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Apr 17 2014

“Number the Stars” Does More Harm Than Good When it Comes to Holocaust Education

By at 12:06 pm

number-the-stars

Shortly after our discussions on Kveller about the appropriateness of the Purim story for preschoolers, my 4th grader needed to read “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry (whom I will always adore due to the “Anastasia Krupnik” series).

I knew it was a book about the Holocaust, and I decided to read it first, so that I could be prepared for any questions he might have. (I’d initially confused it with another title, which follows the main character and her family all the way to Auschwitz.)

What I found in “Number the Stars,” however, was a book about the Holocaust… kind of. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 14 2014

As We Celebrate Passover, The Tragedy in Kansas City is a Painful Reminder of Our History

By at 11:17 am

JCC-kansas

Tonight, the Jewish people will collectively celebrate our freedom from bondage. As yesterday’s murders at two Jewish targets in Overland Park, Kansas by a white supremacist made quite clear, there are still those who hate us, who murder us, who want to see a world without Jews. We mourn the murdered, and bemoan a world where such horrors can happen in unexpected moments and places.

But tonight, we will open the doors to our homes to welcome in a taste of the “World to Come.” We will recline, we will rejoice. All who are hungry, let them come and eat in our Seder feast. Let them hear the story of how far we have come, over thousands of years.

We live. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 21 2014

This Week’s Torah Portion Offers a Glimpse into the Pain of Losing a Child

By at 10:11 am

fire

This post is part of our Torah MoMmentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Shemini. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Maybe it’s my morbid streak, but the darker Torah stories are generally my favorites. After all, if the Torah portrayed a perfect world, I would just feel worse about my own messy life. Instead, reading these ancient stories makes me feel like things are OK. My life isn’t perfect, but no one’s is or ever has been. So I love that Torah stories aren’t all about angels and flowers.

But although I still appreciate stories of veiled seduction and secret weapons, I find that becoming a mother has (somewhat to my dismay) lessened my delight in stories of child sacrifice and gory deaths. And rather than appreciating the drama of this week’s portion, I found myself feeling sort of disturbed by the family tragedy.

Without warning, two of Aaron’s adult sons, Nadav and Avihu, are suddenly killed by God after offering a “strange fire” on the altar. It’s shocking. It seems to come out of nowhere. And God seems so…casual about the whole thing. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 4 2014

What You Learn in Your 20s

By at 10:52 am

highway

If all goes according to plan, this article will come out just shy of my 28th birthday. Since Pamela Druckerman is enjoying a lot of attention for her recent New York Times piece “What You Learn in Your 40s,” I thought I’d piggyback on her success and add my own two cents on what you learn in your 20s.

First and foremost, things you thought only happened to “other people” can very well happen to you. When I was 25 and sitting under fluorescent lighting in a stark office across from a geneticist who informed me—much too blithely for my taste—that my “fetus” was incompatible with life, I remember thinking: “But…but this kind of thing happens to other people. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen to me!” This was the first, rude awakening that expecting tragic circumstances to affect only other people is neither realistic nor very charitable of you. Why do you deserve to lead a more charmed life than someone else? News flash: you don’t. I don’t recommend walking around with the specter of doom and gloom at your elbow while expecting tragedy to befall you at every turn, but it would behoove you to remember that you are part of that amorphous “other people” to someone else. You are not untouchable.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2013

Why My Son Won’t Be Getting New Thomas the Train Underwear

By at 12:17 pm

thomas the train underwearPotty-training makes you do weird things. I tote oversized handbags around town, filled with spare changes of clothes and super-absorbent camping towels. I keep in the car a portable self-sealing potty which can contain waste should we need to make an emergency roadside stop. (We’ve never used it, but just in case…) I’ve attached a watch-like timer to our backpack so that the little guy is reminded by a song to visit a restroom every 90 minutes. My husband and I have rewarded our son with stickers, silly noises, and painting his toenails.

One of the most awkward choices of this parenting adventure involved a major compromise of my values–a visit to Walmart. For years, Walmart has been a place where we only purchase things we cannot find elsewhere. I avoid Walmart due to its poor treatment of female employees, active discouragement of unions and collective worker protections, and the deleterious effects its business model has on the economies of rural and small-town areas. As a Jew, fair and respectful treatment of workers is a weighty, holy obligation. The Torah mandates prompt payment for labor performed. Employers cannot expect employees to defer their own basic needs in order to acquire work. Our courts must mete out justice to the rich and poor even-handedly. Read the rest of this entry →

May 21 2013

How Parents Can Cope with a Tragedy Like the Oklahoma Tornado

By at 4:26 pm

tornado damageIn the field of social work we use fancy phrases like “caregiver fatigue,” “compassion fatigue,” “secondary traumatic stress,” and “vicarious traumatization.”

They all mean somewhat different things, but they’re all pointing to the same phenomenon: the ways in which doctors, EMTS, social workers, nurses, and increasingly, teachers–anyone who tends to the wounded and traumatized on a regular basis–can, and do, get exhausted and burnt out. They may become depressed or angry, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to manage difficult feelings, and they may have a hard time with sleep, focus, and ability to attend to daily tasks, among other things. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 11 2012

How Do You Talk to Your Kids About 9/11?

By at 1:37 pm
twin towers new york city

Via Flickr/Sander Lamme

“The flag is at half-mast today,” I tell my boys, pointing to the flagpole in front of the school this morning. “Do you know what that means?”

“That someone died?” my second grader asks, hoping he’s correct.

I explain that it was far more than one someone–that today is September 11th, the 11th anniversary of thousands of people being murdered by terrorists. I am trying to walk the fine line between scaring the crap out of the kids and letting them know that today is a day whose horror resonates and rings like a bell in a clear blue sky. They are just little children, after all. They weren’t even an idea when this all happened. To them, September 11th feels like history. To me, it feels like yesterday.

The flag is at half-mast. It isn’t enough. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 21 2012

I Was Cyber Bullied

By at 12:14 pm

cyber bullyingHave you ever been bullied on the Internet? Thanks to a discussion about the horrible murders in Toulouse, I have.

I’m a journalist and writer, and my work often attracts comments online. Those comments are not always nice and fuzzy. But Facebook feels somehow more intimate, though, than comments after an article. I’d always thought that “friending” someone meant a sort of tacit agreement to have discourse in a way that could be acrimonious, but would always be mutually respectful. After all, according to Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers)–”Your friend’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.”

I was very, very wrong. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 19 2012

What the Shooting at a French Jewish School Means For Us

By at 11:48 am
school shooting in toulouse, france

The father and children who were killed this morning.

Back when I was in elementary school, the words “school” and “shooting” did not go together. One did not flip on the car radio and hear a brief mention of a school shooting, where children were killed by a gunman who was either a random shooter or one of their disenfranchised peers. And if one did hear it, one certainly would not shake one’s head, flick off the radio, and then go about one’s business without thinking about it. But that is our new modern way of life.

I was in the carpool line for elementary school, of all places, when I heard the latest news. And by “heard,” of course, I mean “heard” in the 21st century sense. I was bored waiting for my turn to finally turn onto my street, and checked my smartphone email. I read the “Breaking news” subject line and my stomach sank: “Four reported dead in shooting at French Jewish school.Read the rest of this entry →

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