Category Archives: Think

So your kid is curious about keeping kosher

As kids get older, they naturally get more curious about the world around them and why they do certain things. Being a Jewish family, who keeps a kosher home, we observe a number of rules: separate dishes and utensils, no pork, shellfish or other unkosher foods in our house and not eating dairy and meat in the same meal.

Lots of rules, which for most of their young lives, our children accepted as part of their reality.

In recent years, and in particular the last few months, my oldest, soon to be 8, has become more interested in what being kosher means, and has been asking more questions.

The other day, for example, my son asked me how long he had to wait to have dairy after eating meat. I explained how, as often is the case with Jewish law, that different Jews have different answers, with more observant ones waiting at least six hours after a meat meal before eating dairy, while others wait just one hour or less. I explained how we are generally more lenient when it comes to time between meals, but others in our extended family are more strict.

Whether you are strictly kosher all the time, observe some of the laws, or choose not to be kosher at all, there are lots of ways to help an interested child explore what kashrut means and how to make it a part of their lives.

Ways To Teach Kids About Kashrut

Go on a kosher-label scavenger hunt

From “OU” to “K” to “Star-K,” there are dozens of kosher certifications to be found on food and beverages throughout the supermarket. If you aren’t familiar, review the labels as a family, make a list and head to the store. Ask your kids to find one item with each symbol. Notice which ones are easier to spot, or if some are missing. Does your supermarket have a kosher section, or are items more spread out?

Pack a kosher lunch

If you have a school-aged child who is interesting in keeping kosher, or if you’re considering this option for your family, a great place to start is with school lunch. Though keeping kosher has limitations, unless you plan to pack a meat-based meal, most “traditional” bagged lunches are possible. PJ Library, a service that provides FREE Jewish books and other materials to families, has some great suggestions for lunches that are kosher AND allergy-friendly

Go vegetarian (at least once in a while)

Vegetarian (though you do need to be mindful when it comes to cheese, but that’s a seperate post) and vegan meals tend to be kosher by design. When you go on your kosher scavenger hunt, your kids may notice the fresh produce has no kosher markings or labels at all. This is because unprocessed or uncooked fruits and vegetables are kosher on their own and need no further certification. Make a meal (or part of a meal) of only fresh produce and discuss what makes it kosher and why.

Try a meal without mixing meat and dairy

Another simple way to test out keeping kosher as a family or if your child is interested on their own, is to avoid serving dairy with a meat meal. So if your kids normally drink milk with their meatballs, mix it up with another beverage or even a non-dairy milk alternative such as almond or coconut milk.

Understand kids will make mistakes

Speaking more to those families who do keep kosher, understand that remembering and following the rules of kashrut can be challenging for young children (not to mention grownups). Whether its a birthday party where your kid is confused about why they can’t eat the burgers, or a piece of candy shared with them at lunch that isn’t kosher-certified, there are many moments for misunderstandings and slip ups. Be patient, and acknowledge their efforts.

No matter where you, your family or your kids on their kosher journey, exploring the laws of kashrut can be a great way to connect and learn more about Judaism.

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

Sharing an honest perspective on Christopher Columbus with kids

Like most kids who grew up in the United States, I first learned about Christopher Columbus through the popular poem:

In Fourteen Hundred And Ninety Two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Columbus was part of a greater bunch of lessons that put a positive spin on colonization, and downplayed — or outright ommitted — the atrocities commited against the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas in order for these revered Europeans to succeed.

As I grew up, I discovered American history is not as clean and beautiful as I had once thought, and indeed the founding of my country is full of mess and ugliness.

I am happy to see a shift toward more honest retelling of history in our schools, and an effort to uplift the voices of those figures long overlooked in the story of America. However, I am aware that curriculum is slow to change, and the narrative our kids are ingesting still very much has a Euro-centric spin.

So, when my almost eight-year-old son asked me why he was going to be off from school one Monday in October, I took the opportunity to talk with him about Columbus Day, why we celebrate it, and why that is problematic for many people.

We talked about how whole communities were living here before Christopher Columbus and other Europeans landed on the shores of the Americas, and how he did not in fact “discover” this land. We also spoke deeper about colonization and why European nations saw the Americas as an opportunity for expanding their access to materials such as minerals, crops and more to use to build their economies.

We spoke about how Columbus is credited for starting the colonization of the Americas, eventually leading to the country we live in today. We discussed how being Americans has afforded us many privileges and opportunities, and how fortunate we are to have them. We also discussed how Columbus and others, in order to achieve their visions of colonization killed and exploited the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas and later enslaved millions of Africans brought over to bear the brunt of work required to build up our developing country.

We finished with how many Americans feel we should no longer honor Christopher Columbus and instead lose the holiday all together or change it to honor the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas. We ourselves did not come to a “conclusion” on how we feel about the matter, but I am glad we were able to have a thoughtful discussion on U.S. history.

Even if Columbus Day disappears, I hope our schools will continue to teach our students about him in a way that is honest and reflective of the good and bad of American history.

Here’s what I did when my son called Trump a ‘F@#K’

“Donald Trump is a F@$%!”

The words struck me speechless.

My elementary-age child dropping the F-bomb about Donald Trump, the President of The United States.

If you follow me, you know I rarely, if I ever speak about Trump.

Sure I will comment on mistreatment of asylum seekers, racial injustice and more that happens to be occurring under this administration, and I will continue to comment on those things regardless of who is President after the election.

No, this post is not about Trump.

It is about how I and other adults talk about him or other politicians in front of our children.

Maybe you called Trump an asshole or Joe Biden a moron. Maybe you lobbed insults at those who support either one of them.

Maybe you were just joking around with your spouse, laughing at some meme, not realizing your kids were listening.

I know I have.

To be clear, I do not support Donald Trump as President of the United States, and have no problem expressing my views and debating those who disagree. I am also disgusted by his language and mannerism that frequently mocks and insults others. I would like to think most adults, including myself, are above this behavior.

So when my child called him a “F-U-You Know The Rest,” yes I was upset about the language, but I was even more upset that he felt that it was the best way to speak about him.

Although, I can’t recall an incident where I used the word fuck and Donald Trump in the same sentence, I am a person who curses often, and I speak with unfiltered passion about things I care about, often not realizing who’s listening.

I apologized to my son, and said we adults needed to do better.

I said we can discuss Trump and other issues civilly and factually without resorting to name calling. We can be resolute in our stance for wanting leadership we can be proud of.

To be clear, I am not saying adults should be dishonest with their children about their political feelings. Nor is this a request for anyone to censor the truth for our kids benefits. By all means talk to them about the environment, poverty, racism and everything else you are passionate about. Our children are as impacted by this election as much as if not more than we are. They deserve to hear us speak about what matters to us. They deserve to understand why we are voting the way we are and to be included in the process. What they don’t deserve is to be subjected to hateful language and child-like name-calling of others.

We can do better.

As we head into the Presidential debates, I remain hopeful both candidates will rise above petty insults and low-blow jabs, and stick with discussing the issues. Hopeful, but realistic.

In the mean time, even if our leaders can’t behave decently. I know I can. And I pledge to do better.

Yom Kippur and the lesson of sincere remorse

Forced apologies is a common parenting practice I despise.

Let me be clear, I believe we need to encourage our children to think about their actions and be mindful of when they make mistakes. However, there’s a difference between telling a kid to parrot the words “I’m sorry” to another and teaching them genuine remorse.

When a two-year-old shoves another child at the playground, they are not being “bad,” they are engaging in typical “cause and effect” behavior. They want to see what happens when they do stuff, whether it is appropriate or not. Of course, the behavior should be addressed and an apology on behalf of the child is worth offering, as while the toddler may not feel sorry, us parents can definitely feel remorse for our kids’ actions.

Older children, particulary those in early elementary age group, are capable of understanding their mistakes and taking appropriate steps to make amends. With my own kids, if they do something wrong, I take a moment to talk with them and let them come to an understanding about why it is a problem. If the action caused harm to another, I invite them to go with me to check on the harmed party, and make sure they’re OK. Often this will include a formal apology, but not always. And if the apology feels forced or insincere, I know they do not truly understand what they did wrong.

The video below illustrates the Jewish concept of “slicha,” the act of apologizing for wrongdoing. Beyond teaching genuine remorse, I like the idea expressed in the video below of not only apologizing but righting the wrong.

“Teshuvah,” or repentance is the heart of Yom Kippur observance. Not only do those of the Jewish faith seek forgiveness for individual transgressions, but we also atone together for harm we have done as a community.

The ideal of atoning together is agreat for teaching our kids that while we may be individuals, our actions impact others. From throwing garbage on the ground to calling someone a mean name, these actions can have leave a lasting impression.

Yom Kippur never makes the top five or even top ten of favorite Jewish holidays — I mean who loves a day of not eating? — but if you viewed with a deeper perspective, we can see this holy day is full of meaning and personal reflection.

This is a holiday that was focused on mindfulness before it was a trend. Yom Kippur is a wonderful way to teach children self-reflection and self-awareness.

PJ Library,a program that provides free books to Jewish families, offers lots of resources to help kids better understand the concepts of apologizing and forgiveness, as well several ideas to get kids engaged in Yom Kippur.

Of course, children aren’t the only ones who need help understanding how to be sincere in their remorse. How often do we as Jews on Yom Kippur say the words of the atonement prayers without actually reflecting on their meaning? Perhaps this is the year to really think about what we are asking forgiveness for.

For more information and to sign up for PJ Library, click here.

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

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.

Is there still a place for culturally insensitive classics?

Disney Plus has been a welcomed gift during this time of social distancing, and my family has taken advantage of its extensive library. My kids have discovered some of the older, or “classic” Disney films such as “Pinnochio,” Alice In Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan,” to name a few.

While I adore “Alice In Wonderland,” I never felt the same love for “Pinnochio” or “Peter Pan.” “Pinnochio was always just to creepy for me (yes, creepier than Alice, because Alice is awesome weird, not like weird weird), and Disney’s version of “Peter Pan,” for me never held up to the televised live stage version featuring Mary Martin.

Yet, there I was the other day, sitting with my two boys viewing the animated tale of the boy who never grows up.

For the few of you who aren’t familiar, like all versions of the classic story, Peter Pan creeps up on the home of the Darling family, and persuades children Wendy, Michael and John to fly away with him across the Londo sky to a place called, “Neverland.”

Neverland is a fantastical world filled with all sorts of characters from mischievous mermaids to nasty pirates, and of course the Lost Boys. Among the characters the Darling children encounter in Neverland are the “Indians.” 

Caricatured as indigenous people of the Americas often were at the time (and often still are), the Indians in the Peter Pan story are depicted as unintelligent, cruel and savage. 

My oldest son noticed the “Indians” in the film had red skin, and exaggerated facial features.

He was also quick to point out how the Indian princess Tiger Lily, who is seen as one of the “good” Indians and an object of affection of Peter and the Lost Boys, had lighter skin.

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In that moment, I had some choices to make:

  1. Ignore my son’s comments and keep watching the movie.

  2. Fast forward past those “uncomfortable” parts.

  3. Use this time as an opportunity to teach about the inhumane treatment and depiction of indigenous peoples.

I chose to teach. 
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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

10 mom rules for tweens on social media

By Meredith Bleakley

My 9-year-old just got into a relationship.  I knew it was inevitable but I secretly hoped she would wait a little bit longer to step into this new phase of life.  However, she came to me and pleaded her case that she was grown up enough to get into this relationship so I’m going to allow it.  My gut tells me this relationship is going to be pretty serious and chances are despite how I feel about it – it’s probably going to last her lifetime.  She is officially in a relationship with social media.  *sigh*

It’s very basic and elementary for the moment.  She’s on Instagram and despite not being 13, I have allowed her to have a Pinterest account.  (Why does Pinterest want you to be 13 to have an account? At least Pinterest has value, she made me Christmas projects & she has found plenty of good useful information on that site.  I digress.) Continue reading

New moms share truths about caring for babies in the age of COVID-19

Being a new mom at any time is filled with uncertainties, but bringing a new baby into a world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic comes with a whole new set of challenges unlike many of us seasoned parents have ever faced.

In a time when they need plenty of in-person support and comfort, these new families are in the difficult position of having to navigate the world of new parenthood with often their only assistance coming in the form of FaceTime or Zoom.

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Even doctor’s appointments, a crucial part to maternal health, are being conducted virtually.

On my Facebook page, I put a call out to new parents, and asked them to share their stories in the hopes that their words would reach other new parents and inspire older ones, like myself.

I was amazed by the response, and how willing these women were to share their fears, their joys and their hopes with the Maybe I’ll Shower Today community.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I am pleased to share their incredible stories of #parentingthroughquarantine.

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