Tag Archives: Judaism

Sukkot: The awesome Jewish holiday you (probably) never heard of

If you are Jewish (or have at least a few Jewish friends), you probably saw a lot of stuff about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Indeed, those two holidays are, in my estimation, the most widely observed among the Jewish people, with Yom Kippur, in particular, holding a good deal of weight.

Lesser known among non-Jews, and even among more secular Jews, is the holiday of Sukkot, which is a shame because it is pretty awesome.

Sukkot is an eight-day-long festival celebrating the harvest and remembering the time when the Jewish people were wandering from Egypt to Israel. This last part is honored today by the practice of building a sukkah — a temporary hut, usually crafted from simple materials with branches and other natural material used for a “roof.”

As a child, I loved decorating my family’s sukkah with tinsel, garlands and other various items my parents have gathered over the years. Now as a mom, I am enjoying passing on this tradition with my own children. I love that is a chance for us to come together as a family to build something we can all share.

During Sukkot, families such as mine will eat, relax and enjoy time with family in the Sukkah. For kids this is a really cool experience, and makes family meals a special time. Some people even sleep in the Sukkah, to get the full feel of what it might have been like for the Jews in the wilderness. My family has never done this, as unlike in the Middle Eastern desert, this time of year gets pretty chilly where we live!

Sukkot is a wonderful time to connect with family, and, because we spend a lot of it outside, it is a great time to connect with nature as well.
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Sacred spaces should be safe spaces

As a Jew, I know antisemitism is always lurking. This feeling makes me wait a bit before revealing my religion to others. This feeling makes me glad to have an Anglo name on my birth certificate, as opposed to the Yiddish one I use during religious occasions. This feeling makes me fear how my children will be treated. This feeling makes me wonder, deep in the back of my mind, if anything might happen when I’m gathered with other Jews.

I try not to think about what might happen when I attend a prayer service or drop my child off at Hebrew School. I know the odds are good at will just be another, uneventful day. I’m sure that’s how the congregants at the Poway synagogue near San Diego felt when they gathered for Sabbath prayers.

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They weren’t thinking about being attacked for their religion. Sure, many probably experienced their fair share of antisemitism, there may even have been some Holocaust survivors in attendance, but on that day, they were not in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, they were in America in a synagogue, many miles and many years from one of history’s darkest hours. They were there to worship, to praise G-d, to mourn the loss of loved ones and to share in the communal joy of being with other Jews. Continue reading

Elevate your cookie game with these Nutella ganache-filled hamantaschen

Jews around the world are preparing for one of our faith’s most fun holidays. Purim is the celebration of the Jewish people’s triumph over an evil tyrant, hell-bent on our destruction (yes, I realize this sounds like most of our holidays).

Purim is often celebrated with costumes, games and, of course, food.

Elevate your cookie game with these chocolaty hamantaschen

Traditionally,  on Purim Jews will consume a triangle-shaped treat known as hamantaschen. These delicious cookies are commonly filled with apricot, strawberry or other fruit jams. However, if you are chocolate lover like me, ordinary jelly isn’t going to cut it.

This year, I wanted to take my hamantaschen to another level, so I decided to experiment with a Nutella ganache filling. I won’t lie, there was a lot of trial and error, but I think the final result turned out delicious (even if not every cookie turned out picture perfect). Continue reading

If you need a prayer of gratitude, this is it

I’m a minimally observant Jew, and also a mother to two young children, which means my time to sit and focus on prayer is sparse and sporadic. When I do “pray,” I’m mostly thinking of stuff I’d like to happen for myself or my family. Even though these things may be selfless in nature, I realize this isn’t exactly praying, but more like wishful thinking.

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I was doing a whole lot of asking and not a lot of thanking. And, considering how many wonderful blessings have filled my life, I definitely had a good deal of gratitude to express. Like most of us, however, I got caught up in what I didn’t have instead of being grateful for what I already got. I wasn’t praying fully.

Yes, prayer can serve to ask for what we want. There’s nothing wrong with setting intentions and verbalizing your desires. I know this does wonders for people, and can be a powerful way to set you on your to achieving your dreams. However, this is not the true purpose of prayer.

The purpose of prayer is gratitude. Gratitude toward a power greater than ourselves. Gratitude toward G-d. Gratitude in even our darkest times. Continue reading

Come for the fun, stay for the traditions

“My favorite part of Passover is the presents and the matzo treasure hunt,”  said my five-year-old, the other day.

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For the unfamiliar, during the seder, or ritual Passover meal, a piece of matzo (unleavened bread), is broken off and hidden. Traditionally, the younger family members are tasked with finding the piece of matzo (known as the afikomen), and may be rewarded with a gift. The size and amount of prizes given are at the discretion of the host family. Growing up, I remember getting a lot of books. I am pretty sure my kids are getting better stuff, but hey, that’s grandparents for you!

No matter our individual religions, most of us parents can lament the overblown nature of the holidays. I imagine many of my Christian friends are wondering how Easter got so consumerized, and how much money they will drop on baskets, eggs and other trinkets. I agree, it can all seem a bit much. Continue reading

A tale of Ivanka Trump and kosher weddings

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the special connection I felt with Hillary Clinton, and ended the post with a comment on how I have a Trump story.

Well, more specifically, an Ivanka Trump story.

I was going to post something else today, but, since it happens to be my anniversary, and this story relates to my wedding, I can’t think of a better time to share how Ivanka and I will forever be linked. So, I guess, today, is another anniversary. Where’s my gift Ivanka?

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Anyway. My story begins in the offices of a lovely, conservative synagogue in Westchester County New York. My fiance and I are sitting across the desk of the catering manager. Behind him are displays of a notable New York, high society couple: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Continue reading

What’s in a number?

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Judaism is a religion of numbers. Every aspect of life is marked by an important numerical value. We wait eight days to celebrate the birth of a baby boy. We find our moral code in the ten commandments. We read from the five books of the Torah. At Passover, we even sing a song, “Echad Mi Yodaya (Who Knows One?),” detailing many of the important numbers of Judaism. From one to 101, every number has a deep, spiritual meaning.

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