Oct 21 2014
“It’s not going to work.”
In a quest to find himself, my husband of many years had left the path of Torah. I am an ultra-Orthodox woman, and when I married my husband, he was also ultra-Orthodox. My dream was to raise my family in the ways of Torah and mitzvot. So when my husband stopped practicing our religious customs, I was at a loss.
“How am I going to continue to raise my children in the ways of Torah while still staying married to my husband whom I love?” I asked a good friend, searching for support in navigating a world of a mixed marriage. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 8 2014
When I first started exploring Jewish learning and observance in my late teens, all of my family and friends thought I had lost my mind. But there was one person who was especially opposed to my newfound interest–my father.
Oh, he wanted me to be Jewish all right (from the youngest age, my sisters and I understood intermarrying would leave my pork-eating parents sitting shiva for us); I just was not allowed to be too Jewish. So when I began observing Shabbos every week during my senior year of high school, replete with unscrewing the light bulb in the fridge and taping lights around the house (so I wouldn’t be left in the dark–literally), good old dad would follow my trail and screw-in and un-tape. No daughter of his would become one of them.
My father had treated “ultra” Hasidim from some of the most extreme sects when he was training to be a doctor in Manhattan and was convinced that I was on a similar path. “You’re becoming a zealot,” he would tell me over and over again, even though I was making small changes at a responsible rate and I had no intention of ever leading an extreme life. Read the rest of this entry →
During Sukkot, we remember how God freed our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. We build sukkahs, flimsy booths meant to recreate the temporary dwellings used while we wandered across the desert, leaving home behind.
I have been on my own wandering journey for about 14 years. I was brought up in a knowledgeable Reform Jewish home. As kids, my siblings and I lived in Upstate New York, and regularly attended temple services. The congregants barely filled two rows of pews if you mashed us all together. I loved it. I loved the hired soloist’s resonant soprano melodies, and the warmth of cuddling up to my father’s corduroy-patched sport coat. I jumped up and down out of my seat a million times, inhaling the rich aroma of coffee and wandering the lobby to sneak glances at the desserts piled high on the kiddush tables.
I knew that when I grew up, I was going to marry a Nice Jewish Boy, even though my parents had never planted the idea in my head. After the requisite years of adolescent angst, which involved piercing things you couldn’t see and dying my hair a variety of vibrant colors, I grew restless. I took a year off of college, worked, and traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. There, in the city of Jerusalem, I found hope and inspiration. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 22 2014
I only have one sibling, a brother, four-and-a-half years younger than me. The world of massive families and children born less than two years apart was so foreign to me that I didn’t even know it existed (this was before the days of the Duggars’ show). I don’t remember knowing anyone from a family with more than three children.
And yet, here I am, with children aged 5, 3 and 2, and expecting our fourth, God willing, around Thanksgiving. How did that happen? It all started when I began to become observant, shortly after college. Well, the having babies part didn’t start just then, but that’s when the idea of having a large family took root.
Many of the families I was close to on my journey to becoming Orthodox had at least five kids. Some had eight or 12. I was completely enamored with the idea of having a large family. There was so much that appealed to me, like how the older ones helped with the younger ones, how sharing was not just a value to be taught, but a reality of life with many other siblings, how there were built-in playmates, and always some action in the house. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 18 2014
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
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 →
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
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
“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
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 →