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May 21 2014

Is This “Frozen” Song a Rip-Off of “Yentl”?

By at 1:01 pm

Has anyone else noticed that “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from “Frozen” sounds a lot like “Papa Can You Hear Me?” from “Yentl”?

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

COINCIDENCE?!

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May 1 2014

What I Hope My Baby Will Gain From Mommy-and-Me

By at 12:14 pm

baby-biting

Now that Shabbat starts later, and my husband and I have a car, I have been taking my little girl to the Village Learning Place in Baltimore where we participate in the Friday morning “Mother Goose on the Loose” story time. Most of the kids there are at least a year older than she is, if not more, and I think I might be the youngest parent there (though the nannies are more around my age).

Why do I go? Ziva is only 7 months old, so her participation in the activities is very limited, and everything that gets handed out becomes an exploration in taste. Time to ring the bells? Straight into her mouth. Time to wave scarves around? Hers is covered in slobber. She can’t march in a circle but when I carry her around, her squeals of delight and gigantic grin let me know that she’s definitely benefitting from the experience.

As a librarian, I learned over and over the importance of early literacy. Nursery rhymes help teach your kids phonological awareness and language. Music helps their brains develop, and modeling behavior teaches them learned behaviors. It killed me for the first few months of her life that between my work schedule and not having a car, we couldn’t get to the library for story programs. I really felt like I was failing her as a parent and as a librarian. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2014

My Conversion Prayers Were Answered Through An Orthodox A Cappella Group

By at 10:16 am

concert-Kol-Shira

I love music. I’ve been singing all my life. I belted out an elaborate rendition of “Old Macdonald” in my yellow bathing suit for the cable guy when I was 3 and sang on stage throughout adolescence and college. So much of my life has been set to music; every year a different show, a different song. It is how I built an inner confidence and poise. I have always felt that my voice was one of the things that brought me closest to God. A gift I was blessed with and never took for granted.

But marriage and careers and babies and more babies made it very hard to fit singing into my life.

I remember the first time I set foot in a temple for services. While it was a Reform congregation, the service and songs were primarily in Hebrew. Everything felt foreign to me. I knew that Judaism was calling to me but in that moment I couldn’t hear it. I felt lost, confused and disconnected. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 8 2014

Everyone Made a Passover “Frozen” Parody This Year–Check Out Our Top Five

By at 2:25 pm

aish-let-it-go

If your kids can’t get enough of “Frozen,” they will love this year’s overload of Passover parody videos. Not all Passover “Frozen” parodies are created equal, though, so we’ve selected our five favorites. Each one sillier and more absurd than the next, these spoofs of “Let it Go” will have your family singing “Let Us Go,” all Passover long.

Enjoy!

1. The Grown Up version. From Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, MA. There is a nice contrast between frowning geriatric Pharaoh who occasionally raises his staff, and the grinning temple congregants–who look like they might be your parents–performing as back-up dancers.

2. The Teen Version. This charming ukulele version from The Weber School in Atlanta, GA is like the kids’ answer to the previous parody. Created by students and teachers of the school, it addresses what young people hate most about the seder (zzzzz….) and helps bring the haggadah to life. It even comes with an attached lesson plan. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 18 2014

Teaching My Son to Be a Mensch Through Music

By at 3:18 pm

Music-mensch

When I say my 3-year-old son Ben is into music, I mean it. Toddler parents will get my seriousness when I say he loves music more than his beloved trucks, play kitchen, and extensive puzzle collection. Looking for Ben? Check his “concert,” a corner of our living room that’s become packed with kazoos, shakers, a ukulele and a “guitelele,” and–our third birthday present to him–a beautiful djembe drum.

My husband and I were both high school band types, and going out to hear live music was a big part of our pre-Ben social life. So it felt right to take Ben to his first concert at age 8 months, to a Saturday morning family show at Club Passim, the famous folk music club in Harvard Square.

Alastair Moock, the musician who played that show and later appeared at such prestigious venues as Ben’s second birthday party and the Grammy Awards, did not, to our delight, wear a costume or do a goofy “character” voice. He played real instruments–guitar, banjo, ukulele–and sang wonderful original songs plus folk classics I recognized from my parents’ record collection. Ben stared intently. He was in. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 13 2014

Why I Fudge the Truth When I Tell My Kids The Purim Story

By at 11:24 am

Book-of-esther-censored

The noisemakers are already going in my house. By “noisemakers,” I mean my kids. The groggers are going, too, of course, along with an endless medley of preschool Purim songs as my children’s excitement about the upcoming holiday reaches a fever pitch. It’s a little chaotic, but I’m glad that my kids are eager to celebrate Purim…and it’s not bad to get a reprieve from the constant refrains of “Let It Go” that have comprised our family’s unofficial soundtrack for the last three months.

“Mommy,” my 4-year-old asks, “Do you know any more Purim songs we could sing?” On a whim, I launch into that corny old Hebrew School chestnut, “Oh, Once There Was a Wicked, Wicked Man.” My children listen delightedly as I began to sing, then look at me in consternation as I pause abruptly, not wanting to sing the words “he would have murdered all the Jews” (describing Haman’s evil plot). I continue singing, instead substituting the words “he would have punished all the Jews.” My children smile at the song. I feel relieved, and very guilty.

As a rabbi, I’m committed to a view of Jewish sacred text that affirms the sanctity and importance of our foundational narratives. When I was an idealistic college student, struggling with passages in the Torah that I found ethically or historically troubling, I believed that such difficult sections of our sacred text should simply be excised. We’re an enlightened people. Why do we need Torah verses that seem (or are) sexist or homophobic? As I deepened my understanding of Jewish text and interpretation, though, I began to understand that each of our texts, even the troubling ones, have something to teach us. The sages of the Talmud imagined Rabbi Akiva as being so gifted in the art of Torah interpretation that he was able to derive meaning not only from the words of the Torah but even from the decorative crowns that adorn the letters in the Torah scroll. To the Jew, there is meaning in everything, and so every story must be retained, honored, and plumbed for its overt and hidden lessons. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 12 2014

Here’s to the People Who Made My Son’s Bar Mitzvah Special, Even if They Don’t Remember Us

By at 2:07 pm

jordan-bar-mitzvah

Think about when you are in the midst of labor and you are going through the most intense and difficult–yet simultaneously the most meaningful–experience of your life. You are bringing a new human being into the world and you know that you will never, ever, forget these people–the nurses, obstetricians, midwives, and other medical staff–who helped you through this amazing day.

You know how, later on–maybe much later on–you realize that as meaningful as that day was to you, that to the nurses, obstetricians, and midwives who helped you, it was just another work day, and your peak experience wasn’t anything special? Remember how that revelation made you feel kind of sad?

It’s the same with a bar mitzvah. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2014

Jewish Day School Made Me Appreciate Diversity & Now I’m Choosing the Same For My Kids

By at 9:59 am

Diversity and the case for day school

I was recently prepping a meal to the soundtrack of my new favorite song, “Some Nights” by the indie rock band Fun. Suddenly, I realized the breakfast-for-dinner eggs were burning, and I was transfixed by the YouTube video streaming from my nearby laptop.

What was it about lead singer Nate Ruess that drew me in? Sure, he’s conventionally attractive. And his voice is a force—at once strong and lovely. But it was something else. How different he looked from anyone I knew. With those defined cheekbones, blue eyes, slightly upturned nose; he’s no Yeshiva boy.

It only made me want to know him more. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2014

Two School Administrators Announce Snow Day With Best Rap Ever

By at 4:26 pm

Despite the apocalyptic weather conditions, New York City schools were OPEN today (because we’re crazy), but just about everywhere else in the country, flights were canceled, highways were gridlocked, and kids enjoyed a national snow day–even in North Carolina, which has been pummeled by an ice storm named Pax.

Well, two school administrators, headmaster Michael Ulku-Steiner and director Lee Hark at Durham Academy in North Carolina, broke the the news to students with a hilarious cover of Vanilla Ice’s ’90s hit–yup, you guessed it–”Ice, Ice, Baby.”

Enjoy the video and for god’s sake, don’t go outside!

(H/t Viral Viral Video)

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Feb 7 2014

What Does the Fox ACTUALLY Say?

By at 11:45 am

YLVIS

At this point, every child in America has danced to Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say?” You may have even seen the children’s book version in stores. I am not ashamed to admit that I know the lyrics by heart and have caught myself singing the interlude softly on many a morning commute:

The secret of the fo-o-ox

Ancient Mystery-y

Somewhere deep in the woods

He is hiding

What is his souuuuund?

Will we ever know?

Well, inspired by Ylvis, the other day, my kid and I–being the intrepid scientists that we are–decided to do a little research into what the fox actually says. Read the rest of this entry →

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