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Jul 24 2014

Tweens Ditch B’nai Mitzvah Parties to Build Playground in Chicago’s South Side

By at 4:20 pm

tweens

The kids are alright.

Meet Marc Luban and Ariana Handelman, a pair of 12-year-old BFFs from Chicago who have decided to forgo the modern bar mitzvah party, often ostentatious affairs featuring celebrity performers like Christina Aguilera (rock on, Sam Horowitz), in favor of helping other kids their age. In a partnership with their temple, Anshe Emet Synagogue, and the nearby Bright Star Church, the 7th graders will design and physically build a playground to serve the Bronzeville community on the South Side of Chicago, which is plagued by high crime and has few safe places for children to play.

The kids of Anshe Emmet and Bright Star Church have teamed up in the past for several events and projects. In fact, it was when Marc and Ariana visited the church to watch Barack Obama’s second inauguration that they noticed the area lacked a decent play area. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

That Time I Almost Picked Up a Hitchhiker with the Kids in the Car

By at 3:52 pm

hitchhiking

I saw a hitchhiker this morning. It was a woman. She looked like she was in her mid-40s. Scraggly, blond hair, a tiny butterfly tattooed on her neck, a defeated look in her gray eyes.

My first instinct was to pick her up. In fact, I slowed down and pulled up so close that she slung her grungy backpack over her shoulder and started to move towards our car. The lines by her mouth rippled out into a tight lipped smile.

“Who is that, Mama?” Evi strained to get a better view. Read the rest of this entry →

May 21 2014

In Search of a Toddler-Friendly Mitzvah

By at 4:11 pm

diapers

How many of the 613 mitzvot can a toddler do? We have a PJ Library CD in the car my daughter likes listen to on repeat (please send us a new one soon, Mr. Grinspoon). One song called “Did a Mitzvah” to the tune of “Found a Peanut” includes such mitzvot as “hugged a sad friend” and “shared my Legos.” It has me thinking a lot about what a mitzvah really is (as opposed to common human decency). I also grapple with how can I appropriately instill the values of compassion and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) for my precocious 2.5-year-old.

I am no halachic (Jewish legal) scholar, but I am pretty sure that sharing your Legos isn’t technically a mitzvah. Giving tzedakah (charity) is a good one, but my little lady doesn’t get an allowance yet, and she doesn’t exactly know the value of money. My personal favorite double mitzvah of doing “it” on a Friday night, isn’t really pre-school appropriate conversation. So how do I explain what a mitzvah really is? I try and do a mitzvah with her.

Many synagogues are getting ready to engage their congregants in a Mitzvah Day this spring. Though one day of service in your community may not put an end to hunger and human injustice, every little bit we do helps. I like to think of Mitzvah Day as the gateway drug to continual volunteerism. Aside from Mizvah Day activities you may be able to join, these are two ideas for making a meaningful mitzvah with your toddler any day (or several days) of the year: Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 1 2013

Let’s Talk About Tikkun Olam, Y’all

By at 9:51 am

shutterstock_106055141

With the exception of the occasional “y’all” that always elicits a chuckle, I think I have shed most of my Texan idiosyncrasies since I have been on the East Coast for over a decade now.

I do still cling to the music though, and once I drop my kids off at daycare in the morning I blast my country music until the windows rattle. To me, country music is about real life, love and loss, patriotism and simple pleasures. There are sagas of cheating lovers, brawls in honky-tonks, and heroic tales of our soldiers. Country music is my escape. One song will make me laugh out loud while the next will bring tears to my eyes. That’s country and I love it.

Country music is also filled with references to God and while the lyrics sometimes clash with my Jewish perspective, I appreciate the faith of the artists and the reminder that despite my hardships, there is a Greater Being looking out for the ones I love. But sometimes I hear a line from a song and I think to myself… hold up, that is definitely not Jewish. That was my reaction to a song I heard for the first time the other day as I was driving to work. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 21 2013

Friday Night: Repairing the World Means Helping People

By at 10:12 am

tikkun olam tedJoining PJ Library is one of the best things we’ve done as parents. Every month a new Jewish book arrives at our home and Lila learns about a Jewish holiday or concept through a story that’s meaningful to her. Several PJ Library books–like the Hanukkah counting book and the Dayenu”-centric Passover book–have become diaper bag must-haves, genuine favorites that we have read countless times. Perhaps because our experience has been so superlative, I was surprised by a disappointing recent selection.

Tikkun Olam Ted tells the story of a boy who is small in stature but does big things. He works to repair the world daily, and this storybook covers one presumably typical week. Each day, Ted does a different, vividly illustrated Tikkun Olam project. And whenever we finish the book, Lila enthusiastically chants, “’gain!,” eager for an encore reading.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 22 2013

Earth Day, Kveller Style

By at 1:01 pm

fresh fruit and vegetablesHappy Earth Day, everyone! If you’re looking for ways to instill a love and respect for the environment in your kids, Jewish tradition is a pretty good place to start. After all, one of the main tenets of Judaism is tikkun olam, repairing the world.

First, let’s talk about food (obviously). We have a great article on the site called “The New Jewish Food Commandments” and it’s all about ensuring that fresh, local, and environmentally friendly food lands on your kids’ plate. It’s chock full of great ideas like picking your own fruit in the summer, eating seasonally, and buying directly from local farms. For another perspective, check out Mayim Bialik’s thoughts on being a vegan, and how it correlates with the Torah and her own Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 5 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Lisa Borden

By at 12:21 pm

Orb candles

Kveller talked to Lisa Borden, creator of Orb Candles and holistic marketing guru from Toronto. Orb candles are made of organic Manuka beeswax rather than paraffin. Lisa designed the candles to use on Shabbat, and considers them an actionable way to do tikkun olam–repairing the world. Here’s her thoughts on parenthood, $36 candles, and the environment.

1. What inspired you to start Orb?

My kids – I think that’s my inspiration for everything! I am not only a Jewish mother of 3, but I am also the owner of Borden Communications + Design Inc., where I commit myself daily to improving the quality of our health and the environment through business development and consulting. When I would gather around my family Shabbat table on Friday nights (a time I adore, marking the end of a usually hectic week), I couldn’t understand how in order to honor Shabbat, we were supposed to damage our world and our health by lighting toxic candles. It seemed very natural for me to want to raise awareness about the dangers of conventional candles, and how dangerous it can be to overlook them. But, I quickly realized there wasn’t an option on the market that was easily available and truly safe–so, being focused on solutions, and in marketing and design, I set into action to create a safe, healthy and beautiful Shabbat candle. Simple! Read the rest of this entry →

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