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Passover: “Let My Son Go!”

seder plate

As the eight-day festival of Passover comes to an end, I’m feeling kind of melancholy. Maybe its the matzo. Actually, it’s the last Passover before my son embarks on his Exodus from home to college.

As I reflect over the years of his childhood, I can’t help but wonder if I made the most of building his Jewish identity. Did I do a good job planting seeds of his heritage so that he’ll want to continue to nourish his spiritual self as a young adult, maybe even attend a few functions at the Hillel on campus with his peers? Did I make enough of an impact that he wants to continue the lessons from his ancestors of thousands of years with his own children? After all, that’s what keeps Judaism alive.

To be honest, I would be fooling myself (it’s April Fools Day) if I thought that I indeed succeeded in my job to teach him as best I can about his religion by celebrating every holiday—from Sukkot to Yom Kippur—in its full splendor.

I could have done more.

Sure, we acted out the 10 plagues during the seder, including ping pong balls for hail, red food coloring for blood, sunglasses for blindness, and we asked the four questions in English and Hebrew. But now it seems like everyone at the table wants to rush through the story, and the Haggadah is read halfway through.

I could have done more.

Sure, we lit the candles on Hanukkah, fried potato pancakes, and played dreidel, but it was the overabundance of presents that he probably remembers the most. We also celebrated with a stocking on Christmas morning—gasp!

I could have done more.

One year he helped us build a sukkah in the backyard, hammering the  lattice wall into the wood beams. We hung fruit and waved the lulav, but not every year. Baseball and soccer tournaments got in the way.

I could have done more.

On Shabbat, especially when he was younger, I made dinner, we said the blessings, and ate challah, but most Friday nights we didn’t because we had other plans or I was too tired to cook at the end of the week.

I could have done more.

And even though I would have liked him to experience Jewish summer camp and youth group, it wasn’t his thing, although he enjoyed playing baseball in Maccabi with other Jewish athletes from around the country.

I could have done more.

On the high holidays, he stayed home from school and got dressed in his button down shirt, pants, and uncomfortable loafers, so that we could attend services together as a family. Then high school came around, and it got harder to miss important assignments and tests.

I could have done more.

I missed the times we used to go to a neighborhood lake and throw breadcrumbs in the water on Rosh Hashanah to practice the ritual of tashlich. We set goals for the New Year, but didn’t get to cross them all off our list.

I could have done more.

He went to Jewish preschool, met Jewish friends, attended Sunday school, learned Hebrew, mastered his Torah portion, became a bar mitzvah, and even got confirmed. He loved chanting the Hebrew prayers and was so proud of himself. But like any language, if you don’t use it, eventually you lose it.

I could have done more.

At least he wants to go to Israel one day and experience what his homeland is all about. Maybe he will connect with his culture and make new Jewish friends. Maybe he will learn to like falafel. Maybe not.

Even though I could have done more, I couldn’t be more proud of my son and the young man he is today. As he wraps up his senior year, he is so ready to leave home and tackle his new life in college.

Of course, I could have done more when it comes to his Jewish upbringing. But maybe I did enough.

He knows he always has a place to call home. He knows his family loves him.

And I promised him that next year if he comes home for Spring break, I will make him his favorite dishes. Charoset and chocolate matzo. Talk about Jewish guilt…

choco matzo



Chocolate Makes Everyday Sweeter

When it comes to Valentines Day, if I had to choose, I’d rather my husband give me chocolate than long stemmed red roses, unless the flowers are the edible kind. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but chocolate is her secret lover. Continue reading

Hadassah Audience “Eats Up” Chocolate Stress Busters Speech

For all of my friends who were too cheap to fork over $50 a plate at the Hadassah Great Plains Region banquet on June 5, 2010, at Hilton St. Louis Frontenac (yes, the same night as the Liza Minelli concert at Powell Symphony Hall and Rabbi Shook’s retirement party), here’s my presentation on “Women and Stress” and how chocolate solves all of life’s problems. If you would like to book me for your next event, please contact my agent, uh, that would be me.
Click here to watch me conquer any fears of public speaking in 30 minutes. And remember that the camera adds 10 pounds.

You’re Invited to a Hadassah Weekend Getaway

What would you rather do on a Saturday night—go see the legendary Liza Minnelli live in concert or listen to me talk about ways to balance stress in your life?

Well, considering the VIP tickets are already sold out at Powell Symphony Hall for the famous singer, why not join me at the Hadassah “Jeans and Jewels” banquet on June 5, 6:30 p.m., at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac where I will lead a lively discussion on how to manage our hectic lives and achieve happiness using my personal favorite coping mechanism, which I’ll divulge only to those who attend.

The Hadassah Great Plains Region Board Retreat, called “Juggling Without The Struggling,” takes place June 4-6 and features two other speakers who you don’t want to miss. Annette Sondock, the national chairperson of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel, which is the most advanced medical and research center in the Middle East, brings her expertise in organization, leadership development, and fundraising, while Rabbi Dale Schreiber, a chaplain in Oncology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, shares her insights on spirituality and healing. The weekend is filled with lots of learning, laughter, and sisterhood that you just can’t get from a Broadway star like Liza.

It’s an honor for me to hang out with this Hadassah group, which is part of the largest women’s mass membership organization in the United States with more than 300,000 members, associates and supporters. Plus, Hadassah raises more funds than any other national women’s volunteer organization. The Great Plains Region Board encompasses six states and includes women of all ages and backgrounds, but their commonality is working tirelessly to enhance the quality of American and Jewish life through its education and Zionist youth programs, two hospitals in Israel, and personal enrichment and growth for its members.

To top off the weekend, everyone is invited to join us on June 6 for the “Walk on Sunshine,” a one-mile family fun walk at Queeny Park that has raised more than $400,000 for groundbreaking brain tumor research and treatment. Click here for more information on the walk.

For more information on Hadassah, go to Hadassah.

Go here to make a reservation for the retreat.

Meanwhile, enjoy these videos of Liza Minnelli in the musical Cabaret.



Being Thankful for Chocolate Is A Blessing

The other day I’m sitting in the vet’s office waiting for Luci to get her vaccines, and I start to feel antsy and bored. A talking parrot imitates the meows of a sick cat, and I’m about to lose my mind. Even Luci paces the room like a prisoner in a jail cell.

It’s times like this when I’m desperate to pass the time in a productive way. The only thing I can think of is to clean out my messy purse. Continue reading