The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Sukkah Building!

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 30, 2012

Scott does not as a rule enjoy DIY projects but on Sukkot he wields power tools.





The decorations are underway….more to come this week I’m sure!


Why All Jews Should Skip Work/School on the High Holidays

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 29, 2012

You must! Please! For the good of ALL Jews worldwide, I implore you, even if it is to just sit at home watching Sponge Bob, take the day off work and keep your kids out of school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Normally I’m pretty live-and-let-live about personal choices, especially the religious practices of other Jews. But if you think about it, this particular choice affects all other Jews worldwide. When YOU go to work because there’s a big meeting or you don’t have any more holiday time or your child goes to school because of the big math test, you put an impression in the minds of the non-Jewish majority that these holidays really aren’t that big of a deal after all.

So I, who truly do need these days off, will hear, “My husband works with a Jewish guy and HE’S at work today,” or “Growing up there was this Jewish family and THEY always came to school.”

Because let’s face it: the non-Jewish world doesn’t really *get* Jewish holidays.

Our observance of “the new year” sounds crazy. First off, how many “new years” do we even have, anyway? At least a few, right? And we don’t party, or drink, or blow noisemakers, or stay up late. Some of us do make resolutions but they’re usually kind of solemn and boring. Gyms and Zumba classes don’t get all crowded in October because of all the Jews who made resolutions to lose the last 10 pounds at Rosh Hashanah.

And Yom Kippur…how do you explain the Day of Atonement to non-Jews? You could say (as I usually do): “It’s the holiest day of the year. We fast and pray together in synagogue from morning to night.”

Except I don’t fast. My husband fasts, but my kids are too young, and I am physically unable to for health reasons. And my family doesn’t stay at synagogue from morning until night. We’re there for a few hours, then a few hours again.

So it’s hard to explain, but it’s still a holy, sacred 26 or 27 hours-ish period in our collective Jewish lives.

My point is, we all celebrate slightly differently. A Reform Jew’s observance is going to look different from a Conservative Jew’s, which is going to look different from an Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox, and so forth. And even among Jews from the same stream of Judaism, tradition and practice is going to vary a bit.

In large part because it is so hard to explain all the shades of grey to the outside world, let’s stick together and help each other out. Please, HELP A JEW OUT here and take the day off!

It can be hard to miss out on important events. We’ve all been there. In past years I’ve had a mandatory meeting for the co-op preschool and team pictures for soccer on Yom Kippur (different years.)

And just this year alone, poor Eva had a bike ride with Olympian Sarah Hammer (Rosh Hashanah), the only 6th grade dance of the school year (Yom Kippur), and an important lab during science class (also Yom Kippur.)

Some people try to have it both ways. “Rachel went to school just for second period because she had a big test.” “We need to leave early from Yom Kippur services so Nathan can get to his lacrosse game.”

Please, no! This, again, gives the wrong, very (very!) hard to explain impression to the outside world that these holiest holidays are the year (maybe we should all always call them Holy Days instead of holidays) are more flexible than they are.

And picking and choosing puts you on a pretty slippery slope. Believe me, I had a moment of, “Maybe I can drop Eva over at school just for 7th period so she can do this science lab. It’s going to be so much harder for her to try to make it up later.”

But I didn’t let her go. (She really, really wanted to. And she also really, really wanted to go to the dance. Believe me. There were tears.)

The next day I learned that in addition to it being a science lab (she loves science), they looked at sugar cubes and marshmallows under microscopes, then they got to make, and eat, s’mores.

You have GOT to be kidding me. I know it’s not on purpose, but t’s like they’re TRYING now to make it hard. (And the dance…the dance had a jumpy, and photo booth, and sodas and junky snacks for sale.)

But I was glad I didn’t put her on the slippery slope. Because though Eva is still too young for fasting, she ate only small amounts of simple, plain foods. (So think, half a peanut butter sandwich or a few apple slices, not “let’s go out to the buffet!” after services.)

Putting her in the vicinity of s’mores but asking her not to eat them isn’t fair. It puts her smack in the middle of trying to navigate that very slippery, slidey slope. And telling her to eat them, but just eat one? Just eat half? However much you’d normally eat, eat less? None of those feel right. Roasting up and eating s’mores, even when you’re not literally fasting, is not in the spirit of the Holy Day.

So please, please, pretty please, even if you don’t think of yourself as “very much Jewish,” even if you have one Jewish grandparent only, somewhere way back in the family tree, take a day. Hide out from the world. Thank you!

The To-Do List, New & Improved: a Checklist

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 24, 2012

As we move through the Days of Awe, I’ve been thinking about my lists.

You probably have these same lists: honey-dos, stuff to buy, things to do, people to call, emails to return. Ideas for the future, recipes to try, books to read.

I will never give up my beloved trusty Franklin Planner, but at the same time I’ve been experimenting with a new way to get through my to-do list.

What is the single most important thing I can do today?

It doesn’t mean I don’t floss my teeth or return my sister’s email, but what it does mean is that I measure success by the quality of my checked-off-to-dos, not the quantity.

Shifting my focus in this way has broadened my thinking on all of my lists. so this year, for the High Holy Days, I am administering a questionnaire to myself:

* What do I want to do more of in the coming year?

* Less?

* Who do I want to see more?

* What habits do I have now that aren’t working for me? What real steps can I take, today, to change?

* Is (this — whatever *this* is — fill in the blank) the best thing I could be doing with my life right now, at this moment? If it isn’t, why am I doing it? What can I do that’s better instead?

May 5773 bring you peace, serenity, love, hope, happiness, and prosperity.