Oct 22 2014
My daughter started Hebrew School last week. She’s in kindergarten and will be learning the Jewish fundamentals—holidays, traditions, lifecycle events—all the good stuff. For me this is a huge deal—HUGE!—because I’m a Jewish educator. And now my daughter is old enough to finally be in Hebrew School, in a grade that I used to teach! It’s very surreal.
Just before the first day of school, we got an email from her teacher with that week’s essential question which would comprise the core of the curriculum. The teacher asked us to talk about the question with our children to help prepare them for the conversation in the classroom. The question was: What do I do that makes me Jewish?
It’s a perfect point to start a Jewish education. The idea of identifying what we already do that makes us Jewish is spot-on for introducing 5-year-olds to Jewish concepts and ideas. As an educator, I loved it. I was curious to see where my daughter would define her Judaism—would she talk about Shabbat time, our Friday night ritual? Or maybe how we go to Tot Shabbat regularly? Or even how Mommy runs programs for children at a synagogue, or how her preschool was part of our synagogue? Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 18 2014
One of the duties thrust upon us as Jewish parents is to live a Jewish life so that our children may also develop a Jewish identity.
I must admit that I am a failure at that most of the time.
See, I have an autistic daughter. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 17 2014
I’m an Orthodox woman and pretty soon, I’ll be wearing my first kippah (skullcap). Well, sort of. My son turns 3 in November, and along with a new pair of Jordans, he’ll be boasting a navy knitted kippah that says his name–in Hebrew, no less–on his first day of school. For the first time, he, and I, will be publically identifying ourselves as religious Jews. I’ll be frank: I find it terrifically daunting.
Until now, I have enjoyed the anonymity that is concomitant with being a bareheaded woman. There is something both thrilling and peaceful about the ability to get lost among (most) peoples of the world without anyone knowing, or caring, about my religious identity. I have been free to behave as I wish, without bearing any theological, cultural or religious connotation.
But as I prepare to accompany my son while he sports his new symbol, I know we are entering the grounds of involuntary Torah ambassadorship. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 9 2014
I recently took my daughter to deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly people in our Baltimore community. We arrived at the kosher kitchen and packed a cooler with a brown bag lunch, a soup, and a hot entrée for each recipient on our route. I was excited to offer my daughter face-to-face interactions with aging people; I wanted her to see that they have wisdom to share and to reflect on the reality of life as an older person. Most of the bubbes and zaides on our list needed the conversation as much as the meal, and it was a great opportunity for my little do-gooder to collect mitzvahs. As the faces of those we visited lit up, I heard a refrain from my lips with each introduction.
“This is my daughter,” I would say. After we told them our names, they asked her age, what grade she is in, what school she attends, what her favorite book is right now. I glowed proudly as they chatted, feeling accomplished for what I have cultivated.
My child is a gem: a pure specimen of what we want our children to be. She is sweet, thoughtful, respectful, helpful, caring, honest and dynamic. She has this special quality about her that simply shines. She has a pure heart and really cares deeply about fairness and justice. It is not an exaggeration to say that I am honored to know her. More than honored to be her mother. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 30 2014
I am Iliana’s mom. That is my identity, according to all of her friends.
Am I OK with that? Hell, yeah!
I have heard many times that you lose your identity after having a child, as no one calls you by your given name. You are just “someone’s mom.” But I don’t understand the issue with that. I know who I am and I am not worried that I will lose that knowledge just because a bunch of 4-year-olds call me something else. If anything, it makes me blush. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 5 2014
Ty (age 7): “Mom, am I a Joe?”
Me: “Nope, silly-pants, you are a Ty.”
Ty: “No, Mom, my friend at school asked if I am a Joe, but I wasn’t sure. Are we Joes?”
Me: “What does that mean?”
Ty: “Remember that bad guy was trying to kill Queen Esther and her family because they were Joes?”
Me: “Oh, you mean Jews.”
Ty: “Ahhhh close. Anyway, my friend wants to know, are we Jews?”
Sigh. That is a question I don’t have an easy answer for. We cannot, either by birth, heritage, or conversion, claim to be Jews, and yet as a family we are certainly becoming more Jewish every day. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 9 2013
This post is about Kveller’s recent live storytelling event, “What’s the Matter?” To learn more and watch video from the event, click here.
I walked in to the small dark theater at the 14th St Y in Manhattan a few days before Thanksgiving and found myself surrounded by women wearing stylish dresses or skinny jeans and boots. I looked down at the sweater my grandmother gave me when I was still in college and my circa-2008 boot-cut jeans (I keep meaning to buy a new pair, but then, you know, a little girl is up all night puking or I forgot to prep the Hanukkah craft for her preschool class or maybe I just looked at my thighs and decided today wasn’t the day to go jeans shopping) and once again I felt like an outsider.
Of course, I thought to myself. How appropriate. After all, I was there to participate in a reading about Jewish motherhood, an aspect of my identity that is both central to who I am and yet continually confusing and somewhat elusive. Nonetheless, I had agreed to read an essay about the legacy of patrilineal descent that I am passing along to my daughters.
Needless to say, I was pretty ambivalent about it. Read the rest of this entry →