Tag Archives: education

Connecting environmental and racial justice on Tu B’Shvat and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

My nine-year-old and I were updating his PJ Library reusable wall calendar for January, when he noticed Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year of the trees, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, fall on the same day this year, Monday, January 17.

As we look ahead to Tu B’Shvat, we can be mindful of Dr. King’s work, how climate justice and racial justice are linked, and how we can bridge the Jewish values of caring for our planet and working toward a more just world together.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words continue to ring true, as we look back on his legacy and wonder if we have gotten closer to achieving his dream for an equitable world.

While Tu B’Shvat is traditionally a holiday focused on trees, specifically the trees of Israel, and celebrating the land, the festival can be used an opportunity for both Jews and non-Jews a like to consider the topic of environmental justice.

Tu B’Shvat is the perfect time to ask ourselves, and our children, do we have access to clean water? Can we breathe clean air? Do we live in a place that is safe from the impact of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters? Are we close to parks, nature centers, and other places for appreciating the environment?

If the answer to these questions is yes, we can take the opportunity to think about how others might be living, and note how environmental inequality is very much an issue in the U.S. and beyond.

Continue reading

What “Maid” teaches us about lifting up our fellow moms

I finished watching “Maid,” the Netflix limited-series, last night, and I still find myself sobbing at random moments, while recalling the powerful, gut-wrenching scenes of the show.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

“Maid” touched on domestic violence, alcoholism, toxic masculinity and other heavy issues, which, hopefully, sparked a conversation on breaking the cycle of abuse and doing better by DV survivors, while also acknowledging that many abusers are survivors of abuse themselves.

At the same time the series was shining a light on abuse, “Maid” was reflecting the stark difference in reality for those with financial means, and those without. This point was illustrated by the incredible story arc involving the relationship between main character Alex (Margaret Qualley) and Regina (Anika Noni Rose).

The viewer is introduced to Regina, when Alex shows up to clean her massive home. We quickly learn Regina is a power player, and, so it seems, has little to worry her. Meanwhile, at this point, we have already seen Alex escape her trailer home, sleep on a Ferry Station floor, and, thanks to visual reminders on screen, try to get by with little money.

From this vantage point, Regina seems entitled and self-absorbed, and our sympathies (at least mine) were with Alex, when her DV shelter friend, Danielle, “dognaps” Regina’s dog as payback for Regina refusing to pay Alex what was owed to her.

In a stand-off between Alex and Regina, we see Alex lay into Regina for freaking out over her dog missing for a few hours, when she herself had her daughter taken from her.

Perhaps motivated by Alex’s speech, Regina does pay Alex for her work, and continues to engage her cleaning services.

In what is a pivotal shift in her story, we first see Regina hastily packing up homemade pies for Thanksgiving, while her husband urges her to hurry up, all the while questioning the need for seven pies, which, apparently are for decoration only.

Continue reading

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.

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

Five black-led causes to support right now

The horrific death of  George Floyd at the hands (or rather, the knee) of a police officer disgracing his badge by exerting his power over another human being has lead to increased outrage and anger within black and P.O.C. communities in general, as well among white folks who are continuing to speak out, or speak out for the first time, against racial injustice.

As a white woman, I am learning how to balance using my own voice while being sure to amplify the voices of black/brown folks and other marginalized groups. I am constantly making mistakes, learning, and growing. 

In my journey toward being a better ally, I have grown to appreciate the importance of putting actual dollars (or whatever your country’s currency may be) into causes that directly or indirectly serve people of color in their communities and beyond. 

These organizations are working with often limited resources to fight and correct years of racial injustice and inequity, and are especially in need of funding at this time.

With the help of family, friends and colleagues, I have compiled a short list of organizations for those looking for places to give. These organizations not only focus on the needs and specific issues impacting black members of their communities and beyond, but they are all (to the best of my knowledge) founded or led by black folks.

In keeping with this blog’s Blogging for Better initiative these are mainly smaller, grassroots groups who are doing incredible work in their cities and towns.

If you have any other causes to suggest, please list them in the comment below. Continue reading

This book made me appreciate teachers even more

Whenever I think about who inspired me to become a writer, my second-grade teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who inspired me to think critically, and ask questions, a high school teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who will shape and influence my children over the years, teachers come to mind.

schooled.png

The importance and value of great teachers cannot be understated. These dedicated servants to education can make all the difference in the lives of our children.

I have long had a deep respect for this profession, yet, I never fully understood the depth of work and devotion to this career, until I got my hands on a copy of Schooled: A Love Letter to the Exhausting, Infuriating, Occasionally Excruciating Yet Somehow Completely Wonderful Profession of Teaching. Continue reading

Writing can save lives

The first few months or so after I gave birth to my first child were a blur of sleepless nights, days without a decent shower, and scrambling to eat to keep up with the never-ending hunger I felt from constant breastfeeding.

I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, sad and confused.

New motherhood brought on a slew of emotions I had little experience with before I had kids.

I needed a way to process those emotions — to make sense of what I was experiencing — so, I turned to writing.

I started this blog in 2013, shortly after I made the decision to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.

My first entries were short, often nonsensical ramblings, I never intended many people to see. Though, I guess, subconsciously, I was hoping others would read it, otherwise I would have stuck with an old-school journal.

Regardless of my intent, getting my thoughts about parenting out of my head and on to the screen helped me to work through some of the harder parts of motherhood.

Writing might seem like a simple solution, but for me and others, like Kimberly Zapata, the founder of Greater Than Illness, there is so much more to writing than words on paper. 

greaterthanillnessbfb.png
Continue reading

Dear parent about to send your baby off to Kindergarten

I sometimes have trouble believing nearly two years has passed since I sent my oldest off to Kindergarten.

I remember doing my very best to hide my nerves to keep my son from picking up on my anxiety and becoming worried himself.

I had no idea what the year would bring, and my mind buzzed with questions.

Will he adapt to the school environment?

Will he get along with his classmates?

Will he like his teacher?

Will he behave?

Will he meet expectations?

With each school day attended, a little bit of my worry eased. Not just my son, but my husband and I, became more acclimated to school life.

We learned along with him.

We got through the struggles with him.

And, sure enough, our son finished Kindergarten and went on to have an excellent year in first grade.

Your kids will get there, too.

While on their journey, here’s some things which may help.

parentkinder.png

Continue reading

Foundation seeks to make college a reality for deserving youth

My parents drove me up to my dorm, the family car stuffed with clothes, bedding and more to get me through the coming year. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of fear, as I was about to embark on my collegiate journey.

I had the typical freshmen concerns:

Will I like my roommate?

Will my classes be hard?

Will I have a good time?

One question, I never had to ask, however was:

Will I be able to afford my education.

I am privileged to have had my entire college education paid for by my parents. Not once in my four years as a student did I ever have to worry about where I would find money for books, room and board, or even food. I was fortunate. More fortunate than many of my peers.

Foundation Seeks To Make College A Reality For Deserving Youth.png

Knowing my financial situation was always stable, I was better able to focus on my studies and handle the other pressures of college life.

But, my family support wasn’t limited to money, I also had parents, who, were actively invested in ensuring myself and my two siblings made it through school and earned our degrees.

They knew getting through college is not a task easily accomplished without help. Continue reading