I got married for the first time at 50. The groom was 51. Yes, we are both Jewish. We met online.
"Just one Shabbos and we'll all be free," religious rocker Mordechai Ben David sang back in the 1980s. Well, for the last decade, one Jewish organization has tried to get people to experience Shabbat at least once a year.
We sat at my sister-in-law's kitchen table, 11 of us from three generations of my husband's family, absorbed by a wicked game of dreidel on the fifth night of Chanukah, howling with abandon and anticipation at each seemingly endless spin. My 10-year-old daughter, the youngest present, was killing us all, amassing huge quantities of chocolate gold.
On Dec. 25, Rod Shapiro and Pat Wong will exchange Christmas and Chanukah gifts spread under a seven-foot Christmas tree. They will listen to carols sung by Johnny Mathis and Chanukah songs by the Klezmatics.
I was about to inquire how they could manage to consistently laugh like fiends each time they saw Stu dress up like Latke Man, but stopped short upon realizing that they could easily turn the question back on me. You see, I'm no stranger to repetition myself, having managed to spend Thanksgiving on Hilton Head Island every year since I was in first grade.
Ten years ago, the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) sued the city of Beverly Hills to block the local Chabad house from erecting a 27-foot menorah in a public park near City Hall.
No disrespect to our mothers, but courtship rituals have changed since they were dating. So forget all their antiquated rules.
A book's opening chapter is crucial to setting the mood and aura for the remainder of the book's journey. Likewise, the opening scene of a film usually helps set the tone for what will ensue.
The Passover seder is both a reader's experience and a moviegoer's. We sit around the table and read the haggadah, and we also witness a host of rituals. But how does the seder leader creatively capture an audience and draw it into the experience from the beginning?
To me, skiing is almost a religious experience. When you're flying down the back bowls, sun on your face, cool air filling your lungs and a warm feeling filling your heart, it's like you can feel the hand of God.
After the high of the High Holidays, twice-a-year Jews hang up their kippot for another 354 days, or so, and in the process miss out on the lesser-known treat of Sukkot.
Ah, the High Holidays. The mere words conjure up memories of long services, uncomfortable clothing, endless Hebrew passages, Mom and Dad dozing off, semi-fasting against my will, and, most of all, not quite taking in what the holidays were all about. What can I say? I was a kid.
A few weeks ago, I was at a funeral at Mount Sinai in Glendale when, at one of the most emotional moments, a cell phone rang loudly for several minutes, humming a Broadway tune.
"Why is the festival of Shavuot called 'The time of the giving of our Torah' and not the time of the receiving of our Torah? Because the giving of the Torah happened at one specified time, but the receiving of the Torah happens at every time and in every generation. -- Rabbi Meir Alter of Ger"
At Jewish Family Service's Freedom Seder, participants read from a haggadah that was just a little bit different. Instead of reading of the four sons, those at the Freedom Seder read about the "four community members."
"The wise community member asks, 'How can we, as individuals, and a community, address domestic violence?'"
When newer, color versions supplanted the 1923 Union Haggadah Revised, Tamar Soloff's brother and father hoarded enough copies of the original to ensure that their extended families would have a supply of their own.
t's not that Jeanne Weiner wanted Aunt Leonie's Indian Tree dishes for herself. She hadn't used the hand-painted china in five years -- since just before her husband died -- and last Passover she was on the verge of giving the entire service for 31 to her daughter Joelle Keene, who had taken charge of the family seder.
But when it came to actually giving up the china, she balked. And even though this year she is making the transfer, these dishes -- more than the Thanksgiving dishes or all the furniture she gave to her daughters -- call up a wave of emotion and tears.
When friendly strangers find out I'm a convert to Judaism, they want to know why.
And I've learned to be ready.
I have two stories: One is
respectable, and one involves comic books and video games.
After years of being talked about in hushed tones as "the change of life" -- or not being talked about at all -- menopause is now in the spotlight. Two recent plays, "Is it Hot in Here ... Or Is it Me?" and "Menopause the Musical" literally put menopause center stage.
Almost every Friday afternoon for the last few months, I've been visited at my office by a pair of young Chasidic Jews -- high school students in big black hats and sporting the wispy beginnings of what I am certain will someday be fine beards.
My family never went to church but celebrated Christian holidays by putting up a Christmas tree in December and hunting for Easter eggs in the spring.
One of the best things about being the editor of a Jewish paper is I get to meet a lot of Jews.
Like many unaffiliated Angelenos between 30 and marriage, I face a problem every Rosh:
This Rosh Hashanah brings to a close the year in which my father died. For this reason, and many others, I am grateful that the Jewish New Year is marked not by parties, but by days and weeks preceding and following of self-evaluation, quiet contemplation and prayers for blessings in the coming year.
Mah Nishtanah Ha Lila HaZeh Mikol HaLeilot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
On all other nights I'm required to act like a 25-year-old adult, but on this first night -- being the youngest person at my seder table -- I get to be a kid.
My great-grandmother, Gouda, escaped Germany by boat at night when she was in her 60s. My grandfather, Opa, fled with her and his wife and two small children when he was 42. Both lived long, energetic, brave lives in their adopted country: she, chasing her great grandchildren around in a playful hide-and-seek when she was 95 years old; he, establishing a synagogue in the Bronx after abandoning one in Grebenaou, Germany. Both also had elaborate Passover breakfast rituals involving broken pieces of matzah.
"Gouda lined her half-full coffee cup, with thin strips of matzah," my mother told me. Then, in the order they went in, she lifted each piece out, sprinkled it with sugar and ate it.
Because Australia is situated below the equator, its seasons rebel against the Jewish calendar. Our winter is their summer; our spring their fall. Although Passover's rituals and symbols resonate spring, the holiday is celebrated in autumn Down Under.
"Passover begins just as the temperature drops, days grow shorter, and grapevines lose their leaves," said Jenni Neumann, a New Yorker who grew up in Sydney. "It's rather odd, if you're not used to it, I guess."
Objections raised by two established Reform congregations toa start-up alternative shul in Irvine has forced the new group to temporarily
postpone seeking admission to the Reform movement's national organization, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC).
Every Chanukah, I am struck by the beauty of my chanukiyah as the flames glow steadily against the darkness around them.
Italian scholar Francesco Spagnolo is keenly aware of the long-standing Jewish presence in Italy.
"Never before the creation of the State of Israel did Jews of so many varied origins live together, and in such a stimulating, if at times threatening, environment as in the land they called in Hebrew 'I-Tal-Yah,'" he says.
"I-Tal-Yah" -- Island of Divine Dew in Hebrew -- means Italy in Italian, a land where Jews have lived for more than 2,000 years and which has seen layer after layer of immigration from all over the Jewish Diaspora.
A few years ago, Aish HaTorah Rabbi Yaacov Deyo (of SpeedDating fame) presented me with a book before Rosh Hashana. With this simple, gracious gesture he changed forever the way I relate to what can be the most daunting time on the Jewish calendar.