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Jan 9 2014

“It’s All Scary”: Talking with Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy

By at 12:24 pm

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I recently chatted with Jill Smokler, founder of Baltimore-based parenting website, Scary Mommy. Five years ago, Smokler created the website with one main motive in mind: to create a judgment-free zone for mothers to kvetch on all things motherhood. Jill is a proud mama of three children, a wife, and a New York Times best selling author. Jill mused on her inspiration for Scary Mommy, her conversion from kvetcher to kveller, and the most fun activities to do with her kids in Baltimore.

Tell us the story of Scary Mommy. Why did you start it and why the name?

Scary Mommy began in early 2008, simply as a mommy blog and one of a million projects I figured I’d start and grow tired of after a few short weeks. My middle son was 2 at the time and mildly terrified of everything. Every word he said had a “scary” in front of it. “I can’t sleep, my bed is scary.” “Scary car,” “scary brother,” “scary mommy.” The moment I heard the phrase, I ran to the computer to see if the URL was taken–I was in love.

How do your kids feel about you running the blog?

It depends on who you ask and what day you ask them. Lily is by far the most impressed with all things Scary Mommy, but if they’ve just received some cool perk or impressed a friend, suddenly I’m cool. Momentarily. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 2 2014

Talking About Jewish Mama Burlesque with Performer Raven Snook

By at 12:02 pm

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Raven Snook is a Jewish mother who acts, writes, edits… and periodically performs topless in an all-moms burlesque revue. She appeared in the original downtown run of Urinetown, portrayed a vampire on the ABC sitcom Talk to Me, guested as a “female female impersonator” on The Maury Povich Show, played a dominatrix-like self-help guru in the short film Slo-Mo, waxed poetic at The Moth and Heeb Storytelling, and was one of three female drag queens featured in the documentary, The Faux Real. And now she talks to Kveller about how that all fits with raising a daughter in NYC.

Alright, first things first: What exactly is burlesque?

Wow, how much time ya got? Back in the day, burlesque was a naughty offshoot of family-friendly vaudeville with bawdy comics and ladies disrobing, though often in a tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top way. But on the neo-burlesque scene, anything goes. Many acts are like sexy performance art without the pretensions but with pasties. Pretty much anything goes, but having a cheeky sense of humor and creative costuming and storytelling skills are much more important than having a perfect body.

You co-created an all-Jewish burlesque show called Kosher ChiXXX. Why the specifically Jewish angle? What is the history of Jews and burlesque, and where do we Jews fit into the scene today?

The Jewish Daily Forward recently did a whole article on the phenomenon of Jewish burlesque–the accompanying NC-17 video created quite a tizzy in the comments section, too. When Minnie Tonka and I originally founded that show in 2004, themed burlesque shows were just starting to take off. She worked for the 14th Street Y at the time and was asked to come up with Jewish-themed performances as part of the Howl! Festival. We were brainstorming and we thought, why not Jewish burlesque? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 16 2013

Interview + Giveaway: The Israeli-American Photographer Who Captured Motherhood in a Book

By at 12:11 pm

elinor carucci mother photograph book giveaway

Israeli-American photographer Elinor Carucci’s third photography book, released this past Setpember, is titled “Mother.” It’s an extremely beautiful, raw, and inspiring collection of photographs exploring Elinor’s pregnancy, birth, and the early childhood of her twins, Emmanuelle and Eden.

We got a chance to chat with the talented photographer on her inspiration for the book, what it was like to constantly photograph her children, and reconciling her career and her role as a parent. Want to get your hands on this beautiful book? Enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post.

What was your original inspiration for a book of photography about motherhood? 

The inspiration was motherhood. It’s as simple as that. The surprising thing for me was how little was actually portrayed about motherhood in the arts and photography. I feel that we’ve seen a lot of perfect celebrity photographs, and even in the history of art, a lot of Madonna and child images that, in a way, show a certain aspect of motherhood but definitely don’t go deep into the complexity of what it is to be a mother, to be a father, to be a parent. The inspiration was the intensity and the richness of the emotions and feelings, the complexity of the relationships that I experienced as a mother, and how much they were intertwined with one another and happening almost side by side, how intense of an experience it is. It is beautiful and joyful and magical and difficult and scary and full of failures and successes. It’s really a microcosm of everything we experience and feel, all of the emotions we have at once. The inspiration was to try to depict it the way I felt it, which was very rich and complex. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 12 2013

A New Website That Gets Real About Grief

By at 12:19 pm
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Gabrielle Birkner (left) and Rebecca Soffer (right)

 

When my father died just over a year ago, I was struck by how lonely the experience was. Even though I found myself surrounded by family and friends, all reeling from the same massive loss, I felt isolated from everyone. There were taboo issues no one could bear to talk about, bizarre dreams, poorly-timed emotional outbursts, and on top of all of it, very young children who needed my attention. It was–and often still is–a really dark time. Gabrielle Birkner and Rebecca Soffer, two women who lost parents as young adults, can relate. They’ve just launched Modern Loss, a website that promises “candid conversations about grief” along with essays, resources, how-to’s, links, events, news, and “ways to connect” with others who are grieving. Both Birkner and Soffer are about to give birth, but they took time to talk with me about loss, legacy, and living with grief, every day.

What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about grief?

GB: One misconception is that a catastrophic event changes who you are. Yes, it changes your circumstances; it changes how you feel, what you need, and, perhaps, what you prioritize. But I am fundamentally still me, and want, essentially, the same things out of life as I did before my father and stepmother were killed. When those three women in Cleveland were freed after years of being held captive, Jaycee Dugard–another kidnapping survivor–said: “This isn’t who they are. It is only what happened to them.” I found that very profound. A trauma need not define your life.

RS: A big misconception is that there’s some magical 365-day period when the grief is the worst and on Day 366, you wake up and look in the mirror and suddenly feel differently. You don’t necessarily. And sometimes it gets progressively worse long after that time before getting better. And that’s totally cool. Because it really will. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2013

Interview with Interesting Jews: Judy & Tamir “Jewish Jordan” Goodman

By at 2:07 pm

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Since retiring from playing professional basketball in 2009, Tamir Goodman, known as the “Jewish Jordan,” has been steadily on the go. Tamir and his wife, Judy, have four kids, founded the non-profit Coolanu Israel, and co-wrote The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat together. Individually, Tamir created Sport Strings Tzitzit and partners in the Omri Casspi Basketball Camps, and Judy works for various companies–as well as writes, runs, and cooks.

I got to chat with the couple about playing sports with their kids, writing a book together, and their day-to-day life as parents.

Tamir, what do you miss most about playing professionally?

I was fortunate to live out my dream of playing Division I college and professional basketball without playing on Shabbat. I played until injuries prevented me from physically being able to compete anymore. I love the game and I definitely miss playing it, but I never played just for the love of the game; I always played for the larger purpose of representing Israel and Judaism on the court.

Fortunately, I am able to continue this mission even after my playing days have ended through my Coolanu Israel basketball camps, clinics, development of my basketball products like sport Strings Tzitzit and Zone190, and my recently published book, The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat.

Do you ball with your kids? What sports are they into?

As a coach (Tamir) and soon-to-be certified personal trainer (Judy), we both recognize how important it is for kids to be active. With this in mind, we play lots of different sports–not just basketball. Some days we ride bikes, or play catch, or go to the playground. We even play sport games in the house when the weather is too cold to go outside. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

Interview with Interesting Jews: Ido Kedar, 17-Year-Old Author of “Ido in Autismland”

By at 12:09 pm

ido and tracy keder

My 17-year-old son, Ido, is on a mission to change the world for people with severe autism. He is a tireless advocate, blogger, frequent presenter at universities and autism conferences, and the author of a book about autism which has even been assigned in graduate level university classes.

As Ido writes in the introduction to his blog, “I am an autistic guy with a message. I spent the first half of my life completely trapped in silence. The second, on becoming a free soul. I had to fight to get an education. Now I am a regular education student. I communicate by typing on an iPad or a letter board. My book, Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison, is an autism diary, telling the story of my symptoms, education, and journey into communication. I hope to help other autistic people find a way out of their silence too.”

Ido seeks to educate the professionals in the autism field to understand severe, nonverbal autism better and to provide children with a richer, more appropriate education and a true means to communication. He has become a source of hope for parents of children with autism and for people with autism as well. As a family, it has been a remarkable journey of triumph over challenges, even as Ido works daily to face new goals and struggles.

Kveller asked that I interview Ido about his life living with autism. His answers were all typed letter by letter on a keyboard. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 2 2013

Q&A with Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com

By at 12:42 pm
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Photo Credit: Mike Ervin

 

Catherine McCord always appreciated good food and the impact food has on health and well-being, but when her first son was born she struggled to find feeding tips and fresh, healthy recipes for kids. This was when Catherine decided to put her training at The Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan to use as a food blogger. She posts weekly meals and cooking videos (with her kids!) on her website Weelicious.com. Catherine’s newest book, Weelicious Lunches, focuses on innovative solutions for quick, delicious, easy-to-make, lunch box meals that kids won’t be tempted to swap. I sat down to talk to her about toddler lunch monotony, her favorite Hanukkah foods, and more.

Feeding kids can be a stressful part of parenting. Clearly you work hard to make healthy meals that are appealing to your kids. What is your philosophy when it comes to them eating the food you serve? One bite to be polite?

I’m all about what works for you. Some families hope their kids will eat one bite and they’re satisfied; I find that when I include my kids in cooking it inspires them to want to try new foods. If they really don’t want to try something, I offer to let them sprinkle the food with Parmesan cheese, dip it in maple syrup, or top it with toasted sesame seeds, for example. Those little tips help all the time! Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 28 2013

Interview with Interesting Jews: Actress & New Mom Shiri Appleby

By at 9:56 am

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Shiri Appleby has been acting in Hollywood since the age of 4, and now she has a baby of her own with chef and husband Jon Shook. The L.A. based pair welcomed little Natalie to the world seven months ago, and since then she’s been balancing the act of doting mama and busy actress. Most recently Shiri guest starred as girlfriend of main character Adam on the hit HBO series GIRLS, and will be appearing on the third season which airs January 12, 2014. Shiri also guest stars on the NBC drama, Chicago Fire.

Recently, I got a chance to chat with the sweet Ms. Appleby about acting, kvelling, being a new mom, and what it was like to work on the set of GIRLS.

Tell me a bit about your daughter Natalie.

Natalie is almost 7 months. She’s not really into toys; we were just talking about it. She’s more engaged in looking around her and seeing what’s going on. She’s really observant and likes to engage with people. She’s not really crawling, yet.

How do you and your husband split up parenting responsibilities?

Jon helps a lot with the night feedings and since he’s a chef, he cooks dinner for us. But I feel like parenting is a bit of a team sport in the sense that you do your portion until the other person is capable of doing their side. But he plays with the baby in the morning, and since I don’t work 9-5 it’s not too stressful. And my parents are really involved and have helped us a ton, too! Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 22 2013

Gaucher’s Disease Awareness Month: Q&A with a Mother Living with Gaucher’s

By at 2:35 pm
Chris-Kara-Erik Lang

From left to right: Chris, her daughter Kara, and son Erik.

 

October is the official Gaucher’s disease Awareness Month. Gaucher’s disease is the most common genetic disease among Ashkenazi Jews.

Gaucher’s disease is a rare, inherited disorder caused by a deficiency in a particular enzyme. Gaucher’s (pronounced go-SHAYZ) disease occurs when certain harmful fatty substances accumulate to excessive levels in your liver, spleen, lungs, bone marrow, and brain. The accumulation of fatty material in tissues interferes with how your body works and may cause organ enlargement and bone pain.

Besides wearing green shoelaces to show your support, you could also learn much more about this disease by reading the following Q&A with Chris Lang, mother of two, who was diagnosed with Gaucher’s at 31 years old.

How/when did you first find out you had Gaucher’s? What type are you? Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 16 2013

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Jessica Berger Gross, Author of enLIGHTened

By at 12:16 pm

jessica berger grossMotherhood isn’t easy, and I’m always looking for inspiration from other mothers. I recently read the book enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle-Pointer by Jessica Berger Gross. I really appreciated Jessica’s honest, compassionate writing about her experiences, and I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for Kveller.

I loved this book. There aren’t many moms out there who talk about weight struggles so authentically. Your book is about how yoga changed your life, and it was really inspirational to me. Can you talk more about how you came to yoga, and the role it has played in your life?

First of all, it makes me so happy to hear you had this response to my book. I have to admit I was reluctant at first to write about my struggles with weight. It’s not exactly something we want to shout about from the rooftops. The truth is that my weight was a symptom of much deeper problems and getting to the root of them was a life changer. It’s not about conforming to a certain beauty ideal, but rather about how to get clear-headed and healthy. Making this change helped change so much else in my life. Read the rest of this entry →

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