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Feb 8 2013

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Michelle Cove

By at 9:09 am

i love mondays michelle coveMichelle Cove is the author of I Love Mondays: And Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms and the editor of 614: the HBI ezine, an online magazine that aims to spark conversation on hot topics for Jewish women. Michelle is also the mother of an 8-year old girl. In her free time, she writes books and gives talks around the country. She chatted with us recently about the working mom guilt, avoiding burnout, and how important it is for our kids to see us fulfilled.

What prompted you to add the word “confessions” to the title of your book? Do you really find there’s a stigma attached to mothers who enjoy working outside the home? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 3 2013

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Priscilla Warner

By at 2:05 pm

priscilla warnerPriscilla Warner co-authored the New York Times bestselling memoir The Faith Club, and more recently, she wrote Learning to Breathe: My Year Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life. She was kind enough to share a bit of her journey with us, including her experience with meditation and Jewish mysticism and her reflections on parenthood.

Learning to Breathe is about your journey “from panic to peace.” You began with meditation. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to start there?

For years, I’d been reading about Tibetan monks who meditated so effectively that neuroscientists were studying their brains. I felt that my overactive central nervous system was totally out of whack, but these men seemed to have figured out how to put their anxiety to rest. One monk in particular, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, had battled panic attacks as a child, so I signed up for one of his semi-silent retreats. He became my first meditation teacher. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 14 2012

Literview: Karen S. Exkorn, Author of Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish

By at 1:06 pm

Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish is a hilarious Jewish parody of 50 Shades of Grey.

In it, a nice Jewish girl named Rachel Levine gets involved with Jew Ishman, a tall dark and handsome CEO of Kosher Candyland. Jew is sexy, and very committed to Jewish women, but Rachel has to decide if she really wants to submit to his ALMOST TEN COMMANDMENTS (he always puts them in all caps) and a relationship with “Master Mars Bars” (what he prefers to be called). The book will keep you giggling even if you haven’t read the trilogy it’s riffing on.

We interviewed Karen S. Exkorn, author of Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish about her book, her life, and why she decided to donate a portion of her profits to an autism charity.

How did the idea for a Jewish parody of Fifty Shades of Grey come to you? Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 26 2012

Literview: Theodore Ross, Author of “Am I a Jew?”

By at 4:04 pm

When Theodore Ross was 9 years olds, his parents divorced and he moved with his mother from New York City to Mississippi. With that move, his mother decided to hide the fact that they were Jewish. She enrolled Theodore and his brother in Episcopal school where he sang in the choir and took communion. Years later, as an adult, Ross wondered: Am I still Jewish?

Am I a Jew? is Ross’s attempt to answer that question. The book documents his travels to various Jewish communities, including the Crypto-Jews in New Mexico to Monsey, the Ultra-Orthodox town in upstate New York. Below, we talked to Ross about his foggy memory of his childhood religion switch, why there are more mom blogs than dad blogs, and what religion he plans on raising his kids with.

How clearly do you remember your mother telling you about her plan to pretend to be Christian? Were you upset? Confused? Cool with it?  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 24 2012

Women Who Do It All: Doctor, Writer, Mother Claudia Gold

By at 12:30 pm

Claudia Gold is a pediatrician, writer, and perhaps most importantly, a mother. She took some time out of her busy writing schedule to share her experience negotiating the challenges of balancing family and work.

How many children do you have? How old are they?

I have a 14-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter, and a 24-year-old stepdaughter.

What kind of work do you do? Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 24 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Rabbi Heidi Hoover

By at 3:57 pm

rabbi heidi hoover interview on kveller.comRabbi Heidi Hoover is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek in Brooklyn, NY, but unlike most rabbis, Hoover grew up the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. We sat down with Rabbi Hoover to talk about her conversion, swapping clergy stories with her father, and why her Jewish kids believe in Santa Clause.

Do you and your dad ever bond about both being in the clergy, albeit different religions?

Yes! The day-to-day work of a member of the clergy has a lot of similarities across religions. When I was in rabbinical school he once called me to say, “I want to tell you about this committee meeting I just had, because you’re going to have to deal with stuff like this.” Another time he told me I’d inspired him to brush up on his Hebrew, and he called me once to say, “What do you think about [the word] chesed?” A couple of times I’ve called him for advice, in particular one time when I had to lead services in a very challenging situation.

(BTW, I love this question, and it’s not one I’ve been often asked.) Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 21 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Rabbi Ilana Garber

By at 9:42 am

ilana garber with son yaronEarlier this year, Rabbi Ilana Garber found out her 1-year-old son has a genetic disorder known as Fragile X Syndrome. She was kind enough to share about this difficult experience with us, from the day of his diagnosis to her current fight to improve prenatal testing questions.

I understand that your 18-month-old son was recently diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome. What does that diagnosis mean? How are your son’s behaviors different from other children?

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic disorder. Unlike most genetic diseases (like Tay Sachs, for instance), with Fragile X, it’s not about two parents being carriers of a disease; instead it’s about one parent having a mutation on the X chromosome. I am a carrier of a pre-mutation of the gene (which has certain health implications for me down the road) and my son has over 200 repeats of the mutation, so he has Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2012

Kveller Book Club: Interview with Anna Solomon

By at 12:07 pm

anna solomon the little bride kveller book club

As we gear up for our first Kveller book club discussion, here’s an interview with the author of The Little Bride, Anna Solomon. Be sure to check back here tomorrow around noon to discuss the book with Kveller’s contributing editors and other book clubbers! And then, on Thursday August 9, join us for a Twitter chat with Anna from 12-1 p.m. EST by following along with the hashtag #kvellerlit.

What was the initial inspiration for The Little Bride?

I was Googling myself! How lame is that, right? But there you go–it led me on a great adventure. I discovered an Anna Solomon Freudenthal, and a website called Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers. Just the title fascinated me–I’d had no idea that there were Jewish pioneers in the American West. And when I came across one woman, Rachel Bella Calof, who’d been a mail-order bride to North Dakota, I knew I’d found a story I wanted to tell.

What kind of research did you have to do in order to write the book? Did you travel to South Dakota? Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 6 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund

By at 3:35 pm
jwf staff

From left to right: Emily Muskovitz Sweet, ED Chicago; Sara Rose Gorfinkel, ED TOWF; Joy Sisisky, ED JWF NY

For the first time, Jewish women’s foundations–14 in the United States and three in Israel–are pooling resources to effect social change for women and girls in Israel. The Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund has awarded a two-year, $150,000 grant to Itach-Maaki, the lead organization of Bringing Women to the Fore: A Feminist Partnership. We talked with some of the leaders from these foundations to find out more about the discirmination of women in Israel, and what we can do to help.

What recent events was the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund responding to with this project?

An 8-year old girl walking to school in Beit Shemesh was spit upon by a group of ultra-Orthodox men who also called her a prostitute for her “immodest” dress. Around the same time, a group of Orthodox IDF male soldiers walked out of a ceremony where women were singing. An Israeli woman who refused to move to the back of a public bus was accosted by a hostile crowd, women’s faces were blurred in billboard advertisements in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods, and a national conference on women’s fertility banned women experts and speakers. This sad confluence of events prompted the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund to look at the exclusion of women from the public sphere in Israel. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 5 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Dr. Kimberly Noble

By at 2:31 pm

Dr. Kimberly Noble

Dr. Kimberly Noble

A study published earlier this week claims that singleton babies born at 37 and 38 weeks may not do as well in school. As you can imagine, the study got quite a lot of attention.

Dr. Kimberly Noble, the lead author of the study and a pediatrician and developmental cognitive neuroscientist in Columbia University’s Department of Pediatrics and G.H. Sergievsky Center, took the time to talk with Kveller.

You recently published an article in the Journal Pediatrics that’s getting a lot of attention. Can you summarize the findings for us?

In this study we were able to link two databases, one from the New York City Department of Health (which keeps birth records with detailed info) and another from the Department of Education (a database with third grade reading and math test scores). What we found is that within full term range, which is defined as 37-41 weeks, babies born at later gestational stages performed better on reading and math tests.

What prompted this study?

We know from hundreds of studies that children born preterm, prior to 37 weeks, are at increased risk of developmental and academic difficulties. However, very little is known about any differences among children born within the full term range of 37 to 41 weeks. Brain development is ongoing during the last month of gestation, and so it is somewhat surprising that this hasn’t been looked at.

In the abstract of the article, you and your fellow researchers state that “achievement scores for children born at 37 and 38 weeks [were] significantly lower than those for children born at 39, 40, or 41 weeks.” What were the degrees of difference here? Were they very significant?

The differences were small but significant.  Children at 37 weeks performed about a point below children at 41 weeks. This would not be noticeable from one child to the next, but it is important on a population or public health level, because it means that children in the early term range are more likely to have reading or math disabilities. For example, children born at 37 weeks are 33% more likely to have a severe reading disability and are 19% more likely to have a moderate math disability, relative to 41 weekers. Again, most children will perform normally, but there is an increased risk at earlier gestational age within the term range.

What do you think will be the practical implications of this study?

I think the most important implications come in the realm of early elective deliveries. Until we have further data, we urge parents and clinicians to exercise caution in scheduling elective deliveries for logistical regions (vacation, scheduling preference) in the “early term” range, prior to 39 weeks. Of course, if there is a medical indication for scheduling an early delivery, that is very different, and we recommend that women discuss this with their clinicians.

What might you say to those parents who have had children born at 37 or 38 weeks and might be concerned about these results? (Or to parents who already know that their child will be delivered prematurely)?

The differences that we found in average scores were small–only about a point on standardized tests. It is true that, at the lower end of the scale, children in the early term range have a somewhat increased risk of reading and/or math difficulties. However, increased risk is not the same as inevitability. Most children within the early term range of 37 or 38 weeks will perform normally. To the extent that early term birth confers risk, this may be used by pediatricians to identify children who may benefit from extra services.

I happen to know that you recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl—Mazal Tov! How did the results of this study–and what you know about neurocognitive development in general-affect you during your pregnancy? Did you find yourself thinking a lot about prematurity or did you just turn it off?

Thank you! I would say that what affected me more was having seen extremely preterm births during my training in the neonatal intensive care unit (at Columbia). In fact, during my own pregnancy, once I reached 37 weeks I was pretty relieved!

What’s it been like to be a pediatrician/mom, so far? Do you find that you reference your clinical and research knowledge as you watch the way your daughter makes eye contact or holds her head up? Or have you been able to just enjoy the burps and gurgles, unqualified?

I would say it’s a mixed blessing. There are definitely things I’ve worried about that I know I don’t need to, and it’s easy to wonder if every little thing is an indicator of some rare condition. I’m definitely glad to have a pediatrician (that’s not me!) who cares for my daughter, and even when I’ve known the answer to certain questions, I’ve tried hard to play mom instead of doctor to her.

Final question: if you could give a new parent just one piece of advice regarding child development, what would it be?

The most important ways parents can promote healthy child development are through early exposure to a cognitively stimulating and emotionally warm environment. Parenting is critical, and its effects far outweigh the small effects we see of gestational age within the term range.

To read more Interviews with Interesting Jews, go here.

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