December Dilemma v. Thinking Broadly about Religion in Schools

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As I write this, K-12 schools are wrapping up classes or may have already finished them for winter breaks. In elementary schools, no doubt, many teachers have felt compelled to mention Christmas and Hanukkah in some way.

Look at the photo above, though. First-grade teacher Debbie Fagg at the Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School in Wichita, KS, is teaching about Hanukkah in early November as part of a multi-week unit on three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She brought the menorah … Continue reading

Passover Joy Comes in Small Packages

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April 2, 2012

As a few adults rush by him, my 4-year-old twirls around as he plays with a wind-up matzo ball toy. He giggles as he watches the matzo ball hop across the rug.

“It’s like in Big,” the sales clerk at Israel Book Shop says. “He just brings such joy into the store. He should come every day.”

I create an unambitious shopping list for this recent Passover shopping trip to Brookline, which has a few blocks of Jewish delis and stores. Simon has a day off from preschool. The … Continue reading

Dressing Torah Brings Me Closer to Faith on Shavuot

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June 8, 2011

“Slowly. You don’t have to rush it,” the rabbi said. I was trying to quickly tie a bow on the belt wrapped around the Torah.

My rabbi, Howard Jaffe of Temple Isaiah in Lexington, Mass., held his finger in the center of the string to assist. Bow-tying is a weakness of mine. I tie shoelaces by forming two bunny ear loops. I tied the strings and reminded myself to breathe. I was not on stage. I was in the chapel of my temple during the morning Shavuot service. … Continue reading

Spiders, Frogs, Oh, My: Author Sylvia Rouss Tries to Engage, Comfort Children

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April 11, 2011

Children’s books by Sylvia Rouss lately have fascinated my toddler and me. As Passover approaches, we are reading Sammy Spider’s First Passover. And Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah will take center stage at our first night seder. The Littlest Frog, which pokes fun at the Pharaoh as frogs jump on him, has become a new favorite.

So how did Rouss, a Jewish preschool teacher from Los Angeles, get her start as a Jewish children’s author? Why create … Continue reading

Happy Hanumas? Ditch Season’s Greetings

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Happy Hanumas? Happy Chrismakah? Merry Hanukah? The winter holidays are fast approaching. It’s time for non-celebrants of Christmas to ready ourselves for the onslaught of seasonal niceties from store clerks and acquaintances. No one, of course, will blend a greeting that pays tribute to Jewish and Christian holidays. Most will tell me, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.” No one will likely utter Happy Hanukkah.

Am I bitter about this? No, I’m a mature adult. I live in a country dominated by Christianity. Christmas is the one holiday that leads to a shutdown … Continue reading