Aug 4 2014
Our children are listening. When we pore over news sources and incessantly check our Facebook feeds to find out the latest from Israel and Gaza, our children are watching. When we whisper in muted voices or cry out in protest about the situation in the Middle East and the resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world, our children are hearing.
How do we talk to young children living far away from Israel about the current situation when they are not yet old enough to understand terms like “Zionism” or “anti-Semitism” or “terrorism” or “occupation”?
As parents of young children and also as Jewish educators, we would like to offer some tips for talking (and listening) to young children about the current conflagration. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 15 2014
The author (c.) with her mother and aunt in Israel.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been quietly absorbing the news from Israel. I lit candles for the three missing boys on Shabbat. I was hopeful that they would be found alive, and inspired by the words of Rachelle Fraenkel. When their bodies were found, I felt a familiar horror and pain at the loss of more lives, which increased as the violence ramped up from the IDF, and from Hamas. These days, it seems like half of my Facebook friends are in Israel, spending hours of every day in bomb shelters. I’ve seen videos of weddings interrupted by sirens, pictures of children playing in grey stairwells, and last week I cried upon hearing this story about Jews going to try to pay their respects to the family of the Arab Israeli boy who was killed by Jewish extremists.
Normally, a news event this big in my life would be dinner table conversation. My stepdaughter, at 6, is more politically engaged than most adults I know. She has attended rallies in support of gun control laws, and went to a memorial for Trayvon Martin. She spent the night at Occupy Philadelphia when she was 4, and routinely protests fracking and cuts to Philadelphia public school funding. She knows about the war in Syria, and about Wendy Davis standing up for women’s rights in Texas. But I can’t bring myself to talk about this with her.
I am a product of 13 years of Jewish day school, and in that time I learned to love the State of Israel. I wore blue and white on Israel’s independence day every year, I sang “Hatikvah,” and I was carefully taught that the Arabs always wanted to kill us, and that despite this, we had been the victorious underdogs. Abba Eban’s famous words were used to explain all of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” We tried to help them, but they only wanted to kill us. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 14 2014
“Why didn’t anyone DO SOMETHING?!”
I remember sitting in Hebrew School learning about the Holocaust for the first time. While I was in shock at what humans were capable of doing to other humans, I was almost more angry at my grandparents and other Americans–how could they just sit at home and let this happen for years before entering the war?
Now 25 years later, I am in my grandparents’ shoes. I see 200 schoolgirls get kidnapped in Nigeria. I see unimaginable violence in Iraq and Syria. And now I see murders, rockets, and bombings in Israel. I see moms, dads, kids, and families just like mine, who just want to go to work or school, go home, play in the park, and live a normal life. Yet they’re prevented from this by violence I can’t pretend to understand. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 10 2014
The turquoise Mediterranean glittered in the late afternoon sun. Smoky barbecue drifted toward me as I helped my daughter and her cousin build sandcastles. No English for one and no Hebrew for the other, they built a beautiful, sandy city together with nods and smiles, gestures and touches. Up ahead three horses carried their riders toward the dunes. The sun sank lower.
The boys played Frisbee. The girls built their castles. The grown-ups drank beer and sparkling red wine, and the dog lay in the cooling sand, watching and sleeping.
They were photo-perfect moments happening every second, and my cousin ran from group to group and captured each one. “Chayim babu’ah,” she said. Life in a bubble. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 19 2014
“Bloody Mary party at 11 o’ clock!” a voice chirruped from the float to our left.
Lilah, skipping along beside me in her bobbing ponytail and little purple Keens, pulled on my arm. “Mommy, what’s a Bloody Mary party?”
One of the women behind us laughed and I turned to smile at her. “They always learn something new at Pride,” I said. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 17 2014
Our boys are missing.
I say “our boys” because these could be our sons, our brothers.
This is just how we roll in Israel.
Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh-la-zeh: The People of Israel are responsible for one another.
You can see it in the way we scold random parents for forgetting to put socks on their kids. (“Where are his socks? Where are his shoes? It’s the middle of April and he’ll freeze!”) Read the rest of this entry →
May 1 2014
Exactly 50 years ago, on May 1, 1964, in New York City, a group of activists put together the first “Free Soviet Jewry” rally. I wasn’t born yet (I’m not being coy; I’m 44, for anyone who’s interested), but it was the ongoing, untiring effort of that movement that led to my parents and I immigrating to the US from Odessa in 1977, and the rest of our family coming over throughout the 1980s.
Once in America, I participated in numerous protests myself. As I wrote for Kveller earlier, though I enjoyed myself at the time, as a parent I am loathe to let my kids be used as photogenic political symbols before they are old enough to decide for themselves whether or not this is a cause they want to be associated with. On the other hand, I do want to convey to my children just how important the work of those demonstrators 50 years ago was. And not just for the obvious reasons.
Ultimately, I ended up in the United States due to the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was the work of the government. But the government was pressured into passing the amendment due to the “Free Soviet Jewry” movement. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 3 2013
Chelsea Clinton seems like a woman who knows what she wants and when she wants it. In terms of when to have a baby, it’s already marked on her calendar.
Clinton, 33, recently revealed in an interview with Glamour Magazine that she and (Jewish!) husband Marc Mezvinsky would like to start a family in the coming year.
“We sat down and said, ‘Here’s what we want to do.’ The first thing on the list was simple: We want, God willing, to start a family,” the 33-year-old said. “So we decided we were going to make 2014 the Year of the Baby.”
Like most mothers of married adult women in their 30s, potential grandmother-to-be Hillary Clinton is waiting with bated breath for a little grandchild of her own.
“And please,” Chelsea pleads, “call my mother and tell her that. She asks us about it every single day.”
We hope to see a kvelling Clinton clan come 2014! In the meantime, they can start thinking about names–this Jewish political baby name list should help.
Aug 16 2013
Today, there are no heroes.
We had Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, and Willis Reed. My grandchildren have A-Rod, Ryan Braun, and Lance Armstrong.
We had Martin Luther King, Jr. and JFK. Today, we have David Petraeus and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Not to mention Anthony Wiener and Elliot Spitzer.
We had Golda Meir, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Abzug. Today’s young women have Sarah Palin and Sheryl Sandberg.
No more heroes, no more larger-than-life figures. Now everyone’s clay feet (or entire clay bodies) are revealed. (Unlike the miscreants during my youth, who didn’t necessarily keep it in their pants, but were protected by a less intrusive fourth estate. Come to think of it, I’m grateful for that.)
We (figuratively and literally) looked up to the brave astronauts hurtling into space. Now, we don’t even know the names of who is going where, when, or for how long. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 27 2012
Me protesting at 12 years old.
December 6, 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Free Soviet Jewry movement’s historic march on Washington in anticipation of Mikhail Gorbochev’s visit to the U.S. 250,000 people showed up to express their solidarity and to pressure the government of the USSR to “Let My People Go.”
I wasn’t at that rally. But by 1987, I had already lived in the US for 10 years and was a veteran of numerous local, similar events. I’d carried signs outside the Soviet consulate in San Francisco and on the sidewalk in front of theaters where Soviet actors or singers were performing. I’d almost gotten trampled by angry Asians at an event to condemn the USSR shooting down of a Korean jet-liner in 1983 and, because I was an adorably pig-tailed little immigrant girl who spoke good English (loudly) and didn’t appear to possess a shyness gene, I was paraded out to speak at rallies and fundraising events. Read the rest of this entry →