I’m not OK and you shouldn’t be either

It’s officially been over a year since starting my Mommellah project.   It’s been a great time of new beginnings and reflections of how motherhood can connect me to Jewishness.  I recently read a post about mother who is living in Israel, and after telling everyone for so many weeks that she was OK with the current conflict, decided that she is not.  It really hit me.  As a mother, I can’t even imagine being in the scene that she paints.  It makes me want to cry.  It makes me want to scream.  It makes me realize that even though I may be halfway around the world, I’m not OK either.

The other morning my husband looked at me during breakfast and asked me what was wrong.  I just can not stop thinking about what families in Israel are going through right now.  The fear, the injustice, the horror of it all.  The reality that even though Israel is defending themselves in a reasonable way, they are fighting an unreasonable enemy.  Pictures of dead children vilifying Israel, when Hamas orchestrates their deaths so the world sees Israel as a monster.   It all shakes me to my core.

I have to ask myself, why is this conflict so much more important to me than conflicts in the past?  Is it really more severe?  More publicized?  Am I more aware of what’s going on because of my new blog and dedication to my Jewish identity?  It could be it’s become more real knowing I have friends in Israel, parents that have children who I can sympathize with because of my family here.  They’re not OK.  They shouldn’t be.  I’m not either and frankly, there’s not a Jew on the planet who shouldn’t be afraid right now.

The media coverage is disgusting.  I want to believe that the people who are supportive of the Palestinian action are ignorant of the true facts and are falling in the PR trap Hamas set for us.  Unfortunately, it’s just not the case.  The events in Paris make me wonder, can there be another Holocaust?  Will there be?  My heart is heavy.  Every single day.

My Jewishness means I am connected to Israel, no matter how far away.  I must stand for Israel, or I stand for nothing.  As a Mommellah, I’m starting to realize, my duty is in teaching my kids about our history, Israel, the Holocaust and what is happening today in the Middle East and in Europe where antisemitic feelings and actions still exist.  I’m learning that being a Jewish mother goes far beyond Berit Milah, lighting Shabbos candles and changing diapers.  It’s about explaining what you can about what’s important to the future of our people.  The proud descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Am Yisrael Chai.

May the Schwartz be with you

Halloween: Kosher or Treif?


Halloween, the crisp fall air, the fun and freight of dressing up, haunted houses and trick or treating.  My memories of being a young child and the thrill of the scare make me nostalgic for the simpler days in my life.  Growing up as a Reform Jew in Southern California, there was never a question of whether I would celebrate this holiday in all of its traditional, American glory.  Costumes, parties, tricks, treats, and candy.  What is there not to like?

Now that I have kids of my own, and have more of a focus to find meaning and connection to my Jewish heritage, I find that Halloween is pretty much considered treif by most conservative Jews.  Disappointing, but not surprising.  Halloween has never been associated with Judaism and is traditionally a time for witches, spirits and divination.  Of course, I am not a witch, I am a Jew.  So what does Halloween mean to me and why do I choose to celebrate it?

It’s essentially a silly, secular holiday.  Do I really need to appease the “spirits wandering around” with candy?  Do I need to dress up to represent those wandering spirits?!  Lord no.  I dress up to celebrate my American roots and traditions.  Heck, it’s only been celebrated here in America for the last 100 years.  It may seem old to me, but relatively speaking, a new practice.

Most traditional rabbis argue that trick-or-treating is best avoided. Some children are easily scared.  Some Jews choose not to go trick-or-treating. Instead, they will celebrate in other ways like roasting pumpkin seeds, eating fun food, bobbing for apples and listening to Halloween themed songs.  Although these celebrations may be viewed as alternatives to participating in a foolish custom, it’s still celebrating the holiday. So I ask these Jews, why stop just short of trick-or-treating?

I view Halloween as a secular holiday, no different than Thanksgiving or July 4th.  It’s an evening filled with harmless fun and free candy.  I think many American Jews see nothing wrong with that.  In the end, it’s up to you to decide for yourself how you view the holiday, and how you would like your family to celebrate, if at all.

I can still remember the rubber mask my dad bought when I was about 7.  He sat on the porch all night and scared the kids that thought he was a dummy in a chair.  It is a memory I will never forget and will appreciate forever.  So, for all the reasons you may decide not to celebrate, I’m celebrating for one reason only; To give my sons the opportunity to create and cherish their own Halloween memories.