How to cope when children seek a new faith...

Interesting story in the Chicago Tribune in which I’m quoted. You can read the entire story here:

Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Ancient Prayer…...

…No, really. On Buzzfeed, no less. Apparently, Katy Perry threw shade at Britney Spears on the Grammy’s red carpet and made an unkind reference to Britney’s meltdown a few years back. Britney responded by taking the high road and slightly updating a biblical verse to allude to Katy’s unkind comment while appearing to take the high road. Her mouth speaks from that which fills her heart ❤️ Luke 6:45 pic.twitter.com/L7YPi3Iirl — Britney Spears (@britneyspears) February 13, 2017 I weighed in with an interpretation. You can read more on Buzzfeed. And hey, Brit– now that you’re quoting on more biblical themes, I’d love to send you a copy of Ancient Prayer!...

8 Things to Love about Chanukah

It’s Chanukah this week, which means that Jewish people get to celebrate eight fun days and nights commemorating miracles and the victory of dark over light. In no particular order, here are 8 reasons to fall in love with this minor in designation only Jewish winter holiday: 1. Latkes and Donuts and Schnitzel, Oh My: Sitting around eating fried foods is actually considered part of the observance. Since a large part of the Chanukah miracle involved pure olive oil (EVOO, to you foodie folks) meant for one day lasting for eight, it’s customary to eat food fried in oil, with latkes and sufganiyot (a Hebrew word for deep fried donuts) topping the list. 2. Add Some Light: Lighting candles and relaxing….like Netflix and chill, only with an eight branched menorah. The notion being, that while the Chanukah candles are lit, you’re not supposed to do any work, ergo- you must relax and spend time with your loved ones (even if your loved ones include romance novels and a bubble bath). Candle light and relaxation is built in to the celebration. 3. In a word: Maccabees: The good guys. The underdogs. The small but mighty warriors that won the day and won in a big way. Arch villains vs. warrior Jews resulting in candle related miracles. (It’s like Harry Potter, only different). 4. Gifties. Lots of them, if you play your cards right….Some say 8 nights worth. If you’re still looking for gift inspiration, check out this guide I wrote for Parade.com. 5. 21 Up: Oh, right. Card playing. It’s also on the agenda for some of us (a very minor number play card games at holiday parties in addition to spinning the dreidel). Bonus points for milk chocolate Chanukah gelt shared and shared alike. 6. Parties. Gatherings. Time with loved ones. Take some time off and just chill with your tribe. 7. Dreidels: Chanukah has its own branded/holiday related toy in the form of a spinning top. No Mensch on a Bench knockoffs needed. 8. Eight Days/Eight Nights. Unlike some holiday madness that lasts for only a day, we get to enjoy this one for eight of...

Leonard Cohen is Ready

I haven’t been posting much, and after a year(s) of tremendous personal loss, I’ve intentionally tried to avoid posting about only darker topics, so most of the time I didn’t end up posting. But I was by turns comforted/devastated to read that in an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, the 82-year-old Leonard Cohen declared that he’s ready to die. When asked about completing works in progress or possibly touring, Cohen said: “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs. Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.” In his new single You Want It Darker Cohen wields his trademark growling rasp like a light saber to deliver lyrics that seem to accuse an impossible to please God of forcing his faithful into cruel and torturous positions to prove their steadfastness. He seems disgusted and world-weary, but there’s a tiny playful spark there as well- perhaps shared only in the way of a believer who’s had his heart-broken once too often by his sometimes unrequited faith. Cohen’s no stranger to using biblical or liturgical themes or references in his music including , The Story of Isaac echoed in the refrain here with “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord,” the words spoken by Abraham when tested and asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. While it’s tempting to pull in the recurring theme of the sacrifice of Isaac as referenced in the name of the Hineni center founded by the recently departed Esther Jungreis, or Matisyahu‘s own riff on sacrifice, Akeda*, for now, let’s go back to Cohen’s living legacy.  I was in shul (temple/synagogue) yesterday on Yom Kippur. And while I tried my hardest to keep my mind on the prayers in my machzor, after nearly 25 hours of fasting, my mind wandered. It was during the final prayer of the day, the Neilah service (the closing prayers for the High Holy Days) that I simply listened to the exquisite imperfect singing of the entire congregation that felt almost palpable in the enclosed space. Or maybe it was just my extreme hunger that made me feel the prayers in addition to hearing them. At one point, a young boy’s voice rose above the rest, pure, sweet, clear, full of hope and fervent belief. And I felt my eyes welling up for so many reasons. I thought about my late father’s experiences during the Holocaust as a young boy, and the millions of Jewish lives deliberately snuffed out in the concentration camps. I thought about the virulent anti-Semitism in the world today and I truly felt baffled by the hatred directed at us century after century. And I thought about the years that I was quiet and did not discuss my own faith, flawed as it is. There was something else, but that’s a bit raw, so I’ll leave it for a later post. Inexplicably, I was filled with hope, the kind that comes after pouring one’s heart out in prayer and wishing every secret wish. Today, I’m trying to ease back into my day-to-day life, and yet I can’t seem to stop listening to Leonard Cohen’s new song. The background music, according to an article in The Forward, was provided...

Do Something AKA the Anti-Kvetch Kulture

There’s been much talk about how the internet seems to have inspired a sense of outraged apathy with people tweeting or posting about various causes, but not actually doing much of anything. And unlike the protest marches or sit ins that were prevalent in the 1960s and ’70s, people might post a meme or share a tweet and think they’ve done their part to further a cause or combat a dangerous political agenda. They haven’t. But there’s still time to start. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and holiest day of the Jewish calendar, begins at sundown tonight. It’s a time of fasting and prayer and contemplation. The notion being that we may have been inscribed into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but on Yom Kippur the book is closed and one’s future year is theoretically sealed for the year ahead (there’s much discourse about always changing one’s fate, but that’s a long post for a different time). In preparing for a talk about the Jewish High Holy Days, I reread a portion of my book Ancient Prayer in which I wrote about the Shema prayer and something struck me. While reciting the prayer on a daily basis (and before bed) part of the prayer is whispered: Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever. As I wrote in the book, “as children, we were taught that this particular prayer was a private one said by the angels directly to God, and that we say it quietly so as not  to  anger them or infer that we are on their level. The only day that this prayer is said out loud is on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jewish people fast and pray, and are considered on the same level as angels.” The political climate feels by turns like a punchline or a punch in the gut, depending on who’s saying what. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, around the world, locally and on-campus is depressing and terrifying, with all too disturbing echoes of Nazi Germany, according to my relatives who are Holocaust survivors. Instead of feeling helpless though, I feel as though there’s so much that we can and should be doing. I know that I’m trying and will continue to do so. After years of speaking out privately and in small groups about the injustices perpetrated on Holocaust survivors by groups claiming to serve their best interests while in actuality mostly serving their own, I finally published an essay that was syndicated widely nationally and internationally. It isn’t that I didn’t try to write articles on the topic, but the groups in question have such huge influence and spending power, that they mostly shut down (or sue) anyone who speaks out against them. I also previously hadn’t been publicly vocal about my absolute support of Israel, most especially in light of the BDS movement which claims to be about sanctions against Israel, but is an unjust cause and barely veiled anti-Semitic movement. I wrote about being inspired by actor Joshua Malina’s own support of Jewish causes on his social media. But it isn’t just my support for Jewish causes that I’ve been more public about. I’m a proudly staunch feminist who feels queasy at the way many younger women seem to decry feminism as something unpleasant or shrill. I believe that we have to take better care of the planet and each other. I believe...