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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.

Jun 28 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Dena Gordon

By at 12:47 pm

dena gordon wheelchair momTwo 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 →

Jun 26 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Joel Stein

By at 11:01 am

joel steinJoel 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 →

May 1 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Brad and Danielle Weisberg of

By at 12:50 pm

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. 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 →

Apr 3 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: The Shiksa in the Kitchen

By at 11:55 am

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 →


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