Oct 6 2014
For the past few weeks, at school drop off, I have tried to disengage from my red-faced, hysterically crying and clinging children. My kids have never been those happy-go-lucky kids who skip into school, but the intensity of our morning separations has hit a new extreme this year. There is a reasonable explanation for our tearful new reality–we recently moved across the world from familiar Cleveland, Ohio, to our new home in the ancient city of Jerusalem.
We are thrilled to be living in the city of our dreams, but my four kids’ transition from their cozy Jewish day school to a bustling Israeli public school system has been challenging. Moving to Israel with preschool and school-aged kids is not for the fainthearted. Since the start of the school year on September 1st, school-related crying, whining, complaining, and defiance have become as much a part of our daily routine as breakfast and brushing teeth.
I dread school drop off probably more than my kids do. It is torturous to leave them in an environment where, although they are safe and being cared for, they can hardly communicate in or comprehend the rapid-fire Hebrew being spoken around them. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 1 2014
When I made aliyah from Montreal, I never planned to teach English in an Israeli classroom. Aliyah was about leaving Montreal to become Israeli, rather than bringing a piece of Canada here with me. I soon discovered, however, that since everyone wants to speak English, teaching English is a much sought-after profession. As it turns out, it’s also a great day job for a writer.
I began the new school year by writing vocabulary words on the white board. The day’s assignment was to define and use certain phrases: “What is a relief map?” I ask them, quite certain they will be unfamiliar with the three dimensional map that portrays the ups and downs, mountains and valleys, of a geographical terrain. A hand goes up. A boy in the back. It’s always the boys in the back who give me butterflies in my stomach those first few weeks of school. We haven’t had our meetings with their homeroom teacher so I don’t know the family history of each student, which child might have lost someone close during this summer war in Gaza, which child might be struggling through their parents’ divorce, or who might be trying to hide socio-economic issues under fake designer labels.
There is still so much I have to learn before I can become an effective teacher. For now, each student before me is a tabula rasa. I have to ask their name when they raise their hands; I still have not matched the wire-framed glasses, the dimpled cheeks, or the intense hazel-green gaze to the names on my list. 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 11 2014
I’m holding a number 2 pencil and there’s a university issue blue book in front of me. A bland-faced test proctor places a sheet of paper, face down, on my desk.
“Don’t turn it over until the bell,” he says.
It’s my final exam, and the questions on it, and how I answer them, will determine my future. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 3 2014
Parenting and worrying go hand in hand. Some might say this is a stereotype of Jewish parents. Others might say it’s tradition. In either case, I think it is accurate to say that a large part of being a parent (whether one is Jewish or not) is being worried about your children.
If you had asked me what I worry about most prior to this summer, I would have told you that I worry most about the ways in which sexism will impact by daughters. I would still give you the same answer today. This is because I worry about rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment in the street and in the workplace. I worry about whether my daughters will be able to control their bodies. I worry about whether they will be paid less for their work because they are female. I worry about eating disorders and depression. I worry about the sexualization of young girls. I worry that they will follow a script that limits possibilities, discourages imagination and individuality, and diminishes them. And, I worry that my daughters will be judged by their appearance and their ability to procreate, and not the content of their character. And worse–that they too will judge themselves this way. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 2 2014
In the middle of an exhausting, first year of teaching in a public high school in southern Massachusetts, I, like most teachers who come in contact with hundreds of students every day, contracted a virus, and took my first sick day. In the middle of that sick day, I got a call from the gym teacher, who I hardly knew.
“Are you OK?” He sounded reluctant to ask. Something had happened in my classroom while I was out, but he wouldn’t say what. He was shocked that no other staff had called me. He wished me well and got off the phone quickly.
When I returned to school, I demanded to know what had happened. My department chair said it was “an unfortunate incident,” and that I should talk to the principal. I finally wrangled it out: a student had spray-painted a swastika on my classroom floor and etched another swastika on my chalkboard. Something about Jews had been scrawled but only partially erased, probably so that no one would be able to identify the handwriting.
Both the chalkboard and floor were scrubbed clean before I returned. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2014
Sleep training is hard any time of the year. When trying to find a quiet week to start sleep training, parents will inevitably discover there is no good time, as “normal” life is constantly interrupted by birthdays, late-night meetings, work trips, and so on. You just have to pick a week and try to be consistent.
So when my husband got called up to miluim (emergency reserve duty in the Israeli Army) this August, you can imagine my hesitation to start sleep training alone. It was just a week after we arrived back home in Israel, right after our 6-month-old, Chanan, recovered from jet lag, and mid-way into Operation Protective Edge (which we hope is almost over).
Against my better judgment, I’m trying anyway. And as a result, I’ve come up with five reasons why miluim really screws with sleep training. (I’m sure in many ways these concerns will echo with the experiences of parents living far from the front.) Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 11 2014
A crumpled up map of the city of Jerusalem. A ticket from the Israel Museum. A black and red card for my favorite falafel place in Jaffa. A guide to the tunnels under the Western Wall. A pinkly pale and gray shell I found on the beach in Herzliya.
These smudged, damp, and crinkled remnants of our adventures gently spill out of my new turquoise made-in-Israel bag like the fine grains of Dead Sea salt that scattered on the bathroom floor from my bathing suit this evening.
It’s almost over, our vacation. And I wish it wasn’t. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 8 2014
Since we know you really need more “Frozen” parodies to add to the soundtrack of your life, we bring you this lovely spin on “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
In order to deal with the constant barrage of rocket fire, some Israelis adapted the song to “Do You Think That Was a Siren?”
Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 5 2014
Exactly two weeks ago, we were at Ben Gurion Airport, freshly minted Israelis, exhausted and exhilarated after a sleepless night on our aliyah charter flight. We came in the middle of a war and, along with all the excitement of a dream come true, was the specter of the sirens: When would we hear our first one? What would it sound like? Would we know what to do? And most importantly: Would the kids be OK?
As we drove home from the airport, and many times since then, whether it was while enjoying the vibrant landscapes of our glorious homeland or munching on decadent dulce de leche waffles at a cafe or standing on line to open our first Israeli bank account, I would suddenly think: “What if it were now?” But those thoughts have been fleeting and instead we’ve gone about building our new Israeli lives–making friends, learning the way to the local park, buying choco at the makolet, meeting the school principal, and figuring out which Israeli cream cheese is the most like Philadelphia for my kids’ discerning American palates.
We had danced around the danger. Right after we left the airport two weeks ago there was a siren there (the one that lead to the cancelled flights). When we went to dinner in Jerusalem last week with new friends, it turns out we had just missed a siren there. While at dinner that night, we missed a siren back at our home in the Judean Hills. Calls and texts flooded my phone: Are you OK? Were you scared? Our new, extraordinarily warm and welcoming friends near our barely-lived-in-yet home were checking up on us newbies to make sure we weathered the siren well. We’re OK, we reassured them. We missed it. Read the rest of this entry →