Aug 22 2014
Lately, being Jewish on North Haven–the small island in Maine where we live–has felt like a non-issue, though I still tend to think of myself as the only one. Which made it all the more surprising when, as I was getting ready to leave the seasonal bakery I run and go pick up 3-month-old Penrose, my friend Rosa, one of the nearly 1,000 summer visitors we get out on the island, stopped me.
“The girls and Mark and I were talking and we wanted to organize a naming ceremony for Penrose if you’d like,” she said. “I bet it will be the first one ever on North Haven!”
I paused, momentarily stunned. I had considered a simchat bat ceremony for her, but real life took over, and between recovery, my husband’s return to work, and opening the bakery, we never got it together. I had also never been to one, and other than the bagel and lox spread at the end, I didn’t know what it would entail. To have someone else run it for us would be amazing. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 1 2014
“Do you believe in God, Mama?”
A hard lump of something rose up from deep in my chest and got lodged in my throat.
This was the kind of question that pierced right to the heart of things, the kind that forced you to take sides, make a decision, woman up. The kind of question my 4-year-old daughter excels at. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
When a Kveller reader recently sought advice on finding a Jewish ritual for mourning the passing of her cat, I wrote off the request as being outside of the boundaries of normative Jewish practice. Judaism’s elaborate and meaningful mourning rituals and practices are for people, not pets. I felt that saying kaddish or observing the yahrzeit of a pet, no matter how beloved, would somehow take away from the meaning and power of these customs and laws.
And then our beloved guinea pig Caramel died.
Caramel was no ordinary guinea pig. In addition to her rather impressive size and multiple chins, she was a fairly accommodating rodent who often kept my eldest son company during homework time and who enjoyed a good (supervised) romp on the front lawn (The smells! The tasty grass!). Caramel occupied a special place in our hearts (no offense to her cage mate, Cinnamon), and I knew that mourning her was going to be difficult.
We chose a sturdy shoe box for her coffin and my husband went outside to dig the requisite hole in the yard while the kids mourned over her furry, lifeless body. Not wanting me to close the lid, I explained to them that the coffin is closed during most Jewish funerals so that we can remember the person as they were when they were alive. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 22 2014
The voice mail came in while we were swimming. It was Saturday, the afternoon before Noah’s sleepaway camp ended.
Infirmary. 100.7 fever.
“Do you want to get him tonight or have us keep him here until pickup tomorrow?” the nurse asked. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 25 2014
Credit: Tom Kates
It’s been a year since you wrote “Since My Divorce, I’m Missing the Mikveh,” and you know what, Mayim? You and I have a lot in common.
OK, so I’m not a movie star. But I have watched “Beaches” approximately 517 times. That’s got to count for something, right?
Like you, I grew up in the world of those who knew not of mikveh, and significantly expanded my learning in college. I immersed before I got married and my introduction to mikveh was from a more traditional perspective. In all honesty, as I learned more about alternative uses for mikveh, I had a hard time with it. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 20 2014
Each night before my daughter, age 2.5, goes to sleep, she has a “special minute” with my husband, and then one with me.
This started as a compromise so that we didn’t both have to be present every night for her lengthy bedtime rituals, but the special minute has evolved into a complex ritual of its own. We talk about, in this order, five things at the drugstore, five things at the zoo, five things at the doctor, five things at the Jewish Museum (the National Museum of American Jewish History, here in Philadelphia), five things at the Please Touch Museum (the local children’s museum), five things about her mirror (yes, really), and five things about today.
And we do this every night, just when I’m the most exhausted, right when I’m on the verge of getting some alone time, exactly when I need her just to be asleep already. We talk and we talk and we talk. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2013
Giving birth was the most spiritual experience I ever had.
It was as if my body, mind and soul–my very being–was on high alert. I felt a new closeness to the man with whom I had fallen in love years before and who was now the father of my child. I felt an intense identification with the Creator God, to whom I prayed each day, and who was our partner in the creation of the new life I had just pushed from my body.
But as a religious Jewish woman, I was disappointed that my tradition provided no special prayer or ritual to mark my rite of passage from “woman” to “mother,” even as I softly said the generic Shehechiyanu blessing (“…who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time.”) Read the rest of this entry →
May 20 2013
Everybody is ready to give you advice. Give them a pacifier. Put them to bed early. Learn to take care of yourself.
Most of this advice has many different sides to it and a lot of it is based on your personality. The only advice I ever needed and want to give is: Rituals. Make them happen. It is the little rituals that have changed my life. Rituals build the moments. Smaller ones and bigger ones that shape who your family is and how they interact. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 10 2012
“No, Mommy. No Shema tonight.”
“Nobody else does it at bedtime.”
And so it begins.
We were on vacation last week, and my 3 1/2-year-old was overjoyed to be sharing a room with three other preschoolers. Every day, she would ask again if she could sleep with the “big kids” again, and every night she bounded up the stairs to the kids’ room, eager to get into the trundle nestled between three twin beds. At which point, she got to see how other families do their bedtime routines. The other families aren’t Jewish, so needless to say, they weren’t singing the Shema each night. So, my daughter didn’t want it either. Read the rest of this entry →