat mitzvah. Luckily, it’s summer vacation and she’s not watching the news all that much. She’s not on Facebook like I am, with a newsfeed filled with reports of violence in Paris and endless updates about what’s happening in Israel.

See, I’m new to being Jewish. I wonder sometimes, five years after converting, if I’ll always feel somewhat new to being Jewish. I don’t have a protective, defensive shell built up. When I talk to my husband, to my friends who grew up Jewish, they aren’t shocked by the recent waves of anti-Semitism. They expect it, almost. One of the questions the beit din (rabbinical court) asked me before we went to the mikveh was why I would want to become Jewish. Why would I want to be a part of a group of people who were so often discriminated against and the object of so much hate? I replied that I felt like I already was Jewish: I was married to a Jewish man and raising Jewish children. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 24 2014

Talking with Zach Braff, Kate Hudson & Mandy Patinkin of “Wish I Was Here”

By at 1:39 pm

Wish-I-Was-Here

As we’ve mentioned before, Zach Braff’s new movie “Wish I Was Here” gives us plenty to talk about here at Kveller. I sat down with three of the film’s stars, Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, and Mandy Patinkin, to talk about their Jewish connection to the movie, being a child no matter how old you are, and the hardest part about playing the role of a dying man. “Wish I Was Here” is now playing in select theaters, and will play nationwide starting tomorrow. 

On the role Judaism plays in the film:

Zach Braff:

My brother Adam and I wrote this, and he’s 10 years older than me. When he was a kid, my parents put him in Yeshiva. By the time they got to me, they downshifted to Conservative and kosher. Both of us have grown up to be adults who organized religion does not work for. We love the jokes, we love the humor, we love the culture, we love the fun of the family gathering. But we don’t relate to anyone giving an eff if I have a bacon double cheeseburger, or a bearded man in the sky judging us. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 23 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That Our Israel Trip is Cancelled?

By at 10:59 am

passport and airline ticket near computer keyboard

We are canceling our trip to Israel. Even as I say this, I want to be there more than ever. My wife and I debated this decision endlessly and were waiting until the last moment to decide. We did not want to abandon Israel. We wanted to show support by being physically present. We wanted to show support with our tourist dollars. And we desperately wanted to be with our family there.

On the other hand, we did not want to subject our children to the emotional trauma of air raid sirens and running to bomb shelters. We did not want our children to have a negative experience in Israel. Nor did we want to unnecessarily take up space or resources.

It seems the choice has been made for us. As of this writing, the FAA has ordered all US carriers to suspend flights to Israel, the State Department has issued a travel warning suggesting the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel, and multiple airlines have either temporarily or indefinitely suspended their flights to Israel. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 22 2014

My Son’s First Jewish Friend

By at 10:04 am

baseball-bat

My son made his first Jewish friend. His name is Dan, and he’s got dark curly hair and wears glasses.

Charlie was so excited when he told me about him. “He celebrates Hanukkah, Mom, just like us! And he has a shirt with Hebrew writing on it.”

He continued to talk about Dan for weeks afterward. “Dan hit a home run at recess, Dan is better than me at math, Dan brings peanut butter fudge for dessert.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2014

What Happens When You Are a Carrier for a Jewish Genetic Disease?

By at 10:13 am

Carriers-part-1

Lauren Weinstein and her husband were expecting their first child when they learned that they are both carriers of a gene that causes cystic fibrosis (CF), one of the 19 common genetic diseases found among Ashkenazi Jews. The prognosis for a child with CF is pretty grim, and Lauren underwent DNA testing to learn if their child would have the disease. Then she managed to write a touching and darkly funny comic called “Carriers” about the period of waiting for those test results, published in Nautilus. She agreed to talk with me about her experience.

1. What was the your initial response when you were told that there was a good chance your child would have CF? Were you scouring the internet?

I have never been a fan of researching any medical issue on the internet. Obviously, it is a writhing pit of misinformation, none of which may pertain to your specific problem, especially when it’s about something as serious as CF. I waited until I met the genetic counselor and the pediatrician. And the picture the pediatrician painted was pretty bleak, unfortunately. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 17 2014

How to “Do Jewish” in Huntsville, Alabama

By at 1:57 pm

Jewish-in-Alabama

It was two days before our visit to family in Alabama. Feeling hopeful, I Googled “Huntsville kosher.” Nothing useful came up. I tried “Jewish Huntsville.” Not much better. Finally, with “Huntsville synagogue,” a Conservative shul and a Chabad center surfaced,­ neither of which had weekday services or kosher food. I sighed and went to pack a few boxes of granola bars.

Figuring out how to “do Jewish” in different locations is always on my to­-do list before a trip, but some cities make that job easier than others. We hadn’t even left and I was already feeling disconnected from our usual community.

Even my children thought to do some advance scouting of the Jewish landscape. They asked me if the family member we were visiting was Jewish (yes) and if he kept kosher (no). I explained that the place where we were staying had a kitchen and that we’d be arranging for our own food, which would all be kosher. That seemed to satisfy them.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2014

I Downloaded Israel’s “Red Alert” App & This is What Happened

By at 3:04 pm

code-red-app

For the past week and a half, my phone has been emitting siren sounds thanks to an app called Red Alert [also called Color Red in Hebrew]. While it is meant to alert Israelis to the very real danger of incoming missiles, many in the diaspora, like me, have downloaded the app as a way to obsess stay informed.

And I have chosen to keep on the audio.

Now, I know that having my phone bleep isn’t the same when my life does not depend on my ability to locate and get to a miklat (shelter) with my kids within seconds. Or, if we were at home, get to our mamad (protected room). Hearing the sound doesn’t strike fear in our hearts or give us nightmares. Read the rest of this entry →

My Daughter Came Home From Camp a Vegetarian

By at 11:20 am

Vegetarian

Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.

The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking for a short period of time—and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.

Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2014

Win a Free “Wish I Was Here” Movie Poster Autographed by Zach Braff

By at 2:17 pm

Zach-braff

If we didn’t know any better, we might have thought Zach Braff’s latest film “Wish I Was Here” was created for the sole purpose of being talked about on Kveller. Topics explored in the movie range from what to do when you can no longer afford to send your kids to Jewish Day School, raising young children while also dealing with the heartache of aging parents, and grappling with different levels of observance and personal beliefs within the same family.

Plus, there’s a dog named Kugel.

In anticipation of the movie’s release on July 18, we’re very excited to host an exclusive giveaway for Kveller readers. We’ll be giving away an official movie poster autographed by director and star Zach Braff to three lucky winners.

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below. We’ll choose three random entrees on Tuesday, July 22. And whether or not you come away a winner, we highly recommend checking out “Wish I Was Here” in a theater near you and letting us know what you think. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Jul 14 2014

How to Entertain Your Kids in a Bomb Shelter

By at 10:07 am

Israeli family takes refuge from rockets in a bomb shelter

“Why didn’t anyone DO SOMETHING?!”

I remember sitting in Hebrew School learning about the Holocaust for the first time. While I was in shock at what humans were capable of doing to other humans, I was almost more angry at my grandparents and other Americans–how could they just sit at home and let this happen for years before entering the war?

Now 25 years later, I am in my grandparents’ shoes. I see 200 schoolgirls get kidnapped in Nigeria. I see unimaginable violence in Iraq and Syria. And now I see murders, rockets, and bombings in Israel. I see moms, dads, kids, and families just like mine, who just want to go to work or school, go home, play in the park, and live a normal life. Yet they’re prevented from this by violence I can’t pretend to understand.  Read the rest of this entry →

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