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Jun 23 2014

What’s It Like at “No Body Talk” Camp?

By at 4:50 pm

No-Body-Talk-Rule

“NO BODY TALK!”

This is the refrain commonly heard at Eden Village, a Jewish organic farming camp, featured in the New York Times, where boys and girls can talk about anything under the sun except their bodies.

Eden Village joins a growing number of summer camps that discourage any discussion of clothing, nails, hair, or body parts. That means no insecure or negative body comments (“Do I look fat?”), or compliments (“I love your dress”). Even checking out one’s own reflection is discouraged. (A sign on the bathroom reads: “Don’t check your body, check your soul.”) Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 18 2014

Nice Modern Orthodox Boy Slings Penis Jokes on “America’s Got Talent”

By at 10:27 am
Josh Orlian slings penis jokes on "America's Got Talent"

Josh Orlian via Twitter

Meet Josh Orlian, a 12-year-old Modern Orthodox Jew from White Plains, New York, who made his stand-up comedy debut on last night’s episode of “America’s Got Talent.” Not yet a bar mitzvah, young Josh, with sweet red hair and a kippah on his head, explained to the camera before taking the stage that he was quite nervous–until this moment he had only performed his jokes in front of family and friends.

Like any proud Jewish parents, Josh’s folks were there to cheer him on, his mother kvelling, as expected, “Of course I always laugh. I’m his mother!”

What wasn’t so expected? The dirty, dirty act that followed. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 17 2014

Our Boys Are Missing

By at 2:07 pm

our-boys-are-missing

Our boys are missing.

I say “our boys” because these could be our sons, our brothers.

This is just how we roll in Israel.

Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh-la-zeh: The People of Israel are responsible for one another.

You can see it in the way we scold random parents for forgetting to put socks on their kids. (“Where are his socks? Where are his shoes? It’s the middle of April and he’ll freeze!”) Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 16 2014

Up Close: Tamara Reese & Family

By at 2:01 pm

Tamara-up-close

1. In what ways have your kids taken part in religious holidays/events with their non-Jewish family members?

I converted, so my parents (my children’s grandparents) are not Jewish. My husband was raised by his Jewish mother, z”l. His father is not Jewish and is married to a wonderful woman who just happens to be a Methodist minister. My children have celebrated Christmas with both of our extended families. We are Jewish and raise our children in a Jewish home, but that does not take away from celebrating our extended family’s faith and traditions with them at their house. If Hanukkah and Christmas overlap, our families have always been very respectful and wrapped all of my kids’ gifts in Hanukkah paper. My boys more than anything love the lights and the tree. They know we are celebrating a holiday that is not ours, similarly to our extended family joining us for Passover or Hanukkah.

2. Have your kids ever been confused about why certain relatives have a different religion and celebrate different holidays? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 12 2014

How Being the Rabbi’s Gay Son Taught Me to Be a Good Dad

By at 4:53 pm

raj-castro-pic-(1)

I was 2 years old when everything changed. My father, who was not yet 30, was a rabbi at a synagogue in Budapest. After multiple harassments, he decided with my mother that America would be a much better place to practice freedom of religion and raise a family. My parents told family and friends that we were vacationing in Yugoslavia when, in fact, we had no intention of ever going back. It was 1972 and we were escaping communist Hungary, the threat of imprisonment looming over my parents’ shoulders.

We arrived in the United States a few months later, settling in Brooklyn, New York, where my father would learn English and audition as an assistant rabbi at a Reform synagogue. For our part, my sister and I went with the flow, assimilating into American culture. We spent most days like those of our classmates at the Jewish day school we attended. Other days were different, after all, we were the immigrant rabbi’s kids.

The author and his family arriving in America.

The author and his family arriving in America.

 

Being the rabbi’s son seemed normal, maybe privileged at times. In some ways, I felt like a child star with a couple hundred fans. My father’s congregants doted on me as if I were their own. I attributed this affection as kindness, and probably much of it was. As I grew older, I recognized that part of this behavior was their way to get closer to my father. In some cases, it was to satisfy their natural curiosity about the “Man of God,” who is also a family man, their spiritual leader, marital counselor, and advisor.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2014

Thank You to The One School That Found a Way to Include My Son

By at 11:48 am

Amit-music-1

“Our entire sixth grade class is going to Six Flags for the end of the year trip.”

A familiar feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I wasn’t concerned about the venue. I believe that 11-year-olds deserve plain, simple fun after a year of hard work. I had no concerns for their safety. I am not an overprotective, helicopter parent.

My anxiety stemmed from the fear that the school wouldn’t agree to take my son Amit. Once again, his excitement would be quickly transformed into disappointment, frustration, and anger. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 10 2014

When One Daughter is Jewish and the Other is Not

By at 10:40 am

one-Jewish-child

A lot has changed since I had my first child: I got divorced, converted to Judaism, and most recently, got re-married. My wife is also Jewish. We have a daughter together who is Jewish, and she is being raised Jewish. So far, so good, right?

But this is my second marriage and I have a fabulous daughter from my first marriage. While I do share custody with my ex-husband, my first daughter lives with me the majority of the time. And she is not Jewish.

When converting, I did a lot of reading about the commitment as a Jewish parent of raising your children to be observant Jews. You teach them or you have them taught at religious school about the history, the culture, and the religion of Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 3 2014

Up Close: Melissa & Marc Cohen

By at 10:10 am

melissa-cohen

1. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between?

Our children are being raised as Jews. When we first got married, I knew nothing about Judaism and was nervous about what that would mean for our family. My husband is Jewish, and his Judaism is central to how he defines himself. I knew that it would be a part of our children’s identities as well. I read everything I could get my hands on about Judaism.

The more I learned about Judaism, the more comfortable I was and the more I wanted to be a part of it. I don’t know that I was ready to convert when we got married, but by the time I did (five years later) it felt utterly anti-climatic. It felt like getting married, a confirmation of what we already were. We were reading PJ Library books before bed, and baking challah every Friday afternoon. We were members of a synagogue (my daughter was attending the same religious school that my stepdaughters attended), and actively living a Jewish life. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 2 2014

Top 12 Summer Reads of 2014

By at 10:33 am

Welcome to the Third Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading List! This list is by no means conclusive, but it’s a list of books I’ve read in the past six months that I thought were particularly terrific. Please put your own ideas and suggestions for great reads in the comments, and friend me on GoodReads (I’m “Jordana Horn Gordon” there) so we can keep talking books, which I love passionately. Without further ado, here are some great reads that should sit on your shelf or device this summer, in no particular order.

to-rise2

1. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris 

This one is demanding and intellectually ambitious, but well worth your time. It’s the story of dentist Paul O’Rourke, who is bored with his life, dental practice, and his relationship to the world at large–until his online identity begins to be recreated by strangers. These strangers claim to be the descendants of Amalekites, the ancient enemy of the Jewish people–which is interesting enough without including the fact that they claim that Paul is one of them, and he just might believe them. This is a book about identity–what it means to be part of a people and a person. It’s jaw-droppingly good. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2014

When it Comes to Jewish Holidays, Is It Wrong to Focus on the Food?

By at 3:55 pm

cheesecake

It’s no secret that Jewish holidays tend to be very food-focused. So while my toddler is only just starting to learn about the rules, back stories, and traditions of the various holidays we celebrate, he already knows that on Purim we eat hamentashen, on Passover we eat matzah, and on Rosh Hashanah we eat apples and honey.

As I started teaching him about Shavuot this week, I realized I spent more time explaining that we’re all going to get together at Savta’s house for cheesecake than I did explaining that during this holiday, the Jewish people received the Torah.

It got me thinking: When you’re teaching a child about Jewish holidays, is it necessarily a bad thing to focus on the food? Read the rest of this entry →

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