Tag Archive | Shabbat

A Mother’s Love. Too many Questions, no Answers.

boyz

Summer in our house means that the kids in my family get a break from their usual surroundings and, though we will miss them, we the parents take a short break from parenting.

I know that sounds bad to some, that we need a break from parenting so we ship them off to camp. But a wise woman, a mother of five boys, once told me when my children were very young, that one day I will understand: summer is a good time for everyone in the family to have some time on their own in a different place.

Last Friday night, our family of five had our last Shabbat dinner together before we headed to the separate destinations of camp and Israel. And New York. And Italy.

I lit three more Shabbat candles than usual and said an extra prayer.

Eyal, Naftali, Gilad, where are you? Who is watching over you? Who is feeding you? Who is clothing you? Gd in Heaven please give them strength and keep them safe until they are rescued. Please. 

My husband and I held hands with our three children and sang the blessings. We blessed our children. I now have to rise up on my toes to kiss the top of my fifteen-year-old son’s forehead. He has to bend down to put his head on my shoulder when he hugs me. I can feel his shoulders getting broader. Looking down, I wonder how those feet which were once so tiny got to be the size of a mans, with no signs that they have stopped growing.

As much of a man he is turning out to be, I still dote on, and nudge my teen-aged son. A son who can’t seem to eat enough though he remains thin as a bean pole. A son who plays guitar, has formed a band, and has introduced me to a lot of cool music

The kids that night ate heartily. They enjoyed the last homemade challah they would have until the end of August.

We are not Shabbat observant. After dinner, Broadway show tunes played on the Sonos. My children sang and danced loudly together around the family room.

I tried to soak it all in and be joyful, but having the knowledge that across the sea, there were empty places at the Shabbat tables of three families in Israel, my joy was tinged.

We are going on the third Shabbat in which these families will not have their sons home. Kidnapped by terrorists on their way home from school, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal have not been heard or seen since in spite of a vigorous search and investigation from the Israel Defense Forces.

I don’t know what is sustaining these families.  Think about when you lose sight of your kid in a shopping mall or at a carnival. Those few moments are agony. For two weeks, every moment for these families has been agony. Every night their beds are empty must be agony.

I have so many questions.

Where are they being held?

Why is there NO coverage of the kidnapping of these boys in the US media, even though one of the boys has dual US-Israel citizenship?

Why has our President been so silent in this matter?

How could the United Nations be so cruel as to mock the pain of the three mothers, who went to Geneva to testify and plead on behalf of their sons, only to get a response from the UN that there is no evidence of an abduction, that perhaps these “settlers” went on holiday and didn’t tell their parents?

 

Where are they?

Where are they?

And, what can I do?

What else can I do?

I follow every bit of news coming out of Israel on my Facebook feed, sites like the Times of Israel and Israel365

I say special Psalms

Ribbons tied to my tree for the boys? Check.

Create a sign with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys? Check.

There is one woman I know who is doing more to help the boys more than anyone else I know.

Remember the woman with the five boys? Almost a decade ago, she and her husband and five boys made aliyah. Now, she works as an educational psychologist and is on the ground in the very town from where the boys families live and is helping schoolchildren there cope with this crisis that has taken away their friends or their siblings. You can listen to her being interviewed on a local Israeli radio show.

Therein lies the difference between one side and the other.

We as Jews when it comes down to it, we really care for each other and will support each other because we are responsible for each other. All of Israel is responsible for each other. In the end, it is something we must stand by to know that it will be all right in the end because we care for each other, and we place the value of life of any living human in the highest regard.

It is sad to say that on the other side, that is clearly not the case.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

Minding Those Manners on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Circuit

candleceremony

Izzy Randel, 12, Scott Katz, 11, both of Farmington Hills; Matthew Brown, 12, of Franklin; Jacob Kroll, 12, of West Bloomfield; and Jessica Gordon, 11, of Farmington Hills play the family blowing out the candles at a bar mitzvah.

Minding  Your Manners  Young people learn the rules for sharing  in their friends’ big day

Stacy Gittleman | Special to the Jewish News

PHOTOS BY JERRY ZOLYNSKY 

On a typical Shabbat in any Jewish American house of worship, there  is a young man or woman seated on the bimah. Dressed in a brand new suit or dress, these kids try to calm the butterflies in their stomachs before being called to the Torah for the very    First       time. You may think  they are the only one in the building going through a rite-of-passage ritual. However, their peers sitting in  the sanctuary are also enduring  their own coming-of-age test as  they navigate the bar/bat mitzvah  ceremony and party circuit. It may  be their first exposure to a formal  occasion in an increasingly informal  society.  Bar and bat mitzvah etiquette  starts with getting that invite in  the mail (and responding in a  prompt manner) and ends with  knowing whom to thank at the  end of the evening (the parents), and how many favors you are  allowed to take at the end of the party (hint: one per guest). Fortunately, there are businesses like Joe Cornell Entertainment in Southfield, co-owned by sister and brother team Steve Jasgur and Rebecca Schlussel, to help these young adults learn the  unwritten rules they are  expected to follow.
On a Wednesday  evening Hebrew school  session back in February,  around 35 sixth- and  seventh-graders at Adat Shalom  Synagogue in Farmington Hills  were treated to an afternoon  off from their regular studies  to a 90-minute Joe Cornell  Entertainment workshop.  The workshop, complete with  a candlelighting ceremony, cake  and dancing, was a highly condensed  sampling of a 12-week  course offered by the company  that teaches adolescents the fine  points of attending a dance or  other social occasion.  Schlussel has been offering  b’nai mitzvah etiquette for  many years. Having just planned  a December 2013 bar mitzvah  for her own son, she now spoke  through the lens of her personal  experience.  “When you get that invitation  in the mail, find the family  calendar.

As soon as you know  that date is clear, you respond  ‘yes’ and put the response card  in the mail, or email your reply,”  she instructed the students, seated  around a dance floor where they  would soon show off their best  moves. “Your friend really wants  you to come to their bar mitzvah,  and the parents really have to  know how much food to get —  and how many napkins to order  from the caterer.”    I must offer you full disclosure  here: In addition to being a  writer, I am also the sixth-grade  Hebrew school teacher at Adat  Shalom. Throughout the year, I’ve  watched my students mature from  an energetic bunch of little kids  into inquisitive, emerging young  adults who demonstrate that they  are prepared to do the work and  studying required to become a bar  or bat mitzvah.

As their teacher, I get an inside  track on the mindset of the preb’nai  mitzvah scene. At the start  of class, a student will enthusiastically  share the news with  me that they received their bar/bat mitzvah date and Torah portion.  Others will tell me how they  recently attended a bar/bat mitzvah  and to avoid getting “bored,”  they actually made an effort to  follow along with the service and  the Torah reading. Or look up their  Torah reading. This is music to a  Hebrew school teacher’s ears.  Continuing to focus on the ritual  aspect of the b’nai mitzvah, Rabbi  Rachel Shere led the students  through a question-and-answer  session of how to conduct oneself  at Shabbat services.

She advised the students to tell  their friends that it is acceptable  to arrive to synagogue an hour  later than indicated on the invitation.  It is not acceptable to use  any electronics in the building on  Shabbat, so students accustomed  to being constantly wired may  have to arrange pick-up times  with parents earlier or, at least,  use their phones outside the  building or in a quiet corner.

Matthew Berg, 11, of Farmington talks with Re-becca Schlussel of West Bloomfield about the proper way to say thank you after a bar mitzvah.

Matthew Berg, 11, of Farmington talks with Re-becca Schlussel of West
Bloomfield about the proper way to say thank you after a bar mitzvah.

“We know that cell phones are  a fact of life. But on Shabbat we  try to avoid these distractions as  much as possible so we can pray  with our community. If you must  use a cell phone to contact your  parents for a ride home, please be  discrete about it,” Shere said.  Shere added that options for  “boredom” during services include  taking a short break outside the  sanctuary in the synagogue’s  youth lounge, where there will be  snacks to fend off mid-morning  hunger. It is also expected of them  to be gracious guests.

“Always remember to introduce  yourself to the parents of your  friend and thank them for inviting  you to this very happy family  occasion,” she said.  After the more serious lessons,  it was time to have some fun.  Students played roles of the  “bar mitzvah family,” in a mock  candle ceremony and were then  taught the hora and other dance  moves.

According to Jasgur, dancing  at a b’nai mitzvah party is not  optional.  “Dancing for your friend is a fun  obligation that shows your friend  how happy you are to celebrate  with them on their big day,”  Jasgur said.

At Temple Israel in West  Bloomfield, Rabbi Marla Hornsten  said that Joe Cornell Entertainment  offered similar workshops to adolescents,  and proper dress and  behavior in the sanctuary are discussed  in the classroom.  “Most of all, I hope this is a  conversation parents are having  with their children long before  they are dropped off for the morning  service,” Hornsten said.  Andre Douville, executive director  of Temple Shir Shalom in West  Bloomfield, said the congregation  prepares the entire bar mitzvah  family for the occasion with a few  meetings with the clergy that start  18 months prior to the big day.  At these meetings, families are  encouraged to come to services in  the months leading up to the bar or bat mitzvah to become familiar  with services and to understand  what will be expected of them.

During these meetings, a family  may want to share some information  on the kinds of kids who are  coming to the temple for services.  If there will be a large amount of  non-Jewish kids, the families have  the option of inserting a one or  two-lined “synagogue primer” in  their invitation envelope about  behavior and dress expectations.

The temple has also adjusted  the start time of services on  Friday nights from 8 to 7:30 p.m.  to accommodate sleepy middle  schoolers who have been  waking up early all week  for school. Also, Shir  Shalom will “ramp up”  the number of ushers  depending on the number  of young guests.

“We know times are  different now. We expect  a level of decorum in  temple, such as no cell  phones and limited conversations.  But kids are kids, and  we know they are going to be  antsy. Sometimes, you have to be  a little forgiving,” Douville said.

So, to my young friends in the  bar/bat mitzvah circuit, and you  know who you are: Do yourself a  favor. Learn how to sit in services. Take the time to follow along with  your friends’ Torah reading to give  them your support — after all  that’s what you are there for.  There will be a bagel with your  name on it waiting for you at the  Kiddush as your reward for good  behavior.

 

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The Smithereens vs. Shabbat

smithereens
smithereens

a band with a great garage sound, the Smithereens started out in New Brunswick, my college town. They played a free show last Friday night at the Rochester Lilac Festival. 

A very long time ago, in a New Jersey city far far away, a young girl dressed in all black stood pressed against a mob of  other darkly clad classmates waiting for the Smithereens to take the stage. In one hand was a pen. In the other a skinny reporter’s notebook. She was covering the concert for the daily student newspaper for Rutgers University. Her very first concert review. She wondered: could writing for Rolling Stone be far off?

She didn’t have to pay because she had a student media pass.  She felt so COOL!

Her date, well, he had to pay.

Fast forward, em, several decades later.

She can’t even remember who her date was that evening or who ditched who.

That student reporter jumping up and down in the Rutgers Student Center while covering that great local New Brunswick band? The band she loved so much she played a tape recording (yep, tape recording) of their album Especially for You in her dorm room until it broke?

That would be me.

I’m all grown up. But I still love the Smithereens – the honey smooth baritone voice of lead singer Pat DiNizio. The timeless garage band sound.

So when I learned the Smithereens were playing the Rochester Lilac Festival for free, I thought:

“I’ve GOT to go!”

Then I checked on the date.

Friday night.

7 p.m.

Hmmm.  Being Jewish, practicing Judaism makes you make some tough choices.

I really wanted to have my eardrums blown away by this band who got their start in my college town. But you see, it was Friday night.  And the grown-up me — the wife and mom with three kids — has a rule. Friday night is Shabbat. Friday night is family night.

And for nine years now, my family has spent every other Friday night celebrating Shabbat with a chavurah, pretty much a circle of friends who has served as our extended family in a city where we have no family. And with the move coming, we really only have three more gatherings like this left.

Now, our communal Shabbat celebrations start at 7. And, the host’s home was a hop skip and a jump through the lilacs from the stage where the Smithereens would play. And on such a beautiful Rochester night. And who knows if or when I would ever get a chance like this?

I’m a grownup, right? I can make my own decisions, I could have just walked over to listen to one of my fave bands to take me back to my college days, right?

But I made my decision. To set an example for my kids, who have sacrificed many a social outing to be together to celebrate Shabbat.

And, to see my teen kids leading our prayer services with the other teens in the group….

To hear them sing the prayers for years I had begged, prodded and NUDGED for them to follow along?

As I sat and listened to my kids lead the adults in prayer, I knew I made the right choice.

To Pat and the rest of the Smithereens, I’ll have to catch you another time. And in the meantime, I promise to buy your latest stuff.

This time, I’ll just download it.

Have you ever had to make a choice because of the religion you practice? 

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