Tag Archives: Judaism

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.

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Menorahs, Maccabees and more: Hanukkah explained

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah began on Sunday evening, and you may have noticed your friends sharing pictures and videos of their Hanukkah festivities.

Hanukkah is a joyous celebration, and a popular Jewish festival. It is my kids’ favorite holiday, and for good reason! Who doesn’t love eight days of food, family and gifts?

Hanukkah is also one of the few Jewish observances those who aren’t Jewish (or connected to Judaism in some way) are familiar with, yet, despite the popularity of the holiday, many do not understand the full meaning and history behind Hanukkah.

As a Jew, and a mom, who cares about educating the world about Judaism, in hopes this might make others more tolerant and prevent antisemitism, I wanted to write this post to explain a bit more about Hanukkah.

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FREE Hannukah coloring pages: Dreidels, Dinos and Donuts!

Channukah, Hannukah, Hanukah, however you spell it, the Festival Of Lights is coming soon!

Though I am far from a professional artist, I was inspired to create these whimsical, Hannukah coloring pages to help kids of all ages get into the Hannukah spirit.

I hope you enjoy these, and please give me feedback on ways to improve my designs, or other ones you may like to see in the future.

Happy Hannukah and happy coloring!

How To Celebrate Lag B’Omer

Lag B’Omer is a lesser-known Jewish celebration, which commerorates the 33rd day of the Omer, or time between the Jews leaving Egypt and their receiving of the Torah 40 days later.

So, what’s so special about the 33rd day, and why do we honor this occasion?

The answer depends on who you ask. However, many scholars believe Lag B’Omer is observed because, according to the Talmud, during the Omer, the esteemed sage Rabbi Akiva’s students were killed by the thousands, on all the days, save for the 33rd one.

Yikes! Seems like a dark reason for a celebration, but hey, have you seen pretty much every other Jewish festival? Celebrating not getting killed is our bread and butter, or bagel and schmear, if you prefer.

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Purim for kids, the PJ Library way

Costumes, treats, permission to make random noise? No wonder kids love Purim so much!

Indeed, Purim is an exciting and fun-filled holiday, and the story of Esther risking her life to save her people is an intriguing and adventurous tale, but parents of young children may worry that the more “adult” themes of the Book of Esther are too advanced for their kids.

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Planting trees and more ways to celebrate Tu B’Shevat, or Jewish Earth Day

Spending time in nature and appreciating the beauty of the world around them is an ideal I hope to instill in my kids that will stay with them for years to come.

Tu B’Shevat, which begins at sundown on January 27 and ends at nightfall on January 28, is known widely as the new year of the trees, or Jewish Earth Day. In Israel, this time of year is when the most rain falls, rain that we as Jews pray for, rain that brings fourth new life and new hope. We celebrate by eating new fruits and expressing our appreciation for new life.

Of course, if you live in area of the world that is smack in the middle of the cold winter months, it’s hard to imagine celebrating a holiday about growth and renewal.

Yet, even those of us living in colder climates can find ways to get out into nature and appreciate the beauty of the world.

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Eight socially-distant Hanukkah ideas to try with your family

Hanukkah is just a few nights away, and, if your kids are like mine, they’ve been counting down the days until the Festival of Lights.

Though many of us enjoy the fun gatherings of friends and family at this time, this year the desire to stay safe and healthy means we will be doing things a bit differently.

Despite these different times, we can still experience the joy of Hanukkah.

Read on for some ideas.

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An epic Chanukah starts with PJ Library and Manischewitz

My kids love cookies (who doesn’t?), and have enjoyed making holiday-themed cookie houses at school and elsewhere. And, while those are a lot of fun for children, they tend to be more Christmas themed, which can make Jewish kids like mine feel a bit excluded. So, when our family got the opportunity to test out Manischewitz’s new Chanukah cookie decorating kit, they could not wait to get their hands (and mouths) on this fun and tasty project.

The Chanukah House Cookie Decorating Kit comes with pre-baked cookie walls and roof pieces, ready-to-use frosting and decorations, to make building an enjoyable and easy process. You can choose to follow the design pictured on the box, or you can get creative and decorate the house any way you like.

My kids got creative with their design, and had a little trouble getting everything to stick at first, but once they got the hang of it, they really enjoyed putting the house together and putting their own spin on the decorations.

Of course, the best part about building the Chanukah Cookie House was getting to eat it. Ours wasn’t up long before my boys went right for the delicious, frosted cookie pieces. As you can see in the picture below, my kids couldn’t wait until Chanukah to give the cookie house a try, so you can believe us when we say that this project was both fun and yummy.

Kids of all ages will love building this tasty treat this Chanukah (which begins on December 10), and families will love that each kit comes with a PJ Library subscription card so that families raising children with Jewish values and traditions can sign up to receive a free expertly curated, age-appropriate children’s book each month.

For even more Chanukah fun, check out PJ Library’s “Hanukkah Hub” for recipes, stories, games, gift ideas and more.

The Manischewitz Chanukah House is available at retailers nationwide and on Amazon.

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

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.

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.