RBG

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Thanks to the Charleston JCC Without Walls Filmfest, our family had put this movie on our calendar as soon as we heard it was coming to Charleston. (I think we had our tickets two days later. I was NOT going to miss this!) But there are still more opportunities to see the movie — it will be playing at the Terrace Theater for at least another week — and I really hope you will. Common Sense Media says the film is appropriate and recommended for ages 10 and up, and the opportunities to “add on Judaism” to your family’s viewing are abundant!

DON’T GET ANGRY

RBG shares that half of her mother’s advice to her was: Don’t get angry. At least that was RBG’s intepretation of the advice to “be a lady.” (The second half of the advice was to be independent.) The Talmud (Pesachim 66b) records the sage Resh Lakish as saying: “Any person who becomes angry, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him.” Proverbs 16:32 teaches: “He who is slow to anger is better than a strong man, and he who masters his passions is better than one who conquers a city.”

Discuss as a family:

  • How do you interpret these teachings from Jewish tradition? How do you think this lesson from RBG’s mother has served her well in her career?
  • When have you “held your tongue” — how did you do it? What was the result? When have you allowed yourself to get angry — what did you do or say? What was the result?
  • How might you help the practice of not reacting with anger become a habit?

UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP

Much has been made of the unlikely friendship between Justices RBG and Antonin Scalia, and rightfully so — they were ideologically opposed in so many ways, yet truly enjoyed one another’s company and shared a deep, abiding, mutual respect.

  • Take a look at the archetypal “odd couple” of Jewish history: Hillel and Shammai. In almost all cases, they were on opposite sides of an issue. Yet, tradition tells us there was abiding respect, and the rulings of both are preserved because “each has its time and place.” The children’s book, The Shema in the Mezuzah: Listening to Each Other, is a great teaching about one of their disputes.

DISSENT

Can’t make it to the movie? Or want to continue to learn about RBG? Read I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark. (If you’re signed up for PJLibrary — and if you have children you should be signed up for PJLibrary!; you can do so here — then you most likely received this book last year.) Read the book as a family, but then also…

  • Keep the book somewhere where you’ll remember to read it the next time you’re the Parent Reader in your child’s class! 
  • Check out this curriculum guide put together by the ADL when I Dissent was selected as their Book of the Month.

MAKING IT PERSONAL

At a couple of points during the film, my son leaned over and, noting the date of a particular court case, realized it was the year I was born or the year his dad was born. (Let the record show the latter is waaaaaay before the former.) But in those moments what seemed like ancient history — women couldn’t attend a public college? women in the military didn’t get the same benefits as men? — became as recent and as real as it is.

  • Make a timeline of the significant cases in RBG’s career AND make a timeline of your own family members, and see where the two overlap. Interview some of your family members who were adults when RBG was fighting cases against sex discrimination before the Supreme Court. What do they remember about that time period?
  • We also loved hearing RBG’s granddaughter call her grandmother Bubbe. Superheroes can be Bubbes and Bubbes can be superheros — superheroines — too. What special accomplishments have some of the women you know and love achieved? Ask them what they’re most proud of. Ask them about some of the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. 
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Mother’s Day

D1A3DFC0-28F1-4869-9E94-D908B72B4255With brunches, flowers, cards, and gifts, we will turn our attention this weekend to the mothers in our lives. We may have Hallmark to thank for the current concept of a Mother’s Day (the merits of which we could certainly debate — thumbs up for dedicating a whole day to mothers, or thumbs down for taking what might otherwise be a part of every day and making it only one day a year?). And credit goes to President Woodrow Wilson, Anna Jarvis, and others for the initial idea of a Mothers’ Day long before that. But taking time out to acknowledge and appreciate the mothers in our lives certainly has deep roots in Judaism. Here’s a few Jewish “add ons” for your weekend celebration…

SHABBAT TABLE BLESSING

Every week at the Shabbat table — after candles and before Kiddush — we bless our children. The traditional formula, and the translation we use at KKBE, blesses our daughters: Y’simeich Elohim k’Sarah, Rifka, Rachel, v’Leah — May God bless you like Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, who carried forward the life of our people.

  • Who are the matriarchs who once “carried forward the life” of your family? What were their names? What were they known for? Who are the strong matriarchs in your family now? How do they keep your family close and connected? How have they supported you personally? Create blessings for your family’s Shabbat table combining the traditional formula with women from your own family: May you be like _________________________ who ___________________________________________.

HONOR YOUR MOTHER

Virtually any Mother’s Day card you pick up in the store tells mom, grandma, or whoever you’re buying a card for: “I love you.” But is that what Judaism would have us say?

  • The Torah tells us to “love God” (in the V’ahavta, Deuteronomy 6:9), “love the stranger” (Deuteronomy 10:19), and “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) — but it never tells us we have to love our parents. What it does say is to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). What does it mean to honor our mothers? Reflect upon what that verb means, both from the perspective of those being honored and from the perspective of those doing the honoring. One way we customarily honor individuals in Judaism is to make a donation in their honor. Consider making a donation to an organization near and dear to the heart of a mother in your life, or an organization that does important work with/for/on behalf of women.

JEWISH MOTHERS, IN PARTICULAR

Jewish mother jokes, Jewish mothers on the big screen and TV screen, Jewish mother stereotypes — once seen as the pillars of their families, Jewish mothers have more recently been on the receiving end of derision. This Mother’s Day trace and reclaim their legacy.

  • With wit and depth, Joyce Antler (Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University), has traced the full legacy of Jewish mothers in You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother. Not up for a full book? Lilith magazine did an in-depth interview with the author, that includes several of the book’s anecdotes.
  • There’s also a beautiful table book, titled Jewish Mothers, whose striking black & white photos and reflections from 50 mothers from all walks of Jewish life provide poignant insights into Jewish motherhood.

Israel’s Birthday

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On the 4th of Iyar (this year, April 19th — TOMORROW, as of this posting), Israel turns 70! But on the occasion of this particular birthday celebration, I recommend skipping the cake in favor of Israel’s famous salatim (Israeli salads), fresh hot pita, and maybe some Marzipan chocolate rugelach……..

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Sorry. Had to wipe the drool off of my keyboard. Where was I? Oh, yes… Yom HaAtzma’ut — Israel’s birthday!

All in Charleston are welcome to join us for a community celebration of Israel’s 70th at Addlestone Hebrew Academy on Thursday, April 19th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, and we hope to see you then. But in the spirit of this blog, here are some ways you can bring a little Israeli celebration into other parts of your Thursday, your weekend, or whenever you find your heart turning toward the East.

Get to know Israel @ 70 — and why not laugh while you do it.

  • For many years, comedian Benji Lovitt — who made aliyah in 2006 — has compiled a list of things he loves about Israel, from the poignant to the ridiculous to the sublime. Here are his lists from 2016, 2015, and 2014. I, too, “love that the Knesset installed solar panels on the roof, making it one of the most environmentally friendly parliaments in the world.” I love “that ‘ladybug’ in Hebrew is parat Moshe rabeinu (Moses’ cow) and ‘praying mantis’ is gamal Shlomo (Solomon’s camel).” And I love “the craft fair/garment district that is Nachalat Binyamin. Nowhere else can you buy a spool of sequined taffeta and a wallet made of repurposed Bamba wrappers.” What do you love about Israel?

Is there any better way to transport oneself to Israel than through food? (Well, of course, travel itself — but more on that later.)

  • Rumors about the popular Israeli snack, Bamba, appearing on Trader Joe’s shelves have been confirmed! (Warning: Bamba has been known to split households in half. Some love it, some hate it — there really doesn’t seem to be any in between.)
  • Try a sabra! This prickly cactus fruit, found throughout Israel’s natural landscape, can also be found in American grocery stores. And the fruit has given Israelis their nickname — sabras are hard and prickly on the outside, but soft and sweet inside… Awww.
  • Publix and Harris Teeter carry Osem Israeli couscous. This recipe for Morrocan Israeli couscous is my favorite — so good!
  • Headed out for dinner? Hanna Raskin gave the still new-ish Middle Eastern restaurant in North Charleston, Istanbul Shish Kabob, a fantastic review earlier this year. Schwarma, baba ghanoush, puffy pita… OK, drooling again.

How about some Israeli music?

  • Robin Shuler recommends “The Sticker Song” — and here’s background on how the song creatively weaves together the slogans on the ubiquitous bumper stickers found throughout Israel.
  • The first Israeli artist I heard in Israel was Achinoam Nini — “Keren Or” still takes me right back to the courtyard outside Beit Shmuel and the Hebrew Union College campus in Jerusalem.

Of course, there’s simply no substitute for the real thing: Travel to Israel itself.

  • Help make a trip for your child(ren) significantly more affordable by enrolling them in the Israel Education Fellowship (IEF) Program at the Charleston Jewish Federation. When your family sets aside $200/year (along with an annual donation of $100 to CJF’s Annual Campaign) — starting in 3rd grade and continuing for 7 years — your congregation will match the funds 1-to-1, and CJF will match the funds 2-to-1. By the end of your child’s 10th grade year, your $1,400 cumulative family contribution to the IEF Program ($2,100 total, including donations to CJF’s Annual Campaign) will yield $5,600 in available funds toward your child’s travel to Israel. It truly is a savings program that can’t be beat! Contact information to get started is available here.
  • Start planning now for KKBE’s Family Trip to Israel — July 14-25, 2019! Itinerary, pricing, and registration information available here. For more information, contact Rabbi Greg Kanter at rabbikanter@kkbe.org.

Farmer’s Market

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It feels a bit cruel to write about it when snow has fallen this week in so much of the country, but nevertheless… The Farmer’s Market is about to begin! The Charleston Farmer’s Market begins in one week (Saturday, April 14), downtown in Marion’s Square, with others — in Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley, and around town — to shortly follow.

More so than grocery stores and restaurants, Farmer’s Markets tend to evoke a greater appreciation for the connection between the food we eat, the land which produces it, and the people who cultivate and harvest it. Something which Jewish ritual and tradition encourage us to do, as well.

Consider the Seven Species… Deuteronomy 8:8 describes the land of Israel as “a land of wheat, barley, vines [grapes], fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey [date honey].” When we eat these special fruits, we are not only connected to the land, but specifically to the land of Israel.

  • Conduct a scavenger hunt amongs the Farmer’s Market booths. How many of these species, or products derived from them, can your family find?

Or take the ritual of First Fruits… According to Deuteronomy 26:2, we are to “take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that your God, will choose.” This ritual specifically applied to the first fruits of the seven species listed above, but considered more broadly, it ensures that the experience of harvesting the first fruit of a new season doesn’t pass without acknowledging the special moment such an experience represents.

  • Keeping in mind the calendar below, and talking with farmers in their booths at the Market, see if you can purchase and taste at least one variety of new produce each time you visit the market. If it’s the first time you’re tasting that fruit/vegetable this year, recite Shehecheyanu! If it’s the first time you’re ever tasting that fruit/vegetable… well, that’s definitely a Shehechayanu moment, too!

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Perhaps seeing all of the wonderful food at the Farmer’s Market will inspire your family to want to roll up your sleeves and participate in the harvesting of produce, as well — particularly to benefit those who are hungry or food insecure in our community. The Torah instructs us, in several places, to leave the corners of our fields for the poor; not to pick our fields or vineyards bare; to leave the fallen fruit. Thanks to the generosity of local farmers, we continue the mitzvah of making fresh produce available to those in need in our community, through these biblically inspired activities and others.

  • Local organization Fields to Families facilitates 4 different ways for your family to be involved: Helping to grow fresh produce at a local community garden, gleaning/harvesting produce from local farmers who don’t want their leftover crops to go to waste, collecting donations at Farmer’s Markets, and distributing gleaned/collected produce to those in need. To receive updates when volunteer opportunities are available, register at www.fieldstofamilies.org

Last, but not least, what more Jewish activity could there be than taking the ingredients you find at the Farmer’s Market and cooking??

  • With cabbage coming into season this month, try Marty Lehder Jackson’s “One Pot Unstuffed Cabbage” recipe from KKBE Sisterhood’s most recent cookbook, available in our Chosen Treasures gift shop. Search for Jewish recipes on the Union for Reform Judaism website. Or share your favorite Farmer’s Maket inspired Jewish recipe in the comments section below!

Opening Day/Baseball

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Opening Day 2018 is only a week away! On March 29 — the earliest Opening Day in MLB history — all 30 teams will play at some point in the afternoon or evening. College baseball seasons are already well underway (both the College of Charleston and the Citadel have a homestands this weekend, at Patriots Point and Joe Riley Stadium, respectively), and Little League and Rec Leagues are about to get in full-swing (no pun intended), as well. The RiverDogs play their first home game of the regular season on April 12, and there is sure to be a Jewish Heritage Night at the Joe sometime this summer. (In the meantime, you can see if there’s a Jewish player to follow on your favorite team here.)

Opening Day is like baseball’s New Year. Wait, a New Year in the middle of the year? Well, that’s something Judaism knows a thing or two about… The Hebrew calendar actually has not one, but FOUR New Years to celebrate during the course of every year — in fact, there was a New Year on the Hebrew calendar just last week!

  • See if you can match up these four New Years mentioned in the Hebrew Bible with the dates on the Hebrew calendar on which they are observed. (You can find the answers here.)

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Speaking of baseball and New Years… It seems every year there’s a discussion about Jewish players in the major leagues and whether or not they will play on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Sandy Koufax is perhaps the most well known Jewish ball player who wouldn’t play on Yom Kippur, refusing to pitch for the Dodgers in the first game of the 1965 World Series. Neither did he pitch when games fell on Rosh Hashanah or the first night of Passover; though he did regularly pitch on Shabbat. But Koufax was neither the first nor the last to face the dilemma — and we each face similar dilemmas in our own ways.

  • Have a discussion about the conflicts that arise between participating in Jewish observances and our commitments to school, work, and other activities and people (like our teammates). When have you had to make difficult decisions? How have you decided what to do? Sometimes our decisions have consequences — for instance, missing class for the High Holy Days may be considered an excused absence at school, but it can still prevent you from having perfect attendance; missing a team practice for a Religious School commitment may keep you from starting the next game. How can people like Sandy Koufax serve as role models for such times?

Baseball doesn’t just have to be played in the field, in a park, or on the diamond — you can play while you practice Hebrew in your workbook or the siddur (prayer book), as well!

  • To play you’ll need three pennies, a piece of paper, and a pencil. On the paper, draw a baseball diamond with three bases and home plate. Then you’re up to bat! Determine if you want to go for a single (reading one word correctly), double (two words), triple (three words), or homerun (four words or perhaps a whole line). Then read… If you read the number of words you hoped to read correctly, move a penny on to the correct base. If you didn’t read the words correctly (all the words you elected to read), then your team has one out. Keep track of baserunners with pennies; runs and outs with pencil and paper — and see how many runs you can score before your team strikes out! Play against a sibling, classmate, or parent (you don’t have to be reading the same words, it’s only the number of words that counts) for a head-to-head game.

Coco

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Disney Pixar’s Oscar award-winning Coco tells the story of a young boy trying to balance the weight of his family’s tradition and expectations with his own passions and growing sense of self. The story is uniquely situated in the Mexican celebration of Día de Muertos but touches upon a number of themes and ideas prevalent in Jewish tradition, as well.

Re: his interest in Día de Muertos, Coco’s director, Lee Unkrich, has said: “I’m Jewish and we grew up with the notion of the Yahrzeit, the yearly remembrance, but, in my mind, it was always this somber remembrance, and there’s just something so refreshing and vital about actively passing down stories and remembering with laughter who people were, and ritualizing it at home and surrounding yourself with photos of them in a vibrant way.”

  • Set a time — perhaps on a Yahrzeit — to tell stories of loved ones who are no longer living. What were their unique and special talents? What lessons did they teach by the way they lived their life? What question(s) would you want to ask them today? After you’ve shared stories prompted by memories and pictures, might you be able to guess some of their answers?

The visual image in the movie of all of the family’s photos arranged as a family tree is stunning.

  • Make your own family tree with photos. How far back can you go? Challenge yourselves to see how far back you can trace Hebrew names, as well. Are you named for anyone on the tree? Did anyone have any of the same talents/hobbies as you?

The film provides an outstanding opportunity to open up a dialogue about Jewish and personal beliefs in an afterlife — without the emotional challenges of doing so in response to the death of a loved one.

  • Reflect on some of the traditional Jewish views of the afterlife, and some of the thinking of Reform leaders. Consider views and ideas, not necessarily Jewish, but Jew-ish (the children’s book The Next Place does a particularly good job, I think). But most importantly ask one another what you each think — then listen and discuss the beautiful answers, both certain and uncertain, that emerge.

*Spoiler alert* (but c’mon, you saw it coming – it’s Disney!): The movie also becomes a celebration of music. Miguel isn’t the only one who loves music —