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Sep 18 2014

Q&A with the Founders of The Binah School–A Different Kind of Orthodox Girls School

By at 12:41 pm

Angelina_Rose-Binah-2

The Binah School is a new, 21st century all-girls Jewish middle and high school in Sharon, Massachusetts that integrates project-based learning with real world problem solving, text-based Judaic studies, and academic excellence. Founded by two Orthodox women and working mothers, Michal Oshman and Rina Hoffman, the Binah School has already won national attention for its commitment to affordability, research-based methods, and its emphasis on global citizenship in Jewish education.

Can you tell Kveller readers what makes the Binah School different from other schools for Orthodox girls?

The Binah School is a warm and nurturing middle and high school setting for Orthodox girls whose curriculum weaves together academic subjects and traditional, text-based Torah study with learning about social justice issues, independent and small group work, use of arts and technology, and project-based learning. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 17 2014

This Kippah-Clad 12-Year-Old is the Next Food Network Star

By at 2:17 pm
Eitan-Bernath

Via Twitter

 

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 →

I Won’t Force My Kids to Attend High Holiday Services

By at 10:31 am

high-holidays-kids

That’s right. You heard me. I’m not doing it. I, a member of a Modern Orthodox shul, mother of four Jewish kids who keep kosher and observe Shabbat weekly, executive director of an Atlanta Jewish day camp, will not be forcing my kids to attend services on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since this summer at camp, and something I decided firmly last weekend while attending a Jewish family retreat.

Here’s the thing. My kids love being Jewish. It’s the essence of their being. It’s the foundation of their friendships. It’s the laughter and joy that fills their Saturdays. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 8 2014

Yes, You Can Be Orthodox & Be Friends With Gay People

By at 9:52 am

Rainbow-kippah

When my generation, the Baby Boomers, was fighting for civil rights, for “women’s liberation” and to end the war in Viet Nam, it would have occurred to almost no one that the next frontier would be gay rights.

Who even knew what “homosexual” meant? Who could imagine that the “fag tag” on the back of our shirts contained what would one day be considered a pejorative? Who thought twice about using “gay” as a rhyme for a word ending in “ay” in poems and songs in our Modern Orthodox schools and camps? Who gave a thought to the “sexual orientation” of the two somewhat nebbishy guys in our group of friends?

The whole thing was just not on our radar at all. It was totally irrelevant to me and to anyone I knew. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 13 2014

Teaching My Little Girls Tolerance With “My Little Boy”

By at 11:32 am

my-little-boy

“Could you read us another chapter? Could you?” Miri asked.

I had just finished reading the second to last chapter of “My Little Boy” to my kids for their bedtime story, but they wanted more; clearly they were as in love with the boy in the story as I was with the boy’s father.

After hearing a version of the book performed by Orson Welles, I had to read it, and after reading it, I reread it. What was it about this book that made it so compelling, so magical? And why am I reading this adult book to my kids? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 12 2014

How An Email I Sent About Pizza Started a Religious Firestorm

By at 2:09 pm

email-firestorm

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 →

Feb 20 2014

Stuck in the Shabbat Limbo

By at 4:02 pm

Doing Shabbat, my way

It was my second time meeting with Chana with the hopes of renting her Jerusalem apartment. I was in Israel on a research grant and following an ulpan (intensive Hebrew immersion course) in Jerusalem, had moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to my university. After just a few weeks of living by the water, I felt pulled back to Jerusalem.

Chana went through a checklist of the idiosyncrasies of the apartment. It would be furnished and I would not need to, nor would I be permitted to, bring my own bed. The school across the street could be loud at lunchtime. There was no dishwasher, of course, but I was welcome to use the laundry machine provided. And then almost as an afterthought she added, “Shabbat. Of course you keep Shabbat.”

“Well,” I started. And that was the beginning of the end. “I may turn on the lights here and there.”

“No. No turning on and off the lights. You must keep Shabbat.”

“But—,”

“No. No. I cannot. My friend rented to someone like you and first she had a car accident. Then…” her voice trailed off. “No. I cannot take the risk.” Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 6 2014

Having Seven Kids in the Orthodox World

By at 9:44 am

costco exterior

Yesterday Kveller contributing editor Jordana Horn wrote about the challenges of  raising five children in a two-child world. Jordana’s friend Ruchi, an Orthodox mother of seven, wrote this follow-up piece about raising her own brood in a seven-kid world.

I feel Jordana’s pain. My freakishness, when I venture beyond my little Orthodox Jewish community, or others like it, feels a lot like yours! But it is infinitely easier to have seven kids in a seven-to-ten-kid world than five kids in a two-kid world. See, my whole seven-kid world works perfectly around my seven-kid family. Two or three kids is considered a “small family,” while twelve is considered large. Fortunately for me, expectations in my world fit right in with my family’s lifestyle.

1. Grocery shopping.

In bigger kosher communities (i.e. Israel, New York, Lakewood, NJ) you can call or fax your local kosher store or produce market and have them deliver everything to your door. Here in cute little Cleveland the best option for large-scale shopping is still Costco. True story: I can’t understand why anyone with two kids belongs to Costco. How’s that for reverse-freakishness? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 5 2014

Having Five Kids in a Two-Kid World

By at 10:05 am

Having five kids in a two-kid world.

I am a freak.

Arguably, this was true anyway. But by having a fifth kid (on purpose!) I have pushed myself into the realm of the unfathomable…at least, in the environment where I live.

I live in an area of suburban New Jersey primarily known to most for its mall. It is a bedroom community of Manhattan. It’s where I grew up, and arguably continue to grow up. It’s a well-to-do place where people–to generalize–tend to focus on status symbols like fancy cars and fancy college stickers for said cars. It’s a secular place where, with the exception of attending a friend’s bar or bat mitzvah, people are more likely to be at spin class Saturday morning than Shabbat services.

Having five kids around here is not normal.

I’m not sure what it is about the number five that makes it so different from four. I can name a handful of local peers who have four kids–hey, I was one of them until not so long ago. But for some reason, “five” tips the scales. When people ask you how many kids you have and you say “five,” it’s prone to produce wide eyes and a “Wow!” or “Yikes!” That never happened when I answered “four.”

The fact of the matter is, if you’re not in a religious community in America, more often than not, you live in a one, two, or three kid world. I’m fine with being different, but my experience thus far has made me start to see the ways in which the secular world is not hospitable to families like mine. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 28 2013

The Orthodox Matchmaker I Never Thought I Wanted

By at 2:39 pm

wedding rings on pink backgroundI grew up in an Orthodox Jewish world where at age 22, a girl was considered a cat-collecting spinster if she was heaven forbid, knock-on-wood, still single. In my world, girls at 22 were on the brink of “spinsterdom,” and girls who were 23, 24, or worse, 25 (gasp!), well, they were just ancient.

After graduation, I traveled to Jerusalem where I studied Hebrew, Israeli culture and customs, and visited the grave sites and the places of my Jewish ancestry. Each landmark visited reminded me that there was a world much bigger than Miami Beach, Florida, where I had lived for most of my life. Much like my classmates, I was studying in Israel for a year following high school. But unlike me, the girls I shared rooms with planned to continue on The Plan once they returned home. The Plan was to get “set up” with a suitable religious guy from a “good” family, who was either ambitious or extremely learned (depending on said girl)–a guy who would provide a comfortable life for the two of them and their soon-to-be children. The Plan was flawless. Read the rest of this entry →

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