Sep 17 2014
Apparently 2014 is a good year for bar mitzvah boys.
Earlier this year, 12-year-old Josh Orlian wowed and/or horrified audiences with his verrry dirty comedy routine on “America’s Got Talent.” Then viral bar mitzvah boy Sam Horowitz resurfaced with his very own fashion web series. And now, in time for the High Holidays, we meet Eitan Bernath, of Teaneck, NJ, the new star of the Food Network’s show “Chopped.” On September 30, the show is airing its first-ever teen episode, featuring contestants in fifth and sixth grade.
The young chef–a student at Yavneh Academy is Paramus–sports his kippah throughout the show and even had to consult his rabbi before cooking non-kosher dishes. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 4 2014
“Is this, like, actually a dead fish?” My son wrinkled his nose at his half-eaten tuna salad sandwich.
“Um,” I stuttered. It was a rare moment that I found myself at a loss for words. My general parenting policy is to be honest–particularly when it comes to scientific facts like where food comes from. But if I told my son he was eating a dead fish, my increasingly picky 6-year-old might push his plate away and I would be forced to make him a new lunch. I mumbled something along the lines of, “Well, what do you think?” and made a mental note to discuss the matter later.
I really, really don’t want my son to become a vegetarian. I feel torn because, on the one hand, I’m a huge foodie. I was raised kosher, but abandoned the dietary laws in my teens (in high school, my friends and I expressed our adolescent angst by sneaking out to McDonald’s and ordering everything on the dollar menu. Gross, I know). I still resent the idea of having limited culinary options. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 1 2014
When my son was nearly 5, he and I moved to a new home. It was only 30 miles away, but those 30 miles changed everything. We left the insular Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, and settled into a Modern Orthodox community in Rockland County, New York.
Although I was virtually alone, I was determined to remain connected to my past and remain observant. My commitment didn’t come from a particular religious belief, but from the strong resolve to stay connected–and help my son stay connected–to our network of Hasidic relatives. For my son, I believed, it would help nurture a relationship with his Satmar family.
But things didn’t go as I’d hoped. Staying religious as a full-time single parent meant spending Shabbat in our tiny basement apartment, waiting, waiting, waiting for the day to pass. My son also had trouble fitting into the religious community and, despite my best efforts to go to shul and participate in meals in the neighborhood, we felt shut out. It wasn’t from lack of effort on the community’s end. We simply didn’t fit: nothing of my socioeconomic situation as a struggling single mom belonged in middle-class Modern Orthodox suburbia. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 12 2014
As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. The other day, I forwarded an email to a local community listserv from a local pizza restaurant offering to donate 20 percent of proceeds to a well-known Jewish charity. And with that, I had ignited a religious firestorm.
The listserv was started by an Orthodox woman in our town and, though I assume initially it was comprised of mostly Orthodox women, word has spread and it has grown to nearly 200 women who span the range of religiosity. I was added to the list about two years ago. For me and for many others, it is our go-to place for community recommendations like babysitters or doctors. All three painters who provided an estimate to paint my house were recommended by women on the listserv. When I was cleaning out my playroom, with a quick email to this group, I found an eager taker for many of the toys my children had outgrown. When a friend from California posted on Facebook that she was looking for a bike to borrow or buy cheaply for use during an upcoming New York visit, I was able to hook her up through this list. People post about anything from asking for a last minute ride to the train station to finding out which streets have been plowed in a snowstorm, from promoting a local Torah class to offering sheitel (wig) cleaning services. Though I have never met many women on the listserv, including its founder, I love that they are out there and that we are all willing to help each other out.
Which is why I was so surprised at the reaction to my email. Within minutes of posting, one woman responded to me directly to point out that this restaurant was not kosher, stating that she didn’t think anyone on the listserv would go there. A few minutes later two more women sent replies to the entire group questioning why I’d send an offer for a non-kosher restaurant. Feeling like I had totally done something “illegal” by the unspoken listserv rules, and not wanting to engage in a religious debate, I quickly sent an email to the entire group: “I am sorry if my email offended anyone. My apologies.” Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 21 2014
This post is part of our Torah MoMmentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Shemini. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
Maybe it’s my morbid streak, but the darker Torah stories are generally my favorites. After all, if the Torah portrayed a perfect world, I would just feel worse about my own messy life. Instead, reading these ancient stories makes me feel like things are OK. My life isn’t perfect, but no one’s is or ever has been. So I love that Torah stories aren’t all about angels and flowers.
But although I still appreciate stories of veiled seduction and secret weapons, I find that becoming a mother has (somewhat to my dismay) lessened my delight in stories of child sacrifice and gory deaths. And rather than appreciating the drama of this week’s portion, I found myself feeling sort of disturbed by the family tragedy.
Without warning, two of Aaron’s adult sons, Nadav and Avihu, are suddenly killed by God after offering a “strange fire” on the altar. It’s shocking. It seems to come out of nowhere. And God seems so…casual about the whole thing. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 5 2014
I recently wrote about my local kosher market’s announcement that it was closing after 74 years in business and how devastating the news was to so many people in our community. I regretted not shopping there more often and wished I had a chance to do things differently. But how often do we get second chances in life?
With immense pride in my community and gratitude to our leaders for coming together, we all have that second chance in the Greater Hartford area. Our beloved Crown Market has been saved, and I for one will be shopping there all the time. I will not make the same mistake twice. I hope everyone who was affected by this story takes to heart that our local businesses truly need our continuous and community-wide support.
In the many Jewish communities I have lived in over the years, I have never seen people put aside their differences and work together as decisively as this. Our Jewish community acted swiftly and cohesively to rescue one of our most prized institutions, but it could so easily have ended differently. The Crown Market was at the brink of closing, and in other communities around the world, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men are not enough to put their institutions back together again. Don’t wait until your community’s institutions are on life support before mobilizing to save them! Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 4 2014
I grew up keeping strictly kosher, both inside the home and out. My husband, on the other hand, grew up eating pretty much everything from shellfish to pork. These days, we work hard to maintain a kosher household, but do not keep kosher outside the home. For me, that means sticking to vegetarian items, but for my husband, it means all bets are off. And I don’t have a problem with that.
But a friend raised an interesting question a few years back when she observed that although I freely admit to not keeping kosher outside the home, she’s yet to witness me eat anything other than dairy and vegetables in a restaurant setting. “So what are you guys going to do if you have a kid?” she asked. “Will he follow Mommy’s rules, or Daddy’s rules?”
We didn’t really give it much thought until about a year ago, when our then 1-year-old moved up to the toddler room at our daycare center and became eligible for free breakfast and lunch. The idea of not having to pack up two meals on a daily basis was enough to convince me to go for it. However, when I casually mentioned this to my mother, her initial response went something like this: “But have you seen the menu? And just how unkosher is it?” Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 19 2014
My community’s beloved Crown Market–serving the Greater Hartford community for 74 years with kosher products, butcher, deli-style prepared foods, and catering–announced this morning it was closing its doors. The Jewish community here is reeling. Increased competition in the area is cited as the cause but the horrifying truth is I am the cause.
We are all the cause.
I chose to shop at the new neighborhood Wal-Mart because we wanted to save money. What I realize now, much too late, is that if I had shopped at Crown and paid a little bit more, I would have been supporting this important part of the Jewish community that we cherish and love. And now, with a heavy heart, I admit I was wrong. I apologize. I know that isn’t enough. I wish it were. I wish I could promise to shop there for now on. I wish I could get 500 families to pledge to do the same. I wish I had known they were in trouble so I could have done something, anything. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 25 2013
I’ve written here before about the carefree approach I had to food in my 20s: I ate and drank with abandon, just shy of gluttony, with a penchant for trying new cuisine in new places (thus, I went on a month-long, semi-solo sojourn to India to try the food). I come from expert meat-grillers, and the art of the old-school, dairy brunch that could render a person immobile for two days was not lost on me. Didn’t everyone’s grandparents put sour cream in cottage cheese with dill and radishes?
And then, in my 30s, I married an awesome guy who happens to have always kept kosher. That we would keep kosher wasn’t necessarily written into the ketubah (marriage contract), but an agreement we made that I was, and am, just fine with honoring. I missed cheeseburgers, and now don’t really even give them a thought, like an old boyfriend I know in hindsight was a lot of fun, but bad for me. Read the rest of this entry →