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Jan 20 2014

Seven Things to Tell Your Kids About Martin Luther King, Jr.

By at 7:45 am


How do you get your kids to understand the meaning of a holiday, and not just the fact that they get a day off from school? Well, we were wondering the same thing, so we asked our readers on Facebook to share how they were planning on translating the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to their kids.

Here are the five most thoughtful answers we received to help you celebrate MLK Jr. Day with your kids in a meaningful way:

1. Make them listen to his “I have a dream” speech. It’s wonderfully captivating!

2. There is a great book called My Brother Martin, written for young kids by MLK’s sister. It is beautiful and well written. I heartily recommend it!

3. I told my kids that MLK was a person who wanted everybody to be friends. Some people don’t think everybody should be friends; they think you should only be friends with people who are like you. But he really wanted everyone in the world to be friends with each other, even if they were different. Read the rest of this entry →

May 8 2012

The Grunt Work of Motherhood

By at 10:36 am

broomsIn my speechwriting days, whenever I was on deadline and stuck for inspiration, I’d turn on the radio and look through famous quotations. Given their way with words, the three men I always turned to first were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I never had a favorite quotation, but in recent months, I’ve found myself frequently mulling this King comment:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2012

How Martin Luther King Helped Name My Daughter

By at 9:01 am

martin luther kingIt took my husband and I under a minute to pick a name for our oldest son.

I said, “Adam?”

He said, “Adam!”

That was easy. My husband noted, “People will think we wanted a Jewish name, opened the Bible to the first page and said: There, good enough.”

It took us until I was actually filling out the birth certificate at the hospital to pick a name for our second son.

Gregory. (Hebrew name: Barak.)

Ultimately, he turned out to be so different in temperament from his brother that we wonder why we even bothered giving him his own moniker. Within minutes of meeting him, people are wont to burst out, “He’s certainly Not Adam!”

We should have just called him that.

With my daughter, the naming process was complicated by the fact that, for the first twenty weeks, I was sure I was having another boy. And for the second, by my conviction that she’d be born early.

My oldest was born four weeks ahead of schedule. His brother two weeks. I felt certain their baby sister would not be born on her due date: Martin Luther King Day. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I’d be delivering on Christmas, all alone in a staff-free hospital with tumbleweeds blowing by to add to the ghost-town effect. (As we were finally walking to the hospital on that very cold day in January, I told my husband, “This is the most pregnant I’ve ever been in my life!”)

We went through a whole list of girls’ names–and by we, I mean, me; my husband did not offer forth suggestions, he merely systematically vetoed mine.

For a while there, we seemed to have settled on Scarlett. But, I’ll admit, I pulled the plug on that one. At the last minute, I just didn’t have the balls to saddle a little African-American girl with the name Scarlett. (Though, subsequently, I did learn that, these days, it’s much more likely to invoke Johansson, than O’Hara.)

So there we were, at the hospital with our newborn, nameless baby daughter. On Martin Luther King Day.

It was my brother (also named Martin, and a mythology buff) who made a comment about the name Martin coming from Mars, the Roman god of war. And that Mars’ Greek equivalent was Ares.

Cue the epiphany!

“Ares?” I looked at my husband.


But, then we took it a step further. We’d agreed from the start that the baby’s middle name would be Camille, after my husband’s late grandmother.

So: Ares Camille.

Put it together and you get: Arielle, her Hebrew name. (I know, it’s a long, winding way to get there. Believe me, I know.)

Which is how, five years ago, my family ended up with a little girl named after the god of war… and a man of peace.

I figured if he could overcome the contradiction, so could she.

Jul 1 2011

Friday Night: Independence Day Shabbat

By at 10:49 am

There are days when I find myself walking down the street singing that Lee Greenwood song that came out right after 9/11: “Well I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me…” And then I think, really? Do I really remember those who died so that I could have freedom of religion, of choice, of deciding which color stroller my kid needs?

But recently a colleague showed me a website that was created to bring a moment of thought into our American holidays and remind us what they’re all about. It’s called Freedom’s Feast. They have a few brief readings for holidays from the 4th of July to Labor Day to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And though they might sometimes be a bit cheesy, even just reading them reminded me that the 4th of July is about more than just fireworks and barbecues. So as I approach the Shabbat of the 4th of July, I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a Jew too.

(Did you know that Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America? He also wrote White Christmas, but that’s beside the point.)

Shabbat Shalom!


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