Oct 21 2013
Disclaimer: I asked my son’s permission to write the below piece. He read and signed off on its contents prior to publication.
My oldest son is now 14 years old. For the past few months, he’s been crushing on a TV actress. Nothing surprising about that.
What is surprising is the TV actress he picked: Mindy Kaling, creator, writer, and star of “The Mindy Project.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I happen to be a fan of Mindy myself. My husband and I watch her show regularly. (Though my son actually stumbled on it while on an airplane, and proceeded to binge watch the entire first season. Then he read Mindy’s book. And then he followed her on Twitter.)
My surprise stems from the fact that I expected my son to go the more predictable teenage boy route and obsess over some six foot tall, blonde, Amazonian, busty supermodel type (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either; we all have to work with what we’re given). Mindy Kaling is none of those things. She is relatively short, relatively curvy, non-white and, at least based on the character she plays on TV and the character she plays in interviews (I’ve worked in the media too long to believe anyone is ever being “authentic” in front of a camera), smart, hard-working, an independent thinker. And very, very funny.
In other words, she’s this mom’s dream girl. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 17 2013
I am often met by a “knowing look” when I (a Chinese American female) share that my husband is Jewish.
“Oh yeah, that’s a thing,” says [insert well-meaning person’s name here]. And you know, according to all sorts of sources–including the New York Times–it does seem to be a thing. It appears I’m one half of a “marriage trend” that’s sweeping the nation, or at least High Holiday Services. (A professor once mentioned to me that her synagogue had Asian women “sprouting up” all over the congregation.) People usually cite the most popular examples, e.g., Mark Zuckerberg and “his Asian wife,” Maury Povich and Connie Chung, Woody Allen and “his very young Asian wife.” (Hmmm, Connie excluded, I’d say we Asian women are getting the shaft in terms of name recognition. But this is all beside my point.)
Our marriage isn’t trendy. At first glance, we might fit the bill. But ours is not a Jewish boy meets Asian girl, and due to a number of conveniently shared values–“tight-knit families, money saving, hard work, and educational advancement” included–they fall in love kind of story. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 14 2013
For all y’all out there who think divorce is like the worst thing in the world for the kids, let me tell you something: it doesn’t have to be.
My son and daughter are best friends and allies. Born a year and a half apart, they tandem nursed (think National Geographic Magazine, and you get the idea), go halfsies on the last slice of mushroom pizza, and fall asleep holding hands in a queen-sized bed in our one-room apartment.
They’re closer than any other sibling pair I’ve seen their age. Just last week, my daughter chased down two boys from her class who were teasing her brother:
“You will NOT talk to him like that. He is my brother, and he is awesome.”
And a few days after that, when his sister slipped and fell, my son ran over to help lift her off the dirty ground before I could even say, “Sweet Girl, are you OK?” Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 11 2013
This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Lekh L’kha. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
There is little that breaks the heart of a parent more than leaving their child in the care of a stranger for the first time. Daycare drop off, new babysitter, even the first day of kindergarten–these necessary experiences all yield that same gut punch: letting go of a sweaty hand, watching your tiny child–did they ever seem so small?–walk forward into the unknown. Your stomach drops. You inhale sharply. Did I just do that? Did I just send my baby off, alone?
Maybe she’s looking back at you, eyes enormous, and crying. Arms outstretched, in that moment, she doesn’t think she’ll survive without you near, and you don’t think you will either. Or, maybe he’s bolted forward and found a friend, a toy, or a teacher he takes to quickly. Maybe it’s a matter of hours before your child has adjusted; maybe it takes your kid weeks or months. Maybe your baby doesn’t ever adjust but you keep trying, you keep dragging her to the edge of the pool and throwing her in. “Go!” you say, “Swim!”
In this week’s Torah portion Lekh L’kha, we watch as God throws Abraham into the water. “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” God commands. Leave your home behind. Step into the unknown. Trust me. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 10 2013
My daughter studied Hebrew for four years, giving up free time after school and many weekend slumber parties in pursuit of Jewish knowledge. After all that effort, she wanted a fabulous party to mark the occasion of finally being called to the bimah as a bat mitzvah.
And I wanted to give her one. She’d worked hard for it. But I didn’t have a savings account marked “bat mitzvah” set aside, nor did I have tens of thousands of dollars open on credit cards. I’m sure that many parents must save for this from the moment they get a positive pregnancy test, but I was a very young parent, a single one until she was in elementary school, and for most of her life I had been struggling to finish college and pay the bills. I wanted my daughter to have a Jewish education. But I couldn’t take out a mortgage to do it.
I was supposed to be excited about this milestone, but as it drew ever closer, all I felt was dread. It became a chore, an obligation, a source of massive anxiety, not a joy. I wanted nothing to do with the words “bat mitzvah” anymore. And that broke my heart. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 8 2013
Recently while traveling our family stopped at a mainstream chain restaurant; not fancy, but not fast food. As we set our kids up at the table (baby in a high chair and preschooler in a booster seat), we glanced over and saw the couple in the next booth over staring at us. They had that new-parent-deer-in-headlights look about them. The exhausted, exhilarated, stunned look that inevitably accompanied the newborn cradled in the husband’s arms. They asked us how old our baby was, clearly having no idea because they can’t imagine their tiny son a day older than what he was right then. They were looking at us like we had our shit together. Like somehow we knew secrets they didn’t.
Later on in the meal after attempts at a bottle, bouncing, and pacifier had been exhausted, their baby cried a signature newborn wail–the cry that you blink and realize your baby has outgrown and that sound has now been replaced with more vocal cries with actual tears. The new parents looked around, panicked for the reactions of others. I heard them apologize to the table beside them and as they turned to us with forgiving looks, before that Mama could say a word I said, “Don’t for a second apologize to us. He is a baby and you two are doing a wonderful job with him. You are not bothering us in the slightest.” My husband agreed and joked about how our children were only behaved because they were too tired to do anything else. The mother’s eyes softened and she said, “Thank you so much for saying that.” Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 7 2013
Like so many of us, my love for The Maccabeats started innocently enough with their “Candlelight” YouTube hit.
But now my passing admiration has blossomed into a much deeper and holistic appreciation of their music and purpose.
Coming from the deep southwest, we simply don’t have many (any?) Jewish musical groups to speak of. The whole concept of a Jewish boy band or a cappella group was entirely foreign to me until I heard The Maccabeats sing in their matching white shirts and yarmulkes.
My non-Jewish husband was so entertained by their Hanukkah video; he went so far as to purchase their album and surprised me with it. When he blasted it out, I remember hot tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. I had never heard Lekhah Dodi sound so beautiful. Read the rest of this entry →
The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a major survey of American Jews and the results have a LOT of people talking. One-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion and two-thirds of these “Jews of no religion” say they are not raising their kids Jewish or partially Jewish, according to the survey. Our contributing editors Jordana Horn and Adina Kay-Gross respond to the survey and one controversial article on on Slate entitled “American Jews are Secular, Intermarried, and Assimilated. Great News!“
Jordana: Okay, Adina, let’s talk tachlis (bottom-line) about this Slate piece by author Gabriel Roth, in which he says the Pew report’s news about the degeneration of American Jews is A-OK by him. The report, in relevant part, states that “Increasing numbers of Jews are not religious, are married to non-Jews, and are raising their children outside the faith.”
Roth (whose fiction work I’ve read and loved) says he, personally, exemplifies the problem: he considers himself Jewish but not religious, he’s married to a non-Jew, and his kid is being raised as “partially Jewish,” whatever that may mean.
I guess my blood started boiling when I read, “And as an intermarried Jewish nonbeliever, I think it’s time we anxious Jews stopped worrying and learned to love our assimilated condition—even if it means that our children call themselves half-Jewish and our grandchildren don’t consider themselves Jews at all.” Read the rest of this entry →
Israel does a lot of things exceptionally well: Jewish life in general, giving people reasons to weep from spiritual depth, falafel, breeding good-looking Jews. But you know what Israelis aren’t doing so well? Feeding children. And while some mothers may fantasize about expensive vacations or ivy league acceptance for their kids, I find myself lost in a flurry of daydreams involving my toddler eating unsweetened peanut butter on whole wheat bread or some yogurt without added sugar.
Am I crazy? Maybe. But Israeli preschools leave me no choice. On English language forums for mothers in Israel, almost daily, a frazzled mother tells a tale about how their kids get a snack, supposedly to “keep them going” in the afternoon, of white bread with chocolate spread, cookies, or the infamous Bamba (think peanut butter flavored cheese doodles). But don’t worry, they don’t really give 2 and 3-year-olds candy and cake anymore. Having realized that it’s not so nutritious, they only give it on special occasions, including but not limited to a class birthday, an upcoming holiday, Rosh Chodesh, and Shabbat (you know, that weekly occurrence). Really very infrequently, they say. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 4 2013
This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Noah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
You know the dirty look you get at a café when you turn your back for a second and your toddler gets her sticky hands very close to the laptop of the guy working at the next table?
I used to feel terrible when I got that look. After all, not so long ago, I was that guy with the laptop. And so I know exactly what he’s thinking: “Can’t you control your child?”
To be clear: common courtesy is important. I don’t want my kid messing with my own laptop, much less anyone else’s. And if she’s making a ton of noise in a quiet place, I do my best to get her out of there as fast as I can.
But still, she’s a kid, and I’m a mother, and sometimes we’re on a walk and I woke up at 6 a.m. and I want a cup of coffee, and at those moments, we’re the obnoxious people in the hipster café. And in the past few months I’ve stopped feeling quite so bad about it. Read the rest of this entry →