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Chag Sameach–It’s Yom Yerushalyim, Jerusalem Day!

Jack’s apartment on Shimshon Street, Jerusalem.

Family selfie with our tour guide Yael.

Celebrating Shabbat in Jerusalem.

As Jewish people all over the world come together (virtually) for Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, I reflect on where I was at this time last year. And that was the City of Gold, visiting my son who lived in Israel while teaching English to Israeli children in middle school.

And now, a year later, Israel is just starting to reopen after quarantining for several months because of coronavirus. I may live thousands of miles away in St. Louis, but like many Jews I always feel connected and at home in Israel.

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Eishet Chayil, “Woman of Valor,” The Ultimate Mother’s Day Poem


This Mother’s Day is unusual—every day is unusual—because the covid pandemic continues to separate many of us from our loved ones. For many families, their mothers and children are apart, and social distance parties and Zoom meetings are the next best thing to actually being together physically. This Mother’s Day, I will be celebrating with my husband and our son Jack, who promised to whip up something creative for dinner, maybe a ginger cocktail, deviled egg appetizer, squash salad, and some kind of chicken drizzled with a tzatziki sauce that is all plated like a fine Mediterranean restaurant. I will be missing our younger daughter Sari who is away at pharmacy school studying for finals.

On this Mother’s Day, I am beyond grateful that I am healthy and so is my family, so truly this is the greatest gift of all.  All I ask for, besides a little adulation for holding down the fort during these last two months of quarantine, is a lilac bush planted in the backyard so I can inhale the sweet fragrance with every gentle breeze.

On every Friday night, when we welcome the Sabbath Queen, we have an opportunity to celebrate Mom every singe week–it’s called Eishet Chayil (pronounced aish-et chai-eel or eishes chayil), translated to “Woman of Valor,” and this poem written thousands of years ago by King Solomon pays homage to the matriach of the family like no other words can. Continue reading

From Mourning To Celebration, Israel Teaches Us Resilience

During these challenging times of corona, every day, every hour, is unpredictable. Sometimes fear and sadness seem to overlap with laughter and happiness, all in the same moment. Our resilience is being tested right now. Even in the darkest hour, we have faith that there will be light again. This strength is never more evident than how the Jewish people transition from Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) to Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), which is April 27 and 28 this year.

In the time span of a week, Israel goes from mourning the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust (Yom HaShoah), to the next week remembering the soldiers who sacrificed their lives , Israel Memorial Day, to the very next day celebrating Israel becoming a state, Israel Independence Day,  Yom Ha’atzmaut. Typically these momentous events draw crowds of people, but during the pandemic lockdown the many ceremonies took place in empty venues and were broadcast online, allowing the world to witness how a nation comes together in solitude in the worst and best of times. This trajectory of lows and highs, our ability to adapt and to never give up, has led to the survival of the Jewish people. And this is the kind of strength that we all need to embrace during the global health crisis.  

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After Darkness, There is Light. A Lesson When The Pandemic “Passes Over”

“Why is this night different from all other nights,” will begin my 25-year-old son Jack sporting a thick, shaggy red beard, looking more like Rabbi Yankel. The last time he recited the Mah Nishtanah, the Four Questions, at our seder he was probably around bar mitzvah age. This Passover is different, in so many ways.

Tonight, there are only three of us at the table.  My 21-year-old daughter Sari is away, living in her college town in Kansas while taking online classes and working in a local pharmacy in the thick of a pandemic. Even though I wrote an article on virtual seders HERE,  and have learned some clever ways to social distance during a real life Passover plague, we chose to do our own service this year, just the three of us. I have a collection of Haggadahs, poems, and passages that we can use, and of course I prepared a full course meal, from matzo ball soup to chocolate macaroons. Hoping Sari will join us for the afikomen, at least.

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Tu B’Shvat Feast Celebrates Israel’s Birthday of Trees

Tu B’Shvat is considered a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, sandwiched between Hanukkah and Passover, but that doesn’t make this “New Year for the Trees” any less meaningful and fun for your family to celebrate in its fruity, nutty, earthy glory.

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Let’s Make Some Noise—It’s Purim!


How can one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar also be a  holiday that involves traditions to hide behind masks, parade in the streets dressed in colorful costumes, go overboard on a festive meal,  drink more alcohol than usual, run around like crazy to deliver bags of edible treats (mishloach manot) to friends, neighbors and even strangers, give tzedakah to the needy (or anyone who asks), not to mention make lots of noise in the middle of synagogue while the Rabbi reads from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible),  Well, this is Purim, even inspiring my Rabbi friend to don a gorilla costume and swing from the rafters while making l’chaims.

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8 New Things I Learned About Hanukkah

Every year I learn something new about the Jewish holidays, which are all rich in history and dramatic storytelling of survival that influence our treasured customs, traditions, rituals, and, of course, our favorite foods because c’mon we love to eat. Hanukkah, which falls in November or December when the dark days of winter are approaching, happens to be one of the most widely celebrated times in the Jewish calendar. It’s popularity is not because the Festival of Lights is the most sacred holiday but because religious and nonreligious Jews alike embrace the traditions of lighting the menorah, eating latkes, spinning the dreidel, exchanging gifts, and devouring those gold foiled candies known as chocolate gelt, a Yiddish word for “money.” But Hanukkah, which is a Hebrew word for “dedication,” means so much more than enjoying fun and games and splurging on scrumptious sufganiyot or jelly-filled doughnuts.

As early as preschool, we are taught about the Hanukkah miracles of the Maccabees and the oil lasting for eight days, and as we grow up and mature and become parents ourselves, we continue to find deeper meaning of the sacrifices that our ancestors made thousands of years ago and how these lessons are relevant to our modern lives. By celebrating these holidays, sharing the joy with our children, and growing spiritually from each other, we continue to learn, show our pride, and most importantly keep Judaism alive.

So, following are EIGHT fascinating facts that I discovered or re-learned in a new way about Hanukkah this year. Feel free to share your new insights of Hanukkah, too! Continue reading

The Mitzvah of Women Making Challah

Whenever I make challah with my girlfriends, and we’re schmoozing, mixing, kneading, and laughing, the braided breads always turn out better than when I shape the dough by myself in my kitchen. And I’m not sure why, maybe it’s my imagination. We use the same ingredients—yeast, water, sugar, flour, oil, egg, salt—a basic bread recipe, although some women go gourmet and add sweet or savory fillings and create fancy designs. It must be the energy in the room, the shared focus on why we are here, that makes challah taste better when we make it together. The rhythm of squishing the sticky dough through our fingers and leaning in to it with our hands can work up a sweat if we’re doing it right. And when the floury soft mound finally forms, I can’t resist patting it like a baby’s bottom. By the time we catch the first whiff of fragrant yeast, we are transcended to a different space. When we make challah together, we forget about our list of things to do and just be in the moment. Continue reading

Great Big Challah Bake 2018–We Knead You!

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated once a year, right? But for Jewish people, Shabbat is like the special time of Thanksgiving. Every. Single. Friday. On Shabbat, also called Shabbos and the Sabbath, we gather with family and friends. We recognize our blessings. We give thanks. We splurge on a feast with our favorite foods. We decorate the table with fresh flowers, linen tablecloth, and candlesticks. We light candles, recite prayers, pour wine, share our abundance, and break bread. We eat some more. We engage in quality time with our children and families. We stuff ourselves with dessert. We enjoy our down time. We nap on the couch. We walk. We play. We hang out together. We immerse ourselves in a good book, as in, The book. We eat some more.

In the modern world of technology, it’s more challenging than ever to unplug from our non-stop schedules that includes jobs, kids, social media, traffic, deadlines, and everyday stresses in order to be still and reconnect with each other. Think of Shabbat as  25 hours of bliss, from sundown on Friday to  when the twinkling stars appear Saturday night, this is your time to rest, relax, rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul because when Sunday rolls around it’s time to get up and go again. Over the generations, many of these sacred rituals and traditions have faded away, and The Shabbat Project is here to remind us how to hold onto this gift we were given by our Creator. The Shabbos Project is a global, grass roots movement that is bringing awareness to why it’s more crucial than ever to honor this timeless observance that unites Jews all over the world. Our unity is what makes us special. Our unity is what makes us strong.

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It’s Simchat Torah! Let’s Dance!

Simchat Torah in the Yari’s sukkah.

Ya know how when you throw an epic party and everyone comes and has a great time, and there’s always one last person to leave? It’s like the ultimate Jewish goodbye. Well that’s my analogy for Simcha Torah, and the guest of honor is God, who wants us to soak in every last bit of happiness and newfound wisdom from the weeklong festival of Sukkot. When we welcome guests into our outdoor huts and we gather together in the beauty of nature and under the stars, we are humble and grateful.  We aren’t focused on material things that separates us, but rather the simple joys that bring us together. My mouth is still watering from dipping soft chewey challah into tahini stuffed eggplant and butternut squash soup, a few of the delicacies that wet our appetites for a feast served inside the sukkah of Rabbi Yosef and Mimi David. Consideirng the meal began after sundown, when the stars appeared, it was a late nite before we said our goodbyes. As we walked down the sidewalk together, we heard the sounds of crickets chirping and the faint singing of neighbors down the street who were still rejoicing after a full day of fun in their annual Yari sukkah party with lots of children, families, balloon making, moon bounce, a juggling rabbi, and a dairy meal of pasta, quiche, and sweets that kept on coming. This feeling of joy is what we strive for when Sukkot is finally over and we move back into our homes and return to our everyday lives. We try to maintain the closeness to each other, to God, and to nature.

Rabbi Yari known for his many talents, including juggling at weddings and special holidays.

Children enjoy the balloon making, treats, moon bounce and more.

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