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
This past Shabbat, my wife, son and I visited another shul. For the record, we went to this shul not because we were unhappy with our current one, but because there was a guest speaking and friends had invited us to join them. It was during Kedusha that our 2.5-year-old son began to do what he does best: explore.
Amit loves the Torah service, he loves the regal aspect of the Torah being passed around the room and giving it a kiss and delighting in the traditions that keep us going. You may see where this is going. Amit took finding the Torah into his own hands. He promptly walked on the bimah (podium) and made a beeline for the ark. He pulled back the curtain just enough so he could see the Torah scroll and then stood on his toes to touch and kiss.
As parents divided by the mechitzah (the divider between the men’s and women’s sections of an Orthodox synagogue) and stuck in our tracks as we stood for Kedusha, my wife stood at the front waiting for a moment to get his attention. I, his father, stood near the back and was torn by emotions. Should I move throughout the shul anticipating disaster? Or should I just let my son do what he does best and then handle it if something goes awry? I’ll admit, though I’m not a nervous person, I did schvitz a little; it was a new shul and there weren’t many other children in the sanctuary. I moved closer when I could, and did a double take–Amit was the only child in the sanctuary! He was doing what he should: exploring shul and finding the beauty in Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →
May 16 2014
On a Shabbos morning some months ago, my husband, fatigued by minor surgery he had the day before, left the service in the main sanctuary of the synagogue and went into the small, empty chapel downstairs. He lay down on his back on a pew and closed his eyes. Soon, he told me, he heard the voices of young children.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
“He might be sleeping.” Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 25 2014
The children’s service at the synagogue where I teach on Shabbat–filled with singing, dancing, and prayer–is saving me during my never-ending divorce proceedings. Though designed for a young audience, the hour provides an opportunity to reflect on the past week, to give thanks, and to ask for strength in the week ahead. I listen to a few words about the Parsha (the weekly Torah portion), kiss the Torah with the children, and take comfort in the momentary peace.
My favorite part of the tefilah (prayer) is and has always been the silent prayer. While I love our tradition, enjoy the melodies we sing and appreciate the liturgy that has been passed down for generations, the silent prayer is the one prayer I “get.” This prayer enables me to say whatever is in my heart in a way that reflects who I am, silently, unscripted, and uninhibited. My silent prayer now includes hopes for our children and asks for assistance with my problems, but overall the prayer is the same one I have been reciting since I was a child.
This past Shabbat, following class, I joined a friend for lunch at a nearby cafe. As we meandered back to our car enjoying the long anticipated spring weather, we passed by two women on a park bench typing on old typewriters. The sign next to them read, “Give us one word and we will give you two poems.” Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 28 2014
All parents have wishes of what their children will become and this is mine: I want my daughter to be a rabbi. At the young age of 4, my daughter loves being Jewish. She loves Shabbat, she loves all the Jewish holidays, and she loves learning about Judaism. She says the Kiddush proudly on Friday nights wearing her kippah.
My daughter is lucky to attend preschool at our local JCC and the program is simply amazing. Not only has she made wonderful friends, but my husband and I have, too. She learns about doing mitzvot and about being a mensch. She learns about the Jewish holidays and takes it all in like a wet sponge.
For someone who went to the Joint Program, (Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University) I have a good understanding of what Rabbinical school entails and I think she would be able to handle it. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 18 2014
When I say my 3-year-old son Ben is into music, I mean it. Toddler parents will get my seriousness when I say he loves music more than his beloved trucks, play kitchen, and extensive puzzle collection. Looking for Ben? Check his “concert,” a corner of our living room that’s become packed with kazoos, shakers, a ukulele and a “guitelele,” and–our third birthday present to him–a beautiful djembe drum.
My husband and I were both high school band types, and going out to hear live music was a big part of our pre-Ben social life. So it felt right to take Ben to his first concert at age 8 months, to a Saturday morning family show at Club Passim, the famous folk music club in Harvard Square.
Alastair Moock, the musician who played that show and later appeared at such prestigious venues as Ben’s second birthday party and the Grammy Awards, did not, to our delight, wear a costume or do a goofy “character” voice. He played real instruments–guitar, banjo, ukulele–and sang wonderful original songs plus folk classics I recognized from my parents’ record collection. Ben stared intently. He was in. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 13 2014
I am undoubtedly overwhelmed, overextended, and stretched too thin on any given day, at any given moment. A 3-year-old son, almost 10-month-old twin daughters, a home to maintain, a small business we are trying to grow, a new photography venture, articles to write, a cooking club, and a few other activities all make my life insanely chaotic and wonderful.
Then why did I commit myself to one more thing? Because, if you notice the list above, there was nothing dedicated to being Jewish. I am committed to raising my children in a Jewish home, but was I doing enough to achieve that just by sending my son to the daycare at the local JCC? So when I was invited to join Chai Mitzvah, a women’s learning group at my synagogue, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 12 2013
My 10-year wedding anniversary happens to fall on the most sacred Jewish holiday–Yom Kippur, a.k.a the Day of Atonement.
It’s a day when even non-observant Jews feel enough fear and guilt (passed along through thousands of years of D.N.A and bed-time stories) to polish their dress shoes and head to shul.
When I broke the news of the calendar coincidence to my husband Dan, he was giving our 4-year-old daughter a bath.
“Our anniversary is on Yom Kippur this year,” I told him. The bizarreness of the situation made me almost gleeful in the telling.
“Can’t we celebrate another day?” he asked.
“But our anniversary isn’t on another day. It’s September 14,” I said. Read the rest of this entry →
Young children aren’t always so angelic.
I have always loved the idea that on Yom Kippur, we become like angels. Maybe because it appeals to the optimist in me–rather than thinking about how hard the day is because we can’t eat, I prefer to think about how beautiful it is that on this day we ascend to the spiritual levels of angels who do not need to sustain themselves with food and drink. On this one day of the year, we dress in white and remove the trappings of physicality to focus on our inner essence.
Yet the words “angelic” and “young children” are not ones that usually go together (and if they are, my first instinct is to believe that the parent who describes their offspring as such is simply having sleep-deprived hallucinations). While in my pre-child life, I spent most of Yom Kippur in synagogue, reflecting on the past year, thinking about how I could be a better person in the coming year, and striving to be angel-like, in my post-child life this is simply not a realistic option. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 10 2013
As a writer, I love words, but I’m pretty indifferent to the letters in the alphabet. When I’m typing, I don’t even glance at the keyboard. And of course, my children and my writing rarely mix, except when I send an otherwise polished email that abruptly ends in a flourish of ghnjopiarp!, the result of rogue little hands.
So the feat of “writing with children” took on meaning last month, when my preschoolers and I visited a sofer, or Torah scribe, at our synagogue in Rochester. The Torah, dating from the 1800s and entrusted to our congregation, had been destroyed in the Holocaust and was now being restored, one letter at a time–by the sofer and our congregants, tracing in tandem over 300,000 letters. And the week before Rosh Hashanah was my family’s turn to scribe a letter. Read the rest of this entry →