Shlepping around with swollen feet, a growing belly and mounting exhaustion is a challenge for any mom-to-be, but Beth Saltz is determined to go to Shabbat services as often as she can for the rest of her pregnancy.
"I feel I need to do it now before the baby is born," said Saltz, a Woodland Hills resident who is five and a half months pregnant with her first child. "Sometimes parents don't work on their own spirituality and beliefs until the child is older, but I think it's important to do it now."
At this turning point in her life, Saltz views Judaism as more important than ever -- and she's not alone.
Early in her teaching career, Marilyn Lubarsky introduced her ninth-grade history students to the Holocaust by showing "Nuit et Brouillard" ("Night and Fog"), a 1955 film containing vivid images of the horrors endured by Jews in concentration camps.
Fran Drescher doesn't remember receiving Chanukah presents as a child.
"With the Dreschers, [Chanukah] was all about the food," laughed the actress who is best known for her role in TV's "The Nanny," which aired from 1993-99. "Nothing was as important as the chocolate dreidels and chocolate coins."
After working with two private tutors last fall, Aliza J. Sokolow took the SAT college entrance exam in January. Devastated by her test results, the Milken Community High School junior studied on her own and took the test again in April.
"My scores went up insanely and I was beyond happy with them," said the 17-year-old, who is now a senior. So, why is Sokolow taking the college entrance exam a third time this month?
Last year, Malka Nutkiewicz and her friend, both students at Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks, raised more than $1,000 for Camp Simcha, a kosher summer camp for youngsters with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in Glen Spey, N.Y. During the 2002-2003 school year, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Emek raised more than $25,000 for their pet cause. Because of Nutkiewicz's passion for the charity, which is a flagship program of Chai Lifeline -- a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Jewish children with serious illnesses -- Nutkiewicz was selected to co-chair the campaign this year
Since losing her husband unexpectedly two years ago, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have been painful for Liz Safirstein Leshin, 42.
"For me, the High Holidays and a lot of things like birthdays are very fraught," the Westside resident said. "I haven't been able to feel enthusiastic about much of anything spiritual."
As he watched his students play basketball, Rabbi Yochanan Stepen's eyes lit up.
"I felt like I was at Staples Center watching the Lakers play, and I was sitting next to Jack Nicholson," Stepen told them.
"That excited the kids, because names from the news make it relevant," Stepen told The Journal.
For Jonas Basom's students, a vocabulary lesson might involve a game of charades, and learning about the water cycle might entail moving around like an ocean wave and grumbling to mimic thunder. Instead of lecture notes, Basom's teaching tools include his trusty tambourine and a black "magic" hat.
"The U.S. had all the right reasons for going to war with Iraq without the support of United Nations," said Jordana Friedman, an eighth-grader at Kadima Hebrew Academy in Woodland Hills. "[Their leaders] lied. They said they were disarmed. Do we want another Sept. 11? I think we're totally justified."
Having a conversation with Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) students Debra Glasberg and Tzvi Smith is like chatting with two political experts being interviewed on CNN. These two high school students are among the five Jewish teens chosen for the exclusive Sen. Joseph Lieberman Scholars Program.
Los Angeles Board of Education member David Tokofsky has always taken pride in being a Jewish representative in an area that was overwhelmingly Latino.
For many teens, having a bar or bat mitzvah is both a beginning and an ending. According to Jewish tradition, the ceremony signifies a child's transition into manhood or womanhood. For some teens, it also marks the end of a structured Jewish education. Some kids dread Hebrew school and deem this coming-of-age ceremony their educational swan song. On the other hand, some parents see the bar or bat mitzvah as a means to an end, leaving teens to discover where Judaism fits into their lives on their own.
Eight-year-old Tamar's fingers dance across a set of harp strings like small waves rhythmically pounding the surf. While the large instrument dwarfs her, she doesn't seem to mind as she sits and plays a complicated classical tune. After the musical interlude, she hops onto her living room couch; her shiny dark hair bounces as she moves. Her bright smile reveals a missing front tooth with its adult counterpart just barely poking through.
School's out and the kids are home. Unless you happen to run a summer camp, chances are you're in need of some serious kid-friendly activities. So, before your child memorizes the daytime line-up on Nickelodeon, check out these low-cost summer events for families.
With graduation just days away, The Jewish Journal caught up with several outstanding students from high schools around Los Angeles. Clearly, Judaism plays a role for this crop of young adults as they prepare to enter the next level of their academic and personal lives.
Thank you for protecting Israel. I hope you and your family are safe. I hope one day I visit Israel. I love Israel. Sincerely,