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Nov 3 2014

What Going to a Baptism Taught Me About Judaism

By at 3:04 pm

What Going to a Baptism Taught Me About Judaism

I sat in the parking lot of the Baptist church. Five minutes until the service would begin, and it was time to go inside. I stared at the huge stucco building; it was much more grand and modern than my Conservative shul, and I was surprised to see so many worshippers on a Tuesday night. I was vaguely uncomfortable about walking in alone. I didn’t know what to expect of the ceremony that I’d be witnessing, and I anticipated feeling uncomfortable in a non-Jewish service. But I was there for a good reason. I was attending a dear friend’s baptism.

I walked in and took a seat in the rear of the sanctuary. It looked like a professional theater, with camera and lighting crews, and a vast stage with large screen TVs flanking the sides. People slowly filled in the hundreds of seats, and I was no longer inconspicuous in the back. I’d rehearsed in my head what I would say if asked why I was there. My sense of not belonging made me sure I’d stand out. Me and my Big Jewish Neuroses. But no one questioned my presence. The people in front of me turned around, introduced themselves, and welcomed me. No one cared why I was there, and I began to relax. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 5 2014

Why is There No Ritual For the Completion of a Family?

By at 10:23 am


“Are you sure?” my OB asked at my very first appointment. “Yes,” I replied without hesitation. “Absolutely.”

Joking about my husband, the rabbi, she scheduled my third C-section for December 24th because “of course, the rabbi’s kid should be born on Christmas eve.” I laughed and then immediately requested that my tubes be removed during the surgery.

I was 37, it was our third child, and I knew we were done. My husband and I had discussed it already and had both agreed. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 10 2014

So You’re Thinking of Converting Your Child

By at 3:54 pm


I’m a Jew-by-choice. But my conversion to Judaism wasn’t voluntary. When I was about 4 or 5, my Catholic parents converted and took me and my siblings along with them.

I don’t have a great recollection of the process. I vaguely remember the mikveh, which just seemed like a trip to the pool. I remember standing in front of the congregation as our conversion was announced. But that’s about it.

But while I don’t really remember the conversion itself, my experiences growing up as a converted Jew were instructive. Indeed, considering every adult should be free to choose his or her own religious path, choosing to alter your child’s path requires additional consideration. Here are some things to consider before converting your children. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2014

Yes, Mayim, You Can Still Go to the Mikveh

By at 9:58 am

Credit: Tom Kates


It’s been a year since you wrote “Since My Divorce, I’m Missing the Mikveh,” and you know what, Mayim? You and I have a lot in common.

OK, so I’m not a movie star. But I have watched “Beaches” approximately 517 times. That’s got to count for something, right?

Like you, I grew up in the world of those who knew not of mikveh, and significantly expanded my learning in college. I immersed before I got married and my introduction to mikveh was from a more traditional perspective. In all honesty, as I learned more about alternative uses for mikveh, I had a hard time with it. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 4 2014

The Transformative Powers of Bath Time–for Mama and Child

By at 10:22 am


This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Metzora. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Bath time. It’s so simple, yet so transformative.

Most evenings around 7 p.m., Sylvie enters the tub covered in the evidence of a day well spent. You know the look: pasta sauce in her curls, a thin layer of dried snot on her cheeks, dirt on her knees, lint between her toes, and streaks of green finger paint in random places.

Come to think of it, by the end of dinnertime she brings to mind my fashion preferences as a teenager in the 90’s. You know the look: torn jacket, messy hair, smudged eyeliner, chipped nail polish. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 31 2014

When It’s Not a Total Disaster, Bath Time Can Be a Beautiful Thing

By at 11:06 am


Some nights, it is a literal shit show. Nothing quite matches the moment when I looked down at the shower floor and saw a giant blob of poop. My oblivious toddler looked at me, puzzled, clearly wondering, “How’d that get there?”

Thankfully, most nights, we deal with more metaphorical bath time messes. Like the nights when the 3-year-old commandeers all toys like she’s auditioning for an episode of “Hoarders,” and the toddler cries pitifully at the injustice. There was also the memorable evening when the toddler chomped down on my arm. Her four brand-new teeth broke skin and bruised me. And then there’s “The Scream.” My 3-year-old has perfected a sound that’s an earsplitting blend of Screeching Brakes and Angry Cat. From experience, I know she can keep this up for a long, long time.

I keep a bottle of wine on standby for those occasions. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 10 2013

A Non-Jewish Surrogate Gave Birth To My Son, And Then We Held a Conversion Ceremony

By at 10:54 am

Boy under waterThanks to a New York Times article, there was quite a bit of discussion last week about whether a baby conceived with a non-Jewish egg donor but carried and raised by a Jewish women is considered Jewish.  And here on Kveller, Jordana Horn eloquently proposed that rather than question the identity of such a baby, we should embrace this child into Jewish life, with which I wholeheartedly agree.  As long as any child or family considers itself Jewish and lives accordingly, should it matter what a small group of Rabbis declares is that child’s identity?  No, of course not.

That said, two weeks ago my husband and I took our four-year-old son to the mikveh to complete his conversion.

Our younger son S. was born through gestational surrogacy.  He is 100% biologically our child but was carried by another women, in our case a non-Jewish woman.

My husband and I have no doubt S. is Jewish.  Neither does S.  He sang the Ma Nishtanah at our Seder, sings Shalom Aleichem each Shabbat, and will spontaneously burst into Adon Olam, to the tune of Call Me Maybe, while playing with Legos.  But because of the circumstances of his birth, there are those who might question whether S. is indeed Jewish. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 7 2013

Returning to the Mikveh After Giving Birth

By at 11:55 am

mikveh jewish ritual bathOnce a month when I was kid, I would watch my mother remove her nail polish, gather her small bag, and head out from home in our station wagon after dinner. We always knew where she was going.

Even though the ritual immersion (mikveh) traditional Jewish women do monthly is done at night and is considered a private affair, my brothers and I were pretty nosy, we lived in a small house, and my parents were very open. That and coming home from an appointment with wet hair at 9 or 10 p.m. was certain to elicit questions from little children. She always spoke about this time in the ritual bath so beautifully–the warm waters, the time alone, the space to think and feel whatever she did without the voice of my dad, her co-workers, or her children in her head. Read the rest of this entry →


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