Scheduling Remembrance: Sometimes Life Gets in Way

Jewish mourning rituals meant nothing to me when my brother died. It took nearly two decades for me to embrace the gift Judaism gives mourners – regular times to remember the loved ones we have lost.

My brother Kevin died 26 years ago today on March 1, 1986. He was 23. I was 21. I grew up ignorant of the structure my religion offers mourners. Singing in temple choirs and attending Shabbat services gave me my first lessons about Jewish remembrance. I noticed the people who stood to hear the names of those they had lost – spouses, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Today, I am no longer so ignorant of my faith’s rituals. But, I confess, it’s not always easy to stop life and remember.

Continue reading

Finding Courage to Write about Faith

I used to duck conversations about religion. Write about my own religion? I avoided that, too.

Religion is a touchy subject in America. It’s a touchy topic within families. It’s just plain touchy to talk about religion whether you’re a Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist.

I look back at 2011 and realize that it was the year when I found the courage to write more deeply and publicly than ever before about my own Jewish faith.

Continue reading

A Jewish Mom’s Dilemma: Does Hanukkah Have to Compete with Christmas?

Summary: I’m not the first Jewish parent to face this conundrum. How do I make sure that my young son’s fascination with the Christmas spectacle doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm for his family’s religion? In a Dec. 18, 2011 column for The Boston Globe Magazine, I write about dealing with this dilemma and attempting to keep Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday, in its proper perspective.

Reaction: The article drew more than a dozen reader letters and prompted discussion as well on the Globe’s website. It was also picked up by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Opinion section shortly after publication in the Globe.

Read Boston Globe article.

Getting into a High Holy Day State of Mind

September 28, 2011

Rush, rush, rush. Husband has a new job. I have a new job. Our toddler goes to day-care three instead of two days a week. To top it all off, the High Holy Days are upon us.

I’m trying, really, really trying to get into a High Holy Day state of mind.

Rosh Hashanah was not an automatic day off at either mine or my husband’s workplaces. He began his new job less than two weeks ago. I started mine, a part-time teaching gig, three weeks ago. To ask or not to ask? We asked and received the day off. A colleague offered to teach my class. My husband used one of his personal days. Problem solved. But how to then bring the spirit of the High Holy Days into our still frenetic lives? Maybe the answer is to just let it happen.

Continue reading

Lesson for Parents on Shabbat: Adapt to Young Child’s Needs

August 5, 2011

My son is teaching me the importance of adaptability at temple services.

Our family is often the odd duck at Friday night services at our temple. We bring our 3 ½-year-old to regular evening services , and he’s often the only child there. During the school year, we usually only go to Tot Shabbats because the regular service is at 8 p.m., around Simon’s bedtime. But at our temple, summer services start at 6:15 p.m. It gives us a short window to be able attend a service without Tommy the Torah puppet as the main attraction.

Continue reading

Finding His Voice: Toddler Fills House with Jewish Song

May 23, 2011

It always sounds a little bit like Passover at our house. Nearly every day, our 3-year-old son sings Dayenu. He warbles it in the bathtub. He belts it out as he strums his ukulele and marches around the living room and kitchen. Sometimes he hums it before he goes to sleep.

You’re thinking that I should say, Dayenu (enough)? No way. Simon is equally enthusiastic about singing David Melech. Jewish music has become a part of the fabric of our family. Simon likely does not understand the meaning of the tunes or that they are even connected to his faith. Does it matter? Not at this point. He can learn the significance later. Judaism early on in his life is a natural, vibrant presence.

Continue reading

Toddler Teaches Passover Lesson: Set Low Expectations

April 26, 2011

My childhood memories of Passover are fleeting. My parents, my brothers, and I celebrated two-minute seders. Eat matzo. Four questions. Hide, find afikomen. Done. Thanksgiving, not Passover, was the holiday I remembered best. That was the day that brought us together.

Now, I’m a Mom and more connected to my Jewish faith than I ever was in childhood. I want Passover to be a holiday my son remembers and treasures. Passover will trump Thanksgiving. I learned something important this Passover. Set low expectations when it comes to a seder and a toddler.

Continue reading