Two years ago, a blind couple in Missouri had their newborn taken away for 57 days because the social services felt the parents couldn’t possibly care for him. When I wrote about it on my blog, a reader reached out to me about her own experience growing up with a mother who had polio and raised five children from a wheelchair. I sat down and talked with that mother, Dena Gordon, who has a Master’s degree in psychology, has been a computer instructor and travel agent, and made aliyah to Israel in 1990.
Tell me about your illness and recovery.
I was born in 1943 and contracted polio when I was 2 1/2. My generation of polio survivors was lucky. We were influenced by Nurse [Elizabeth] Kenny, an Australian who revolutionized polio treatment by having patients exercise their paralyzed limbs. At first the paralysis extended up my back and affected my arms. By the time I entered school, my arms were fully functional and I could walk with crutches and braces. People were astonished by my recovery. Read the rest of this entry →
Joel Stein is a weekly columnist for TIME Magazine. Upon finding out that he was expecting a son, he realized he did not possess any of the classic “manly traits,” so he spent some time going on “man adventures,” which are chronicled in his new book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity. Below, he talks about his 70s Jewish childhood, who is allowed to drive a Lamborghini, and the time he laughed when his wife cried.
You grew up in Edison, New Jersey. What was your childhood there like? And can we agree that a New Jersey childhood makes you inherently predisposed to be hilarious?Read the rest of this entry →
If you grew up with a Jewish mother, chances are, at some point or another, she wanted to know how your love life was going. And she may have even shared an opinion or two on just what kind of person you should be dating. And when you’ll be getting married. And when you’ll be finally giving her grandchildren.
Today, the world of finding a match has the added bonus (or nightmare, you decide) of online dating. And while many Jews turn to certain websites where they can meet other Jews, online dating is still online dating, and for the most part, it can get ugly out there.
That brings us to TheJMom. TheJMom.com is a new dating website that, like JDate, is geared for Jewish Americans, but unlike any other dating site, it puts the ball in the dater’s mom’s court. That’s right. Moms create profiles for their sons and daughters, and then interact with other mothers who are looking to set up their children. We sat down with Danielle and Brad Weisberg, the brother and sister team who started TheJMom, as well as their mother, Barbara, to talk about why JDate isn’t enough, the potential downfalls of letting your mother choose your profile picture, and the age old question: Do Jewish moms really know best?
What was the initial impetus for starting the site?
Danielle: We launched TheJMom in 2010, but the story begins a year earlier. We both were on JDate and our mother had asked numerous times to look at Brad’s online dating profile and search the site to see if she could find the perfect girl for him. Brad finally gave in and let her go to town, searching the site as she pleased. Read the rest of this entry →
Tori Avey is a food blogger and culinary anthropologist and you would never guess she hasn’t been Jewish her entire life. Tori found that in many ways food brought her to Judaism and she has explored her spiritual path through immersing herself in traditional Jewish cooking which she shares at Shiksa in the Kitchen. She officially converted to Judaism in 2010 and regularly hosts over 40 people at her house for Seder.
1. Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Purim are easy to share with non-Jewish family, but Passover, the seder in particular, can be intimidating and sometimes confusing. How do you share this traditional meal with your non-Jewish family?
One of my favorite things about food is that it breaks down all boundaries–a yummy meal is something we can all agree on, no matter where we come from or what our background is. Passover is such a food-oriented holiday, which makes it a great opportunity to bring people together. Taking a moment to explain the blessings–and why we’re doing strange things, like eating bitter herbs–helps everybody to enjoy the evening more. My non-Jewish family actually looks forward to the seder. My mom likes to help me cook. Usually I have 40-50 guests for my seder, and many of them aren’t Jewish, but everybody has fun… it’s a festive evening of storytelling, singing, tradition, and incredible food. As a Jewish family, it’s a way for us to welcome others in, to help them better understand our faith. What’s not to like? Read the rest of this entry →
Ross Martin might be the busiest person I’ve ever met. In addition to heading up MTV Scratch–the network’s creative team aimed at the new millenial generation–he’s also a blogger, an indie poet, and, infamously, one of Amy Sohn’s top Park Slope DILFs. Here, he tells us about being a professional trendsetter but a nerdy dad, how he introduced the world to Matisyahu, and how his staff forces him to be Sabbath-observant.
How do you balance being the cool parent and, well, the voice of responsibility?
Uh, our kids wouldn’t even name me the coolest parent in our family. I try to convince them I’m cool all the time, but it’s just not happening. To them, I’m a “voice of responsibility,” as you put it, who tries really hard to be funny and thinks he’s thinner, less bald, and a better athlete than he actually is.
If you ever found yourself watching Nickelodeon in the 90s, you may remember an awesome, puppet-filled show called Weinerville. If you ever find yourself watching Nick Jr. these days, you’ll hear the Weinerville star and creator, Marc Weiner, as the voice of Map and Swiper the Fox in Dora the Explorer. We sat down with the comedian and father of three to talk about Pete Seeger, embarrassing dads, and the Jewish heritage of Map.
Growing up, did your kids think it was awesome that you were on TV, or were they embarrassed of their dad, just like everybody else?
Kveller talked to Lisa Borden, creator of Orb Candles and holistic marketing guru from Toronto. Orb candles are made of organic Manuka beeswax rather than paraffin. Lisa designed the candles to use on Shabbat, and considers them an actionable way to do tikkun olam–repairing the world. Here’s her thoughts on parenthood, $36 candles, and the environment.
My kids – I think that’s my inspiration for everything! I am not only a Jewish mother of 3, but I am also the owner of Borden Communications + Design Inc., where I commit myself daily to improving the quality of our health and the environment through business development and consulting. When I would gather around my family Shabbat table on Friday nights (a time I adore, marking the end of a usually hectic week), I couldn’t understand how in order to honor Shabbat, we were supposed to damage our world and our health by lighting toxic candles. It seemed very natural for me to want to raise awareness about the dangers of conventional candles, and how dangerous it can be to overlook them. But, I quickly realized there wasn’t an option on the market that was easily available and truly safe–so, being focused on solutions, and in marketing and design, I set into action to create a safe, healthy and beautiful Shabbat candle. Simple! Read the rest of this entry →
What happens when your classic businessman/entrepreneur takes his talents for business-to-business models and business shopping robots* to the playpen? Daniel Nissanoff founded Make Meaning, a creative play space for children and adults with two locations in Manhattan, and soon to be hundreds more throughout the country. We talked with him about the concept for Make Meaning, and his life as a working (Jewish!) dad.
Deb Perelman runs the website Smitten Kitchen, a food blog with recipes and pictures that will literally make you drool like a little baby. In her own words, she is “the kind of person you might innocently ask what the difference is between summer and winter squash and she’ll go on for about twenty minutes before coming up for air to a cleared room and you soundly snoring.” We spoke with her about failure, toddlers in the “no” phase, and the future publication of her first cookbook.
If you decided to keep kosher, what food or particular dish would be the hardest to say goodbye to?
Chanale Fellig is a mom of two, and a Jewish rock star. But a very specific kind of Jewish rock star. Chanale is Orthodox, and follows a law called kol isha, prohibiting men from hearing women sing. We’ll let her tell you more about that in her own words below.
But even though she only plays for 50% of the population, she has a huge following. She’s just come out with her fifth CD and her first music video, called Taking Over My Heart. We’re kind of fascinated by her and we bet you will be, too.
1. What inspired you to get into music?
Growing up with six girls, we spent a lot of time singing and dancing in our kitchen to all kinds of Jewish music. Back in the eighties, practically all the Jewish music was by male soloists or boys choirs. Then Ruti Navon, a superstar from Israel, became a Ba’alat Teshuva(converted to Orthodox Judaism) and began performing for all-female venues. The first time I saw her perform, I was absolutely amazed. I remember being mesmerized by the glamor, the passion and the confidence she had. And it was all in the realm of modesty! She wore a great big curly wig, sang with enthusiasm and made all these women so excited and happy. All of 10 years old, and I wanted in.
2. Why perform just for women and girls? Can you explain kol isha to our readers and why it’s meaningful to you?
In my opinion, singing for an audience of only women is the greatest experience a female singer can have. Women connect faster, emote deeper, and enjoy more thoroughly when they are in a room filled with only women. As a songwriter I write songs specifically with my female fans in mind so I can perform them completely focused on each and every woman and girl in the room. I don’t consider kol isha a restriction, but rather a privilege. My songs (“Perfect By Design”, “My Business”, “Her Home”) have always been custom-designed for women and I love this niche in Jewish music.
3. How did having kids change your music?
Having children has cracked my heart wide open and I am sure my fans will notice that in my latest album. My kids have taught me that life is precious and that motherhood is an all-encompassing experience that I cannot separate from my music. I sing from my heart, and my heart is filled to the brink with love for my children. So that’s what you’re gonna get from me right now.
4. Clearly you love your kids, but are there any annoying habits they’ve recently acquired that drive you nuts?
In the last few weeks, their new shtick is running out of bed, (holding hands), giggling like maniacs, like two partners in crime. I think they believe I will be less angry if they come out together, a united front, and although I can’t get enough of their cute faces, I honestly would like them to get into bed and STAY THERE!
5. On a purely superficial level, what are the advantages and disadvantages of wearing a sheitel (wig)? Are there no bad hair days?
As a girl my hair was always long and curly and had to be revived every morning or stuffed into a ponytail. My curly wig rests comfortably on a stand, and is not subjected to all the “dirty work” parenting consists of. (Really? Do I have to expand?) Most days, a wig is the answer to my prayers, instantly glamorizing my denim-skirts-and-hoodies look. As the official face of Milano wigs, I am working with them on customizing something super special for on-stage, when I need all the help I can get transforming from Mom to Star. So in my world, sheitels are a lifesaver.
6. Are you your daughters’ favorite singer? Or have they fallen to the way of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber?
My daughters are definitely fans of their mom’s music but I can’t say they haven’t been exposed to a little Taylor Swift on the side. I AM guilty of telling them she is Jewish, though…