When it comes to parenting, there is no manual. Back in the day, my mom kept Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care paperback in her nightstand, next to the S&H Green Stamps and the TV remote. I never noticed any dog-eared corners on the faded brown pages so doubt if she ever referred to this “timeless bestseller.” Turns out she probably could have used some expert advice on how to redirect her high-spirited daughter because her idea of discipline was chasing me down the hallway with a flyswatter.
After the Days of Awe, it’s time to learn a few tricks of the trade when it comes to making challah. This sweet, eggy, moist delicious bread is the staff of life for Jewish people, so now is the time to learn how it’s done. In fact, the only thing more fun than eating these aromatic loaves is braiding the bread among friends. So join us this coming Sunday afternoon at the “Challah Baking & Shabbat In-A-Box,” hosted by the Jewish Women’s Society of Aish HaTorah. As we mix, knead, and braid the soft dough, we’ll also learn about the mitzvah of women making challah. After all, when it comes to making challah, there’s never too many cooks in the kitchen.
Whether you’re looking for interesting new recipes for Rosh Hashanah or just want a fun Girl’s Night Out, join our Israeli cooking demo and tasting on September 10, 7-9 p.m., with Renee Chernin, an international speaker and author of the widely acclaimed Cooking for the King, Rosh Hashanah Edition.
Presented by The Jewish Women’s Society, this kosher food fest, called “Success in Elul,” is open to everyone in the community. Chernin promises to feed the soul with recipes like the sweet and crunchy Shana Tova salad, which she describes as a “one jewel toned salad that has become a holiday tradition and is so beautiful it can be the centerpiece for your Yom Tov table.”
My favorite souvenir that I brought home from Israel this summer was not the sterling silver Star of David necklace. It was not the hamsa artwork or the Medjool dates that tasted like candy. It was a cheap rubber bracelet, bright orange, that clashed with every outfit and had these words printed in black: “Don’t Blame. Don’t Complain.”
The moment we got off the plane, before our suitcases were unpacked, everyone in our group was given this stretchy wristband to remind us of an important lesson. A lesson that could change the way we think and how we live and treat others.
We were told to wear the bracelet every day, all day. Every time we complained about something or talked negatively, we had to switch it to the other wrist. Can you imagine? A bunch of Jewish women traveling across country together, and we’re not allowed to kvetch? What fun is that?
So at first it was a joke. I didn’t last five minutes before I was moving my new accessory back and forth whenever I made statements like:
“I can’t get up that early for breakfast.”
“My feet are killing me.”
“She looks ridiculous wearing Keens with a long skirt.”
“You’re crazy if you think I’m changing out of my wet swimsuit in an overheated, crowded bathroom at the Dead Sea in front of all these naked women.”
I swear, I moved my bracelet so many times I had a skin rash. And that was only day one. Finally, I asked for an extra wristband and wore matching ones on both hands to make this exercise easier. I know, that’s cheating. Maybe I should have worn them on my ankles as well.
All kidding aside, the truth is I was much more aware of how often I blamed and complained. I also paid more attention to what other people said and how it made me feel. What we verbalize and what we think truly has an impact on our psyche, our souls. And our words most definitely affect others. As parents, if we gossip and put other people down, our children will do the same. Where do you think bullying comes from?
So, it got me thinking, if I can’t talk negatively about something or someone, what can I talk about? I needed to reprogram my brain, and since it takes about 30 days to form a new habit, I had my work cut out for me. Fortunately, the Jewish Women’s Society provides the tools to reinforce values, such as kindness. At the launch of the JWS, we were given gossip charts, which allows us to keep track of how we use ethical speech. Kind of like a food journal for dieters. The idea is for us to be more accountable for our words and actions. The Jewish twist is that we make a commitment to speak more positively as an act of goodness and in the merit of a loved one. For example, if we know someone who is sick and needs healing, we practice our positive speech in his or her name, which gives us another purpose. I stuck mine on my refrigerator, so I see it often.
“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
That quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt, but actually the idea originates from a Jewish teaching.
In the law of Lashon Hara, which literally means “bad tongue,” we are forbidden to tell a negative statement about another person that damages their character, even if it’s true. The Rabbis know that criticizing people is part of human nature, which is why we need to practice turning our negative thoughts into positive ones.
The Netziv, a great Rabbi of the 1800’s, explained that there are four types of creations: inanimate objects, plant life, animals and finally, humans. We are defined as speakers, meaning that the distinctive feature that separates people from other living things is that we can communicate by speech. When we speak with a positive intent, we create good. When we speak negatively and are judgmental, our words can destroy a soul.
In fact, gossip hurts three people: The one who speaks it, the one who hears it, and the one who is being spoken about. When you think about it, that’s a lot of collateral damage, and it’s impossible to take back words.
We live in an era of social media that makes it so easy to spread gossip and bad feelings, so this lesson is more important than ever. Kids are killing themselves over bullying, and it’s got to stop.
Please join me in the 30-day challenge to turn negative talk into positive speech and spread goodness and kindness. It starts with ourselves, reaches to our families, community, world.
For a thought-provoking exploration of Lashon Hara and how gossip can be transformed into a more positive, meaningful life, please join the JWS and come to our inaugural class based on Lori Palatnik’s bestselling book, “Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate From Your Life and Transform Your Soul.” The same class will be held on two days, pick which one is convenient for you. Monday, March 31, 9:30 a.m. or Tuesday, April 1, 7 p.m., at the JCC-Creve Coeur, Arts and Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive.
For more info on JWS and to RSVP to the class, please contact Peggy Umansky at 314-527-1719 or JWSociety@hotmail.com.
If you like what you read, please “like” my blog Mishegas of Motherhood, and let’s share our Jewish journey together.
When I returned from my JWRP Israel trip last summer, I was determined to keep the energy and excitement going. My experience was, to say the least, spiritually uplifting and I wanted to stay connected to my “St Louis Soul Sistas” and meet new friends who were on the same journey of self growth and discovery. I wanted to continue learning and enrich my life with Jewish values that I could share with my family and my community. Then again, my idea of fun is sharing a bottle of kosher moscato and making challah with my girlfriends.
Well, the Jewish Women’s Society (JWS) of St. Louis does all that, and more. Already 60-plus members strong, the JWS is an exciting new organization that is looking for women like YOU! The JWS was created as an outgrowth of the JWRP, but you don’t have to be a JWRP participant to be a member of JWS–everyone is welcome!
Last month, we launched the JWS at the beautiful home of Sam and Marilyn Fox. The event was co-hosted with their daughters Cheri Fox and Pamela Fox Claman, and JWRP Founding Director Lori Palatnik was in town to help us kick off our new initiative to bring Jewish women of the St. Louis community together through educational campaigns, special events, service projects, leadership opportunities, and more.
“The Jewish women in St. Louis are really on fire after their JWRP experience. I’m very impressed that they started this new initiative, JWS, to keep the momentum going and involve other women in the community,” said Lori Palatnik, founding director of the JWRP, who was in town for the launch of the society.
The JWRP and Aish HaTorah St. Louis have sent more than 70 St. Louis moms to Israel since 2010, with another 14 women going this summer.
“Through its innovative follow-up programming and opportunities, the JWS has the potential to set a precedent for Jewish communities around the world,” Palatnik added.
The JWS is more than a membership organization. The JWS is a movement, and our mission is as follows:
“Embrace the values of our Jewish heritage, emphasizing living harmoniously with self, family and community. The Society provides programs and support for Jewish Women of all backgrounds to strengthen their Jewish identity and their commitment to Jewish life in St Louis and Israel.”
The JWS is excited to roll out a series of educational campaigns that allow participants to live what they learn. Each class focuses on different Jewish values, such as gratitude, kindness, humility, joy, and honesty. JWS members not only attend the class, but they can take advantage of the many tools, resources, progress charts, and service projects. The JWS also offers home study groups that can help people understand the value on a deeper level in a more intimate, ongoing learning experience.
“The JWS’s goal is to strengthen and invigorate these special values and the amazing richness and relevancy it has on our life by impacting our marriage, children, family, and community,” said Rabbi Yosef David, of Aish HaTorah St. Louis. “Members will be inspired to put into action what they learn until it becomes a reality.”
The first class on Lashon Hara, or refraining from gossip and negative talk, will be offered on two dates: Monday, March 31, 9:30 a.m., or Monday, April 1, 7 p.m. Both classes are held at the Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald, Educational Director of Aish HaTorah St. Louis, will engage the audience in a conversation based on Palatnik’s book, “Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul,” and all members will get their own copy of the bestseller.
“I’ve taught about Lashon Hara, which means gossip, to literally thousands of people, and this subject touches everyone. Even if we don’t speak gossip, hearing gossip still hurts us with its negativity. Learning the laws of Lashon Hara transforms a person because it makes you stop and think before you gossip or talk negatively, and that will change you and impact those around you. When we eliminate gossip, we have a choice: We can find something positive to say, we can remain silent, or talk about an inspirational idea, which impacts a person to live on a higher level,” said Greenwald.
Other upcoming campaigns include honoring our parents and elders and showing respect, taking care of the sick and less fortunate, and working on being happy with what we have and keeping a gratitude journal.
For more information on the benefits of a JWS membership, please call 314-527-1719, or JWSociety@hotmail.com
And stay tuned for next week’s blog on my own experience giving up gossip–it’s not as easy I thought.
Let’s share our Jewish journey together. “Like” my website Mishegas of Motherhood and stay updated on all JWS news.
“Growth occurs when you are
on the edge of your comfort zone.”
Not exactly sure who told me this quote, but I keep hearing variations of it over and over again, especially as I embark on my spiritual journey.
Living outside the comfort zone means different things to different people. It can be speaking in front of a live audience, asking your boss for a raise, sending a manuscript to a publisher, becoming a vegetarian, taking a Spin class at the gym, being the first to apologize, learning a new language, praying to God out loud, or disconnecting on Shabbat, from sundown on Friday until three stars appear in the sky Saturday night.