Sep 9 2014
My youngest baby, Hope, is fast approaching 7 months old. Though we are not currently members of any synagogue, our lack of shul membership doesn’t necessarily translate into a lack of faith. My husband and I are Jewish and we want to raise our children Jewish. And while one of their first introductions to this faith will be the ceremony where we give our child a Hebrew name, we haven’t done it yet. But it’s time to start planning.
In Judaism, the naming ceremony for boys is part of the brit milah or bris, the ritual circumcision that most Jewish boys receive in the first week after their birth. It’s a straightforward, if not uncomfortable process that looked something like this with my son: I was eight days post-partum and was largely a walking ball of emotions. Our house was filled with some close friends and family but mostly extended family that I did not know or recall or even like. A mohel (one who performs ritual Jewish circumcisions) showed up and claimed he had circumcised nearly every little boy in the tri-state area. He said a couple of blessings that I did not understand over my tiny helpless son who lay sobbing on top of our card table, and he carefully removed my son’s foreskin. Everyone celebrated as my baby screamed. Someone removed the baby and the iodine and replaced it with a platter of rice that my husband’s grandmother had made for the occasion. A group of old women sat down at the exact same table where this whole ridiculous scene had just taken place and started noshing and kibitzing. I grabbed my son and the rugelach tray and hid in my bedroom where I sobbed and binged on pastries.
In every way, this ceremony felt like it was more about religious to-dos and tasks and less about faith. I recognize this was my personal experience with my son’s bris, but nonetheless it cut me sharply (no pun intended) that his first introduction to Judaism was seemingly so full of ritual, yet so lacking in spirituality. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 8 2014
Just like millions of little girls and boys across this country, my daughter is pretty enthused about the movie “Frozen.” Obsessed, really. She runs through the hallways with her long blue cape (or, more specifically, my formerly-favorite scarf that I got on our honeymoon to Italy) flowing in waves from her shoulders, leaping and singing “for the first time in forever….” She has refused to be called anything but Queen Elsa at dinner on more than one occasion. Every Lego tower built is now “The Frozen Ice Castle.”
But, I think for her, singing, “Let it Go” is more than just about being a girly 4-year-old who is embracing her high-heeled-fancy-shmancy-princess-loving stage. For Noa, “Let It Go” has become an anthem.
At 3 years old, Noa was diagnosed with anxiety. She’d always had a rough time: Breastfeeding was a struggle, complete with emergency weaning at nine months, Noa refusing to let anyone but me hold her for the first full year of her life, nutritional therapy because she wouldn’t eat, and the list goes on. Now it’s clear to us that she has some sensory issues, too. Noa had been a fussy baby, but at 3, her meltdowns seemed completely unmanageable and out of control. We couldn’t predict what would set her off. Once triggered, these meltdowns would last up to and sometimes over an hour. We could be anywhere and she would explode. Like a wild animal fighting for her life, Noa would scream, hit, kick, and slam her knees to the floor. We couldn’t connect with her, couldn’t reach her. She didn’t want to be held. Her eyes wouldn’t focus. She couldn’t speak. We just had to let her rage. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 5 2014
Foodies, this one is for you.
We are giving away this lovely assortment of cookies from gourmet, dairy-free, kosher cookie maker Nomoo Cookie Company.
Made from high-quality, natural ingredients, the flavors included are ALMOND OY!, CHOCO-LIFT, OAT RAGEOUS ONE, and SUGAH SUGAH. We sampled all four flavors here at Kveller and the consensus was that they’re all delicious and you definitely don’t miss the dairy. Each cookie is individually wrapped for freshness and they even arrive in a pretty box. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 4 2014
On Tuesday, when he started school, my oldest son was the only Jewish boy in his class of 30 kids. There are many schools in which that statistic would not be unexpected; an Orthodox Jewish day school is not one of them. But that’s the way it goes here in Birmingham, UK–a place where, we learned upon moving here from the US, the Jewish population has been dwindling for years, but where the Jewish school continues as a thriving, competitive primary school, serving kosher lunch and celebrating Jewish holidays and Israel’s birthday.
As in a typical American Orthodox Jewish day school, my son will daily recite Jewish prayers and learn “limudei kodesh”–a Judaic studies curriculum. He and the other boys will keep their heads covered, per the Jewish tradition. On Friday afternoons, before school ends (early, to give students time to prepare for Shabbat), all the grades will convene for a Kabbalat Shabbat program. A Jewish boy will play “Shabbat Abba” and a Jewish girl will play “Shabbat Eema,” and the Abba and Eema will host a Shabbat table with grape juice, challah, and guests. Most of their guests will be Muslim.
In a climate of growing antipathy between Muslims and Jews everywhere, I could not be happier to be sending my son to a school that will allow him to declare, as he did after a week of camp in the UK, “I made a best friend here. His name is Abdul!” Maybe Abdul-from-camp came from a family and/or community that liked Jews. Maybe not. My son didn’t get to know Abdul long enough or well enough to find out. But at his Jewish day school, which has a growing Muslim population (this year it is estimated between 60 and 70%), there’s no doubt that the Muslims are learning with and about Jews by choice. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 3 2014
Here’s a sweet way to get your little ones excited about Rosh Hashanah: pint-sized t-shirts from Jewnion Label from their United Apple Dippers & Honey Drippers line! We love the taglines: “Sticking Together” and “L’Dor v’Dor/Jar to Jar.”
Jewnion Label makes smart, funny gear for all of the holidays, plus every day in between. Also themed around Rosh Hashanah: t-shirts, messenger bags, notecards, and more from the International Federation of Shofar Blowers (motto: “Shofar, So Good”), with a cheeky ram in the center.
We’ve got three free children’s “United Apple Dippers & Honey Drippers” t-shirts to give away to three lucky readers. To enter, just fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner on Wednesday, September 10th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sep 2 2014
Sitting at my rising 6th grader’s middle school orientation, I was reminded, once again, that rearing our kids in a secular society can be a tricky proposition.
There it was, up on the PowerPoint slide: “Meet the Teacher Night: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, at 7:00pm.”
September 24th…September 24th. Sounded familiar. A frantic check on my iPhone confirmed it; September 24th is the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 27 2014
This morning started with a blast. Actually, many blasts. Our shofar has emerged.
Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashanah. There is a minhag (custom) of blowing the shofar every morning during Elul except for Shabbat and the day before the New Year. Though this traditionally takes place at synagogue after Shaharit (morning services), my spouse and I have a practice of blowing the shofar at home. We’ve been doing it for over a decade, having bought a shofar for our first wedding anniversary, but it takes longer than it used to. Instead of one person waking up the neighbors, now all four of us blow the shofar each day, my two kids eager and impatient for their turns.
We keep the shofar on our mantel until the High Holidays are over. When we have guests, they have a uniform reaction upon seeing the long spirals: “Isn’t that type of shofar harder to blow?” They are surprised when we tell them that not only is it easier to get sound from a long shofar than a short one, but even our kids can produce a recognizable “tekiyah.” Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 26 2014
For the past four summers, Kaspar has been a camper at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Colorado Rockies. Kaspar has participated in ROA’s Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities, both as a participant in the Amitzim edah (division) for campers with disabilities and, most recently, as part of the camp’s inclusion program.
Ramah Outdoor Adventure has become her second home and, according to her parents, has been a big part of her everyday happiness and success. Kaspar hopes someday to become a member of ROA’s tzevet susim (“horse staff”). Below is her take on life at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.
Four summers. Four summers bursting with the harmony of cycles. Every year, the drive up, and up, and up. That in itself is enough to break some spirits.
But there it is: the homecoming. The cheering, the screaming of names. If you are a returning camper, you are passed around, admired, and soon bear the mark of a hundred dirt-encrusted hugs. Newbies are taken in, enveloped in a new universe that welcomes you with every ventricle of its beating heart. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 22 2014
Move over, Maccabeats.
If Pharrell’s “Happy” was the soundtrack to 2014 in your home (as it was in mine), then your kids will love this version of “Adon Olam.” I mean, it’s basically a mash up of the two most catchy songs in history.
Brought to you by Listen Up, a peppy Chicago-based a cappella group, you will NEVER get this one out of your head. The video was uploaded two days ago and already has close to 15,000 hits. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2014
My first delivery went textbook-smooth. From the time my water broke until the time I delivered my daughter was nine hours, which is under the average of 10 to 24 hours for a first labor. The one thing I hadn’t liked: To get me through the first part of labor, my doctor had ordered some Stadol, a narcotic that is supposed to “take the edge off the pain.” It made me alternately sleepy and groggy. It was only supposed to last an hour or two, but it lasted much longer, and I was totally out of it by the time my baby was born.
By the time my second child was ready to be born, I was determined to do it differently.
When I got to the hospital, I wasn’t in active labor. I was contracting now and then, but the contractions didn’t hurt. The only sign was the bloody show I’d experienced overnight. My obstetrician insisted that was enough–I’d gone so quickly last time, and I was five days overdue now, so it made a lot of sense to get me into the hospital sooner rather than later. Read the rest of this entry →