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Aug 26 2013

How Your Kids Can Help You Mentally Prepare for the High Holidays

By at 10:07 am

balconyWe live on the third floor, and have a little balcony. My 4-year-old has taken to throwing things–toys, couch pillows, books–off the balcony. It’s really not OK, and he knows it. He also knows that if he throws toys he won’t see them again for a while, and that there may be some other consequence, to boot. But he’s 4, his impulse control is not so hot, and he’s testing boundaries.

This morning, I asked him to share the toy he was holding with his little brother, so he ran halfway across the apartment in order to throw it off the balcony. It was a clear f-you: If I can’t have it, nobody can have it. It was the last straw of a frustrating morning, and I yelled at him, really shouted, as I put him in a time out.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to raise my children in a home with yelling. I have a pretty firm commitment to raising them to feel loved, safe, and not afraid in their own home, and a screaming adult is terrifying to a small person. So to have slipped in a way that’s human and understandable but still, well, urgently not where I need to be–it’s a terrible feeling. This morning, I failed my son and I failed myself. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 27 2012

Coxsackie & Car Troubles: My Yom Kippur of Chaos

By at 11:23 am

car open hoodI remember Yom Kippur without kids, back in the day when you just worried about where you would eat before and after the holiday. Suffice it to say that Yom Kippur with kids is a struggle–it’s tough to make it contemplative and meaningful. Sometimes it is even tough to make it at all. Please, allow me to take you through my Yom Kippur of Chaos.

You see, we belong to two synagogues, one of them close to our home in New Jersey and the other in New York. We both love the High Holiday services for the shul we belong to in New York: the music, the attentiveness of the congregants, the active participation of the crowd are all unrivalled, and impart beautiful spirituality. So we go there for High Holidays each year. Hey, I know some fellow suburbanites who go into “the city” for a doctor. Consider this a religious checkup. But that being said, it does mean compromises–like having a 26-27 hour fast. Good times. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 25 2012

Fifteen Parenting Sins I Committed Last Year

By at 2:03 pm

erasing mistakesEver since elementary school, I’ve hated collective punishment. I remember my teacher explained that she was punishing our whole class to incentivize us to police one another’s behavior in the future. I thought that was nuts. I was mad at my badly behaved classmate, although I didn’t tell him or do anything specific about it, but I felt like I was suffering for no reason; it was about something totally unrelated to me. Read the rest of this entry →

Pop Quiz: Yom Kippur

By at 1:24 pm

yom kippur quizFrom what to wear to what to pray to what NOT to eat, how much do you know about Yom Kippur? Before you head off to synagogue, be sure to take our quick quiz on the Day of Atonement. And don’t feel bad if you get any of the answers wrong–now’s the perfect time to repent for our mistakes.

Take the Yom Kippur quiz here.

Sep 24 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Rabbi Heidi Hoover

By at 3:57 pm

rabbi heidi hoover interview on kveller.comRabbi Heidi Hoover is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek in Brooklyn, NY, but unlike most rabbis, Hoover grew up the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. We sat down with Rabbi Hoover to talk about her conversion, swapping clergy stories with her father, and why her Jewish kids believe in Santa Clause.

Do you and your dad ever bond about both being in the clergy, albeit different religions?

Yes! The day-to-day work of a member of the clergy has a lot of similarities across religions. When I was in rabbinical school he once called me to say, “I want to tell you about this committee meeting I just had, because you’re going to have to deal with stuff like this.” Another time he told me I’d inspired him to brush up on his Hebrew, and he called me once to say, “What do you think about [the word] chesed?” A couple of times I’ve called him for advice, in particular one time when I had to lead services in a very challenging situation.

(BTW, I love this question, and it’s not one I’ve been often asked.) Read the rest of this entry →

A Collective Apology for Parents on Yom Kippur

By at 10:29 am

sorry written in the sandLast year, Jordana provided us this “Parent’s Vidui”–a list of collective apologies specifically geared for parents during Yom Kippur. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday, September 25.

The Yom Kippur prayer known as the Vidui, or Confessional, is one in which each Jewish congregation stands up and collectively takes responsibility for its sins. Regardless of whether or not we ourselves have committed a given wrongdoing, we confess to it and thump our chest in contrition. We do so collectively so as to not shame those who have done these things, and to facilitate their admission and recognition of their wrongdoing. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 21 2012

What Happens if the Rabbi’s Wife Gives Birth on Yom Kippur?

By at 11:42 am

pregnant woman holding applesMy husband and I started dating when we were 20 and 18. Not too long after that, we had a discussion about the size family we would like to have one day. At the time, he was living in an attic apartment above a family of six kids. He loved watching them interact and play with each other, as well as help each other when needed. So, he said he wanted six kids. This is how the rest of the conversation went:

Me:  No, that’s just too many. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 19 2012

Days of Awe: Would I Ever Sacrifice My Son?

By at 4:51 pm

"Sacrifice of Isaac" by Rembrandt

"Sacrifice of Isaac" by Rembrandt

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (coming to a Jewish community near you next Tuesday night/Wednesday!) are called the Yamim Noraim, or the Days of Awe.

During these days, we’re supposed to think over our lives and how we want to change them in the coming year. We can use them as a launch pad for following the steps mentioned in the Unetaneh Tokef prayer. In other words, we can reduce the severity of God’s judgment by doing t’shuva (turning from our less-good ways), t’fila (prayer) and tzedakah (acts of charity). We hope by doing these things that we can be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. And during these days, I’ll be writing about parental perspectives on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days in between. Read the rest of this entry →

Yom Kippur: A Time for Some Serious Thinking

By at 2:06 pm

yussel's prayerJessica Hoffman’s recent post about her favorite children’s story, The Apple Tree’s Discovery, made me think about my favorite children’s book, Yussel’s Prayer.

I did not go to shul (synagogue) for about 20 years as my children were growing up. Although many disagree regarding their own families, I did not feel that my kids belonged in shul until they could sit quietly and not disturb others and could participate in the davening (prayer service). So even on the holiest night of the Jewish calendar, the night on which Yom Kippur begins and the haunting melody of Kol Nidre is heard, I stayed home. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 7 2011

It’s Yom Kippur

By at 12:58 pm

It's not just about the fasting.

Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown. It’s a serious and somber holiday that’s filled with meaning. Also known as The Day of Atonement, it’s a communal confession of all of the sins we’ve done over the past year. A day of fasting and abstinence. There’s even a prayer where we traditionally beat our chests, to feel the collective sins not just spiritually or emotionally, but physically too. Yom Kippur can be hard for parents to understand–and even harder for children.

So how do you explain Yom Kippur to your kids?

We’ve got a few good places to start. First, check out the basics of the holiday–once you have those down, you’ll be able to answer many of your kids’ questions. Then we have some suggested books to help make sense of the holidays. Personally, I’m a fan of a book called The Hardest Word, which tells the story of a bird named the Ziz who can’t figure out what the hardest word is. (Hint: it’s “I’m sorry.”)

But sometimes saying “I’m sorry” can become rote and meaningless, and that’s not what  real teshuva on Yom Kippur is about. Check out this mom’s take on how to really help your kids understand the meaning of forgiveness and apology on Yom Kippur.

And if your kids are old enough to be interested in the fact that you’re fasting, you can talk about how giving up food on Yom Kippur helps you to think about how important it is to be a good person. Maybe your child might want to “give up” something for the day, like skipping dessert. Or, you could also focus their attention on something else that many people do on Yom Kippur–make donations of canned goods to the hungry. Adding a little social justice to the holiday makes it even more meaningful.

We’re shutting down early today, but we’d like to wish all our readers an easy fast (or no fast, whatever you choose). We’ll be back on Monday atoned, refreshed, and possibly skinnier.

G’mar chatima tova–may you be sealed for blessing in the book of life!


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