Sep 4 2014
On Tuesday, when he started school, my oldest son was the only Jewish boy in his class of 30 kids. There are many schools in which that statistic would not be unexpected; an Orthodox Jewish day school is not one of them. But that’s the way it goes here in Birmingham, UK–a place where, we learned upon moving here from the US, the Jewish population has been dwindling for years, but where the Jewish school continues as a thriving, competitive primary school, serving kosher lunch and celebrating Jewish holidays and Israel’s birthday.
As in a typical American Orthodox Jewish day school, my son will daily recite Jewish prayers and learn “limudei kodesh”–a Judaic studies curriculum. He and the other boys will keep their heads covered, per the Jewish tradition. On Friday afternoons, before school ends (early, to give students time to prepare for Shabbat), all the grades will convene for a Kabbalat Shabbat program. A Jewish boy will play “Shabbat Abba” and a Jewish girl will play “Shabbat Eema,” and the Abba and Eema will host a Shabbat table with grape juice, challah, and guests. Most of their guests will be Muslim.
In a climate of growing antipathy between Muslims and Jews everywhere, I could not be happier to be sending my son to a school that will allow him to declare, as he did after a week of camp in the UK, “I made a best friend here. His name is Abdul!” Maybe Abdul-from-camp came from a family and/or community that liked Jews. Maybe not. My son didn’t get to know Abdul long enough or well enough to find out. But at his Jewish day school, which has a growing Muslim population (this year it is estimated between 60 and 70%), there’s no doubt that the Muslims are learning with and about Jews by choice. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 15 2014
If we didn’t know any better, we might have thought Zach Braff’s latest film “Wish I Was Here” was created for the sole purpose of being talked about on Kveller. Topics explored in the movie range from what to do when you can no longer afford to send your kids to Jewish Day School, raising young children while also dealing with the heartache of aging parents, and grappling with different levels of observance and personal beliefs within the same family.
Plus, there’s a dog named Kugel.
In anticipation of the movie’s release on July 18, we’re very excited to host an exclusive giveaway for Kveller readers. We’ll be giving away an official movie poster autographed by director and star Zach Braff to three lucky winners.
To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below. We’ll choose three random entrees on Tuesday, July 22. And whether or not you come away a winner, we highly recommend checking out “Wish I Was Here” in a theater near you and letting us know what you think. Good luck!
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Jul 14 2014
“Last US Exit,” my husband, our driver, reads aloud. I reach for my iPhone to capture the image of our departure, but we whiz by too quickly. Too unceremoniously.
Can I really leave my home, take my children out of their excellent school, say goodbye to an amazing job and kind friends and a beautiful neighborhood–again?
We’re not American, though the country feels like home to us. Graduate school brought us to the US from Canada for a long stay that began in the 1990s, and we have since left and returned to the country with every job change and new opportunity. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 3 2014
I never want my kids to feel like there is a right way to be Jewish.
Because that’s the way I felt growing up. Even though both my parents are Jewish– and their parents, too.
I grew up in the 1980s in New Jersey in a town that was predominately Jewish. I wanted to be like the popular girls who seemed so together: pretty, well adjusted, wealthy, and yes, Jewish. So I tried to copy them. I thought wearing Guess Jeans, having beautiful hair, a big house, a big fancy car, and a mom who stayed home and always looked glamorous that I would finally become Jewish in just the right way. But I failed miserably. My parents were artsy. I wore Lee Jeans. My mom worked outside of the home. We didn’t live in the fancy part of town. No matter how much I blow-dried my hair, it remained frizzy. My nails were always dirty. Read the rest of this entry →
May 27 2014
“MAAAHHHHHMMMY! HOW DO YOU SAY TRAIN IN HEBREW?!”
“Um, I’m not sure. We can ask Daddy when he gets home.”
“WHAT ABOUT SOAP? BUBBLES? PRINCESS? BABY DOLL? BROCCOLI? HOW DO YOU SAY THOSE IN HEBREW!?!” Read the rest of this entry →
We are a “dual-school family.” Our daughter is in 6th grade at the local Orthodox Jewish day school while our son is in 3rd grade at a public school.
We often get asked how this came about. I enjoy replying that when deciding which child should learn Torah, we picked our daughter as a corrective step for generations of reduced access to Torah by girls. But that’s really just a line. As with most things in life, there’s a longer story behind this–and as with much of parenting, our intentions only played a minor role.
When we were first considering kindergarten options for our daughter, we chose the day school. We had seen the way that graduates from the day school can navigate rabbinic literature, converse in Hebrew, think critically about moral issues, and behave generally as mensches. We decided that this upbringing–which I think is a more appropriate word in this context than education–was worth the high financial cost. Read the rest of this entry →
May 13 2014
A few weeks ago I met my two oldest friends for lunch. We’ve managed to maintain our friendship for 33 years–practically our entire lives–and through living in three different states. I’m aware that these kind of friendships are rare–as adults we are all so completely different, yet we share an unspoken connection. I can be myself around them and they have been there to offer support and guidance through many of life’s twists and turns. On the drive home from our gathering, with my kids in tow chattering away in the backseat, I thought about what’s made our friendship last when so many others have faded. It began in the classrooms of our Jewish preschool.
Jewish preschool. Exactly the place we ended up three years ago, when my oldest was 4. My husband and I thought he should spend a year in preschool before kindergarten, but the decision to make a change weighed heavily on us. At the time, I was hesitant to leave the loving arms of home day care for a more formal preschool. I had so many concerns and it was hard to imagine finding a place that would meet all of our family’s needs. “Who were these new people? Would we fit in? Would the teachers REALLY know my kids the way our sitter had?” Clearly, though, the preschool was prepared for a family with my level of worry and met my family and I with smiles at every open house and “get to know you” event.
We took the leap to enroll and almost immediately my fears were dismissed as we were welcomed into the community. Many families reached out to offer a warm welcome and to make a connection. I realized just much how this community would come to mean to me when that September my mother-in-law passed away. The preschool sent a Shabbat dinner to us and strangers, now friends, came to pay shiva calls. Remembering how those people reached out to us still touches me so deeply. The teachers took time to offer advice about how to help my kids understand the loss of their grandparent. Read the rest of this entry →
May 6 2014
Last year, some little girls were sexually assaulted in my son’s 2nd grade class. He was their trusted teacher who they called “Rebbe.” He was young, had children of his own, and seemed to be the friendliest, happiest, most smiling face in town.
It is his wife I think of often. When The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” comes on the radio, I cry when the lyrics get to “I’ve lost a friend.” I cry over the shock of losing a friend in such a horrendous, disastrous way. I told her she would have a soft place to land if she chose to leave him. That is where we left it. She didn’t leave him. This is hard to take.
I cry because the danger came too close. Every conversation with my child felt like walking a tightrope, a fishing expedition for the truth, a primal need to protect him. There was no relief in discovering he wasn’t abused. But he knew just enough to testify. Our son had anger issues that took months to heal. For me, the anxiety attacks were awful. Thirty days after the initial accusation, I sat in a support group with other women, including the mothers of the victims, and I had to hold back the tears. When I got in my car afterward, I broke down. I rushed home, ran to my bedroom, and fell into a ball on the floor, unable to breathe through my shock and tears and pain and sadness. “It’s too much,” I repeated over and over again. “It’s just too much.” I found out I wasn’t the only one who broke down that night. “It’s too much” became our shared emotion. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 24 2014
I recently made a new friend at my son’s preschool. We just moved to a new town and I was excited and anxious to meet new people, find our groove, and get into a new routine. In the first days of our acquaintance, my friend–who was also new to the area–e-mailed me to say that she was excited to find someone with the same worldview and the same sense of Jewishness.
My heart sank as I read her lines. Here it was again: that feeling of being an impostor, a wannabe, a fake. I wanted to immediately clear the air between us, but how to explain my complicated relationship with my own Jewishness?
When we first moved here and I was looking for a preschool for my son, I was relieved to find a Jewish nursery school just down the street from our apartment. When we visited I immediately felt comfortable and I knew that beyond finding a school, I have found a community for my little family. I am not sure what made me believe that, but it was the one certain thing I clung to amidst all the uncertainties of moving. Read the rest of this entry →