Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflecting on Chanukah at Age 7 3/4

A Chanukah Interview with Eli Bailit, Rashi Second Grader, Age 7 ¾

Mommy: You made a pretty cool Chanukiah a couple of years ago – what did you use for materials?
Eli: I made it with a board of wood as the base and nuts as the candleholders. We have to blow out the candles as they get close to the bottom so the wood doesn’t burn.

Mommy: For the past few years, we have had the tradition of giving gifts to children in need one night out of the eight nights of Chanukah. There is even an organization, started by Rashi parents and temple members, called “The Fifth Night” that asked for donations for Birthday Wishes this year. You learned something interesting about the fifth night of Chanukah. What was it?
Eli: I learned in The Jewish Book of Why that, a long time ago, parents gave gelt to their children ONLY on the fifth night.

Daddy: Can you spin a wooden or plastic dreidel longer?
Eli: Plastic.

Daddy: For how long?
Eli: Seventeen seconds.

Mommy: How many chanukiyot do we have in our house?
Eli: Eleven.

Daddy: Where did your oldest chanukiah come from?
Eli: My great-great-grandmother, Edith.

Daddy: If you light all of your chanukiyot on the eighth night, how many candles would that be?
Eli: Eighty-eight candles.

Mommy: Who is “Menorah Man”?
Eli: We have a battery-operated menorah that sings to the tune of Maoz Tzur. It has a face on it, so you call him “Menorah Man”!

Mommy: What was your favorite gift this year?
Eli: You and Daddy gave me the Patriots jersey, and I wore it to my first Patriots game ever on December 4. You said it was a Chanukah present, so you wrapped it up and gave it to me for Chanukah. The card said “Surprise!,” but it wasn’t.

Mommy: What feels better: giving a gift, or receiving a gift, and why?
Eli: Giving a gift, because it makes you feel good.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jews Who Get Tatoos

This blog post from Molly Tobin (Wheaton College Class of 2013) was originally published in the Wheaton Wire on October 12, 2011.
For as long as I can remember there was a standing rule in my house: no tattoos. It was always explained to me “Jews don’t get tattoos.” I still debate whether my parents were opposed because of Jewish laws and customs or because of my mother’s own hatred for them. Nevertheless I broke the rule and got a tattoo.

I was never hesitant to share my tattoo with other people, especially because of the symbol representing equal rights. However I felt ashamed to show it to one person, my Nanny. She’s not my relative by blood, but I consider her to be my grandmother and thus one of the people I most want to make proud. She was friendly with my grandparents whom I never knew and is able to provide me with stories of them and a sense of connection. Nanny is remarkable in so many ways, but a tattoo is something I was sure she would never appreciate or adapt to. For three very successful years I hid my tattoo from her, but over the summer its existence was revealed.

I was sitting right beside her when she was told about it and I am sure that I looked like a ghost. Unsure of what to do or say, I turned to her and said, “I know, my grandparents would be ashamed.” She quickly looked at me and started shaking her head, “they would have been proud and privileged to have known you.” I was relieved, but then she impressed me even further. As she questioned the symbol and asked what it meant, I explained that it was about equality and my belief in equal rights for all people. She then smiled and stated, “don’t worry about the tattoo then, as long as you wear what you stand for.”

I learned something from Nanny that day; customs, beliefs and practices are not forever. As times change, people’s beliefs and understandings about certain events and actions change. For me, this is prevalent in my religion. Often certain prayers or customs during the holiday’s or throughout the year don’t make sense to me. One example for me is the idea of “keeping Shabbat”. Imagine not using any electricity for 24 hours, I have tried and after 30 minutes I didn’t know what to do with myself. In an age where everything is digital the temptations are simply too great. Imagine 24 hours without a microwave, car, Facebook and iPhone apps; I simply couldn’t do it. Though I am respectful of those that do keep Shabbat, I know I am not alone in not keeping it. Many peoples compromise has become driving to synagogue on Shabbat. While they may use electricity, they still show their dedication and faith by attending Friday night services, something many others have given up on. Perhaps fifty years ago temptations wouldn’t have been as great in keeping Shabbat, just like tattoos were not as common.

Nanny showed me that things change and sometimes you can’t do anything but go along and accept it. She could have acted flabbergasted and upset by my tattoo, but then I thought, “What would have been the point of that?” That just creates conflict, damaged relationships, and in my family makes people suffer from some of that famous “Jewish guilt.” I am eternally grateful that Nanny knew that and  instead instilled me with some of her ahava and hokmah – love and wisdom.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rosh, the Ring and Feeling Connected

This blog post from Molly Tobin (Wheaton College Class of 2013) was originally published in the Wheaton Wire on October 5, 2011.

This past week Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or popularly referred to by my eldest brother as “the Rosh.” Rosh Hashanah is the New Year on the Hebrew calendar and also marks the beginning of what is known as the High Holidays or High Holy Days; the period of time between the start of Rosh Hashanah and the end of Yom Kippur.

I made a decision a few years ago to not attend High Holiday services. It was not a protest against my religion or a rebellion against my parents. I articulated that I didn’t like that so many people attended services on these two days, and yet I had never seen most of them in synagogue on the other 363 days of the year. But I also felt services to be impersonal and insignificant for me. I felt connection in temple at other times of the year, whether during services or social gatherings, and I didn’t see a need to loose that connection simply because it was an important holiday. This year I have spent a lot of time thinking about connection and discovered that my connection to Judaism was made stronger during the times I least expected.

I have been immensely fortunate to travel to Israel three times in the last year. Each time I deplaned at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, the first thing I did was put my sunglasses on. No matter what the weather was outside, inside the sunlight was always blinding. It was a tremendously dramatic scene to walk through the airport towards immigration and glance outside the window noticing it was cloudy, but then looking straight ahead and seeing sunlight consume the corridors.

Walking through the streets in Jerusalem, goose bumps constantly travel up and down my arms. The Old City is surreal and the atmosphere unique. My entire mindset changes and I feel comfortable, as if I am on a cloud. It is not that I compare being in Israel to a religious experience like sitting in synagogue (though it could be) it’s that I don’t need to be in a place of worship to feel touched and connected.

Part of the process of reconnecting with Judaism and reclaiming my faith has been to understand the ways in which I feel connected. I don’t always feel connected by sitting in synagogue – though I have a tremendous respect for those that do. However I felt connected this summer by spending multiple days with a Holocaust survivor; I have felt connected enjoying a casual cup of coffee with the Rabbi of my synagogue; I have felt connected by spending time with over 150 young Jewish adults in Israel over the course of my travels.

Yet, I have discovered it is an object that makes me feel the most connected: the ring I wear on my finger everyday. Inside it is inscribed to the memory of my Grandfather and the exterior reads “ani malkah bet malkim.” Literally meaning “I am the queen of the queens.” However figuratively it connects me as the descendant of my Grandfather and makes me a part of his legacy. The ring’s simple presence on my finger connects me to his love of Judaism, his pride in Israel, and his dreams and hopes for his family. This ring makes me feel connected to a man I never knew and helps me to feel Jewish in a way that I couldn’t attain from attending synagogue.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tips for Surviving Your Older Sibling's Bar Mitzvah by Temple Member Shayna Tribush

Ed. Note: The following essay was written by TBS Member Shayna Tribush for her weekly sharing at the Rashi School. We present it here as a "survivor's guide" for the younger sibling. Much congratulations to Shayna's sibling, Rylan, on the celebration of his becoming Bar Mitzvah, and to the entire Tribush family.

The photo is of another younger sibling at TBS "surviving" the celebration of his older brother's becoming Bar Mitzvah.

I know a family bar mitzvah can be hectic for the younger child, but I can tell you how to get through with style!

  • Tip #1: Always have a book on hand. As soon as the family starts bickering open it up and begin reading.
  • Tip #2: Stay out of the way and try not to be more of a distraction. This will make sure that you don't get into trouble. Warning for fellow troublemakers, this might be hard.
  • Tip #3: Tell the sibling that they are doing a good job even when they are really not. SHHHHHHH!
  • Tip #4: When mom says she needs to go to Starbucks, let her go because she really needs it.
Hopefully using these four tips will help you survive this stressful, but insanely fun event.

- Shayna Tribush, Grade 3

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What’s Your Favorite Hanukkah Music?

I was in Staples yesterday and noticed (perhaps later than you have) that the Christmas music was already blasting throughout the store. Now, I'm no Grinch (I'm a huge fan of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and our interfaith family has a lot of other Christmas music in our collection), but it did make me long for my favorite Hanukkah music.

My absolute favorite Hanukkah album (and now a staple of our family’s December playlist) is “Hanukkah Rocks” by The LeeVees. Trust me, with songs like “How Do You Spell Channukkahh,” “Applesauce vs. Sour Cream,” “Kugel,” and “Latke Clan” you can’t help getting excited for Hanukkah and the anticipation of spending time with family and friends. The music is infectious and the lyrics range from funny to touching - making “Hanukkah Rocks” one of my favorite CDs/iTunes downloads to share. Definitely check out the links above and let me know what you think.

What about you? What’s your favorite Hanukkah music? Are you a fan of the classics or have you discovered new favorites (like Matisyahu’s “Miracle” from 2010)? Share your favorites in the comments!

- Michael Goff

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beth Shalom Garden Club - Garden Therapy at Charles River ARC

On November 29, 2011, eight women from the Beth Shalom Garden Club in Needham presented a special workshop for the young women's group at the Charles River Center in Needham. The young women enjoyed creating their own "Chinese Food Take-Out Bouquet," with flowers and instruction provided by the Club.

Through gardening and nature-related activities, those with disabilities can experience a greater sense of competence, enhance sensory stimulation, improve motor skills, and find occasions for socialization, self-expression and creativity. Every year, as part of the Garden Therapy Program, the Beth Shalom Garden Club members bring floral design programs to different groups, including The Walker School and The Charles River Center.


Beth Shalom Garden Club Holiday House Tour Participation

Temple Beth Shalom Garden Club was invited to participate in the Needham Women’s Club Holiday House Tour on December 4 and join ten other teams to decorate tables for the holidays. This “Festival of Holiday Tables” was a new addition to the tour.

Marjorie Golden graciously opened her home to display 10 festive tables in addition to our presentation in the dining room. Our team designed a table for an elegant winter wedding that was beautiful and stunning. I have included just a few of the photos. If you want more photos, you can email me or Sue Kaplan.

I also want to mention that Denise Garcia also decorated her lovely home for the tour and her decorations were also beautiful.

Congratulations to Denise and the Temple Beth Shalom Garden Club team: Sue Kaplan, Sylvia Golden, Debbie Kraft, Anita Glickman, Judy Levine, and Carol Gershman. This invitation to participate was extended only recently and with just a few weeks, the team was able to present an elegant floral table that delighted everyone.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,

Carol Gershman

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hiding the Jew in Me

This blog post from Molly Tobin (Wheaton College Class of 2013) was originally published in the Wheaton Wire on September 28, 2011.

Earlier in the week, a friend posted on my Facebook wall addressing me as her, “Jew friend.” Last night as I was sitting in my kitchen at home, my mother walked in carrying two trays of homemade challah she had just hand-braided. These are a fraction of my weekly experiences that remind me of the obvious: I am Jewish.

I grew up in a household that celebrated all of the Jewish holidays and felt proud to be Jewish. Judaism was a part of my daily life, as were Jewish values and the concept of Tikkun Olum – repairing the world.

When I graduated High School I was sure of who I was and yet my first day on campus my Freshman year I felt the need to reinvent myself. The part about myself that I went to great lengths to avoid was my faith. It wasn’t that I felt unsafe or unwelcome as a Jew, but with such a small population of Wheaton’s campus identifying as Jewish, I didn’t want to be part of such an obvious minority. I wanted to fit in, so I thought it couldn’t be with this small group of people. Furthermore, when I did appear at a Hillel event there were only a handful of people. I couldn’t help but question where everyone was, surely there were more than 10 Jews at Wheaton. I thought maybe being Jewish isn’t fashionable and I hid myself from Jewish life as I think so many others on campus do.

My second year at school I realized I couldn’t try to reinvent myself and be happy. I started to become involved in clubs, but I still felt lost. In December I made a daring decision to travel with a group of 40 strangers to Israel on Birthright. I completely fell in love with the country, but finally realized I was undeniably Jewish. It’s not that I consider myself to be a religious person; it’s quite the opposite. It’s the culture of Judaism that I love and I had been denying myself a major part of who I am and the sense of belonging. This summer, after two more trips to Israel, during a month long program for Jews aged 18-26 in California, I was asked to write down 5 things that described me. It took a mere moment to write my first answer, “Jewish.” When asked to explain my answer I simply said, “if I wasn’t Jewish I don’t know who or what I would be.”

Wheaton prides itself on acceptance and diversity and I am now proud to be part of a small population on campus. I am privileged to be apart of a campus where people feel comfortable and accepted to display their religion, sexuality and beliefs. It has taken me two years to abandon and regain my love of Judaism. It was a struggle to get to where I am today, though I couldn’t be happier about where I have arrived.

To all of you who have never hesitated to express yourself I say Yasher koach – a job well done and may you have the strength to continue. I also thank you for showing me the way to do the same for myself.