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Jun 19 2012

Embracing My Fellow Russians of Brighton Beach

By at 3:59 pm

brighton beach vacationIf my life had followed the statistically expected trajectory, after leaving the Soviet Union in 1976, my family would have settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, home of the United States’ largest Russian-Jewish community. (It’s also very possible that I might have gone to Stuyvesant High School and thus met my husband about 15 years earlier. When, we both agree, I wouldn’t have given him the time of day. But, that’s another story for another time.)

We didn’t, though. We ended up in San Francisco, CA, instead. I stayed in California until the last week of 1994, whereupon I finally packed up and relocated to New York City. But, to Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry →

May 9 2012

Plant Your Own Havdalah Spice Set

By at 12:27 pm

thyme herbs Shabbat is a very good thing, but all good things must come to an end, right? Luckily for us, even the end to Shabbat comes with some pretty great traditions. The havdalah ceremony brings Shabbat to a close each week, and is filled with special prayers, songs, and fragrant spices to pass around and smell.

For our New York readers who live in Westchester, we’ve just heard of a great opportunity for you to get the whole family geared up for havdalah. J-Baby, an exciting new program through the Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester, is hosting a “Plant Your Own Havdalah Spice Set” party in Yorktown Heights. It’s a great hands-on opportunity to plant herbs to take home for havdalah and beyond, and you can meet other young Jewish families while you’re at it. Hope you can make it! Here are the details:

Plant Your Own Havdalah Spice Set
Friday, May 18, 9:30-11 AM
Takes place at FDR Park, Picnic tables at parking Lot #2
Stay right at fork for .8 miles, 2957 Crompound Rd., Yorktown Heights
$5/family, RSVP to cathy@roenthaljcc.org
Feb 22 2012

Free Fun Stuff for the Family

By at 2:03 pm

Dear Kveller Readers Outside of New York:

I know. You’re tired of me writing about all of the amazing things that happen in New York City for kids. The thing is, it’s really hard not to tell our New York readers about great programs when they’re happening right here in our backyard. So I’ll make a deal with you–tell me about the awesome programs happening in your neck of the woods, and I’ll write about them too, so you don’t feel left out. Meanwhile, the rest of this is for the New Yorkers. Sorry!

Dear New York Kveller readers,

Ignore that note above–we all know that NYC is the center of the universe for everything, Jewish parenting included. After all, that’s why our Kveller offices are here. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2011

From Urban to Suburban

By at 3:04 pm

boca raton beach

Boca is beautiful, but what's the catch?

Last week, Lili Kalish Gersch shared with us the trials and tribulations of living in a cramped urban apartment with a young kid. Here, we get the flip side from Boca Raton’s newest resident.

Our motivation in moving from Manhattan to the suburbs in South Florida was to save money. We loved most things about our urban lifestyle–the convenience of most errands being only a block away, the ability to order any meal we wanted any time of day, the fact that just walking around the block with our dogs was filled with sights, sounds, and probable run-ins with friends. New York is absolutely a Jewish city but in the way that a cabbie from Haiti will call another driver a putz and the Greek diners serve matzo brei in the spring.

We chose Boca Raton not only because it was close to my parents but since it was relatively affluent, we thought that we might be able to find some of the things we loved about city life like great restaurants, stellar schools, and lots of activities for families.

In New York, being a homebody usually meant you were into things like good restaurants, movies with friends, or a yoga devotee. Here it literally means you don’t go out at night. As a mom of two toddlers, I wasn’t even close to living a socialite lifestyle but like most people I knew, I would get together with friends at least a couple of nights a week.

What I miss most is those “only in New York” moments that can’t be replaced in another region.  Call me unsophisticated but I loved the times I saw Mick Jagger in a restaurant,  a woman walking with a parrot on her shoulder, or Gossip Girl filming in Central Park.  Here in Florida, I’ve lost that feeling of possibility, the sensation that any minute something exciting could happen.

Although the move has afforded us a far nicer lifestyle then we could have had in Manhattan, I can’t help feeling that living here is temporary. It doesn’t quite feel like “real life.” Sometimes it seems like I’ve moved to a Jewtopia where everyone is rich, impossibly fit, and their last name ends in -man, -berg  or the name of a precious metal.  Everyone I speak to, from new friends to neighbors, asks what we’re doing for the holidays. I haven’t experienced this type of Jewish immersion since summer camp.

Of course it’s cool to be able to go swimming every day, and my kids and I love seeing all the strange new wildlife down here. We went from pigeons to pelicans and from rats to reptiles. But most evenings when the sky turns into a screen-saver perfect sunset, I still feel this is all fleeting.

In my mind I’m picking out fall clothing and making plans to meet my Mom friends in the park for a playdate. I like to pretend time has frozen there without me. I really had an amazing and supportive network of friends–most of whom I met after becoming a mom so we bonded in that way only parents in similar stages can, over sleepless nights, toddler meltdowns, and Moms’ Night Out. And although I’ve met a ton of great new moms, the relationships all still have that new car smell. Intellectually I know it takes a while to adjust to a new place and for friendships to grow into a comfort zone. But for now my heart still belongs to NYC.

Aug 4 2011

Wow! We Have Single Friends

By at 3:45 pm

Cheers to single friends.

Our house has been a busy place over the past few days. The ostensible reason that we moved from a cramped 2-bedroom in Crown Heights to the leisurely meadows of farther-out Flatbush was so that we had a yard for the kids to run around in, but the bare fact is, we love having sleepovers. And sleepovers are way more pleasant when you and your wife can retreat to your own room and not have some friends/acquaintances/visiting cousins from Australia/beer buddies snuggled up at your feet, ready to wake up the instant that one of you snores too loudly. Hence, our recently-packed house. Our friend Julia, who crashed for the past few days, just posted this really nice post on Zooey Deschanel’s website HelloGiggles.com. It’s called “Your Friends’ Babies Are Your Babies Too” and I’d like to (immodestly) think we had something to do with it. Just read this paragraph, and try not to squeal at the indelible cuteness that comes out. It’s totally our babies. Granted, I think that any time I read anything about babies, but there’s some firsthand knowledge on this one.

Even their sadness is cute. Don’t they know that their earth-shattering fear and discomfort over anything and everything is baseless? If I was a baby, I’d enjoy having no real worries and being hugged and comforted for freaking out every time I thought my mom disappeared when, in fact, all I did was close my eyes for a minute. They don’t even have to burp! People rub their little backs and do it for them! Then they go through this phase. Glimpses of it show up later, in toddler hood, but around the six-month mark (or whenever their vision stops being blurry), they get this Look. You’ll be holding them and having a silly old time, and suddenly they’ll give you the Look. Their eyes bore straight in yours, with this piercing gaze like they hold the key to the universe and understand how it relates to your measly little adult life. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 28 2011

New York, Jews, and Same Sex Marriage

By at 11:04 am

Something important (and wonderful!) has happened in Kveller’s home state of New York, and I think it needs to be acknowledged here.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized.

By now you’ve all probably read the news, and hopefully you’re rejoicing along with me. As a citizen of Massachusetts (which legalized gay marriage in 2004), I’m wondering what took them so long. As a Jewish mother, I couldn’t be more pleased.

The Jewish position on gay and lesbian rights is, not surprisingly, incredibly diverse. Although the Torah condemns male homosexual sex, it doesn’t comment on lesbian sex. The American Jewish community has dealt with this information in a variety of ways. The Cliff Notes version is that the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations ordain gay and lesbian Rabbis, and both movements allow Rabbis to officiate at same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies. The Orthodox movement believes that all homosexual behavior is forbidden by Jewish law, and only affirms marriages between a man and a woman. The Conservative movement is somewhere in between. Although the Conservative Rabbinical schools will accept gay and lesbian students, the movement has essentially delegated much of the decision-making regarding gay and lesbian weddings to the congregation or individual Rabbi.

I get it. It’s not easy to reconcile these modern questions with traditional Judaism. I understand why the Conservative movement has decided to hang out on the fence (although I disagree). As for me, when I decided to make Judaism a central part of my life, I knew that I had to do so in a way that would not conflict with my values. I knew I could never embrace a belief system that would reject my family members, friends, and my (at that point in time) unborn children. I was fortunate to find a thriving Reconstructionist congregation; one that neither blindly accepts not rejects traditional Jewish law, but really struggles with it.

I have to say that I haven’t struggled much with this particular issue. Although I care deeply about what Judaism has to say, and I do believe the Torah to be a holy document, I’m not a halachic Jew (nor do I aspire to be one, precisely because of issues such as this one). I believe that equality is a human right and a civil right, and I’m sorry to say that I think that our ancestors who wrote the Torah way back when just got it wrong on this one.

Furthermore, as a Jewish mother, the bottom line is this: If I’m going to be a part of a Jewish community, or any community, it must be one that will accept me, my family, and especially my children, for exactly who they are, and whoever they will become. That’s the bottom line.

So, a hearty bravo to you, New York (and to Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington DC), for doing the right thing. To the rest of the country: it’s time to step up. And to the Jewish community, I say this: even if you can’t accept gay and lesbian equality yet, struggle with it. (That’s what Jews do, isn’t it?) Move beyond the words of the Torah, and spend some time on this one. The Jewish community will be stronger and more vibrant once we accept and embrace all Jews, regardless of who they love.

Jun 20 2011

Start Spreading the News…:)

By at 10:42 am

My time in New York has been like a trashy romance novel: over the top, ridiculously short, and with an unrealistic plot.

I moved here after living in Los Angeles for more years than I care to count, and I distinctly remember how it felt disembarking from the plane when I arrived. It felt as though I could breath for the first time in years. I didn’t date much, but I felt my beshert was nearby. And indeed he was. I met him 18 months after setting foot in New York and in the slightly over 2 years since then, we have moved apartments 3 times, gotten married, and had a son.

To keep things interesting, we are now leaving New York for a summer abroad in Europe and then relocating to Austin, Texas.

As I start to say my goodbyes, I find myself more emotional than the norm. I have moved several times in my life and never felt sentimental about a city before. I have a list of all the things to do, places to visit, and bodega men to say adios to before we leave, and the list keeps growing. This last weekend I said goodbye to Macy’s and those wonderful old, wooden escalators that I think of as stairways to heaven.

A few days ago I parted ways with the Met. It was just a brief visit as we have spent many hours together already, and I know our paths will cross again. The beauty of the Met always takes my breath away and this was no exception.

Next up was saying farewell to Central Park. It has been the place of so many special moments and memories. It will always remain one of my favorite places. I know I will be back some day and I hope to share stories with my children of the time when the park was mommy’s back yard.

It is easier to bid adieu to friends because we can keep in touch. But I do not foresee myself living in New York again, and friending Central Park on Facebook just isn’t the same. I am saying goodbye to being a New Yorker. This place becomes part of your identity whether you realize it or not, and it is hard to say goodbye to something that has become a part of you.

I could go on and on about all the things I will miss. But I need to focus on looking ahead or risk turning into a pillar of salt. I have waited so long for this moment. To be a wife and mother. To have a partner in all of life’s challenges. To create a home for my family.

As we pack up our belongings, vacate our apartment, and fly off into the sunset, I can feel the romance novel that was New York coming to a close. And as I begin writing an exciting new sequel, I just hope that our summer abroad isn’t compromised by my first trimester morning sickness.

Yes, I am pregnant. Crazy, huh?  It seems like yesterday I had the chemical pregnancy.

And off we go…

Read about Cara’s journey to pregnancy and her chemical pregnancy and loss.

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