Of Interest

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Sometimes it feels like everything on the internet flies by so quickly that even really interesting things get buried in the rush to post post post. In the hopes of at least remembering some of the interesting things that are going on around the web, here’s a post with some notable links, things that you may or may not be interested in. And some shameless self-promotion (hey, it is my blog, after all).

  • What parent hasn’t read Goodnight Moon to their children? This post addresses certain issues with the book in a deliciously hilarious way. My husband and I laughed heartily many times while reading this.
  • Whoever came up with bad lip reading is a comedic genius. I couldn’t stop laughing at these clips from the 2015 NFL Bad Lip Reading video.
  • The wise and relatable Bibi of the Conscious Doer posted a picture of her twins in the most adorable vests. She also had a link to the woman, Jennie Santopietro, who makes the vests, and I contacted her to order some for my boys.They came last week in a beautifully prepared package, which was an absolute pleasure to open. I was already excited to receive the vests, but when I opened the package, I saw that Jennie had included a thank you card (so thoughtful!), some knitting patterns (for when I start someday), and had wrapped each vest in a different color of tissue paper. The attention to detail and aesthetic was so delightful. And look at these vests!
    the cuteness!

    the cuteness!

    I ordered it to fit him for next year, to hopefully get more wear time out of it

    I ordered it to fit him for next year, to hopefully get more wear time out of it

     

  • I received an email from Nancy at the Binah school, letting me know a) about the school’s existence and b) that they are having an open house on Tuesday night, February 10th in Lakewood, New Jersey. The school is a day and boarding school for 8th grade through 12th grades in Sharon, Massachusetts, and it systematically integrates school-wide project based learning with rigorous Judaic and secular studies (that’s what the Facebook page says). Checking out the school’s page showed me some interesting things like the girls making a rain garden, building bridges (metaphorical bridges) to other Jewish communities, doing code (awesome!), and studying Chumash. They’re currently accepting applications for out of town students, and you can contact co-founder Michal Oshman at moshman@thebinahschool.org, or check out their Facebook page.
  • Blogger and amazing human being Renee Schuls-Jacobson has been painting up a storm. I have one of her paintings in my kitchen. You should absolutely check out her page.
    it's so cheerful! I love it!

    it’s so cheerful! I love it!

     

  • And now for the self-promotion – I have two new videos on my YouTube channel. I’ve had some writing to procrastinate recently, which means I’ve been wildly productive on the music scene. This first video is the result of a couple of friends suggesting that I learn the music to the Cantina Band scene in the first Star Wars movie (like, the original). I looked online for some sheet music, but didn’t find any that satisfied me. So I transcribed the music from this video. And then I made my own video.
  • Apparently, procrastination is my most effective muse. About a month ago, I read this poem by Rachel Kann. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed poetry. A long time. Like ten years long. So when I saw that there was poetry on Hevria, I was kind of “meh” about it. But then I read her poems and I was blown away. Just floored. These poems – they moved me. I liked them. Looked forward to reading more. This gave me all kind of feelings, and one of the feelings was the desire to create. So I started working on a song about a month ago. Over the last couple of days I completed it. And I had a ridiculous amount of fun making this video. Because carrots are dancing! Hello!

That’s it for now. I’m hoping to do a post like this about once a month, so if there’s something online you think I’d enjoy and would like to see here, just let me know. Have a great rest of your week!

My Daughter, Jewish Aggressor

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One thing I’ve enjoyed about living on the east coast is proximity to so many interesting places. Growing up in the midwest meant a drive of at least three hours to get to another metropolitan area, and sometimes that metropolitan area was still on the small side (I’m thinking of you, Des Moines).

We’re in the thick of midwinter vacation, and my husband didn’t work on Sunday for a change, so we took a trip to Philadelphia. Our destination was the Please Touch Museum, a enchanting building full of delights for the eyes and the imagination.

magical cloud hopscotch (obviously)

excited to be the prince of hearts

excited to be the prince of hearts

on the carousel, needing a haircut

on the carousel, needing a haircut

the mother of all water tables

the mother of all water tables

Going to a children’s museum is kind of like going to the United Nations (okay, I actually have no idea what that’s like, but work with me here). I enjoy seeing how so many different types of parents can be observed wearing the same look of awe and pleasure as they watch their children excitedly discover and explore the exhibits.

There were a handful of Muslim families there, with one family dressed in an eye-catchingly conservative manner. The mother was in a full-on all-black all-covered (except the eyes) outfit. The father was also all in black, wearing a robe-like outfit and a black head covering. Their daughter was wearing a hijab and their sons also wore robe-like outfits.

A few hours into our playtime, my daughter started to melt down (I think she was asked to share something with another girl and that was just too much! Too much!). She tearfully stomped over to a display of interesting vintage Mr. Potato Heads and contemplated the difficulties of her two-and-a-half year existence.

The smallest Muslim boy of the aforementioned super-conservative family walked over and joined her at the display. She, still being in a lousy mood, reached over and pushed him.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. Of all the children in the entire museum, this is the boy she chooses to push?

Quickly, I reach down and try to prevent any further aggression. She goes limp noodle in my arms and wriggles down onto the tile floor where she can properly flail and cry, just as the father of the boy comes around to this fiasco of toddler behavior.

I have an out-of-body experience as I picture what this must look like: Me, in my sheitel and jean skirt, baby strapped to my chest in a wrap, trying to pull my hysterical Jewish daughter away from his little very religious-looking Muslim son.

Amaaaazing.

The father, in a very calm voice, starts asking the boy “why is the girl crying?” and I realize that he probably thinks his son had something to do with it. I then immediately realize that I am going to have to tell him that my daughter started it. I take a deep breath and burst out with something like:

“Oh, he didn’t do anything, she’s just in a bad mood now and pushed him so I was trying to get her to stop and now she’s crying aren’t kids funny hahahahaha?!”

We look at each other and there is a moment of parenting solidarity. He smiles, I smile, we shake our heads and look down at my sniffling child.

“She could use a nap,” I offer. He laughs.

Just like that, we are not two people representing cultures that are often at odds with each other, but instead, two parents, both in the trenches of raising our children.

And it reminds me of how much I love going to the children’s museum, where despite the many differences of all those present, we are all connected through this journey of parenthood, and we are all coming to the same place to give our children the opportunity to explore and learn.

Maybe I’m naïve (okay, no maybe about it. Let’s call it idealistic), but I think that world peace just might be possible at the children’s museum. Maybe the UN should meet there instead.

State of the Blog

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The last few posts I’ve written here have been kind of intense, and then last week this post went up on Kveller, so I’m taking a breather this week from all things personal! I thought I’d do some state of the blog announcements instead.

What’s the plan for the blog?

Continue reading

Beyond Europe – A Review of Pepper, Silk & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East

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This book is clearly a labor of love.  For over forty years, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer has been collecting anecdotes and histories of Jews in the Far East.  With the help of Dr. Ellen Rodman, the rich information he has gathered is presented in the 23 chapters of Pepper, Silk & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East.

Rabbi Tokayer is uniquely suited to author a book like this.  He served as a chaplain in the US Air Force, and was stationed in Japan in 1962.  He returned to Japan in 1968 and served until 1976 as the only English-speaking university educated rabbi for the Jewish communities in the Far East.  He has written twenty books in Japanese (!!) on Judaism and Jewish life, as well as The Fugu Plan:  The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II.

Before receiving the book, I assumed that most of the content would focus on Jews of Asian descent. While there are some chapters dedicated to communities like the Bene Israel in India, and the Jews of Kaifeng, China, the vast majority of the book consists of tales of Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews who found themselves living in Asia.

I read about a baseball player turned spy, a case of mistaken identity leading to the discovery of an ancient Chinese Jewish community, the story behind the logo of a major corporation, a Jewish general in the Chinese Army, a banker who saved Japan, and a place where no one can really say when Shabbos starts.  And that’s not even half of what Rabbi Tokayer shares with us. Continue reading

Why Orthodoxy?

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After deciding to actively get involved with Judaism, the most logical starting place seemed to be at a synagogue.  My scant knowledge of these houses of worship was derived mainly from my childhood piano recitals, held in the synagogue my teacher attended.

I faced an unexpected array of choices, having only recently learned that there are three main denominations of Judaism: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.  Most, if not all, of the Jews I had known were Reform, and I felt comfortable with the movement on a social and political level.

Somehow I ended up in a Reform rabbi’s office, sitting across from him and his books, so many books.  I don’t remember much of our conversation except how nervous I was, and his recommendation to shop around for a synagogue that I felt comfortable in.

And so my quest to find a spiritual home began.  The peculiarity of my search was painfully obvious to me, causing me to be far more reticent than normal.  In each congregation, I would make myself as small and unobtrusive as possible, trying to look natural, nonchalant.

Mostly, I had no idea what I was doing.   Continue reading

You Asked, I Answer

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{Super happy to announce that the winner of my Hanukkah Hoopla giveaway is Marla!  Hooray!  You’ve won a custom CD that I’ll put together based on what you are in the mood of.  I sent you an email, so please get back to me within 48 hours so I can get started on your CD!  Congratulations!}    

Last week I started updating my About page.  When writing myself up, I vacillate between doing a “standard” bio, which includes basic information, and a “silly” bio, which includes humorous tidbits and self-deprecation.

Not able to decide which route to go this time, I opted to pass the responsibility onto you, oh readers.  I put out a request on the blog’s Facebook page and also Twitter.

AboutMe

You did not disappoint.  I received a range of questions, some short and easy, others deeply inquisitive.  I’ve arranged them (roughly) in order of lightest to deepest, for your reading pleasure. Continue reading

Nine Questions About Writing

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In my mental description of my creative self, I identify as a musician, not a writer.  Despite all the writing I’ve done over the years that moniker never really feels authentic.

And why not?  Because I don’t have a degree in writing?  Because my work has only been published online?  Where’s the line I need to cross to feel comfortable calling myself a writer?

When I read this post by Nina Badzin (who I definitely consider a writer), I think I started owning the writer in me.  Her friend Kristen M. Ploetz started a meme of sorts with this post, to which I could completely relate.  She asks nine questions about the writing process, and a number of other bloggers have answered, either in the comments or in their own posts (like Nina, Zsofi, and Lindsey Mead).

I decided to chime in with my own answers: Continue reading