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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 →

Jun 20 2012

Finding a Synagogue is as Hard as Finding a Nanny

By at 11:05 am

viewfinderAdi is getting older (20 months on July 7th) and she’s developing an attention span and she’s starting to be able to sit through things.

It’s time to find a synagogue.

The only problem is I can’t find one. I know. I must be a lunatic. I live in Manhattan and there’s a a synagogue about every three blocks, right?


But I can’t find one that I like. I’ve been researching on every one. Visiting every website. Reading every review. I figured I’d pick three that I would want to visit and then pick one. I’m searching for a synagogue the same way I’m searching for a nanny.

I haven’t found a nanny, either. Read the rest of this entry →

May 3 2012

The Rabbi-to-Be’s Job Interview

By at 12:17 pm

tie dye kippahMy name is Patrick Aleph, and I would like to be your rabbi. I’m graduating from an independent, progressive rabbinical program in a few years, so consider this my job interview. Kveller parents seem to want the kind of rabbi in their lives that I would like to be. So here it goes.

Fellow Atlantan Logan Ritchie in her article on Atlanta Jewish Kids Groups asked, “What happened to the Reform synagogues of yesteryear? I want my rabbi bearded, wearing a tie-dye tallit, and playing guitar.” Mrs. Ritchie, I have an on-again-off-again beard, wear a Super Jew shirt to shul, and have yet to retire from playing rock music in touring bands. We might get along really well. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 27 2012

Help Out Congregation Beth Elohim, Win an iPad

By at 11:44 am

There’s some exciting news coming out of Brooklyn: Congregation Beth Elohim, a landmark synagogue in Park Slope, has been named a finalist in the American Express Partners in Preservation Program. As finalists, they have a chance to win up to $250,000 to restore their beautiful stained glass windows in the main sanctuary.

congregation beth elohim american express

As the only Jewish institution named as a finalist, we’re definitely pulling for them. To win, they need your votes, and here’s how you can help:

- Vote for CBE daily at

“Like” them on Facebook and share the link so others can do the same

- Encourage your family, friends and neighbors to vote for CBE

- Join them for CBE Connects, an Open House event on Sunday, May 6 from 2 to 5 p.m.

And to thank you for voting in person at CBE or tagging the CBE Facebook page in your status update, they’re raffling off a year’s free membership at CBE and an iPad. So vote early, and vote often!

Finding My Jewish Community, or Making it Myself

By at 10:08 am

Though I want my kids to learn ancient texts, I don't want the learning to feel boring and antiquated.

Flashback to 2008: It is Friday night. My husband and I, along with one hundred parents of small children, are packed in like sardines for Tot Shabbat. Children run the aisles. I find myself feeling obligated and uncomfortable. After, we attend a kosher dinner in which we sit with three couples who already know each other and spend the dinner comparing diamonds, cars, and private school educations.

This would never be my synagogue. My kid will not go to Hebrew school here. What happened to the Reform synagogues of yesteryear? I want my rabbi bearded, wearing a tie-dye tallit, and playing guitar. I want my son to grow up to be a thoughtful, spiritual, civic-minded, Jewish man. How will he get to these milestones if I don’t start educating him now? Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 16 2012

Not All Cantors Raise Super Jewish Kids

By at 2:33 pm

super jewSince I’m a cantor, many people assume that my kids will be “Super Jews.” I’m not so sure about that.

I was asked recently what I thought about sending my child to the local Jewish Day School. For multiple reasons, my family does not find it to be a good option. Not only are we fortunate to be in a very good school district, that, while not perfect, will provide my children with a good education, the Day School is more traditional than is our preference. If we had a Reform community school, I would seriously consider it. But alas, we don’t. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 16 2012

The Not-An-Orthodox-Rabbi’s Husband

By at 10:26 am

man with diaper bagRussel Neiss’s wife, Rori Picker Neiss, is in school at Yeshivat Maharat. It’s the first institution to train Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic leaders. While his wife learns to be a Maharat, Russel is learning to be a Maharat’s husband.

I walked to the back of the synagogue clutching the overstuffed diaper bag under one arm and my screaming 10-month-old daughter in the other, and I wondered whether it was really worth it. This was her third diaper change since Shabbos services began that morning.

I’ve always liked taking her to synagogue. I especially loved those first few months where should would sleep through all of the morning prayers and the Torah service, only to awaken and cry at just the right moment before the rabbi’s sermon–thus affording me the perfect excuse to quickly exit, guilt-free.

The past few months have been different. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 27 2012

Do Children Understand Prayers Better than We Do?

By at 12:45 pm

the thinker statueI’m not the first aunt to think her nephew is awesome. But regardless of any bias that I might (or do) possess, I’ve come to appreciate the Inadvertent Philosopher who lives somewhere in my oldest nephew’s insatiably curious brain.

My nephews were taught Hebrew since their first mewling moments–their parents want their progeny to speak the language with relative fluency, for better communication with their Promised Land contemporaries as well as a connection to the language, text, and people of Israel. One lovely side effect of this effort is that Gil, now 6 1/2 (and probably his 4-year-old brother Dov as well), is also achieving simultaneous interest in the words in the siddur, reading the prayer book over his father’s shoulder in synagogue and asking questions. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 27 2011

Rosh Hashanah…Ugh

By at 10:13 am

Do we really have to go?

The Jewish holidays are right around the corner and my husband and I are dreading them.

It’s not just because we have young babies and the logistics of the holidays are enough to send me to the couch with a cool compress. (How do you keep to a nap schedule during the high holy days? Please explain.) Rather, at the risk of sounding like a teenager forced to go to Hebrew school year after year, we really don’t like temple.

My dad is a Rabbi, my mom is a prominent Jewish educator, and Jon grew up in an orthodox home—so this isn’t socially acceptable, to say the least.

And yet, here’s a typical conversation between us lately:

Jon: “I took off three days for Rosh Hashanah… Ugh.”

Me: “Wish you didn’t have to waste your vacation days on the holidays.”

Jon: “I really don’t like this time of year.”

Me: “My parents bought us tickets for services at their temple.”

Jon: “Ugh. My mom bought us tickets, too.”

Me: “I guess we don’t have to go to synagogue. We have Maya and Avi as an excuse. Who takes five month old twins to temple? Ugh.”

Jon: “How are we going to raise our kids with religion if we don’t like synagogue?

The truth is, there are things I like about Rosh Hashanah… I like kugel and apple cake, for starters. I also like being with family, the mix of crisp fall air and talk of renewal. I even kind of like tashlich, a tradition of “casting away one’s wrongdoings” by tossing pieces of bread into a body of water (my family has always been partial to a pond at a park near our home on Long Island). Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 2 2011

Friday Night: The Difference Between Babies & Cell Phones

By at 11:53 am

baby on cell phoneI took my six-week old daughter to synagogue for the first time last Friday night. My husband and I deliberately sat in the back of the congregation. At first, the baby sat contentedly in her car seat as the beautiful melodies of Kabbalat Shabbat filled the room around us. After L’cha Dodi, the rabbi began to speak. As he did, two things happened. The first was that my daughter opened her mouth and began to cry (I don’t usually like sermons either, so she clearly got that from me). The second was that someone’s phone rang loudly in a jaunty ring that would have seemed right at home in a beachside margarita joint, but less so in a religious service.

As I extricated my child from the car seat and prepared for a swift exit into hallway exile, the usher swooped down on the offending phone user and reminded her that cell phones should be turned off in a religious service. The usher then followed me to the door and held it open for me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, gesturing toward my poorly-mannered baby.

“Babies bother me a lot less than cell phones,” she said with a kind smile.

As I left the sanctuary, I thought about her statement, and her mentality made sense to me. After all, babies don’t have a ‘vibrate’ button (if they do, PLEASE email me ASAP and let me know where I can find it).  But more importantly, babies’ cries need to be attended to…and more often than not, contrary to the way we behave, those of a phone do not.

Back in my dating days, I remember one dinner with a guy…let’s call him ‘Jeff,’ since that was his name. It was a first date, and we’d been set up by a friend, in a rare deviation from my JDate recidivism. We went to a Japanese restaurant in the Village, and talked about his recent travels and mine. On the date Richter scale, it was much like the recent New York earthquake – comparatively benign.  Until, out of nowhere, this guy I’d just met whipped it out. Right there, at the table. Read the rest of this entry →


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