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Mar 18 2014

Teaching My Son to Be a Mensch Through Music

By at 3:18 pm

Music-mensch

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

Why I Added Some Jewish Learning to My Over-Scheduled Life

By at 12:15 pm

why I added Jewish learning to my life

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 Husband is Pulling a Sandy Koufax on Our Yom Kippur Wedding Anniversary

By at 2:32 pm

sandy (1)

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 →

On Yom Kippur, We Become Like Angels… But Angels Don’t Have Children

By at 9:55 am
two little girls in white

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

Getting Up Close & Personal with the Torah

By at 3:25 pm

torah sofer scribeAs 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 →

Sep 9 2013

B’nai Mitzvahs Need a Revolution, But Not That Kind

By at 10:10 am

b'nai mitzvah revolutionOver here at Kveller we know a thing or two about outrageous bar and bat mitzvahs. (Just last month we posted a video of bar mitzvah boy Sam Horowitz shaking his groove thing alongside paid dancers shaking their [well formed] groove things all in celebration of little Sam becoming a man.)

Now, the Reform movement is recognizing that there’s a problem with the American b’nai mitzvah. But it’s not the elaborate parties they’re taking aim at–those have been going on for quite some time (I recall swan ice sculptures at the Harvard Club and my own cousin who imported Olympic athletes to his fete). Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 28 2013

Friday Night: Not Doing Shabbat in a Church This Time

By at 1:06 pm

moses cartoon parting the red seaI was waiting in the examination room of the pediatrician’s office with my two daughters. They were digging through the basket of children’s books in the corner, and my 4-year-old found a small board book with a red and green cover. “Here, Mommy,” she said as she brought it to me, “let’s read this one. It’s about Christmas.”

My daughters know a fair amount about Christmas. They go to a home daycare run by a lovely Catholic woman; she does Hanukkah crafts and plays Shira Kline’s music even as a large tree decorated with lights and colorful ornaments stands in the corner of her living room. They understand that Christmas is something that our Christian friends do, and that we’re Jewish, so we celebrate other holidays.  Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 27 2013

How Do I Explain Special Needs to My Kids?

By at 2:19 pm

questions chalkboardI don’t usually consult other people as to what I should say in a given situation. But sometimes, bereft of a frame of reference, I find I need help–and I’m turning to you.

I’m a mom of four kids. While none of them have special needs, I want to be sensitive to those who do–and to parents of special needs kids. And that’s why I’m asking for your advice.

I would never want to be a party to making anyone feel awkward or excluded, but I find that there are situations that arise sometimes where I want to make sure that I am doing the right thing, and am asking for your help. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 1 2013

From the Department of Rude: A Memo on Smart Phone Use at Shul

By at 9:46 am

I have a hard time staying away from my iPhone. Too often my phone is on the table during lunch with a friend. I’m drawn to it while standing in line or whenever there’s two minutes to spare. Trust me, I’m not proud of my attachment to the thing. In my defense, I at least draw the line at using my phone inside the walls of a synagogue.

It seems that not using cell phones in shul was once standard practice among all synagogue goers from the most frequent to the occasional bar mitzvah attendees. I’m afraid those days are long gone. At a family “Tot Shabbat” service I recently attended at our Conservative synagogue (where the laws of Shabbat are technically observed) I noticed several parents and kids playing around with phones. During the dinner that followed, I saw some of the younger tots distracted with iPads.

It was disheartening. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 7 2013

Ban the Bar Mitzvah: A Rabbinical Student Rethinks The Time Honored Ceremony

By at 12:21 pm

As a rabbinical student, I know that one day I will have to tutor your kid for a bar or bat mitzvah. But guess what: I don’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong, because I love kids. Especially during holidays. There’s nothing more fun than watching kids beat each other at dreidel, or get their hands all gross from honey on Rosh Hashanah and chase after one another. That’s good stuff. The bnei mitzvah? Not really worth anyone’s time or money: and there are four big reasons why. Read the rest of this entry →

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