Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sweet Year We Want to Have

Today, my religious school students planned, discussed, wrote, and drew all the sweet things they want to bring with them into the new year.  The things they want to learn, the things they want to improve, the way they want to be.  Here's a sample, from students from kindergarten to third grade:

  • Leren to climb a Tree
  • Learn to write Hebrew
  • Learning to read
  • I want to start being more helpful.
  • Beter at blowing the shofar
  • Life.
  • happy, nice, love
  • Being nice to my sister,
  • I wan to blow the shofar.
  • Beter at cleaning my room.

From Blogger Pictures
Next week, when we take a tashlich field trip to the closest pond, we will talk more about all the angers, mistakes and mean things from the past year that we are ready to throw away.

Reflections on Rosh Hashanah - Firsts and Lasts

My son is 17 and a senior in HS, and this is most probably his last Rosh Hashanah living at home.  Many years it has just been the two of us, and usually I try to see if friends will invite us for holiday meals, especially if I am working the day before a holiday begins, but this year I decided to cook a feast for us on Wednesday evening and enjoy our last Rosh Hashanah as a family.  Yes, there are others in the family this year (a completely different and wonderful story that I may post next week), but this is HIS last year living at home.  I think.  Seems like many adults move back home after college or early in their careers, but I am anticipating each holiday this year as being his last at home.

Some recollections:

My son was a very sick baby and was not allowed to eat raw honey until age 6 or 7 because his intestines were a wreck.  (So were his lungs and his heart.)  So we started a family tradition of dipping our apple slices into chocolate sauce for a sweet new year.

He was 18 months old the first time he ate a brownie, at a Rosh Hashanah meal with me, his dad, both sets of grandparents, a few aunts and uncles, and two cousins.  After the first bite of brownie, he exclaimed "Mowa Cake!"  His first two word phrase, and a great occasion for it.

Two years later, when he was 3½, my son said motzi for us all at our Rosh Hashanah dinner.  Almost as proud moment as hearing him say "More Cake!"

At six he wanted me to make him a kittel just Daddy's.  I said no but let him buy a white tie and white pants to go with his white shirt.

At nine, he mastered the notes of the shofar.

At age 13, he chanted the 5th aliyah from the Torah using the high holiday melody.  On the same day, He saw me cry for the first time in public on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.  A difficult story, for another day.

Last year, after he became vegetarian, I brought him to a friend's house for Rosh Hashanah dinner, and made a vegan casserole as part of our contribution to the potluck meal.  My friend served chicken, turkey meatballs, and beef, and we passed the dishes around the table.  As he held the tray the family grandmother to serve herself meat, I remember saying a silent plea, "Please, just don't say anything about dead animals. Please just let her take the food without you commenting."  And he did.  A sign of great maturity.  At home, I would have gotten a lecture on the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

This year, my son and his girlfriend are both vegan, and I am preparing a vegan family feast to rival no other. I anticipate that we will also have other things to celebrate on Wenesday, but for now I am content to still have my son at home, even if we are back to dipping our apples in chocolate sauce instead of honey.

May you all have a very sweet new year!

שנה טובה

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mourning a Kiddush Cup, but only briefly

People matter. Things matter so much less than people. My people are doing well, cramming for exams, living the lives.

I am not a things person, but I am so sad at losing my favorite kiddush cup. I took a picture to remember it.

This lovely cup was handcrafted cup made by a local artist. One of my very first Bar Mitzvah students bought it for me to give as a gift thanking me for helping him get through the bar mitzvah,

Do I tell the young man? Ask his parents the name of the artist and get a new one? Or do I simply Use the less-pretty and less-meaningful kiddush cups I still have,

Rosh Hashanah Instructional Resources

These are the materials I'll be using in classes this week (starting in 8 hours! yikes!).  Teacher friends --- feel free to borrow, and if you have any additions, please post them in the comments.


Friday, September 23, 2011

How does a good Jewish girl get herself in places like this?

In past years, I've worked in many schools in which Mexicans were the largest non-US group represented, and I've had classes that were largely Nepali or more Koreans than any other group, but there is something special in this adult ESL school. (For more on how I ended up working at this school, read this.) Not only are the Saudi students well over half if students in the college-prep program, they are also hear on a very well-defined, clear sense that they have two goals: they are here to study and learn and complete a degree and make professional connections that will help them with their careers back home; but equally important is their task to get to know Americans and other international students, while always being an excellent representative of their own culture. They are mini-ambassadors and they take that task seriously.
  How does a good Jewish girl end up attending propoganda events in honor of Saudi Arabia, and in awe and reference for King Abdullah. How does a good Jewish girl celebrate Saudi National Holiday? Well, I suppose theanswr is that I am a teacher. In a school that honors the tradtions and cultures of the students and staff.  As all schools should do. What am I doing there? I am a language teacher, a teacher who believes in multiculturalism and national pride, a teacher who loves seeing students in native dress and learning why some of the students wear white scarves while others where a red and white pattern. I am equally curious about the black silk ropes that sit above their heads, but what I noted most this afternoon was how quietly proud they all were.  They are creating their own community celebrations, and inviting the rest of us to learn and celebrate with the, I'm a good Jewish girl celebrating the culture of my students, and using what I learn about my global neighbors to help me understand my own Judaism and my Americanism through new eyes. 


Now what am I going to do with all these green banners and flags?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Danced!!!!!!!!!!!!!

image via
For those who don't know, I have been disabled to one degree or another for the past twelve years.  I've used canes daily the entire time, but have also spent great amounts of time in both a manual and a power wheelchair. I had surgery to repair 3 levels of my spine this past May, and have been walking and swimming well since June.  After surgery, I had to come up with a 3 month goal and a 6 month goal.  My 3 month goal was to dance.

I still use canes on stairs or when I am carrying my laptop or anything else of significant weight, but I have also been moving better and was given permission this month to exercise and stretch in new directions, and permission to dance.  Not wheelchair dancing. Not sitting and clapping while everyone else moved.  Not even dancing with crutches.  Dancing.

Today I danced!  I taught my 7th graders at Beth Shalom how to dance the Hora for all the Bar & Bat Mitzvah parties, and I danced with them!  Before we started, I honestly didn't know how well it would go, or even if I would fall.  I didn't fall.  I danced and danced and taught them how to celebrate in a Jewish way.  I danced.

Huge, huge thanks to God and my doctors.  My gratitude is overwhelmed only by my joy.

I am crying such tears of joy as I write this.  Honestly, you have no idea how much I have missed dancing.

I am only sorry that I didn't ask someone to photograph or take video or the event, but that just means I have to do it again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Day of a Brand New School

After more than 10 years, Beth El now has a weekday Hebrew school class for early elementary school children, and I was honored to teach the very first class this afternoon. What an awesome experience!
 We started the same way my great grandparents began their Hebrew studies --- by eating letters of the alef-bet in honey! We also sounded the shofar, explored our brand-new student Torah scroll, watched the workers begin to install the new chairs in the freshly-painted classroom, and learned to sing two new prayers. We had a great discussion about Rosh Hashanah and whether or not God has a birthday.