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Controversial Observations, Uncategorized December 26, 2013

What’s Your Red Line in Parenting?

This past weekend, our educational organization, JFX, offered a little experiment: an “outreach” Shabbaton for Orthodox Jews.  A Shabbaton is a weekend retreat, often at a hotel, where Jewish folks celebrate Shabbat together, usually with workshops or other inspirational and motivational sessions.  In an Orthodox-led retreat, there is observance of Shabbat in public spaces (no photos, microphones, electronic media).

JFX is an organization that mostly services families whose kids are in public school (although we have a nice minority of day school families), so this “Orthodox-only” Shabbaton was new for us.  Our thought process: often, people need to zoom out in their Judaism and seem to really appreciate a back-to-basics approach that organizations like ours offer, since we don’t assume that anyone knows or believes anything.  We have found that Orthodox people, whether they’ve been so their whole lives, and thus never experienced this “outreach” approach to education, or whether they are “BTs” – people who have become religious as adults or teens – and have moved through and past the “outreach” approach, and miss it, very often crave the kind of positive, panoramic style of teaching we offer.

(Sidebar: in no way am I suggesting that “our” style of education is superior to “classic” Orthodox education.  Different models are appropriate for different situations.)

So, the Shabbaton.

A lot of really interesting things came to light, in contrasting this particular Shabbaton with the others we run.  Maybe another post one day.  But for now, I wanted to focus on one thing.  We had a panel discussion on Shabbat afternoon, which covered topics such as “Balance in Family – Kids and Marriage,” “Love and Discipline in Parenting,” “Making Judaism Real for your Kids,” and “Happiness.”  One of the questions was:

We all know that in order to raise emotionally and spiritually healthy children, we need both unconditional love and clear boundaries.  What is your red line in parenting?  Which battles do you pick? 

Every single one of our panelists gave the same response (which didn’t happen with other questions).  I am really curious if this is an “Orthodox thing” or a “universal thing,” so I am turning it over to you guys.

How would you answer this question, and do you affiliate Orthodox?  At the end, I’ll tell you what they said!

Uncategorized July 17, 2012

God: Up, Up, Down, Down

Through the baby monitor, I heard these words from my two-year-old daughter:

“Up, up, down, down…
up, down, up down…”

I knew immediately what she was singing!  Uncle Moishy’s song about God [Hashem]:

Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere
Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere
Up, up, down, down
right, left, and all around
Here, there and everywhere 
That’s where He can be found…

Apparently, she had been learning this ditty in her little day camp around the corner from my house.  I found this to be overwhelmingly heartwarming, and repeated her genius to everyone I know (hence, here).


Because I adore the fact that my very young child, who can barely put together a sentence, is absorbing in her young and fragile psyche ideas that I hold so dear.

That God is omniscient.

That He is omnipresent.

That He’s personal.

I take God personally.   That means I believe He cares intensely about what I do, micromanages world details to accommodate and make possible the personal growth of me and others, employs a level of detail in the minutiae of my motivations and machinations, and it’s all because He loves me.

Were you told that God loves you?  If you ever opened a prayer book to the Shema, it was right there, in the paragraph preceding it. 

Tim Tebow opened this question to the world on a whole new level: does God live on a sports field?

Here, there and everywhere, that’s where He can be found…

While hearing my child sing this song gives me intense comfort and peace, I acknowledge that there are those for whom it brings a stiffening of the neck. Was the Tebow debate about the detail of God’s personal involvement? Was it the resistance of Jews to unabashed declarations of faith?

Is that discomfort dependent on WHICH God we’re talking about (well-nigh irrelevant: a Jew would never wear his God on his sleeve. Why?)?

How much longer can my little girl unabashedly sing “Hashem is here” without filtering?

Related posts:
I’m In a Relationship
The Beauty of Basherte

Uncategorized April 2, 2012

The Deification of the Children

My friend Adina Soclof is a parenting expert, blogger, and all-around good person.  Today I’m over at her site,, blogging about the Deification of the Children, which originally appeared on my “other blog,”

An interesting trend is emerging in the way some parents recognize
their children’s milestone events, that I believe is
generation-specific: Facebook birthdays posts, for instance: have you
ever seen friends post happy birthday messages to their “awesome,
accomplished, talented” kids (who are turning 5) who have “taught me so
much, inspired me” and thanking them for the “honor and privilege of
being your mom”?

Which leaves me to wonder what exactly has a five-year-old
accomplished on this earth that hasn’t been facilitated by, organized
by, paid for and dutifully recorded digitally by his parents?

Click here for the rest!

Uncategorized March 29, 2012

The Most Important Word of the Seder

Hey readers… today I’m blogging over at Life in the Married Lane, a blog by my friend Rivki Silver.  Rivki is my band-mate, fellow can’t-stop-thinking-about-random-things-usually-connected-to-Judaism girlfriend, and grammar geek.  I like her.  And her blog is great reading too.

“Word association game:  Seder.

What do you think of?
Brisket.  Matza.  Family.  Bitter herbs (maror).  The Four Questions.  The Four Cups.  Afikoman.
Yup, all those are features of the seder.  But I’ll bet the most important word is the one you haven’t thought of.”

To read the rest, head over this way.  And have a wonderful Passover – if you’re Jewish!

Uncategorized October 6, 2011

Is Your Dog Orthodox?

Why are Orthodox kids scared of dogs?

I have a better question:  Why do dog-owners get offended when Orthodox kids are scared of their dogs?

Here’s the answer to the first question; dog owners will have to supply the answer to the second:

Orthodox kids typically do not grow up with dogs as pets.  Their relatives and classmates typically do not either.  Therefore, they are not used to them.  Therefore, they don’t know how to read their signals or distinguish from pit pull to golden retriever (did I get that right?).  When a huge doggie leaps up and is larger than said child (or not), it can be frightening.

Which begs an even better question:  Why don’t Orthodox people typically own dogs?

Some hypotheses:

1. They have more kids instead of pets.  Me, if I ever thought I had the time and mental energy to handle caring for an animal, I’d say to myself: Self!  What is stopping you from bringing another child into this world?

2. For kids of Holocaust survivors, dogs were a no-no, as the Germans used them for crowd control, and worse.

3. There are some Halachic issues with caring for a pet on Shabbat and holidays.  Yes, yes, I know that they can all be surmounted, but some people would prefer to avoid this issue in the first place.

4. Part of Jewish philosophy is the stressing of the distinction between human and animal.  I don’t know if or how that relates, but I sure find it interesting, especially as society as a whole tends to humanize animals and animalize humans.  Think Curious George all the way down to the Berenstein Bears, to the zoo telling us we are simply cooler primates.  Jewish philosophy disagrees.

5. Due to the above and possibly reasons I’ve never thought of, it has become culturally unusual for Orthodox people to own dogs – which drives its own resistance.

Nevertheless, I want to stress that it is not AGAINST Halacha (Jewish law) to own a dog, and if an Orthodox person wants to, he most certainly can, and all the power to him, and that’s awesome.

And if it could please not lick my face, I’d be decidedly grateful.

Any other hypotheses out there?