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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 →

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 →


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