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Food Pantries Collect Halloween Leftovers

Is it just me or is Halloween getting old? It used to be that I looked forward to making a big pot of chili and cornbread and then greeting ghosts and goblins with a caldron filled with mini chocolate bars. Now every time the doorbell rings, I’m annoyed that I have to take off my reader glasses, put a book mark in between pages of Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants,” and drag my butt off the couch to hand over candy to a 10-year-old wearing gym shorts and a Nike t-shirt who brags that he’s dressed like a fifth grader (because he is one). Continue reading

Chicago Mom-Author-Moviemaker Inspires Niceness Worldwide

When I think of good deed doers (as in mitzvah makers), I think of Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She’s a mom, a writer, a short film maker (as in both her height and length of her mini movies). She’s a visionary, an optimist, and a player (as in word juggling and positive pranking, more on that later). She happens to be Jewish, and she celebrates all walks of life by spreading niceness. In a world with so much negativity, Rosenthal is a positive force to be reckoned with (as in tikkun olam, repairing the world).

If you ask me, she’s the original “Happiness Project.” Continue reading

Holiday Mitzvahs Top Wish Lists, at Least for Parents

As the first decade of the new millennium approaches (writers are always looking for a hook), I can’t help but contemplate how the wish lists of my children reflect today’s warped generation. Sari, almost 11, wants a cell phone. I didn’t own one until I was engaged to be married. Jack, a freshman in high school, yearns for Dr. Dre headphones that cost more than my auto insurance deductable.

Parents are to blame for their children’s spoiled behavior, and I’m certainly no exception, especially when it comes to high-tech toys. To start with, we stick our youngsters in front of the computer way too young, while they’re still in diapers, and we practically give them a username and password by the time they get a social security card. No wonder today’s youth have a constant need for stimulation and immediate gratification. When a recent Wal-mart television commercial advertises how Nintendo DS promotes family bonding, the situation is obviously out of control. Continue reading

Make No Bones About It—Mitzvah Dogs Help Others

As all of you loyal readers know, “Mitzvot of the Heart” showcases boys and girls who use their unique skills and interests to help others and make a real difference in the community. It’s only fair then to praise our four-legged friends who do their part in making the world a kinder place as well. After all, a dog can perform a variety of good deeds, such as boost confidence in a child who struggles with reading, enable a disabled adult in a wheelchair to push open a door, and offer companionship to a lonely elderly person. It’s about time we give these mitzvah muts their well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Continue reading

Mitzvahs Highlight Another Holiday Season

Jewish people love tradition—even when the holiday isn’t one of our own, like Christmas. We share in the merriment of this widely celebrated Christian festival because it gives us an opportunity to do another mitzvah, not just see a movie and eat moo goo gai pan. Continue reading

Jewish Food Pantry Feeds Body & Souls

The first thing my kids do when they get home from school or summer camp is head to the kitchen for a snack. Before I have a chance to ask them, “How was your day?”, they tear into a granola bar, devour a bowl of cereal, and polish off the leftover chicken parmesan before they finally come up for air and ask me, “What’s for dinner”?

My kids are lucky. They always have something to eat and drink. It?s easy to take for granted that our refrigerator and pantry are full with healthy food. An important lesson to teach our children is that many kids are not as fortunate. A lot of them are hungry because of various economic hardships that make it difficult for their parents to afford food in their bellies, let alone fuel in their gas tanks.

Continue reading

Bnei Mitzvah Students Thrive on Jewish Connection

Like I was saying…At no greater time in a child’s life is a Jewish connection more important than adolescence. So why are so many teens tempted to abandon the tribe after they’ve worked so hard on their bnei mitzvahs? I mean, if I remember correctly, the teenage years are tough enough without having a peer group to identify with. Yet for some reason, after the thank-you notes are written and the gift cards are spent, many young Jewish adults blend back into the melting pot of society and lose their Jewish selves. Continue reading

Sharing Leftover Toys and Food Brighten Holidays

I knew Hanukkah was finally over when Jack flipped through the Farmer’s Almanac that I gave him on day eight and searched for crisp dollar bills in between the pages of astronomical data. When Sari opened a box with a purple hoodie inside, I could tell by the disappointed look on her face that she rather would have a Limited Too gift card and pick out her own wardrobe. Even though I got a “thanks mom,” I didn’t feel the love. Where’s the true appreciation? I was disappointed by their selfish attitudes. Next year they’re getting a navel orange in their tennis shoe like their Christian friends wake up to on St. Nick’s Day. Continue reading

Meaningful Mitzvahs Are A Big Hit With Teens

Mitzvah projects are as unique as the Hebrew school students themselves, and it’s hard to say who benefits the most, the giver or the receiver. With a keen awareness of social justice and diverse skills and interests, today’s young Jewish people are eager to choose a tzedakah project that goes beyond collecting money for a charity. Sure, they can donate a percentage of their monetary gifts to many worthwhile causes, such as Mazon, which fights hunger worldwide, but they also are eager to give their time, talents, and energy to help those in need. Continue reading

B’nei Mitzvahs Give New Meaning To Tzedekah

Who says kids today are lazy and self centered? Uhh, maybe I did, but never mind. Ask any typical hormonal, pimply pre-teen preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah and he or she will show you the contrary. Consider, for example, the relentless demands on Jewish 13-year-olds who are about to embark on symbolic adulthood. To start with, they diligently practice their Torah portion; study their Haftarah; write a personal interpretation of the weekly Torah portion, called the D’var Torah; and put up with their mothers who obsess for a whole year over everything from the guest list to the dessert table. Continue reading