Category Archives: Jewish kids in nonJewish school

Dormenorah (upcycled LED Menorah for dorm)

You can still kinds see the measurements on the yardstick.

Dorm menorah

An upcycled menorah for a dorm room, made of an old yardstick and plastic Easter eggs.  My cost was zero, because I happened to have eggs left over from the seder plate lesson plan wherein I tried to convince 3rd graders that the brightly-colored, hinged and apparently hilarious objects were, in fact, “beitzim”  and not Easter Eggs.  The eggs ended up as projectiles, as talking eggs (what with the handy hinge) and as unintended take-home favors. Continue reading

Instant goodie bags for Hanukkah Classroom visits

re-used gelt bags

re-used gelt bags

Here’s a quick, cheap way to make teeny goody bags for your Hanukkah classroom visit.  IF you do gelt.
These are very, very simple.  I could go all Target Dollar Spot and use fancy bags and woven ribbon and include more gelt and hand-lettered name tags, but this particular goody baglet is meant to be a token gift for a minor holiday: a good-will gesture from the token Jews in the room. Continue reading

Hanukkah Parent classroom visits

Super cheap, in-your-face oil menorah

tin oil menorah with glass or plastic cups

Here’s a link to my buffet of options for Hanukkah Parent School Visits: what to bring, what to read, what might happen.  Please add your experiences below or on that page. We can learn from each other.

And here’s what I’ve chosen from the buffet for my own classroom visit this time:

After last year’s fizzle of a oil menorah demo (where none of the homemade wicks worked), Continue reading

Printable Dreidel Rules (gift tags)

Two-sided tags: dreidel rules and a 2 sentence explanation of Hanukkah

Two-sided tags: dreidel rules and a 2 sentence explanation of Hanukkah

I usually give out dreidels when I’m the Hanukkah Parent on a classroom visit. Dreidels are fun to spin, they (sort of) tell the story of Hanukkah in 4 letters, and they distract the children from the fact that I’m not giving them any gelt at all (long story).

Most of the kids aren’t Jewish, so they haven’t grown up playing dreidel.  They don’t know from dreidel rules, AT ALL. Granted, nowadays mum and dad can Google the rules on an iPhone right there in the school parking lot the minute kiddo gets into the minivan, BUT… Continue reading

Blood Buddy: the drop o’ blood sleep lovey

“I love you, Blood Buddy,” came a sweet croon from the back of the car, “I looooove blood!”

Way to perpetuate a stereotype, kid.

And at Passover, too.  As my friend Joanna P. would say, “and that is how you make a blood libel joke, Sarah Palin.”  Although, maybe she wouldn’t.  Joanna P. is right this moment trying to remove an entire jar of Mod Podge from her carpet, so I can’t know for sure.

All I do know for sure is that blood and Jews and Passover are a tricky trinity, and that my Jewish child is in a booster seat singing love songs to a plush blood drop clutched to his cheek. Continue reading

“Why We Celebrate Passover:” book review

Looking for one Passover picture book that tells the story of Passover without scaring the Underoos off a kid?  One book that describes basic Passover customs and assumes no prior knowledge?  And a book with attractive artwork, rhythmic text and not too many words on a page?

Here it is: Why We Celebrate Passover, written and illustrated by Howard M. Kurtz (Pigment & Hue, Ages 3-8, paperback, 24 pages).  Not sold at Continue reading

Passover Parent: classroom Show and Tell resource

Me and Moses down by the school-yard…

New here: permanent pages (see top menu) for parents who want to lead a Jewish holiday Show and Tell in the classroom. I’ve made quite a few of these visits myself (I have a teenager and a preschooler), and my observations, mistakes and successes might help you plan your own.  I’d love to hear about your experiences, so please comment on the Passover (or Hanukkah) page to share what’s worked or not worked for you.

Passover’s coming, and if you feel the urge to share your family’s traditions with your kid’s school, see the obsessive detailed guidelines at the Passover Parent page.  You can select elements that appeal to you and make your classroom visit as short and simple Continue reading

Too Santa: a letter from my Jewish Kid

an interesting development

My nearly-five-year-old knows how to address an envelope, where to put the return address sticker and where to put a stamp.

What I didn’t realize was that he intended to put these skills into practice with a letter: “Too Santa.” Continue reading

Hanukkah Parent Guidelines: Politically Correct info card

click the pdf link below to print

click the pdf link below to print

In the Dreidel Cookies post, I mentioned a little card attached to the cookies dressed for a bake sale. I couldn’t bear the thought that the cookies, created with such intent, might get scarfed down without the scarfer understanding what they were scarfing. The card explained the name and meaning of each letter.

Same with the little dreidel/candy gifts we brought for my son’s class. (I did cave and add one piece of gelt to the dreidel, but I’m not sure I’ll do this next year. See “Hanukkah Parent Guidelines” post about such things.) I made a slightly different card for the dreidels: Continue reading

Hanukkah Parent guidelines

A Duplo Temple and a jar of olives.

Guidelines for Hanukkah Parent visits: where are they?

All over the country, volunteer parents are visiting their child’s classrooms and representing the entire Jewish people in 15 minutes or less.

In the spirit of “sharing traditions,” we bring a book, maybe some dreidels, some gelt (its never too early to jump-start a child’s association of Jews and money…see below), and a menorah. Hands-on parents bring all this stuff, and we check if we are allowed to actually light the menorah (and if we are allowed to keep the candles burning or blow them out far, far from the smoke detector).

Out of the dozens of books I’ve accumulated the last 16 years, plus the books I see at shul and in the library and in the bookstore (that just closed forever), why is it I can’t find a single one I LIKE? Continue reading

Anne Frank for little kids?

    shapeimage_1-14

My sister teaches first grade in a smallish city and in a neighborhood with zero Jewish kids.  She isn’t Jewish herself, but she makes a point during the school year to introduce her little people to Passover and Hanukkah as a friendly and fun entree to Jewishness.  This is all they get of Jew stuff anywhere, unless you count who knows what references absorbed from TV and movies, or what is discussed over the dinner table.  Jewish holidays are not part of her school curriculum: it is from her own initiative and time and wallet that these relentlessly WASPy children are exposed to another tradition.  By now, she has plenty of picture books, toys, tchochkes, and ideas lined up to make these two holidays fun, memorable, and of course, edible.   Continue reading

Kosher Seuss-chef

A Trayfe Classic: confusing frummie tots for nearly 50 years

A Trayfe Classic: confusing frummie tots for nearly 50 years

            So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.

     I overheard my mom, in for a quick visit from back East (that’s East Tennessee, folks….), reading these words to the Toddler this morning. So, when he came downstairs right after, I was not too surprised to hear his breakfast request:

“I want Green Eggs and Ham!”
Me: “How might you ask that in a more polite way?”
Him: “I want Green Eggs and Ham, PLEASE!”

“Well,” I wheedle, slightly guilty because I just made him say please for something I had no intention of providing. I am trying to sound nonchalant lest a too-emphatic “No” on the ham will trigger his first lustings for the forbidden.

“Well,” I say again, “I can’t do much about the ham, sweetie, because it isn’t kosher. But we can manage the eggs.”  I sound very peppy on the words can and eggs.

His lower lip descends, flattens, and spreads out like a U-brace from the hardware store.
“I want Green Eggs AND Ham!”

Luckily, my mom had just bought some brown eggs, and the novelty of watching brown eggs get cracked, beaten up and colored green distracted him from the absence of ham. He was happy. (I made sure he realized green eggs were a Grandma Special, and that I did not know how to make them.)

We keep kosher, so ham is never an option. But at Toddler’s school, every Thursday’s lunch menu features Ham/Pineapple Gratin. Which means every Thursday his lunch is a grilled cheese sandwich (or just “grillcheese” around here). I always wonder if he looks longingly at his colleague’s lunch trays, eyeing the forbidden casserole. Actually, I’ve heard that most of the kids hate that dish anyway, and the trays end up getting scraped into the trash.

But already I’m thinking about the first time his friends chow down on a pepperoni pizza…

Scheduling Shavuot

shapeimage_1-4
For weeks I’ve had two flyers up on the fridge. The Toddler keeps rearranging them with antique wooden fruit magnets, so I’ve had many opportunities to notice them and actually read what they say. But what I failed to see until yesterday was that they advertise Must Attend Events scheduled for the same day, same time: the beginning of Shavuot.

One is an advertisement for Shavuot services at our synagogue—a Tikkun Leil, or all-night study session—which includes my husband in the lineup. He is giving a lecture called “A Mountain Held Over Our Heads: On the Joyful Difficulty of Revelation?” The question mark is courtesy of the nice man who printed the flyer, and who probably didn’t understand the title, thought he needed confirmation, and forgot to get it. Continue reading

Nice Jewish Girl Rap

This video was made last Fall by a certain Teenager who is into comedy and satire.

Bear with the first 9 seconds of curtain footage and ye shall be rewarded. It’s only a minute long.

(I couldn’t help myself. I had to embed this video. I’ve been so bummed about not having a career, not having a clean house, not having chimney flashing, not having enough money for frozen gluten-free pizzas, that I figured I needed a bit of a change.)

Jewish bath toys, part 1

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

Toddler broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles this morning.  Actually, I broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles because the wooden ones were too noisy.  I woke with a migraine, which makes me super-sensitive to just about everything except staying in bed (not an option), and which makes the sound of a wooden puzzle turned upside down and emptied onto an oak floor unbearable.

I love Hebrew puzzles. I hate foam. But I love foam Hebrew puzzles. I know the manufacture of foam is bad for the environment, bad for the poor workers who mold it, and bad for the environment Continue reading

Jewish star pasta

 

Toddler's toy of choice today

Toddler's toy of choice today

     We’ve used these as bingo markers, “money” for dreidel games, decorations for art projects. We’ve dyed them (shaken in a ziploc bag with a drop of food coloring, dried whilst spread over a surprisingly vast expanse of newspaper. Yes, it’s a pain). We’ve used them as sorting objects, Montessori-style. We’ve used them as noise-makers inside of, well, noise-makers. We’ve done everything with these except cook and eat them.
     I keep two big jars at the ready, and have done for about 12 years. My toddler spied them today, way up on top of a filing cabinet, and he begged for “the Jewish stars.” Have I ever sat down and taught him what a Jewish star was? How does he know from Jewish star? I was so startled and pleased I got them right down. The jars are now half empty, with a large proportion gone to the dog’s digestive system. Meanwhile, Toddler has been so happy to distribute mogen Davids throughout his play kitchen, my real kitchen, the living room, and inside all reachable containers. The transfer of materials from one vessel to another is never dull.
     I offer this entry in the perpetual wonder that our kids absorb everything they see, hear, feel, taste, smell and intuit. I also offer it to all the moms in my virtual communities who continue to ask me how to make Jewishness a part of daily life.
     Pasta counts.

Scholastic Achievements: age appropriate


Having two kids 12 years apart (with nobody in between) means I get the best and worst of both age groups at the same time. Today’s photo shows one of the best of the best: paper records of high achievement for each kid. Last week, the Teenager won a Gold Key award from the regional Scholastic Art & Writing competition and Nashville’s Cheekwood Art Museum. I went to the awards ceremony and discovered the whole thing to be a bigger deal than I’d realized. Thankfully, I had bothered to shower that morning. The Toddler accompanied us, and though he was kept fairly quiet with a steady flow of reception cookies, he did sneeze on the mayor. His first political protest.

The Teenager’s winning photograph was taken inside what had, until recently, been the only grocery store within walking distance of a neighborhood of government housing projects and an inner-city school. (When the store shut down, a small stink was raised in the newspaper, where I learned the term “food desert.”) The photography teacher had arranged for the entire class to roam the site as a change of scenery, as an experiment in contrasts.

The Teenager’s selected photo is called Cleaning Lady. It aims down a dark hall of rippling vinyl sheeting toward a woman in a halo of daylight, head lowered, sweeping a floor that no one needs swept.

Change of scenery? Contrast? To privileged eighth-graders bussed to this wreck of a building from a private school a few blocks and a universe away? Yes. Part of me feels guilty that the subject of this photo is providing a convenient addition to my daughter’s college resume. But then again, I know my daughter, and I know she is alive to the shadows and lights of equality and fairness and justice. She took this picture to capture the contrast as a way to advertise, not capitalize.

And now for the Toddler’s contribution. His paper record of high achievement is a daily log from Day Care, upon which is highlighted in yellow marker: “PP in Potty!”
A first.

Daycare December Dilemma


The adorable and sweetly-meant tshirt above illustrates the raison d’etre of this blog: what it is like to live Jewishly when 99.08 percent of the people around you aren’t Jewish. The Toddler came home with this “holiday gift,” which his teachers at daycare imagined to be a neutral, politically-correct offering. I am delighted to have it, mind you, because it is now a sacred object: it has my child’s hand and foot-print on it forever. I can never, ever get enough hand and feet prints, and if someone else does the messy work of getting them onto paper and fabric, so much the better. But, it is most definitely not neutral or politically correct. It is not a winter gift, a Frosty gift, or a holiday gift. It is a Christmas gift, and we don’t celebrate Christmas. Continue reading

Hallowe’en Hallah


I’ve got it down. I know precisely when to start mixing the challah dough so that the moment the kids get home from school they can “punch.” If you’ve never made bread by hand, and have thus been denied the unaccountable pleasure of punching down dough, I urge you to unplug the bread machine and give it a go. Punching down dough is, alas, a fleeting pleasure: it takes about a second and you only get to punch once. But feeling—and hearing—the whole mass deflate is quite satisfying. And when else do we get to punch anything?
As I mentioned in the last entry, making the challah will help to assuage the Hallowe’en/Shabbat guilt ever so slightly.
Multiple fun-size Snickers bars will help even more.
I’ll let you know.

p.s. I use the hallah-with-kids recipe in Joan Nathan’s “The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.”

Happy Shabbos or Gut Hallowe’en? A fall fix.


As soon as the single Simchat Torah flag and all the Sukkot decorations were put away, out came the Hallowe’en crap. I have three ginormous plastic bins in the attic full of witch hats, pumpkin lights, teeny mummies on strings, table runners, spooky candles, and wee skull candy-holders. For starters. The black plastic cauldrons and home-made bouncey bats (toilet paper rolls, cereal box cardboard, and google eyes: classic) couldn’t fit, so they spilled over into the shed. We looove Hallowe’en at my house. This year, though, there is a bit of a snag. It’s on Shabbat. Shabbos. The Sabbath.

Usually, the big Jewish-American calendrical conflict concerns the December Dilemma: Hanukkah vs. Christmas. Or, perhaps Continue reading