Jul 8 2014
By now, you’ve probably noticed on your newsfeed that some crazy shit is going down in Israel.
Luckily, sweet, little Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the 86-year-old, Holocaust-surviving, truth-telling sex therapist, is currently in the middle of the chaos sharing dispatches from the Holy Land.
And don’t worry, she’s not scared.
Her latest tweet:
The Haganah was Israel’s pre-state paramilitary unit that eventually became the IDF, and Westheimer was trained as a scout and sniper until she was seriously wounded during the Israeli War of Independence.
While we’re certainly reassured by the image of Dr. Ruth with an Uzi in hand, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel and everyone affected by the recent violence.
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Jul 2 2014
It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.
When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.
I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?” Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 1 2014
I was on the train when I got a phone call.
“The rumors are true,” a colleague told me. “It hasn’t cleared the censors yet, but they found the boys. Not alive.”
For 18 days, we stood together as a nation, waiting by the windows, looking for three silhouettes over the horizon. United by an exquisite hope that there would be a happy ending to a dreadful story, that our boys would come home safe and sound. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 17 2014
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
All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.
-The three Israeli teens who were kidnapped on June 12 have been missing for four days now, rattling Israeli society and Jews around the world. Bibi Netanyahu and John Kerry are pointing to Hamas and demanding assistance from Mahmoud Abbas (who condemned the kidnappings). Meanwhile thousands of Israelis gathered at the Western Wall to pray for the teens, and Bibi warned that the search could “take some time.” (JTA)
-Flying with toddlers is always a living nightmare, but this story takes the cake. Basically a 3-year-old girl was forced to urinate herself because a JetBlue flight attendant wouldn’t allow her to use the bathroom while the plane was delayed on the tarmac. When the girl’s mom tried to get paper towels to wipe up the mess, the pilot turned the plane around due to a “non-compliant passenger.” (New York Daily News)
-In time for Father’s Day, a doting uncle writes about his complicated interfaith family and his relationship with his father, who came through for him when he fainted at his nephew’s bris. (The Forward)
-Mayor Bill DeBlasio offered to extend Universal Pre-K spots to private yeshiva schools in New York City, even offering to change the requirements so that the religious schools could opt-in without compromising religious education. But the Ultra-Orthodox establishment declined the mayor’s offer, and some are questioning the wisdom of that decision. (The Forward)
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May 1 2014
“Hey Ima, you know, the college scouts come to see the U16 games.”
I felt shivers up and down my spine, the same sort of chill that gripped me in early fall while watching my 14 and 15-year-old sons play together in a competitive soccer match in San Rafael, California. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them play; or at least I used to.
Both boys are passionate about the game, playing at a high level of competitive youth soccer. Every weekend during our stay in the San Francisco Bay area, I watch them play–two, three, or four games. I spend hours and days gazing at their strong, rapidly growing bodies, their lean muscles, tanned skin and their incredible agility as they chase a ball on a soccer field, somewhere in sunny northern California. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 28 2014
In 1938, my grandfather escaped Austria on the kindertransport. He was sent to England, where he lived with a family who sponsored him. His parents were sent to the Isle of Wight, where they were prisoners for most of the war. Eventually he made it to the US, where he lived briefly in Ohio before being conscripted into the Army, and sent back to Europe to work as a translator.
The Holocaust is very much a part of my family narrative. It’s part of my history, and it’s important to me, but as I build my own family, I’ve started to think about the ways I want to address this issue with my kids. Here’s what I won’t do:
1. I won’t teach my kids to fear anti-Semitism around every corner. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 14 2014
My dream house just went on the market. It has chocolaty hardwood floors, quaint beaded board in the dining room, an oversized family room and even a custom kosher kitchen that looks like it just popped out of Pinterest. It’s located in a vibrant Jewish community in an idyllic seaside southern California town where it’s a short walk to sweeping ocean views. Perfection.
The thing is: My husband and I are the ones selling it. In July, we are undertaking our own personal exodus and realizing our dream of making aliyah (moving to Israel). And while we are lucky to have a lovely place waiting for us in Israel, I can tell you that it won’t have the pottery-barn-perfectness of my American one.
We have been blessed in this house. We have listened to and laughed with numerous friends and even strangers at our dining room Shabbat table. Our yard has been the backdrop for back-to-school brunches welcoming new families to our day school and it’s where we’ve fed hordes of kids butterfly cupcakes after they moon-bounced and piñata-ed at our daughters’ birthday parties. I can still hear the singing of the hundred-plus guests who helped welcome our youngest son home from the hospital for his shalom zachor. We have even had the privilege of hosting the wedding of dear friends, the chuppah gracing our grass as they began a new life together in our yard. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 3 2014
The other day the guy next to me threw his computer bag on the table and quickly exited Starbucks. Without a second thought, I followed him out, but I stopped abruptly when I spotted him, cell phone in hand, making a call. Realizing he had no intention of blowing up the store, I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders and returned inside to try to enjoy my drink. When he eventually returned to his table, it took all the restraint I could muster to keep silent about the anxiety unleashed within me as a result of his clueless actions.
It has been almost a decade and a half since I left Israel, yet I have not shed all of my old habits and fears I acquired while living abroad. In Israel, when an individual leaves a bag behind and flees, we are told to report it and evacuate. I learned to call home after each terrorist attack. Then I would reach out to local friends and roommates to ensure everyone I knew was accounted for and safe. After a few days of avoiding public places, I would reluctantly make my way back onto the bus again, often the same bus route that was targeted; after all, life must continue. I told myself confidently that I still had much more business left to complete on this planet and I needed to give thanks for each day going forward.
I reflect often about my younger years while I sit in Starbucks, which has become my habit, my retreat and my sacred space on the long nights and weekends when the children are away at their father’s. Before my divorce, before my world turned into chaos, I had a very different outlook on my life. I followed the rules. I studied, I worked hard, I earned degrees and built a career and a family. Yes, I sinned–worse than some people, but certainly not as badly as others. Still, I have come to recognize that there is no logical explanation as to why good things happen to bad people and tragedies befall the rule-followers. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 13 2014
“I want you to have roots and wings,” my mother used to say to me from as early as I can remember until the day she died. And I think of this during preschool drop-off on cool mornings when the sun slants softly through my 5.5-year-old daughter’s curls.
“Honey, do you want to go in without me? We can do our hug and kiss goodbye out here if you want.”
And some of the other kids go in alone without their parents: This is the beauty of the community we live in–the Middle East’s answer to Mayberry, USA, where every child is everyone’s child, and we all live and love and learn together even when it ain’t easy. Read the rest of this entry →