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Aug 18 2014

Why Are Temples So Empty Over the Summer?

By at 11:53 am


The temple I recently joined offers fabulous Tot Shabbat programs throughout the year, but none during the summer. And recently, over lunch with a local mom friend and fellow member, I casually mentioned that since we hadn’t been to services in a while, we were thinking about going before the summer ended. Her response: “Oh, nobody goes to temple during the summer. The place is empty.”

I’ve heard this of other temples too and wonder why it is that come summertime, so many people tend to put temple-going on hold. Granted, some families do go away, but most don’t have the luxury of taking a two-month-long summer vacation, which means they’re probably in town for a good part of the summer but either making other Saturday morning plans or simply choosing to stay away.

Now, as a once-a-month temple-goer at best, trust me, I’m not judging. But I do find it odd. Children are generally encouraged to keep up with reading and certain skills over the summer so that they’re not rusty come the start of the school year. Why doesn’t the same hold true for Judaism? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2014

I’m Thinking of Joining a Temple, But Am I Ready to Commit?

By at 9:59 am


My husband and I have been married for close to eight years, and up until our son turned 2, our attendance record at temple had been pitiful at best. But over the past six months, we’ve all been attending monthly Tot Shabbat services at a local temple, and we really like it there. The people are warm, the rabbi is great, and the programming so far seems to meet our needs. On more than one occasion, we’ve been given a nudge to consider joining, but it was only recently that I finally decided to request a membership info packet. I was all set to fill out the forms, send in my check, and call it a day, but then I realized that becoming a member of a temple carries a lot more weight than simply dealing with paperwork.

It got me thinking about the first time I decided to join a gym. I knew back then that I wasn’t just signing up to pay a monthly fee–I was making a real, actual commitment to go. Regularly. More so than that, I was making a commitment to my body, which meant eating right, getting more sleep, and embracing healthier habits. It really was a lifestyle change, not just a membership that came with a glossy card.

When I think about joining a temple, I’m faced with a similar thought process. To me, joining a temple is more than just having a random piece of paper lying around confirming my membership. I’m already committed to a Jewish lifestyle, but there’s one aspect I’ve yet to commit to, and that’s my local community. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 27 2012

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 →

Mar 9 2012

Friday Night: She Got In!

By at 10:06 am

On Tuesday, I sent my husband a text message that said something like: “SHE’S IN! Two mornings a week! Phew!!!” To which he replied: “?”

Wasn’t it obvious? I was talking about preschool.

Here in Park Slope, mecca of babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood, applying to preschool and kindergarten is almost more insane than college applications. (For example, one school has a Monday morning first-come first-served process… for which parents get in line at 4 and 5 am. When the doors don’t open until 9. In February.) For months now my friends and I have been talking about preschool. Where would each of us choose to apply? Should we just scrap the whole thing and start our own co-op with each other? How do you afford preschool in the first place–especially because you often still need a babysitter to pick the kids up? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 9 2011

Friday Night: It’s Not Hanukkah Yet?

By at 2:21 pm

Please, please, can't it be time for Hanukkah yet?

As I’ve explained before, we’ve been working hard on creating a family Shabbat with our 2-year-old. (It’s pretty amazing what the kid learns from a little Tot Shabbat, a Kveller singalong, and some awesome books from PJ Library.)

Every Friday night, we light candles, drink some grape juice, and eat some challah. Abigail knows that when we light the candles we cover our eyes, and she knows the order of the blessings, and though she can’t say the words yet, she knows to say “AMEN!” at the end. She calls it Shabbat-time, which I think is so adorable I can’t stand it.

Last Friday, my husband was getting ready to leave for work and he said, “Abigail, tonight when I get home we’ll do Shabbat-time together.” With palpable excitement, she responded, “And dreidel and presents?” He explained, “No sweetie, that’s Hanukkah. Tonight is Shabbat. Hanukkah is in a few weeks.”

Abigail got really quiet. I figured everything was fine, until she burst into hysterical tears. You know the kind–huge drops of water rolling down her face, nose instantly running, the kind of loud screams that make the neighbors think you need an ambulance? This kid was so upset that it wasn’t Hanukkah yet. Of course, my husband and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Eventually I got her to calm down by reading our latest PJ Library book, Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, you can’t come soon enough in our house.

Shabbat shalom!

Oct 28 2011

Friday Night: Shabbat Fail

By at 4:11 pm

Our challah didn't quite look like that...

As you may have read, my family’s been trying to create our own Friday night traditions for a while now. Some have worked, some have not. And last week… well…

Last week we had all the best intentions. There’s a new butcher in the neighborhood, and my husband’s been wanting to make his mom’s brisket recipe ever since we didn’t get it over the High Holidays. So he bought a brisket, marinated it, cooked it. (It was delicious–this isn’t the failure part yet.)

But we decided we might as well go all-out. We’ve been meaning to make challah for months, and last Friday seemed like a perfect time.

So we used a recipe that we’d gotten from a friend. As we made it, my husband retold one of his favorite stories–of a time when he was a camp counselor and his friend tried to make challah with her bunk. She ordered all the ingredients for the recipe through the camp kitchen. She followed the recipe exactly… not realizing that the “packet of yeast” called for in the recipe was quite different than the industrial-sized packet the camp kitchen had provided her. But when the dough started taking on a life of its own, she realized there’d been a problem. Funny story, right?

Well, it’s less funny when you consider what happened here. We let the dough rise (no yeast issues here), and braided it together with our 2-year-old daughter. She was really excited to eat the challah when it was done. We were too.

A few hours later, we lit candles, made kiddush over the wine, said a special blessing over our daughter, and said the hamotzi blessing over the bread. And then we tried to eat it. And discovered that it had about five times the amount of salt a challah should ever have. Entirely inedible, which made for a very sad 2-year-old.

But, on the plus side? When we told Abigail that we were going to have Shabbat, she said, “We light da candles!” So it seems our weeks of Tot Shabbats and Kveller singalongs have paid off.

Here’s hoping that we find a better challah recipe for this week… or at least learn how to FOLLOW a recipe! Shabbat Shalom!


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