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Aug 13 2014

There Will Always Be Kugel

By at 10:06 am

kugel

I buy egg noodles like they’re going out of style. Inside my pantry are bags of noodles– some full, some half empty–and some with the last handful sitting in the bottom of the bag. I wasn’t always such an egg noodle fanatic. In fact, it wasn’t until I started cooking for the Jewish holidays that my love of egg noodles began.

A few years ago, as my husband and I discussed the menu for Rosh Hashanah, we decided on brisket (his mom’s recipe), matzah ball soup (made by his mom), and a veggie dish. But we got stuck on the kugel.

“I want you to make my family’s recipe,” he told me.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 10 2014

When One Daughter is Jewish and the Other is Not

By at 10:40 am

one-Jewish-child

A lot has changed since I had my first child: I got divorced, converted to Judaism, and most recently, got re-married. My wife is also Jewish. We have a daughter together who is Jewish, and she is being raised Jewish. So far, so good, right?

But this is my second marriage and I have a fabulous daughter from my first marriage. While I do share custody with my ex-husband, my first daughter lives with me the majority of the time. And she is not Jewish.

When converting, I did a lot of reading about the commitment as a Jewish parent of raising your children to be observant Jews. You teach them or you have them taught at religious school about the history, the culture, and the religion of Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 9 2014

Why An Ignorant Comment At Work Made Me Speak Up

By at 2:42 pm

parking-meter

I was late. Lateness isn’t a new concept for me–ever since my daughters’ births, my whole life seems to run behind schedule–but that day, it was especially bad.

I was going to be late for work and I was supposed to represent my school at an important meeting. It was held on the other side of the city, and I knew I’d have to hustle. The weather was not helping. As I merged onto the parkway, the skies opened. Buckets of rain poured down, causing rush hour traffic to stagnate. I got lost. My trusted GPS dropped the signal at the worst possible moment, and I got off the highway at the wrong exit. I had to circle back around and hope to find my way.

Parallel parking was never my strength, but I managed to squeeze my SUV into a legal space. Well, mostly legal. I looked up at the sign, and noted that I’d have to move my car before lunch. I glanced at the time. Better than nothing, I thought.

I hurried towards the school, getting drenched despite my umbrella. My soggy shoes made squishing noises as I jogged up the entry stairs. But when I arrived, I was surprised to find that the school lobby was still packed. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that had been delayed by the weather. I greeted colleagues and waved at the administrator who would be facilitating the day’s workshop.  Read the rest of this entry →

May 30 2014

Up Close: Lara Robby & Shawn Gaiero

By at 2:15 pm

lara-robby-upclose

1. How did you and your spouse meet?

East Village, Avenue C. A Cuban Club, dancing, and a mutual friend.

2. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between? Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 24 2014

My Complicated Relationship with My Jewishness–And What it Means for My Son

By at 3:03 pm

budapest-synagogue

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 →

Apr 10 2014

When You Are Already Gluten-Free, Experiencing Passover Is Not About Food

By at 2:40 pm

gluten-free

My friend Anne recently posed an excellent question related to keeping the dietary laws of Passover. “For those of us who are gluten-free,” she asked, “is cutting hametz really a hardship?”

What Anne was getting at, I believe, is the underlying observation that it can be a challenge to get in the right frame of mind for Passover if giving up wheat and other grains is nothing new. Many of us unknowingly (or knowingly) rely on the physical aspect of our holidays to access the deeper spiritual realm where we can focus on what really matters. On Rosh Hashanah we dip apples in honey; we fast on Yom Kippur; we’re commanded to eat in a sukkah during Sukkot; we fry potatoes in oil during Hanukkah; we try new fruits on Tu Bishvat; we make a dairy meal for Shavuot; we feast throughout Shabbat. Rosh Hashanah, however, is not about apples and honey. Hanukkah is not about latkes. Shabbat is not just about pigging out.

Likewise, Passover is not about avoiding bread or experimenting with a trendy diet. Still, changing the way we eat for the week can make an impact on our ability to digest (no pun intended) the lessons of the holiday. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 8 2014

Everyone Made a Passover “Frozen” Parody This Year–Check Out Our Top Five

By at 2:25 pm

aish-let-it-go

If your kids can’t get enough of “Frozen,” they will love this year’s overload of Passover parody videos. Not all Passover “Frozen” parodies are created equal, though, so we’ve selected our five favorites. Each one sillier and more absurd than the next, these spoofs of “Let it Go” will have your family singing “Let Us Go,” all Passover long.

Enjoy!

1. The Grown Up version. From Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, MA. There is a nice contrast between frowning geriatric Pharaoh who occasionally raises his staff, and the grinning temple congregants–who look like they might be your parents–performing as back-up dancers.

2. The Teen Version. This charming ukulele version from The Weber School in Atlanta, GA is like the kids’ answer to the previous parody. Created by students and teachers of the school, it addresses what young people hate most about the seder (zzzzz….) and helps bring the haggadah to life. It even comes with an attached lesson plan. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 18 2014

Jewish Preschool Isn’t an Option. Now What?

By at 10:14 am

jewishpreschool

There’s a preschool at one of the local temples that the parents just rave about. In fact, my husband and I recently started attending the temple’s monthly Tot Shabbat programs with our 2-year-old, and we’ve already gotten a taste of just how much these little children are picking up. Some of the older ones can recite blessings and know several prayers by heart. And even the younger ones know that you’re supposed to do things like cover your eyes when it’s time to say the  Shema.

This preschool sounds really, really great. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to send my son. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. Like most preschools, this one only offers programming for about three hours a day, and when you’re a family like ours, where both parents work full-time, three hours of coverage just won’t cut it. So now it’s up to me and my husband to attempt to compensate by introducing our toddler to the traditions I so desperately want him to love and appreciate, but I worry that my sporadic incorporation of Judaism into our hectic, over-scheduled lives just isn’t going to be enough in the long run. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 13 2014

Why I Fudge the Truth When I Tell My Kids The Purim Story

By at 11:24 am

Book-of-esther-censored

The noisemakers are already going in my house. By “noisemakers,” I mean my kids. The groggers are going, too, of course, along with an endless medley of preschool Purim songs as my children’s excitement about the upcoming holiday reaches a fever pitch. It’s a little chaotic, but I’m glad that my kids are eager to celebrate Purim…and it’s not bad to get a reprieve from the constant refrains of “Let It Go” that have comprised our family’s unofficial soundtrack for the last three months.

“Mommy,” my 4-year-old asks, “Do you know any more Purim songs we could sing?” On a whim, I launch into that corny old Hebrew School chestnut, “Oh, Once There Was a Wicked, Wicked Man.” My children listen delightedly as I began to sing, then look at me in consternation as I pause abruptly, not wanting to sing the words “he would have murdered all the Jews” (describing Haman’s evil plot). I continue singing, instead substituting the words “he would have punished all the Jews.” My children smile at the song. I feel relieved, and very guilty.

As a rabbi, I’m committed to a view of Jewish sacred text that affirms the sanctity and importance of our foundational narratives. When I was an idealistic college student, struggling with passages in the Torah that I found ethically or historically troubling, I believed that such difficult sections of our sacred text should simply be excised. We’re an enlightened people. Why do we need Torah verses that seem (or are) sexist or homophobic? As I deepened my understanding of Jewish text and interpretation, though, I began to understand that each of our texts, even the troubling ones, have something to teach us. The sages of the Talmud imagined Rabbi Akiva as being so gifted in the art of Torah interpretation that he was able to derive meaning not only from the words of the Torah but even from the decorative crowns that adorn the letters in the Torah scroll. To the Jew, there is meaning in everything, and so every story must be retained, honored, and plumbed for its overt and hidden lessons. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2014

The Best Kid-Friendly Crafts for Tu Bishvat

By at 1:15 pm

Happy Tu Bishvat, the Jewish birthday of trees! This is a great holiday for making kids aware of the earth and all its bountiful beauty. If you’ve got some free time with the kids today, we rounded up a few craft projects you can do to get them in the “tree state of mind.”

1. Have a forest fiesta! Break out the paper, glue, buttons, and paint and create a forest with your kids. These two projects will leave you with a pretty play dough garden, and a landscape of paper trees. (Mum Paints Lives)

TREES

2. Make some cardboard leaves with stencils and paints! Get crazy and do some finger painting–there are many techniques you can use with this one. (Creative Jewish Mom) Read the rest of this entry →

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