Oct 15 2014
Editor’s note: This post is the last entry in our year-long Torah MOMentary series. We are so grateful to Alicia Jo Rabins for taking us through the Torah this year with insight, honesty, and some very cute photos of her kids–as well as all the guest contributors to the series.
This Friday night we read V’zot Haberakhah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
When my daughter Sylvie turned 2, we decided she was ready to transition from her bedtime bottle of milk to a cup. To prepare her, we told her we were going to say “Goodbye, bottle–hello, cup.” She loved saying it with us: Goodbye, bottle—hello, cup. It seemed to help her understand what was happening. And it helped me understand, too. 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 →
Sep 19 2014
It was a no-brainer for me to send my daughters to a Jewish preschool. I loved the program, the teachers, and the sense of Jewish community. The school didn’t celebrate Halloween or Christmas and the students dipped apples in honey for Rosh Hashanah and made latkes (OK, they were frozen from a bag) for Chanukah. They ate lunch in a pre-fab sukkah once or twice every fall and sang Jewish songs and read Jewish-themed books. I knew my kids would go to public school starting in kindergarten, but at least they would go to Jewish preschool.
The school sent home lots of things about being Jewish–Jewish parenting articles and Jewish activities we could do at home. And then one day, when my older daughter was 3, they sent home a challah recipe.
My daughter and I had enjoyed some simple baking projects before, and I wondered what baking a challah would be like. Of course, baking a challah is more complex than, say, chocolate chip cookies, but I was willing to try it. So that Friday, I set about making my first-ever challah. I didn’t own a Kitchen Aid mixer at the time, so I mixed and kneaded the entire thing by hand. With risings, it took about four hours from start to finish. I made a roast chicken, carrots, and potatoes to go along with it. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 12 2014
We used to love Shabbat in our home. When my daughter was 2 years old we sang “Penny in the Pushke” while she put coins in the tzedakah (charity) box, swayed together to “Moving into Shabbos Time,” kvelled to watch her mirror her Ima’s motions for candle lighting, and melted when we rested our hands on her head to bless her. She loved the taste of grape juice and tearing a big hunk of challah when we finished HaMotzi (the blessing for bread). Every Friday evening felt richly relaxed.
Then our daughter turned 3, and our peaceful Shabbats steadily declined. She grew less patient with the blessings. She pulled on the challah so early the HaMotzi became “baruch ata… NOT YET… eloheinu… WAIT, DON’T PULL… HaOlam, HaMotzi–HEY, BRING THAT BACK!” She whined throughout the blessing over the wine, demanding to hold the grape juice herself. She had to be monitored every moment to not drink early or move in a way that would splash and stain. Our long musical Kiddush (blessing over the wine) was sung faster and faster, with less pleasure. During the meal she would dive under the table to visit our legs.
Worst of all–to us–was losing the blessing over our child. She started squirming beneath our hands, then running away until our once-intimate blessing turned into a chase around the apartment, and we were reduced to hurling the names of the matriarchs at our child’s back. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 18 2014
The temple I recently joined offers fabulous Tot Shabbat programs throughout the year, but none during the summer. And recently, over lunch with a local mom friend and fellow member, I casually mentioned that since we hadn’t been to services in a while, we were thinking about going before the summer ended. Her response: “Oh, nobody goes to temple during the summer. The place is empty.”
I’ve heard this of other temples too and wonder why it is that come summertime, so many people tend to put temple-going on hold. Granted, some families do go away, but most don’t have the luxury of taking a two-month-long summer vacation, which means they’re probably in town for a good part of the summer but either making other Saturday morning plans or simply choosing to stay away.
Now, as a once-a-month temple-goer at best, trust me, I’m not judging. But I do find it odd. Children are generally encouraged to keep up with reading and certain skills over the summer so that they’re not rusty come the start of the school year. Why doesn’t the same hold true for Judaism? 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 →
Jul 11 2014
On Friday afternoon, while I was alone with my infant daughter for a moment, there was a knock at the door of our hospital room. A short, pudgy woman–who just begged to be called Bubbe–pushed her reading glasses up on her nose and looked down at her clipboard, “Are you the Rosen-Prinz family?”
“Yes,” I replied quietly as the baby lay asleep in my arms. I had become accustomed to the constant daily interruptions after many days in the pediatric intensive care unit where doctors worked tirelessly to diagnose my baby with what we would come to learn is a very rare illness.
“Would you like a Shabbat kit?” she offered. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 1 2014
When my son was nearly 5, he and I moved to a new home. It was only 30 miles away, but those 30 miles changed everything. We left the insular Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, and settled into a Modern Orthodox community in Rockland County, New York.
Although I was virtually alone, I was determined to remain connected to my past and remain observant. My commitment didn’t come from a particular religious belief, but from the strong resolve to stay connected–and help my son stay connected–to our network of Hasidic relatives. For my son, I believed, it would help nurture a relationship with his Satmar family.
But things didn’t go as I’d hoped. Staying religious as a full-time single parent meant spending Shabbat in our tiny basement apartment, waiting, waiting, waiting for the day to pass. My son also had trouble fitting into the religious community and, despite my best efforts to go to shul and participate in meals in the neighborhood, we felt shut out. It wasn’t from lack of effort on the community’s end. We simply didn’t fit: nothing of my socioeconomic situation as a struggling single mom belonged in middle-class Modern Orthodox suburbia. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 27 2014
My husband and I have been married for close to eight years, and up until our son turned 2, our attendance record at temple had been pitiful at best. But over the past six months, we’ve all been attending monthly Tot Shabbat services at a local temple, and we really like it there. The people are warm, the rabbi is great, and the programming so far seems to meet our needs. On more than one occasion, we’ve been given a nudge to consider joining, but it was only recently that I finally decided to request a membership info packet. I was all set to fill out the forms, send in my check, and call it a day, but then I realized that becoming a member of a temple carries a lot more weight than simply dealing with paperwork.
It got me thinking about the first time I decided to join a gym. I knew back then that I wasn’t just signing up to pay a monthly fee–I was making a real, actual commitment to go. Regularly. More so than that, I was making a commitment to my body, which meant eating right, getting more sleep, and embracing healthier habits. It really was a lifestyle change, not just a membership that came with a glossy card.
When I think about joining a temple, I’m faced with a similar thought process. To me, joining a temple is more than just having a random piece of paper lying around confirming my membership. I’m already committed to a Jewish lifestyle, but there’s one aspect I’ve yet to commit to, and that’s my local community. Read the rest of this entry →
May 2 2014
This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Emor. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
Being a perfectionist is supposed to make you miserable. But to be honest, I always found it sort of fun–until I became a mother.
As the parent of a small human, though, perfectionism is out the window, along with every other fantasy of control over life.
I’m not even talking about the big, agonizing stuff. I’m talking about my living room. Read the rest of this entry →