Category Archives: Inspire

Sisters “Challah Back” in the name of social justice

The Challah Back Girls are on a mission to fill hearts and tummies with their unique cause-centered business that delivers delicious challah (a traditional Jewish bread used on the Sabbath and holidays) to your doorstep and gives back their profits to a deserving charity each month.

Ahead of the busy Rosh Hashana rush, I was fortunate to connect with this incredible business and learn how this company — run by four sisters — got started and how they became so committed to the mitzvah, or good deed, of giving back.

As part of our Blogging for Better series, I am proud to feature Challah Back Girls as our featured organization for September.

BFB: When you started your business was it always your intention to have a donations element to it?

CBG: Initially, the donations came in challah form, but as this project grew we decided to incorporate a fundraising donation element. When Hannah [one of the Challah Back Girls] was forced home from Binghamton University, during her final semester in March she blessed the family with delicious challot each week. Through family friends,
we learned that our neighboring town’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BVAC) had potluck Shabbat dinner and lunch every week, and so we offered to contribute to their meals with challah.

During the peak of the pandemic, we then expanded our efforts and brought challah to healthcare heroes and frontline workers working day and night, and found that while it was the least we could do for those putting their lives on the line. Challah Back Girls grew when we realized there were more cooks in the kitchen (literally). The high demand of challot we were making for frontline workers required all-Loffman-sister-hands on deck, and the four of us figured out where each was able to contribute
something unique while working towards the same goal.

After weeks of preparing challot to give away, we started to wonder how we could contribute to both epidemics plaguing our country: COVID-19 and anti-black racism. As protests erupted around the country, and our own town of Teaneck was challenging how racism still exists in our community, we realized the importance of supporting the movement in the ways we could.

We all attended the Black Lives Matter protest in Teaneck on June 6 to speak out against police brutality and anti-black systemic violence. It was important to us that the community send our money and support to organizations and communities who were leading the charge.

Simultaneously, we were receiving a lot of inquiries through our family’s Instagram account (@WeLoffToTravel) about if our challot were for sale. We didn’t feel right selling our challot just because they tasted like heaven. We wanted to find a way to combine spreading the challah love each week while supporting the work being done right now to address discrimination, poverty, racism, etc.

It was then that we marginally shifted our focus and after much thought and feedback, decided to start selling the challot and donating the profit we made each week to a different organization promoting social justice and supporting at-risk or disenfranchised communities.

9/11, pandemics and missing New York City

On September 11, 2001, I was a college freshman at a University about three hours north and west of New York City. That morning, I walked over to my 10 a.m. class and was greeted by a note on the door informing us that we would not be meeting today. At this point, two planes had already crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and another in Pennsylvania (supposedly headed to the White House).

Perhaps my later class was a blessing, because seeing these events unfold live might have pushed me over the emotional edge. Instead, I caught the continuous replay of the horrifying and unimaginable footage.

Still adjusting to college life, I didn’t allow myself to fully accept what was happening. It took me years before I could properly acknowledge my grieving friends and let myself feel the full weight of the day. Though I didn’t have a strong connection to the buildings that fell, as someone who grew up in the city, my heart will always be there, even if I am away.

But being away came with a good dose of guilt. Guilt I wouldn’t feel again until this year (but more on that later). For years after, I heard the stories from friends and family of how they could see the smoke from across the river in New Jersey, how they ran and ran from the destruction, how they were trapped in subway cars for hours, how they thanked whatever God they worshipped or just plain luck for keeping them alive that day.

And I heard the stories of others who lost their parents, their children, their siblings, their partners and their friends. Every year, I hear a new one. As if to remind me of the magnitude of this loss.

Yet, I wasn’t there. I was away and safe. Still in New York state, but far enough to not be effected. I was in my college bubble. I suppose I could have gone down to Manhattan, gone down to help in the clean up and rebuilding efforts. I thought about it, but I never did. I don’t think I could handle it.

Maybe the universe wanted me away. Maybe I was being protected.

It’s funny how that works.

I felt the same thing this year.

When the Coronavirus started destroying New York City, a large part of me felt ashamed for not being there. While I was away my city-dwelling friends were recounting stories of overrun hospitals, loss of loved ones and constant fear. I felt awful being so far away and not able to share in that discomfort. But, I also missed the comraderie, the sense of community which brought the city together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get life back again. Because just like after 9/11, the city fought hard to rebuild and came back stronger.

New York City may seem a bleak and hopeless cause. As more and more people seek new life in the New York suburbs and beyond, one wonders what will become of this great city.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went out to dinner in Manhattan with some friends. The Midtown streets we dined on were quiet save for a few boisterous twentysomethings attempting to have some semblance of a youth.

It would be easy to say Manhattan was done.

They said the same thing after September 11, 2001. In the aftermath, nobody thought Lower Manhattan, especially the areas surrounding the World Trade Center would ever again be a place of thriving business and tourism. Yet, almost 20 years later, Battery Park has become one of the best neighborhoods to live in, TriBeca grew into the destination for fine dining and business has returned to the World Trade Center.

Of course, the impact of the New Coronavirus is unique. People have adjusted to working from home and cramped apartments seem smaller than ever. People are venturing back to their old lives, but will it ever be normal again?

Probably not. But that’s OK. New York City will be forever changed, but it will always hold a special place in the hearts of all of us who love it despite all its flaws and hardships.

It’s time we give our kids more credit for handling the tough stuff

Kids are terrible about wearing masks.

Kids don’t wash their hands.

Kids won’t keep their fingers out of their mouths and noses.

Kids are gross.

Yes, kids are gross.

As a mom of two boys, I know this well. And, one whiff of my house, you would know this, too.

Yes, kids are tiny germ machines, and I understand why many fear them as little vectors of illness.I also don’t underestimate their potential role in spreading COVID-19. However, I think we also need to show children a bit more respect.

While plenty of adults throw tantrums over having to wear a mask for a 20-minute grocery run, plenty of kids wear their masks when needed with little complaint.

Maybe it is because kids are often more caring than adults?

I am not saying it is easy for a child to wear a mask for extended periods of time, nor that every child puts one on without a fight, but I am tired of these blanket assumptions that children are terrible about protecting themselves and others.

Both of my kids have spent hours outside, in the summer heat, in masks. I have seen other children do the same, even while us adults complain about how uncomfortable we are.

For kids, like my oldest, they see a mask as a safe way to do the things he loves. A mask means getting back to school to see his friends. A mask means a chance at some “normalcy.”

We all worry about how our kids will handle the changes at school, and if they can/will be able to comply with all the new “rules.” And, there is plenty to suggest they won’t.

But, as my own kids have shown me, children are often more capable of much more than we think.As many of us prepare to send our kids back to the classroom, anxious about their safety, I offer up a bit of hope and encouragement that they will be OK.

Celebrate the Jewish New Year with these easy, D.I.Y. honey jars

Rosh Hashanah is almost here, and what better way to celebrate the Jewish New Year than with a customized honey jar?

Honey, with it’s sweet, delicious flavor is synonomous with Rosh Hashanah and our desire for the upcoming year to be full of sweetness and joy.

While any honey will do, creating honey jars with your family is a great way to add a special twist on the tradition, and add some decorative flare to your Rosh Hashanah table. Huge thanks to a special person in my life for sharing this idea.

What You Need

Honey Jars (with or without stirrers, plain mason jar will do)

Decorative Bees

Tacky Glue

(Optional: Paints, glitter glue and other decorative items)

What To Do

Clean and dry honey jars.

Add bees where desired, using tacky glue.

Let dry.

You may customize the jars with your child’s Hebrew Name, L’Shanah Tova or other messages for the New Year.

Fill with honey as desired.

For a fun side project, and a simple way to review the blessings over the apples and honey, you can create Rosh Hashanah “Brachot” sheets using construction paper, marker and glue. Older kids can write out the Hebrew themselves, while younger ones can work with an adult.

Simply layer a white piece of construction paper on top of a colored paper of your choice. Flip over and glue another white piece of paper on the other side. Write out the blessings in Hebrew on one side, English (or preferred language) on the other.

Even more Rosh Hashanah ideas and stories can be found at PJ Library. The renowned philanthropy that brings Jewish-themed books to families all over has lots of fun ways to prepare for the Jewish New Year.

Introduce your children to the Jewish books, music and more from PJ Library by signing up here. Content is geared toward children ages 6 months to about 7 years, depending on your area.

Disclaimer: As a PJ Library influencer, I am compensated for promoting this program. All opinions expressed are my own.

“The Old Cocoon” offers needed comfort in times of uncertainty

“The Old Cocoon,” by April O’Leary arrived in my mailbox just when I needed the encouragement.

After weeks agonizing over our children’s education, reviewing statistics, reading through our district’s plans, and consulting with our friends and family, my husband and I submitted the forms to enroll them in their respective, modified, in-person learning options.

Though the deed was done, I still felt anxious about my choice. I was scared about the future, frightened by the uncertainty. Did we do the right thing? How will our children handle this “new normal?”

I am comforted by knowledge and being able to control situations. Yet, as we all know, these days, that’s a difficult task.

Reading “The Old Cocoon” reminded me of the beauty of change and how we can embrace the future with hope, knowing we are held by those who love and support us.

Through a beautiful, 34-page tale of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, O’Leary addresses the hardship and fear of change, while offering a path toward acceptance and positivity.

I believe people of all ages will appreciate this beautiful story. The words are uplifting, genuine and heartfelt. They are truly written with love and a passion for helping others.

I especially feel this is a wonderful story for parents and children to read together as the school year begins (whether virtual or in-person) across the country.

“The Old Cocoon” can serve as a tool for discussing your child’s concerns about school, wearing masks, canceled trips or any other “disruptions” caused by the current pandemic.

Even beyond the uncertainty of the current global environment, “The Old Cocoon” will guide you and your loved ones through such moments as the death of a loved one, moving to a new city, or the ending of a long friendship.

Now available with the limited time offer to “Buy One Get One” via the O’Leary Publishing website, “The Old Cocoon,” which is designed to fit easily inside most standard greeting cards, is a wonderful gift of hope and comfort to deliver to the loved ones in our lives.

And as a special gift to you, I will be giving away four copies of “The Old Cocoon” to the first four people who comment on this post with how they think this book can help them or someone they love.

“The Old Cocoon” is available for purchase through O’Leary Publishing and on Amazon in both soft cover and Kindle format.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All views expressed are my own.

Antisemitism has no place in the fight for justice

If you are not yet aware, I am Jewish, and like many in my community, I am hurt by the antisemitism that permeates social media.

Antisemitism always hurts, but for me, I am especially disheartened when those sentiments are shared by other minorities. Lately, anti-Jewish rhetoric has been shared by a few prominent Black people, as means to explain the cause of Black oppression.

Namely, a few Black celebrities and leaders, have stated that “White” Jews are trying to destroy America, and take over the world.

Before going deeper, I want to state that this type of language suggesting a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world is absolutely a White Supremacist ideology. They absolutely love when non-Jewish Blacks and White (Or White-Passing) Jews go after one another, because they are the ones who win when we destroy one another. 

I also want to stress that while language or imagery depicting White people in general as oppressive to Blacks is understandable, and yes, many Jews identify as and benefit from Whiteness, singling Jews, another historically oppressed minority, out as the lone cause of Black mistreatment in America is not O.K.

Not too long ago, Jews were excluded from much of “White” society in America. Though not to the horrific extent of Black Americans, Jews were often banned from many places in America. College quotas, for example, were established to limit the number of Jews in attendance, giving rise to “Jewish” colleges, such as Brandeis University. Jews often had to hide their identities to gain access to certain areas, but also for their own safety. The ability to blend in with White Christians remains both a survival technique and a benefit for light-skinned Jews.

My own parents gave me and my siblings more “Anglican” legal names, even though we also have Hebrew names. I was told several times having a more “American” name on a resume would help me fare better on my job search.

Of course things have changed, and light-skinned Jews have in many ways reaped the benefits of White Supremacy. At the same time, White Supremacists actively promote the idea that Jewish people are doing evil things, and subvert the purity of Whiteness.

This idea of a Jewish plan for world domination is so old, it’s tired. Google the “Elders of Zion” to see how this all got started. While you are at it, Google the history of Jewish occupations and how they were banned from many jobs, except for ones related to banking, and see how antisemitic ideas related to Jews and money developed over time.

And, then there’s the issue of Israel and how antisemitism seems to be OK because the Israeli government often does some questionable things.

But, I am not here to get into a debate about Israel.

Because making Jews (Ashkenazi Jews especially), worried about the fragility of Israel is another tool in the White Supremacist arsenal that plays right into fears stemming from the trauma of the Holocaust, which was also perpetrated by White Supremacists. 

They love to point out how “leftist” causes, particularly Black Lives Matter, are anti-Israel and antisemitic, seeding fear and doubt in the minds of White Jews. 

And, yes, there may be some antisemitic people who are also fighting against racism. Just like there are people who are fighting antisemitism, but are still practicing anti-Black racism. 

The sad truth is that social justice often doesn’t work as harmoniously as we would hope. Racism, antisemitism and other prejudice can infiltrate those circles as much as anywhere else.

As Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of mourning and reflection approaches, I ask all of us, but especially those of us who identify as an “outsider” in some way, to come together to denounce hatred and bigotry. 

United we can achieve great things.

Socially-distant summer activities with PJ Library printable

Summer is in full swing, and Americans have accepted that this season will unlike any other in recent history. Many of our favorite summer spots are closed, or running with limited capacity, and health concerns have left many families wary of venturing too far beyond their homes.

With limited and restricted options for entertainment, you may wonder what to do with kids all day. Afterall, bored kids can be the worst.

A little resourcefulness and creativity can turn those bored days into memorable ones. Read on for some ideas to try with your family.

Continue reading

Homeschooling is a privilege many families can’t afford

It is a privilege to be able to homeschool your kids.

Yes, it is also a lot of hard work and sacrifice.But, in the end, if you or another trusted adult is able to devote a significant amount of time on your child’s education, that is a privilege.

A privilege which was thrust into a big bright spot light because of a pandemic that forced our schools to close.

For the first time homeschooling wasn’t a choice, it was a mandate. And as the weeks and months went on, we heard story after story of parents struggling to manage the new normal of working, raising a family and educating their children.

Many parents just asked the bare minimum of work from their kids, others just threw in the towel, believing (hoping) they would get through this until the school year ended.

Well, now summer is here in the United States, and families have to face the reality that “school” will be much different if and when they reopen.

How To Talk To Your White, Jewish Kids About Racism

Social media has seen an uptick in thoughtful and passionate pleas from white Americans to their white friends and family to reflect on their own racial biases, confront racial injustice and stand by black Americans who continue to fight for equitable treatment in the United States.

And, while the authors don’t always explicitly invoke Jesus and his teachings — though many do — from the language and tone, you can understand they are coming at this from the perspective of white Christians, a group which enjoys a high level of privilege in America.

As a Jewish person, I have often felt conflicting emotions while reading some of these writings, especially those claiming “we” (meaning white people) could never understand what it feels like to be oppressed and targeted for who you are. Continue reading

Spark the kids’ creativity with The Story Pirates Creator Club

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit much of the activities many Americans can do as a family. And with many summer camps cancelled, schools closed or closing, parents are left wondering what to do with their kids all summer.

In between hiking and playing with the sprinkler, why not let your kids exercise their creative muscle with the Story Pirates.

The Story Pirates are a hilarious troupe of comedians, musicians, authors and teachers who produce content that honors the creativity and ingenuity of children. The widely popular Story Pirates podcast, takes stories written by kids and turns them into songs and sketches with the help of special guests including Billy Eichner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dax Shepard, Bowen Yang, Claire Danes, John Oliver, and Lake Bell.

creatorclubstorypirates

My own kids just submitted their own story to The Story Pirates, and are eagerly awaiting to hear back. I mean, who wanted to hear a story about a dog, cat and sloth driving themselves to the vet, but I digress. Even if their story doesn’t get accepted, the process allowed them to excercise their creative muscle. Continue reading