Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why I hate Chrismukah - and why Jews and Christians alike should hate it too.

Remember New Coke? It was a move by Coke to make Coke more like Pepsi. But at the end of the day, new Coke wasn't Coke, and it wasn't Pepsi either. Not surprisingly, I would highly doubt that my kids will ever know that there was a 'new' or 'old' Coke. Coca-Cola learned the hard way that when you try to combine two good things you don't always get something better. And this, quite frankly, is the way I feel about 'Chrismukah'.

Since attaining pop culture status on the TV show "The OC", and due to the juxtaposition of these two holidays on the calendar this year, the term 'Chrismukah' is all over the place. Curiously, I decided to Google it and came up with 22,000 results. Granted, this is far shy of the ~1.5m and 12.7M for Maccabi and Santa Claus, respectively, but nonetheless a significant sum for the short amount of time that it has been popular.

Regardless of your opinions about interfaith marriage - it is something very real in the United States, and as such, there are many Judeo-Christian families where the couples involved need to determine how, when, and where to celebrate either or both of the holidays. Chrismukah seems to be the happy-go-lucky answer ( "Hey, Why don't we make the blessings and we can light the Menorah and the Tree at the same time! Afterwards we can leave Santa milk, cookies, and latkes. ") While this might work from a functional, practical, and negotiating point of view - a unified holiday definitely does not do Justice to either Holiday and their respective religions.

I guess the same thing can be said about the whole 'Happy Holidays' controversy as well. Personally, being that Jews are a minority in this largely christian country, I have no objection to people wishing me a Merry Christmas as I walk around a mall, nor am I offended by the hours and hours and hours of Christmas music that I am subject too. (However, I wish mainstream radio stations had more Chanukah songs than the three versions of that Adam Sandler classic).We are all trying so hard to succeed in pleasing everyone and being diplomatic that sometimes we dilute our principals and rituals in the process. It's as if for the sake of being politically correct, we've defiled the very elements we held dear. The whole notion of taking two Holidays with deep roots and significance in their respective faiths and combining them into a hodgepodge with a kitschy contraction for a name, sells both those faiths and those holidays short. It's as if we've created a new Holiday for the sake of convenience. Seriously, if you are going to make a new holiday why not call it Festivus? (BTW - it is not lost on me that Jerry Stiller a.k.a Mr. Costaza, is a nice Jewish man married to a nice Catholic woman - Anne Meara).

Yes, interfaith couples made a choice when they got married - that the value of their love for one another was far more meaningful to them then their love of their religious rituals. I'm sure you will find an intermarried couple where the christian spouse has fond memories of the tree, presents, cookies for santa, carols, etc. and the Jewish spouse has memories of the menorah, draydel games, songs, and latkes. So, why not do justice to those memories? Isn't that what spouse do? Teach each other? Learn from one another? Share with one another? Why not just celebrate Christimas and Chanukah separately? This way each of you can focus on how to make your holiday memorable and not focus on how to integrate with the other's holiday.

I sincerely hope that Chrismukah dies a quick and painless death, and that families find other ways to share in each others faiths with independent observances.

And on that note, Dear Readers, may you have a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Xmas - whether you celebrate either or both - just please don't do it together.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

YYK's Yahrzeit

I was browsing over at and I noticed that today was the Yahrzeit (death anniversary) of Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen a.k.a. YYK. YYK, as he was known on IRC, was one of those few individuals that I met who truly understood the power of the Internet and its ability provide a Jewish lifeline to those who wouldn't otherwise have one. The few times that I chatted with him on IRC, it was also evident that he was one of those few people who was truly a genuine mentsch in every aspect of his life and his interaction with others. I am sure he is missed, but his legacy -, lives on and still continues to serve judaism in page-size chunks to millions of others.

May his memory be a blessing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How much Halachic knowledge is a good thing?

Halacha , or Jewish Law, is the lifeblood of the Jewish people. In the 2300 or so years since Moses received the Torah from G-d at Sinai, we have been studying, teaching it, debating it, and writing it down in countless books. We've even written down the debates and now debate them too! Every Jew who attends some form of religious school - be it full time or after their secular schooling, has learned Halacha in one form or another. But unfortunately some have forgotten it, and some have chosen to abandon it. As it says in the Mishnah: He who studies to learn will know it well enough to learn and teach, but he who studies to do (the commandments) will be able to learn and teach, keep and do.

I would like, to some degree to include myself in the latter group. I spent the ages of 4 to 19 in Jewish schools, learning all about our religion and the various aspects of Jewish life as well as the laws that govern them. I feel that I at least have enough Halachic knowledge to live my day-to-day life, with the occasional call to the Rabbi if I need some extra help or advice.

But the downside to this of course, is that friends and acquaintances of mine who are less versed in Halacha sometimes turn to me for questions when they are unable or uncomfortable talking to a Rabbi. While many times their questions have simple answers that I already know, I always worry that my answers to them will be wrong, and cause them to sin.

Friday, December 09, 2005

New Article at the

My friends at the Knish have deemed another article of mine Knishworthy. It is a send-up of the NCAA's rules regarding the use of Native American Indian terms for team names. This article is so good, funny, Jewish-themed and sports-related that it was picked up by Shalom Sports.

I also malign Jersey. I have to stop doing that.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I have played and competed in various sports throughout my life. In college I was a 3-time letterman in Varsity Judo, and I still practice and compete today. I've played Hockey on skates (ice and roller) and on foot, I played softball/baseball, soccer, tennis, and even tried my hand at golf (my clubs have been sitting in my closet for a few years now though). And with each of these sports I have gotten quite academic - thinking of strategies, working out plays, practicing skills, knowing terms. I even became an equipment geek - i.e. knowing the differences between, say, ABEC-7 and ABEC-5 skate bearings, or the right length baseball bat.

Basketball, however, is a different story. I played B-ball, but unlike other sports, I never really got into it in the same way. Despite my relative height (5'11" is decently tall as far as nice Jewish boys from Brooklyn go), I was always viewed of as more of a body, and never had much of a shot. Yet despite that, I still played. I was good for defense (especially in pickup gains where they don't count fouls) and I was always good for a handful of rebounds, assists and points per game (a triple-single maybe?), but I was never quite the standout. I never really tried to get better, I just showed up and played. When I was in my 20's and single, I had a standing pickup game as part of my general sunday sports trifecta (Skate 10mi, Basketball for 2 hours and then an evening softball game). When the months got cold, me and the boys would hunt for various gyms to play in (we started out as 5 guys, and after a few years, somehow a league was born, unfortunately, I was never able to participate). Unfortunately, with the exception of Judo, that was the last time I played 'organized' sports.

But now, somehow, my Mitch is into basketball. Of course, I now regret not having the knowledge that would come in handy to teach him. I wanted to get him a basketball to start teaching him how to dribble and pass (shooting will require a really small basket or a large growth spurt!). We visited my parents last week and my son convinced his Unlce to part with one of his many basketballs. I started to teach him, but then my wife decided that large heavy balls are where we should draw the line on ball playing in the house. For the few minutes we did play, I also noticed that he is definitely not ready for a full (or even junior-sized) basketball.

Today I went out and bought him a mini-basketball (unfortunately, this too is not allowed to be played in the house, but hopefully I will have an opportunity to take him to the park and start bouncing around his mini-Rock). It was a Nike basketball, with a LeBron logo on it. I guess not being into pro basketball I didn't realize how big the LeBron marketing machine was - he has even one-upped MJ in that he has his own soft drink.

I guess there is a lot I have to learn a lot about B-ball, hopefully I'll learn it before Mitch can throw high enough to hit the basket - or before he moves on to the next sport.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thank heavens for colds...

Okay, so maybe the topic sounds a little callous from a dad who truly loves his kids. So let me explain. Mike had a fever on Friday night, and Mitch followed suit after coming home from Shul on Shabbat morning. (In a scene that could easily have been scripted for a sitcom, he said 'Daddy my tummy hurts', and before I could ask if he needed to, he vommited all over the floor (not a pleasant site, to say the least).

We kept treating their fever with various anagelisics over the weekend, and thankfully our Doctor's visit this morning showed that they just had a little virus(es, since they don't have the same symptoms).

I know that we will have one or two more rough nights fighting to get them to sleep, and taking care of their fevers. And then I thought of all of those kids who are really sick, with all kinds of diseases. Fortunately, I don't know too many people personally that have those issues. But I still thank G-d every single day to let him know how grateful I am for those fleeting colds and viruses and general long-term health. A healthy child is something to never take for granted.

Friday, December 02, 2005


So our new site is finally here - I just switched blogging tools from MovableType to Blogger. There are several reasons for this, but the simplest of them is I am bowing to Google's rolling dominance of the web. Particularly, it is easier to edit offline and post pictures using Picasa.

Not all of my old posts are published yet, and for the few of you who did comment, I will unfortunately not be able to bring your comments over.

Please let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Learning from a 'Loser'

I really hate reality TV – there are at least 100 reasons, primarily, if I am going to take the time to watch TV, why should I spend it watching pompous losers humiliate themselves for a wad of cash. But one exception (a guilty pleasure if you will) is the Biggest Loser. This show essentially features a bunch of overweight contestants at a ‘Ranch’ (a euphemism for ‘Fat Camp’) where they have access to personal trainers and compete with one another to lose the most weight. While I don’t buy into the wholesale concept, there is one unique feature – they follow the contestants after they leave the show to see how they are doing. The vast majority of the contests kept up with the plan, and all lost somewhere between 25% and 47%(!) of their ‘before’ weights. Each had a story to tell, and each had a reason for changing their lifestyles.

The beauty of this is that it shows how average people, with the right diet and a regular regimen of exercise, can easily lead a healthy life and bring their weight to an acceptable level. These people are now role models who show us that average Joes and Janes can take charge of their lives and keep the weight off.

As someone who has lost about 25-30 lbs in the past 18 months, I am often asked how I did it. My usual answer is this – Americans in general have two cultural issues preventing them from being thin – they eat indiscriminately and they don’t exercise. Once you watch what you eat and get even a small amount of exercise each day, you will start to see the difference in your life.

While I can’t make too much of a dent in the American public, I hope that these ‘Losers’ can.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just a test....

For those of you who have recently joined this list, thanks and welcome. After waiting in the wings for a while, I think things are about to take off, and I am just testing some new publishing tools. Please ignore this message, and look for new content soon!

--Yonah Posted by Picasa

A little bit about my *OTHER* son...

I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about my oldest son, Mitch. With good reason of course, seeing that he is 2 years older than his younger brother, it goes without saying that I have two more years of experience and fun with him.

But Mikey is definitely a character in his own right. For a 21-month old, he is a big chatterbox. He also is completely in "Monkey See, Monkey do" mode with Mitch - whateve Mitch does/wants/has he wants it too.

But what I find interesting, is that Mitch, somehow is a catalyst for Mikey's beggining to learn religious rituals. For example, now that Mitch knows his blessings to recite before and after food, Mikey tries reciting them too. While he doesn't have all the words down pat yet, it is the intention that is starting to form a good habit. Even though getting Mitch to wear his 'Yarmulka (skullcap)' is still a little bit of a battle, the minute Mitch puts it on, Mikey wants his on too.
Posted by Picasa

A tale of two neighborhoods.

Last week, the jewish community in Lakewood decided to collectively ban the Internet from its homes. While I don't agree with their actions, I do agree with their reasoning - the Internet has become a place where malicious individuals seek out innocent victims. Don't agree with me? try typing out a mispelling of the name of a famous website - like or If you are not taken to a porn site, someone somewhere is trying to make a buck off of you - either by tallying page visits, or by trying to download spyware on your computer.

It is outrageous!

However, despite the evil people out there, there are still plenty of good uses for the web - like my blog, and like my kid's school's web site!

Other changes brewing....

In addition to moving my blogs to blogger, I am also looking at some other things:

  1. A monthly newsletter e-mail
  2. New features with better content on parenting
  3. Better pictures!

Please comment on the new site, and give me some feedback!

Moving to Blogger

For a myriad of Reasons, I decided to migrate my site to Blogger from Movable Type. This will help me with many things including publicity, and offline publishing - so I can now write blog entries when I am not net connected. Of course, I still need to figure out how to import all of my old blog entries.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Long time, no write


I haven't posted anything in weeks. I need to get better at this. While I haven't been posting, I have been mulling all kinds of site upgrades. We'll see if any of them transpire.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Growth Explosion

So as I mentioned in my last entry, Mitch, my oldest, has started a Jewish Preschool at the school he will (hopefully) be attending throughout grade and middle school. It is amazing how much he is growing day by day. It seems as if every other day he comes home knowing something more.

For example, in Judaism, we say blessings before eating foods. Each blessing is specific to the type of food you are going to consume - i.e. there is one for fruit, one for breads, etc. While we taught him one or two, we were surprised that a)He has picked up a couple more in only a few days of school and b) He says the blessings without any prompting.

He is growing up before our very eyes. But it's not just him. His little brother is growing up too. Mikey has started to hit his "terrible twos" stage. He has thrown several tantrums this week, including one over what footwear he was going to wear.

This is going to be a fun fall :)

Growth Explosion

So as I mentioned in my last entry, Mitch, my oldest, has started a Jewish Preschool at the school he will (hopefully) be attending throughout grade and middle school. It is amazing how much he is growing day by day. It seems as if every other day he comes home knowing something more.

For example, in Judaism, we say blessings before eating foods. Each blessing is specific to the type of food you are going to consume - i.e. there is one for fruit, one for breads, etc. While we taught him one or two, we were surprised that a)He has picked up a couple more in only a few days of school and b) He says the blessings without any prompting.

He is growing up before our very eyes. But it's not just him. His little brother is growing up too. Mikey has started to hit his "terrible twos" stage. He has thrown several tantrums this week, including one over what footwear he was going to wear.

This is going to be a fun fall :)

Friday, August 19, 2005

My Gaza Memories

NOTE: I started writing this on Monday, and its taken me a week to finish it. It isn't in my usual writing style, and I am not sure if I make a point, so please forgive me if I don't. I also want to say that twelve years is a long time, and some of the memories and/or names might have been a bit fuzzy, therefore if I mispelled or misnamed somebody, please forgive me.

On Sunday, Israeli Police and Miltary units began serving eviction notices to the residents of Gaza, and tomorrow, those that remain will be forceibly removed from their homes. Their are many opinions on the matter - is it right, is it wrong, will it make it easier or harder to secure Israel? I personally am not going to take a stand on those issues. This article isn't about how correct or incorrect either side is, but rather a reflection on Gaza by someone who lived through a very small portion of its history, and wants to share his insights with you. The few short days I spent on Moshav Gan Or in March of 1993 left an indelible impression on the 18-year old boy that I was. In that week I observed and took part in several things that I have never since seen again, and, unless a miracle ocurrs, probably never will again. I learned how to weld, I learned how to weed tomatoes, how amazing the Jewish mind is, and how indifeatible the human spirit can be. I learned that Gaza was a lesson in contrasts from the cesspool that was, still is, and probably will remain Gaza City to the beautiful arrays of glass and steel and mediterrean villot that were so characteristic of Gush Katif. Yes, dear reader, Gush Katif is a lot more than sand, a lot more than a group of politically inspired neighborhoods to shore up Israeli hold on the area - but Gush Katif is truly a lesson in how many amazing things that the state of Israel has, can, and will accomplish - with or without the cities and villages in Gaza as part of its future.

First and foremost, to get to Gush Katif, one had to pass through the Palestininan inhabited areas of Gaza. Not a pleasant site to say the least. By contrast, when I drive through a neighborhood deemed unsafe here in New York, I roll-up my windows and lock my doors. In Gaza, they bulletproof the windows and lock and load their rifles. Incidentally, of the 50 or people on the bus that morning, there was only one other people aside from me who didn't seem to have guns - we some young kids seated a few rows up. I was so scared when they all locked and loaded that I ducked under my seat, thinking they were doing so was a sign of an impending attack - not realizing that this was simply par for the course. During the journey, passing by the outskirts of Gaza City and Deir-el-balah - I kept wondering why did I come here. Why didn't I just stay in Jerusalem? But in a few short minutes, that all changed, as we started passing through the arrays of Terra-cotta roofed buildings and glass and steel greenhouses that were so characteristic of Gush Katif and the cities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in general. I immediately found the home of my hosts - Itzik and Yudit Amitai. Probably one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen. A home that could have easily looked perfectly in place in Boca Raton, Los Angeles or some Greek Isle. But it was here, in Moshav Gan-Or. More so than the house itself was the home that they made it. At the time they had 5 children - ranging in age from 12 on downward. As an 'Americaii Mifunak' - a spoiled american, I had imagined that each of the kids would have claimed one of the 7 bedrooms as their own - yet all of the older ones slept together in the same room - either as a sign of their closeness, or as a sign of a fear borne of living in such a dangerous climate - either way, they enjoyed one anothers' company. I was shown a room and went to wash-up, but my washing up session didn't last too long. I was immediately whisked to the Greenhouses to Help Itzik, and another volunteer, Yuval, widen the Amitai's truck so that it could accomodate more bushels of tomatoes on their trips to market them. Yuval was an interesting character. An orange farmer from Binyamina who was, ironically, allergic to the orange trees, and spent much of his springs in the south. The best way to describe Yuval would be to say that he could have easily been the double for the character 'Hagrid' in the Harry Potter films - without any makeup or camera effects. My first day was Yuval's last - as he had spent the previous week or so there. But we spent the better part of a couple of hours working on the Truck together. He taught me a bit about welding, and a bit about economics. The reason that the bed of the truck was being widened was because when the Moshav's scarcity of workers required fewer trips to the market with tomatoes (the reason why the needed volunteers like me was because they had expelled all of their palestinian workers on the moshav after one of their moshavniks was killed by a trusted employee in broad daylight -more on this later).

After finishing up our welding job, we headed back to the Amitai house - for my first taste of Yudit's awesome cooking. We spoke of politics and what was becoming, at the time, the bloodiest month in Israel's history - which started with the kidnapping and murder of Nissim Toledano - a young Magavnik (border police officer). I spent the next few days working in the greenhouse alongside other volunteers - religious and secular, zionistic and not. There were some guys from the Mercaz Harav Kook yeshiva, a teenager my own age who was about to start a one-year mechina program before enlisting in the army, and a couple of young girls who were helping out with the Amitai's pesach preparations that were dormitory students in the Neve Dekalim girls' high school. There were also other volunteers - friends of mine on a B'nei akiva program, others on program from the Nitzotz/The Israel Center (an organization that I am forever grateful to for having enabled me to experience teaching Judaism to ethiopian immigrants)- the list goes on. At night, I hung out with my fellow volunteers. Each with a different story, but each with the same reason for being there - helping out their brothers and sisters in need.

One day during that week - I can't remember exactly which, but I am thinking it was either Tuesday or Wednesday - as I was sitting eating lunch leaning against the greenhouse, two men in pulled up to the greenhouse in a car. One looked like he belonged on the moshav - he wore a big knit blue kipah on his head, the other was so Wasp-y he could have easily been someone I bumped into on the New Haven Green rather than a Gaza greenhouse. The kippa-wearing gentlemen approached me asked me where Itzik was (in Hebrew of course) and I responded that he had gone to Neve Dekalim to deliver vegetables. He then turned to his companion and began to explain what I had just said in English. I jumped in and offered that they could check with Yudit in the house. Surprised and impressed with my English (the fact that they thought I was a sabra still gets me to this day, sigh, where did my Hebrew go?), they asked how I knew English so well. I explained that I had lived in the states for 17 years. The guy with the Kipah introduced himself as David Bedein - an Israeli PR/Media consultant, the other guy was introduced as Jeff or Jim (honestly, I can't remember - and yes, he was from connecticut), and he was a reporter for newsweek. Intrigued to find an American student visiting Gaza, he asked me a few short questions. Although I am proud of my interview with Newsweek, it unfortunately never made it into the magazine.

Over the next few days as I weeded tomato plants and picked cauliflower and flowers for the upcoming holiday of Pesach, I learned and saw more than I ever wanted to know about agriculture. I was in with every Greenhouse control room that I walked into - each of these seemed more like the deck of the Enterprise that on a small farm in Gaza - fertilization, irrigation - they were all computer controlled. 30 years ago we would have all laughed if someone suggested we grow vegetables in the desert, yet today we have 'Best Practices' and can provide those practices to other nations that could use these techniques to feed their hungry. Never in my life did I ever dream that argiculture could be enhanced so much by technology. More than greenhouses as far as the eye can see, the Hammamot of Gush Katif we among the most technologically advanced Greenhouses in the world. But the technology was only half of it - halacha was the other half. Gush Katif gave rise to 'bug-free' produce. And then there was shmita. The year I was there was a shmita - sabbatical - year were the land needed to lie fallow. So the plants that year were not grown in the ground but on top of it - in buckets. Yes, Gush Katif was comprised of acres upon acres of Greenhouses that were designed to fuse technology and halacha and embrace them in nature, and at the same time, tried bucking nature by banning bugs and growing potted tomatoes in the desert.

I also attended minyan in Gush Katif. One day one of the moshavniks asked me to lead the services. I politely declined, embarassed that my Brooklyn Yeshiva boy accent would cause people to laugh at me. His reply -' son, I'm Yemenite, and I lead them here too, just do me a favor and head up to the front.' Yes, there were Ashkenazi, Sefardi, and Yemenites in Gush Katif, and it was not discriminatory. The secular and the religious lived together and there was harmony. In Neve Dekalim I learned that although there were enough Jews of each of the three denominations to warrant their own synagouge, they all shared one social hall - recognizing that although their liturgies differed, their sense of community was still single-minded. Another minyan I attended was the Shloshim minyan for Uri Meggidish. Uri was the aforementioned man, murdered by one of his most trusted palestinian workers. I sat there with the others trying to make sense of it all. I looked at the sullen face of his daughter Meital, unlike the joy of her older brother's recent Bar-Mitzvah, her Bat Mitzvah would now be a bittersweet affair (In fact-checking for this article, I discovered that Mohammed Abu-Sita, the terrorist who killed Megiddish, was killed a little more than a year ago - on the same day the brit milah of Uri's first grandon took place, I wonder what this child will learn about his grandfather, and how it will hurt his parents, grandmother, aunts and uncles to leave the place where their father died to live). It was walking home from this minyan that I had an exchange with a four year old that changed my life forever.

Little 4-year-old Eyal Amitai, my hosts' son, was playing 'Soliders and Arabs' with his friends. I, as a child, played cops and robbers. I guess the antagonists and protagonists take on different forms in different places. I asked Eyal who he was shooting at. "The arabs!" he replied. When I asked him why he wanted to shoot Arabs, he said, simply, "because they killed Uri." I was blown away. A four year old understanding the senseless violence had taken away his favorite neighbor. I often wished after that to make a difference, to take the next generation of Eyals and teach them that we don't have to hate, that we can try to bridge the gap, that peace is achievable, before events push them to think to the contrary. Eyal is proably about 16 or so right now, and after this all settles down, he will probably join the same Army that evicted him and his family from their home. I wonder, with the way things are going, if he will be forced to do the same to the residents of Judea and Samaria - Efrat, Ma'ale Adumim, Hebron. It pains me to even think that 'disengagement' goes beyond the Gaza Strip, but if Gaza goes, what might be next? It pains me to think that in the 12 years past, hope is bleaker than ever that we will fulfill the prophecy of Isiah -' ...Lo yilmadu od' milchamah' -' ... we will not teach war anymore' .

On Monday night that week, my second night there, I was helping to pick flowers in a greenhouse on the moshav, when gunshots went off in the distance. There weren't many, but even one was enough for us to be evacuated to the safety of the moshav. It turned out that the shot was fired by Shaya Deutsch after he had been stabbed by a Palestinian. It was never clear if the shot was intedend to hit his fleeing attacker, or to warn others and get help. As we arrived at the Amitai household, Yudit passed out Tehilim - Psalm books - and we all began to pray for Shaya. In the distance, we saw a helicopter leaving neve dekalim evacuating him to the Hospital in Beer Sheva. But alas Shaya died. Within a few minutes, I decided to call my aunt in Jerusalem, knowing that I needed to 'ping' her before the news hit the hourly newscasts. Long before everyone in Israel had a cell phone, the 'I'm alive and well' call was still a fixture of daily life there. I found out a few weeks later that one of my friends and others in the B'Nei Akiva group were actually there when the Helicopter took Shaya away. They were staying at the dormitory of the Girls' High School in Neve Dekalim, and being that their parking lot was the only place to land a helicopter, they witnessed his last moments firsthand.

On a much lighter note, one of the Russian workers had a boombox with him, and presumeably only had two tapes - A Russian comedy album which I couldn't understand (even the limited 'kitchen Russian' I've accquired from my wife and in-laws in the last 6 years of marriage wouldn't help) and Abba's greatest hits. Abba might be fine to listen to, but after hearing the same songs repeatedly for 8 hours a day for 5 days straight, it got old quickly. The one song that stuck in my head was 'By the rivers of Babylon,' Abba's take on the Psalm. 12 years later, immediately following Tisha B'Av I now feel a chill, for our Gazanian brothers and sisters are now sitting at their own proverbial river, and wail. (I too wept this morning after reading some of the stories in the paper). In retrospect, it was seemingly prophetic - for little did I know it would all come to an end.

On Friday, I headed back to Jerusalem for Shabbat. I was dead tired, but packed with Memories. Sadly, that was the last time I was ever going to be in Gaza, and even more sadly, I never really kept up with the Amitai family. I wonder what happens to them. I wonder what they will do and where they will go? I wonder if they too are sitting by their proverbial river crying for the destruction of the home that they have have for 12 or 13 years.

In that same Psalm we say - 'If I forget thee O'Jerusalem, may I forget my right hand.' To that I say we should apply this notion to Gaza. From my anecdotes and experiences, it is clear to me that what I experienced there and from the news reports, that Gush Katif is a Special place where one was able to learn so many positive things from the natural, physical, and spiritual worlds. Although we need to move out of there, we will never forget the lessons we learned their and the residents of Gush Katif will take that spirit with them wherever they go.

My oldest son is 3.5 years old. I can't help but think of what kind of world will he grow up in, and who or what his enemies will be. One day, I will teach him about Gaza, and my short but meaningful time there, show him pictures, and tell him these stories. And explain to him that even in the worst of surroudings, Jews can make the most difference.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Slowly approaching....

My son's first day of school is less than a month away. I can't wait
to see my tuition dollars at work. Yes, I complain an awful lot about
the price, and I have high expectations, (When they start
kindergarten, any kid can go to Harvard, MIT or West Point) but I am
just looking forward to his artwork, learning cool things (religious
and otherwise) and making new friends. Watching him over the past few
years, I've made generalizations - Year 1 is about physical growth,
year 2 about cognitive growth - maybe years 3 and 4 are about social
growth - as I watch him actually learn to play with his friends rather
than alongside them.

I also hope that his friends and school will provide my wife and I in
subduing his mischievous side - I wonder where he gets that from :).

Slowly approaching....

My son's first day of school is less than a month away. I can't wait to see my tuition dollars at work. Yes, I complain an awful lot about the price, and I have high expectations, (When they start kindergarten, any kid can go to Harvard, MIT or West Point) but I am just looking forward to his artwork, learning cool things (religious and otherwise) and making new friends. Watching him over the past few years, I've made generalizations - Year 1 is about physical growth, year 2 about cognitive growth - maybe years 3 and 4 are about social growth - as I watch him actually learn to play with his friends rather than alongside them.

I also hope that his friends and school will provide my wife and I in subduing his mischevious side - I wonder where he gets that from :).

The blessing of a Lollipop...

I would definitely say that my synagouge is, quite frankly, very kid-friendly. So much so to the dismay of the parents. Our Rabbi, not wanting kids to be afraid to come to synagouge, and not wanting kids to be afraid to talk to him, has taken to becoming one of several 'candy people' in our synagouge. Of course many of the parents would prefer if he had healthier snacks, and I am sure at least one or two people on the synagouge board are not 100% happy with the ocassional stains on the pews' upholstery or carpet, but for the most part I think that this is a good idea. Even if kids walk in Friday night, and loudly ask their parents if it's okay to walk up and ask for a lollipop.

My son is not that zealous in his quest for candy, and truthfully goes to say 'Good Shabbos' to the Rabbi with the lollipop being a fringe benefit. We have also been trying to teach him the blessings over food. (In Judaism, in addition to special grace after meals (thanks for the food we have consumed) we also make certain blessings before eating various types of food. A practice, that I will admit, I have not been the best at observing, and have made a concious effort lately to get better at.

Yet the other night, I was blown away when he turned to me and asked me to open a lollipop and then when I handed him the Lolli, without my prompting, or anyone else's, he asked if he could make a 'brachah', blessing, on the candy. I said yes, and was floored with Nachas when he did so - word for word, without any help.

Maybe something is sinking in.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fun and Fear at the Carnival

As the old yiddish proverb goes - 'Man Plans, G-d Laughs'. We planned to take our sons to a local children's museum yesterday, but unfortunately, life threw us a curve - my wife's great aunt passed away. She lived into her 90's, but her time had come, and we spent the 4th escorting her to the world to come. Thankfully my parents were able to babysit, and the boys enjoyed spending the time with them. Yet despite knowing that I had a valid excuse for not doing anything special for July 4th with my son. I still felt guilty.

But then I remembered reading in the paper that one of the nearby towns was having a week-long carnival. I bucked his bedtime and took mitch. If he had been 10 or 12, the carnival might have been a major dissapointment - great adventure it was not, but he is 3 and a half, and he loved every minute of it.

After a pretty sad day, he helped provide me with some cheer. But there was one thing at the carnival that scared me. As he was on his last ride, a Fire fighter from a local fire department was talking to the ride operator, and offered him a beer. I was flabbergasted at the two men, and the notion that this ride operator was willing to drink alcohol while operating a ride that my child was on. I think that the firefighter caught me eavsdropping, because he started feeling me out to see if I was a cop.

I had no proof that the ride operator was drinking, so I couldn't make an issue of it, but maybe I will think twice before putting my son on those rides next year.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Friends and Neighbors

When we moved into the neighborhood, we imagined that between our neighbors, our synagouge, their school, and random people we met in the park, we'd find friends for our kids. But, to be honest, I never realized how nice it would be to have that 'best friend' right next door or a few houses down. Growing up in Brooklyn, most of my friends were just far enough away that I couldn't just go to their houses and play on a daily basis. Sure we met in school and all, but for the most part, there seemed to be an awful lot of kids my brother's age in the neighborhood.

When mitch was about a year, another Jewish couple bought the house next door and moved in with their infant daughter. Mitch and her a good buddies, and ocassionally play together, go to the park together, or just hang out. Next year, they will go to school together as well.

A couple of years later, our neighbors just up the block gave birth to a little boy 6 weeks before Mikey was born. Yesterday our nanny told me that she stopped in front of their house on the way back to the park to chew the fat with their nanny. While they were talking, Mikey and his little buddy started up a conversation too. It looks like he's going to have one of those friends as well.

Chee and Key

At some point in our lives we all have nicknames. Each has a different story. We've generally referred to our older son as Mitch or Mitchie. His little brother Mikey, recently started talking a bit, but somehow managed to drop the first syllable of his brother's name calling him 'Chee' instead. After about a week of being called 'Chee' Mitch decided that it was time for him to give the same treatment to Mikey - who he now calls 'Key'.

Last night, I found myself calling them 'Chee and Key' as well.

I wonder how long it will stick

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Which concerns you more - Gas or Education?

I was reading an article in Today's Wall Street Journal about the ever increasing price of Oil and gas. In a little box alongside the article, they illustrated the rising costs of Gas compared with other costs increases over the past 20 years. Gas was at the bottom of the pack with a 68% increase. At the top of the list? You guessed it - Education - it grew 330% over the last 20 years In today's dollars.

I wonder how much it is going to increase in the next 20 years.

The Real Meaning of Father's Day

A few weeks ago, right after Mother's day, my wife asked me what I wanted for father's day. My immediate answer - to sleep in. Regardless of when we go to sleep, I am usually the one up first with the kids in the morning. They get up around six or so, and I am responsible for watching them play while I pray every morning (this sometimes proves more difficult than others).

I just wanted to sleep in and get some rest for once. But when father's day came around, that isn't quite what happened. First I did in fact get up with them - at 7 though. Thankfully we came home late on Saturday night after having been away for the weekend, so they slept a little bit later. I took my oldest to synagouge with me, and later in the day I took my youngest to the Home Depot. Finally, we capped off a day where the three of us spent an hour in the park - without Mommy.

Reflecting at the end of the day, I discovered that the day was perfect - I wouldn't want anything else than to spend Father's day with the two reasons that I am a dad in the first place.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Why I love where I live....

There are many reasons why I love where I live. Not just the friendly people that you meet in either of our two Shuls. Our community is friendly and warm and emphasizes common sense over blind faith. Just to share two of these small reasons, here are two anecdotes from the recent holiday of shavuot.

- Shavuot marks the beginning of the summer afternoon 'Perek/Oneg' season. Both shuls have special summer afternoon programs - one calls theirs Perek on the Lawn and the other simply refers to theirs as an Oneg shabbat. Generally speaking, these happen work out every other week, and the shuls attempt to coordinate to some extent so that they don't conflict. Essentially, the program is hosted by a family in their back yard with snacks and salads and a speaker - usually someone from the shul gives a lecture on a topic of Jewish Interest.

These are great events, because it brings the community together as well as gives parents and kids an opportunity to socialize with their neighbors, and it also gives us all an excuse to get outdoors in the summer. It really builds a sense of community.

As for the other story - as we walked to the Perek on the lawn we were joined by our Rabbi and Rebbitzin - who also happen to be our neighbors. In talking to the Rebbitzin, weall commented how different our shuls (hers and the other one) are from the ones we grew up in. The Rebbitzin, My wife and I all recalled our Rabbis growing up to be on a pedestal and not to be talked to, where our children have a much different rapport with the Rabbi. My son knows to go up on the bima and say good shabbos to the Rabbi, and kids are welcome on the bimah for Kiddush time as well (although I will be the first to admit it has gotten just a little out of hand).

I think it is important for kids to feel that the Rabbi is approachable. This makes it easier for them to discuss their religious issues with him if they don't feel comfortable discussing them with us. It also gives them (dare I say it) a warm and fuzzy about going to shul, and hopefully will keep them coming back.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Giving Credit where it is due...

In my original article onThe Knish the editors found perfect image to accompany the article, but couldn't find the original author - Air Time. (An error that has since been corrected - or will be shortly).

As someone who has been in a similar position, I hope that air time will accept my sincerest apologies. He originally created the image a while back when he talked about the costs of tuition.

Generally speaking, we don't make something the object of satire unless it hits a chord with us. Therefore it is only reflective of the sad state of Jewish education that so many of us are making light of its downsides.

NOTE: On my old blog, there was a lively discussion brewing on this post. However, I haven't brought over all of the comments. My sincerest apologies to all of those who posted.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Welcome Knishers

I want to welcome all the readers of The Knish that have come here after reading my farcical look at the ludicrous amounts of tuition we pay. It pains me to think that as many of the the Yeshivot we and our children (and maybe our parents) attended have been around for 10, 20, 30, or more years, and yet no one in their history ever considered setting up some sort of endowment to help curb costs.

It's a shanda that for all of the success of the schools we attended, and the work we've done, that many of us who could live like kings as gentiles with the salaries we make, will live check-to-check to send our kids to Yeshiva. While the wacky suggestion I make in my Knish article is a bit far-fetched, I hope that someone sometime soon will come up with a strategic plan, so that at least my kids won't have to worry about this.
While I know that there are a handful of people reading this, I generally don't get too many comments, and typically I'd respond to them in the comments section. However,ChaimW posted this comment the other day, and I think it needs to be addressed here on the blog, because I want to use it to illustrate a specific point:

Chaim Wrote:
You want your kids to go to Yeshivah and think for themselves? My daughter's morah told her that the public library is off limits because of boys and books filled with avodah zorah. Good Luck!

Chaim raises a very vaid point. As many of my fellow orthodox parents know, one of the hardest decisions you will make in life is picking the Yeshiva(s) (Jewish Parochial School) that your children will attend. And if that wasn't hard enough, when you finally find the right school, you will need to worry that your child will have teachers who will incourage him or her to learn and grow, who care about your child and his or her development. Unfortunately for every good teacher I can remember in my youth, that gave specific grade years a positive experience, I also remember having to endure 2-3 really bad years between each one of those where I needed to endure a teacher who was 'holier than thou', indifferent, or just plain unqualified.

But add to that a different problem - teachers who believe that parents do not do a good enough job of setting a positive religious example at home, so that they take it upon themselves to frumify (make more religious) your kids. Unfortunately, for many of these people the concept of frumkeit (religiousness/piety) has become narishkeit (stupidity). These are people who focus too much on the negative aspect of everything and are quick to ban things, but never in a million years see the upside in these things and their benefits.

Not knowing where Chaim lives, I am wanton to make the assumption that he is from the NY area - because this could be expected in a community where people have taken the concept of Frumkeit to the point where they will not greet a fellow Jew with a 'Good Shabbos' unless they have some sort of familial or social relation

For example, I am sure if no Yeshiva is doing it yet, it is only a matter of time before the same Yeshivot who ask if you have a TV in your house will also ask if you have an internet connection. These are people who are probably willing to ostracize you if you knew that you were reading this. Sure there are bad things one can pick up at the library - but what about all of the good things that they can learn there? Books by the dozens that will help them in school, work and life, and understand the world around them. Hopefully, you will accompany them to the library if they are really young, and if there are people or things you want them to avoid, you can and should not only make them avoid those things, but also explain to them why.

IMVHO, I think that there are two main things plauging the relationship between the Morot and Rebbiem (Teachers) in the orthodox world and the parents of their students. One of them is trust. They don't trust that parents can adequately educate their kids in the appropriate manner to communicate and interact with the non-jewish world. The other is conformity. While they might understand that little David's parents have a different worldview, if the vast majority of little David's classmates parents' don't want their kids to go to the library it is problematic when David becomes the exception.

This is one of the many reasons why I moved out of Brooklyn. I went to a very restrictive school growing up that probably was concerned just as much about what you did from 4:30 (dissmissal time) to 9 the next morning, than they were about what you did from 9 to 4:30. And I didn't want that for my kids.

Suffice it to say that I don't think that Chaim wanted this for his kids either, but maybe he doesn't have much of a choice of schools for his kids where he lives.

Chaim, please let me give you some advice, if I may be so bold - regardless of what the school teaches your kids, use your own judgement and reasoning to explain to them when and why a teacher is wrong.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Doing something fun for a change

Maybe you know the drill just as well as I do - Monday through friday you and your spouse leave your house a 7 or 8 and don't come home until 6 or 7. (if not leaving earlier and returning later). Leaving you very little, if any time, to spend with your kids. Thankfully, I have about an hour in the morning with them (generally, I am saying my daily prayers, while they are crashed down in front of the TV, but there are always our lighthearted moments together) and I also get to bathe them and put them to bed every night.

Since I am an orthodox Jew, Saturday is Shabbos - our sabbath, so unlike some of you who are not sabbath observant, I am commanded by religion to take a day out of my hectic schedule and spend it with my family. Usually I spend most of the day with my kids. We attend synagouge, have a few nice family meals, get a nice family nap (sometimes) and then wind the day down with a trip to the playground down the block. And then when the sunsets on Saturday evening - the craziness starts all over again. Sunday, for the most part is errand day, where either one of us or all 4 of us prance around town shopping and gathering.

Given this frenetic pace, it's a rare day where we get to do something fun. Yesterday I put my foot down - seeing that it was Memorial day. We spent the day at the Aquarium, and the kids had a blast (well, at least Mitch did, Mike was kind of freaked out by the whole 'huge fish in dark rooms' concept, maybe next year he'll take better to it.).

It was great to see the smile on their faces, and to hear Mitch talking about it afterward. I think that we need to do this more than a handful of times a year.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fighting for Attention

While I have commented in the past that I don't feel like I spend either adequate or equal amounts of time with my two boys, I always make every effort to spend time with each of them. This week I had a nasty chest cold that sidelined me from work for a couple of days, days which I spent sleeping at home. I pretty much kept to my bedroom in part not to infect the boys, and in part to make the day as normal to them as possible.

However, whenever I went downstairs - to eat, say - they would fight over my attention. If I am holding Mike, Mitch wants to be picked up, if I am playing with Mitch, Mike will crawl over and start calling Daddy. At one point I took Mitch to the bathroom, and Mike started screaming when I left the room.

I decided to try to get Mike to start walking by coaxing him from the safety of his 'cruising' props. This of course caused Mitch to bite Mike - once on each day. Obviously he was punished, and that night I had a conversation with him about biting and brothers. I told him how much fun it was playing with my brother Yussie when we were little, and that we never fought - all the while thinking about the times that I kicked the crap out of my brother.

Interestingly, when I told this to my mom, she said she doesn't remember all of the fights, but the good stuff - how we played together with our legoes, playmobil and other toys, how we played sports and sang together.

Hopefully when I look back in 25 years from now, I will have more of those memories too.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

If I had a Nickel....

I was thinking of a good t-shirt slogan. I came up with this one:
"If I got a nickel towards my kids tuition from everyone who saw this shirt.... I'd wear it a lot more often!"

I think it is a good slogan, and if you do too, I will give you the chance to vote with your wallet by going to my Cafe Press shop.

It's all about the Brain Baby

At 14 months, and not quite walking yet, it is easy to say that Mikey didn't follow the path of physical development that has brother did (Mitch started walking at 10 months and running at 11 months). But as I tell parents that the first year is really about physical development, while the second year is all about cognitive growth, and mike is ahead of Mitch on that front. Everyday it seems his vocabulary is growing more and more. He picks up words like a sponge does water. He's learned his brother's favorite wiggles songs - not just some of the words, but that hand motions too. And he is ever so polite, as he always says thank you when you hand him something.

It's amazing to witness the dramatic similarities between the human brain and computers. The brain is essentially a combination of CPU, RAM and Hard Drive all in one. Just like a brand-new computer, each baby starts with an empty hard-drive. This hard drive on its own, is completely useless until we start to load 'programs' into it. Yes, humans come with pre-loaded software - we don't need to remember to breath do we? It's amazing to watch the progress a child makes as we load em' up with instructions - how to talk, how to eat, how to walk and how to play.

Now that he has started talking, I remember all the joys of year two with Mitch, and I look forward to similar experiences with Mike.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Of friends and accquaintances

About 15 years ago, I remember have a conversation with my parents about how many people we believe that we know - i.e. Friends, family accquaintances. My dad said he know 50, and we quickly made him realized that he knew a lot more, seeing that our immediately family was at least close to that many people.

I think that all through our lives, we meet and befriend various people and our relationships with them vary over time. You might have a had a best friend in grade school who was inseparable from you, but then once you went to two different High Schols, your paths may have diverged considerably. My relationship with each of my siblings has definitely morphed over the years as well, not to mention the relationship with my wife and in-laws and her siblings.

I will probably be the first to admit that while I can easily work a room, I haven't in many cases beeen the best long-term friend/brother/son, etc. There are many relationships that I have squandered over the years and at the same time, many that have gone away and come back.

Recently, I realized the need to make the effort to be more in touch with some of those people that I really care about, but at the sametime haven't been in too close contact with. I hope that it is more of a better late than never situation than one that is too little too late.

I also hope to teach my sons the value of friendship as a long-term investment of your time. You never know when you're going to need a friend, and it's nice to know that there are those that you rely on.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

What do I expect to get for my $200K?

So I figured that over the next decade or so, I will pay in the vicinity of $200,000 (not adjusting for inflation) to provide each my kids with a solid, well-rounded education that includes both a traditional religious education as well as a solid secular education that will help prepare them for college.
As someone who went to religious school who's emphasis (at least on secular education) was less holisitic and far less serious, clearly I have a lot of baggage from my negative experiences in school that I don't want my sons to go through in their lives. Sure we've all had a teacher that we didn't get along with, but also a teacher that we loved. But the school that I went to emphasized rote execution of religious practice without the capacity for dialog or discussion. That works for some people, but didn't work for me.
I also to this day firmly believe that the principal had it out for me, but that is a whole other story.
I guess that brings me back to the title - what do I expect? In bullet points:
  1. I expect that he will be able to speak,read, and write Hebrew with a decent degree of fluency

  2. I expect that he will have a decent understanding of how to open up religious texts - Misha, Gemara, Chumash, Halacha, and be able to learn something on his own without relying heavily of english translations.

  3. I expect that he will have a strong understanding of our religion and the tools to be able, as an adult, to determine where and how G-d fits into his life.

  4. I expect that he will have the skills in secular studies that will enable him to get into a college that is on par with his abilities (I don't know if he is a genius or not, but if he is, I want his education to take him to an Ivy League school).

  5. I expect that he will have a good understanding of Jewish History - both from within and from beyond the bible - and how it relates chonologically with world history.

  6. Most importantly, regardless of how my children end up religiously, professionally, and emotionally, I expect them to have not only the ability to think for themselves, but also the desire to do so. For as we all know, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Sound like at lot, even for $200,000, but at the same time, whenever anyone makes an investment of that size, their initial dreams are always big, or else they wouldn't find it worth the risk.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Post-Passover Rant

So I just spent my first night at home after 10 days split between my parents and in-laws homes'. The time was filled with a lot of fun for all, and as much fun as it was to spend some quality time with our parents, it was much more fun to watch the antics of our kids with their 'Babi','Savta', and their 2 'Zaydes'. More importantly, it was worth it, if not for anything, for the nachas that my parents and in-laws gained from watching their grandchildren and realizing how much they have grown.

Needless to say, my grandmother (a.k.a. 'Bubby Bubby') probably had the best time of all watching my two boys tear apart her home.

However, with the high points of every trip there come the low points as well. I took a walk with my dad and the boys on the first days of Pesach and quickly discovered that my once strongly modern orthodox neighborhood has suddenly become thouroughly ultra-orthodox. This is a distinction lost on some of those who are not in the know, but basically, the neighborhood has become a lot more religious than in the past, which is part of the reason that I don't live there anymore. Again, this isn't a bad thing at all. My son is just as glad to have Shloimy, Yanky and Gershy to play with instead of Steven and David (however, when I insist his name is Mitch some of them insist on asking what his 'real' [hebrew] name is, but that's okay too).

In fact, it seems that none of my childhood friends live there anymore either. When I was a kid my parent's shul was full of kids within 5 years of me either way. We had youth groups for kids from the ages of 4 up to 18, and activities for young adults and marrieds. But somehow, the number of modern orthodox families with kids of any age are few and far inbetween. In fact the vast majority of my friends have moved way out of Brooklyn to places like Teaneck, the Five towns and New Rochelle. The ones who have stayed (whether they will admit it or not) have stayed primarily for economic or childrearing reasons - i.e. their non-working parents help watch their kids while they work, or they have an established local business. Reflecting this charedization is the fact that 'Mizrachi L'Banim' is now called 'Derech HaTorah' and that Yeshiva of Flatbush is almost entirely Ashkenazi-rein.

20 years ago, I walked down Ocean Parkway on Shabbat and debated with my brother and sister which house we each were going to buy when we grew up. Now that we have, I can't imagine any of us wanting to live anywhere near Ocean Parkway in the least.

Again, this isn't a bad thing. Flatbush will be a bastion of Torah-observant Jewry for many years to come. Unfortunately, it won't inlcude any kippot srugot.

Of course, in addition, whenever we talk about Modern Orthodox Jews and their communities, we also need to talk about two other major costs of living - Tuition for Yeshiva, and Real Estate. It is virtually impossible to move into an established community in the New York metro area these days and buy a suitable house for a young family for less than $400K. And that's pushing it. Couple a huge mortgage with a tuition bill for three kids that a best is approacing $30-40K a year, and you are left with an amount of financial burden that even the most successful of double-income families will have a hard time with.

It is a shame, because we have become victims of our own success. Part of me wishes that I could find a community that has a nice established Jewish base where tuition costs half and houses cost half, and even though my salary will be half, I can still sell my house and cash out the equity to live like a king. With the money I save, I can 'gasp' - donate to charity, put away money for my kids college, or actually go on a vacation. Of course, with my luck, by the time I get there it will become as hot as living in New York and all of the benefit of moving will be gone.

Thankfully, I consider myself lucky to have found a M.O. Community in White Plains, where I have many of the benefits of being further out of town, while still remaining close to NY. Thankfully my taxes are relatively low, and the tuition education tradeoff is a good value. I am also lucky to have found a community that is very unpretentious, so that there is less of a need to keep up with the Goldsteins.

However, as happy as I am here, I wonder if any of my kids will be willing or able to live here too, or will or shul look like my parents shul in 25 years from now? After all, 20 years ago, I don't think anyone foresaw what Flatbush would look like either.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Foul Language

So it was inevitable. My son picked up some foul language. From us or from someone else - it is irrelevant. Granted, I have made great strides in watching my language in front of my kids, but at the same time, all they need to do is walk down the street to be subject to profanity.

Needless to say, my son was using one specific expletative a whole lot. So much so that I needed to take a grown-up action. I took him aside for a minute and explained to him that it is a bad word. And that there are bad words that are very hurtful and mean and we shouldn't use those words. He seemed to understand, he seemed to get it more so than usual, but wouldn't you know it - he kept asking all weekend - 'Daddy, why is _______ a bad word?'. I finally told him that he can't ask about bad words anymore, and just not say them.

We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Getting out of the Ghetto... sort of.

This past week we received our tuition packet for our son's school for next year. We are very excited (except for the money part) that he is starting at his first Yeshiva which will educate him in both the ways of the secular world as well as instill and reinforce the Jewish values and practices that we observe in our home.

Of course part of the logic behind placing him in an immersive religious environment is that he will be surrounded by kids who's parent's come from similar backgrounds and want similar education and values for their kids. But the other part of me wonders if I wanted to raise him in a sheltered environment, why did I move out of Brooklyn - where our entire block could have been comprised of Orthodox jews?

Part of me likes to think that he would be exposed to kids of other backgrounds to some extent. We current send him to a secular playgroup in our area, where his friends are ethnically and religiously diverse. The point is to et him to undersatand and appreciate the virtures of our religion, while at the same time being cognizant, that we are a minority in the world, and we need to interact with others all around us.

Maybe I can find a way to put him into a little league for baseball or hockey (of course finding one without Saturday games will be rough).

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Pope

Today Pope John Paul II was laid to rest. The Pope is definitely not a person that orthodox Jews talk about often, and in some circles, even the simple acknowledgement of his death might be considered taboo.

Truth be told, being that I am only 4 years older than the 26 he spent leading the Catholic church, I have no one to compare him to, but I have to say that he has definitely been a positive force in building bridges beween Jews and Catholics. Yes this is the man beatified Pious XII - who turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, but this is also the same pope who recognized Israel, and on his first (and I think Only) official visit, he went to Yad Vashem - the Holocaust memorial museum.

There is a concept in Judaism of the Chasidei Umot Haolam - the righteous gentiles. I am sure that many would debate the Pope's Status in that regard, and despite how his gestures were received by the Jewish community, the greater testimony to his legacy is that those gestures were made.

My sympathies go out to the cCatholic world on the loss of their dynamic leader, and I can only hope that his successor too will continue to build bridges between Catholics, Jews, and other faiths.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Gan Eden is going out of business!!!

I was very sad to learn today that Gan Eden wines are going out of business. I first tried their wines several years ago at a friend's house and fell in love. Their Late Harvest Geuwirtzaminer is one of the few good wines that my wife will drink (she likes em' sweet) and their cab is pretty good too. If you live in pretty much any other state aside from NY, you can order from their website.

Good luck to the Winchell family in the future endevours, and thanks for making such a fine Kosher wine for all these years.

No I will have to hang on to my stash of their Geuwirtzaminer, and refrain from giving them away as gifts when we get invited for meals.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Tragedy and Comedy

As my wife designed the label for our Shalach Manot baskets, she decided to put the Comedy and Tragedy masks on them as a graphic. Seeing that Purim is one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar, the Comedy mask seemed very fitting, but I initially had my doubts about the Tragedy mask. How is Purim a tragic event? Sure, it was almost tragic, but the tragedy was avoided? But after hearing the megillah both last night and this morning, and after putting Purim into perspective with some recent events, I decided that the tragedy mask was not so out of place after all. But please don't consider me a naysayer, and hear me out as I explain why.

One of the gifts that my older son, Mitch, received for his 3rd birthday was a Pushke or charity box. We quickly realized that this gift was a great way to teach him the concept of charity. While the concept of charity in general is a bit difficult to explain to a three-year-old, the notion of giving charity on behalf of the ill or despondent has seemed to stick. Each night before bedtime, we give Mitch a couple of coins to put into his Pushke. Sometimes he will put it straight in, and other ocassions he will recite the names of friends and family members who we want to get better. Good or bad, this underscores the notion of giving to charity on behalf of the sick to add to their merits and return them to good health. One of the people who we mention by name is Plonit (not her real name, lest I draw the ire of my wife). Plonit is going to be three in June, but is battling leukemia. Mitch has only met her once, as she lives a bit far away, but he knows of her, as he knows of his many other occasional friends that happen to be the children of Mommy or Daddy's friends.

There hasn't been a week gone by since she's been diagnosed that the Mrs. and I thank G-d for the common colds and ear infections that our kids have. I will take 1000 runny noses over an ounce of the other diseases any day. Last night, after putting a coin in his Pushke for Plonit to get better, Mitch asked me -'Daddy, why is Plonit sick?' For the first time in my life, but definitely not the last, my son had asked me a question that I couldn't answer - not just with an explanation for him, but with an understanding for myself. I wish I could have said to him - 'Daddy wants to know too' - but I just let it go.

In the same vein, there were two more tragedies going on in the news this week - one local, and one national. The local tragedy happened just across the Hudson River from us in Teaneck, NJ. A Jewish woman, a single mother no less, lost four of her seven children in a house fire. She herself remains in critical condition. In addition to having had some business dealings with her ourselves (we used her nanny placement agency) several of my wife's friends in the area knew her well, as their children were classmates. It is a hard enough pill to swallow when small children are killed in terror attacks, violent crimes, or genocide. Yet in those cases, part of the rationale is that they were killed by 'Bad People'. How does this type of tragedy translate? One of our friends' 5-year-old son came home and said to his mom - 'Mommy, Noah was killed in a fire - why did G-d create fire if it was so bad?' This tragedy marred an traditionally happy week in the Jewish community as many parents struggle to explain the deaths of children to their own children even though their own questions about it remain unanswered.

The national tragedy is that of Terri Schiavo. It seems that everyone has a side in the story or an angle to it. It seems that every last politician is milking poor miss Schiavo's situation for his or her own media gains. I do not want to weigh in on the matter just to say that for a woman who has survived for years after a serious brain injury, starving her to death seems to be an unusually cruel way for her to go.

But I digress, how does this all tie back to Purim? Or the combination of Tragedy and Comedy contained therein? To get the answer my friends, we literally need to read the 'Whole Megillah' (pun very much intended, after all, it is Purim :) ).

The story of the megillah plays out like a soap opera, or even a Seinfeldian-style sitcom - a bunch of unrelated stories - the death of Queen, the selection of a nice Jewish girl as queen, the foiling of a murder plot, the rise to power of an evil adviser to the king, and his rivalry with the leader of the Jewish Nation. They all seem unrelated at first, but then in the later chapters it all comes together. I have always found it interesting that Mordechai and Esther - two very strong Jewish figures - question apparent coincidences - 'How do we know that this is not the reason that you were appointed queen?' ask Mordechai of Esther as she debates going unnannounced to the King. He informs her that if she fails, success and salvation of the Jews will come from another source. Yes, we all know how the Megillah ends, but is it just me who finds this interesting that (at least literally) Mordechai and Esther have their doubts as to the outcome?

I also find it interesting that while most of the Megillah is read with an upbeat tune, there are certain parts that are read (much like a Hollywood score) with the wailing tune of Eichah (Lamentations). These small contrasts in the Megillah send a sharp message - While it seems that we are all generally happy, we cannot ignore the plight of those suffering amongst us. This is, in part, why the mitzvot of the day include the giving of gifts to our friends, as well as the giving of charity to the poor (which must be distributed on that day!) Moreover, it only underscores that hindsight is 20/20. We can laugh at the Megillah now because we know how it ends, but the people of Shushan didn't.

Maybe we should look at the deceased members of the family in Jersey, Plonit's leukemia, and even Terri Schiavo's condition as incomplete manuscripts so to speak. Sure the events are currently tragic, and we don't understand their meaning or place in G-d's greater plan - but we can all hope for a happy ending for each of them, and then, in hindsight it will all come together.

Chag Sameach and a Freilichen Purim!

Monday, March 21, 2005


I took Mitch ice skating with our synagouge yesterday. This was essentially his second time on the ice - we had taken him last year when he was 2. Last year, in the hour we were on the ice, he hated the first 45 minutes of it, but then loved the next 15. This year I couldn't get him off the ice - he loved every minute of it. He wouldn't even let me sneak away and skate on my own for five minutes.

I really thought that I would be able to teach him how to skate, but it just didn't quite work out that way. While he was able to take some instruction - like keep your feet straight - it was limited. But all in all I am glad that he likes it. I bought him some in-line skates in Janbuary (they were dirt cheap on a post-holiday sale), and now I know that he will be ready to learn how to use them when the summer comes. I want to encourage him enough so that he gives it a fair shot, without pushing it to the point where he resents it because of my persistance or that he feels pressured into excelling because of my desires. It's definitely a tough balance to strike.

So for now, it will just be about a dad trying to teach his son how to skate.


My son's teacher called us last week to tell us that he has been acting out in class lately, won't listen, etc. It seems that some of the younger kids are acting silly, which is fine for the younger kids, but that he is acting out as well, and that they expect more from him because he is older and supposed to be more mature.

I was a little taken aback by this, but not the least bit surprised, because they could have very well have been describing me at the same age. I have a lot of fond memories and learned a lot of wonderful thing in my early years - some good, some bad - that being said, the onthing I need to do for my son right now for his own benefit is to set boundaries for him - not significant ones per se, but ones that will set a positive precedent for him going forward.

For example, he likes to go to the library. Maybe set up a way where he can earn a weekly trip to the library by cleaning up, behaving, etc. One of our friends do this with their 4 and a half year old - they give him a 'special trip' with Mom or Dad when he gets enough rewards.

My little boy is growing up, and it seems he has a lot of me in him. I just need to take the extra steps to ensure that he keeps the good things that he inherits from daddy, and gets rid of the bad ones.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The fine line between touting your child's talents and bragging

I am not what you might call a 'power blogger', but I also ocassionally read other blogs on the web and post comments as they relate. One blog that I read on ocassion is Megan Morrone's. Actually it was watching her old TV show - The Screen Savers - that I first learned about blogging, and catalyzed me to getting here to begin with. That being said, as the mom of a 2-year old with twins on the way - I can definitely relate.

I visited her blog the other day and I read a post of hers regarding a visit to the Doctors and the concept of parental pride. As I opined earlier this week. Mitch is bright enough and charming enough that other people seemingly take notice. (Granted, I am not sure sometimes if they are just being polite, or if they are being serious.) But does it really matter if he is the smartest in his class? Or if he has the top grades? Or if he goes to a State School instead of an Ivy League school? Will I be mortified if he becomes a basketweaver or a handyman even if I think that he is capable of more (so long as he can support himself and is happy, of course)?

Of course the proud parent in me gets excited everytime he does something new, especially if it isn't something that someone his age is supposed to do (For example, he can count to ten in 4 or 5 languages, but only by rote - since he is not so keen on adding yet :) ).

I also would like to think that I will know his potential and what he is capable of. He doesn't need to be the best in his class, but the best that he can be. Even if this is the case, I will still be dissapointed if he is not an "A" student, only because of the fact that I am his father and think that he is the greatest gift to mankind (since me, of course :) ).

For now though, I will simply enjoy him each day and revel at the 'crafts' he brings home from pre-school.


My wife always wanted a girl. Whenever we go into stores selling kids clothes, she always oogles the frilly dresses and skirts, and while it takes us 5 minutes to pick out a baby gift for a boy, she spends at least 30 minutes agonizing over the various choices for a girl's present.

Needless to say, I wholehearedly agree with her when she says that she wouldn't trade our two little boys in for all of the girls in the world. Neither would I.

Brothers have different bonds than sisters do. Sisters can be the best of friends. My wife and her sister talk at least once a week, and can gab on a variety of subjects. I have two brothers - one 2 years my junior and one 20. I will speak with them on average once or twice a month, and each conversation will seldom last for more than five minutes. In the event that I speak to them more often or for longer it's usually for practical matters - i.e. 'Hey I'm here, where are you?' or 'Can you help with this computer problem', etc.

But at the same time, we can go to a ball game, watch the movies that my wife will never go to - spending 2-3 hours together without uttering a word except for the ocassional high-five and grunts of delight at our entertainment choices.

That being said, It was great growing up with a little bro two years my junior. Sure it was annoying at times, but I also had a built-in playmate and sparring partner (much to my mom's chagrin. I hope Mitch doesn't send Mikey to the emergency room at all, yet alone as much as I sent my brother Yussie there when we were growing up.) Someone to talk to about girls and other things when you didn't feel like opening up to mom or dad.

I watch Mitch and Mike together, I start to see the begginings of this - the horsing around, and Mitch wanting to take advantage of Mikey's stature, but also Mitch trying to teach him things and giving him hugs and kisses (see the picture from the other day).

Granted I am grateful that we have been blessed with two healthy children, and that we diddn't have much difficulty getting there, but beyond that I think that it is wonderful that they will have each other for growing up and the long haul.

Now if only I can find a way to bond more with my own brothers in my already busy schedule.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

We are their role models - proceed with caution

Last night my wife got upset at me during dinner - regardless of what it was about - in anger she pounded the kitchen counter. A split-second later my oldest did the same. We all had a good laugh, and then we looked at each other as if to say - we need to be careful in front of the kids.

Obviously Mitch has been mimicing us for years now, and Mikey has already started to mimic the three of us. It's amazing how much that we do in action and deed trickles into their vernacular and eventually their subconcious.

Every day I grow more and more cognizant of this, and I think to myself, how should I behave to show Mitch how to behave. While I have cleaned up my language a bit (not just the content, but also the tone) and offer Mitch the gentle reminder (i.e. Say Thank you, What's the magic word, etc.), Faigy and I haven't really changed all that much, and yet by all accounts, Mitch is a polite and considerate child (except when it comes to sharing toys with his brother, but we're working on that). Maybe we are doing something right afterall?

I just hope he never picks up on our bad habits

Monday, March 14, 2005

Hearing it from someone else

Our son's school is getting a new principal next year, and he just happened to be at our synagouge yesterday morning to meet with some of the parents. As our Rabbi introduced me to the principal, he indicated that my son was very bright.

I didn't know what to make of it. I think it is hard for us to be good judges of Our kids abilities, simply because we're biased. So it was really good to hear it from someone else that they felt our child was a bright boy. I just hope he stays that way for a while :)

The first signs of maturity...

Whenever I talk to new first-time parents and share in their joy of their child's 'firsts', I often find myself reminding them that while the first year or so is about physical development - sitting up, crawling, standing, walking, using their hands to grab and clap, and eating more and more solid food - The second and third years are about cognitive development - talking, learning, playing etc. Of course, as my oldest is only three, I couldn't really get a bead on years 4 and 5. But I am starting to see a new trend emerging - maturity.

Yes, I know maturity is a relative thing. Ask my wife and she will tell you that I am only a couple of years on the maturity scale above my kids. But I think that this is best way to describe what is going on inside his little head.

He hasn't started doing too many new things that he didn't do before, but the difference is in how he does them. For example, before when he didn't want to go to sleep, or when he first woke up, and mom and dad wouldn't let him out of his room, he would scream until he was blue in the face. Now, he accepts reality by going to his bookcase and taking out a book to read. I can't tell you how many nights I've gone up to check on him where he was reading a book - or where he was fast asleep with an open book still clenched in his hand.

It is just truly amazing how the little helpless baby we brought home from the hospital not much more than 3 years ago now resembles a little boy.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Library

I took both of my boys to the library last night. Usually I just take Mitch, but now that Mikey is 1, and since I was home yesterday, I thought that I would take them both.

The library is more than just a place for books these days. When I was a kid we'd go to our local library every other Friday with my mom. We would take out bunches of books and manage to go through the limit of ten we were allowed in the two-week timespan. I also remember the 15-minute or so walk home, and how my mom kept reminding me that it was dangerous to walk in the street and read at the same time.

But our local library is just a little bit different, maybe because of technology, or maybe because of the fact that it's in the burbs' as compared to Brooklyn.

First off they have these tiny little plastic computer desks with washable and somewhat indestructible keyboards for kids. These computers have a whole compliment of age-appropriate games for pre-schoolers and 1st and 2nd graders. (There is another section of computers for kids in higher grades). They have a full-fledged computer resource room for kids complete with homework help, and they also have some cozy reading spaces (which are currently limited during their construction).

This is all good, but they are currently working on a great new place that sounds more like a museum or theme park kind of atmosphere for kids than the usual library. It's called The Trove and it will be done sometime next year. Just in time for Mitch to fully appreciate our trips there.

He's really growing up...

I took my son for an interview at his school for next year. My guess it that the teachers want to observe him at play and see if he is cognitiviely where one should be at his age, and make sure that there is nothing wrong with him. This is basically set up as a half hour of playtime with him being observed by one of the teacher. I was a bit worried that he wouldn't be able to sit on his own let me leave him behind, but twice yesterday (the second time was at his pre-school earlier that morning), he simply said goodbye to me, and that was that. I was convinced that because it was a rare occassion that dad took him to school, and because he would be in a strange place with a strange person, that I was in for at least a few minutes of him crying, but he was a-ok.

On the way out of the school, we met a handful of our friends and neighbors picking up their kids. I think that this is going to be a great school for him in more ways than one.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Library

I took both of my boys to the library last night. Usually I just take
Mitch, but now that Mikey is 1, and since I was home yesterday, I thought that I would take them both.

The library is more than just a place for books these days. When I was a kid we'd go to our local library every other Friday with my mom. We would take out bunches of books and manage to go through the limit of ten we were allowed in the two-week timespan. I also remember the 15-minute or so walk home, and how my mom kept reminding me that it was dangerous to walk in the street and read at the same time.

But our local library is just a little bit different, maybe because of technology, or maybe because of the fact that it's in the burbs' as compared to Brooklyn.

First off they have these tiny little plastic computer desks with washable and somewhat indestructible keyboards for kids. These computers have a whole compliment of age-appropriate games for pre-schoolers and 1st and 2nd graders. (There is another section of computers for kids in higher grades). They have a full-fledged computer resource room for kids complete with homework help, and they also have some cozy reading spaces (which are currently limited during their construction).

This is all good, but they are currently working on a great new place that sounds more like a museum or theme park kind of atmosphere for kids than the usual library. It's called The Trove and it will be done sometime next year. Just in time for Mitch to fully appreciate our trips there.

I think I need to add it to a the donation list.

.... in more ways than one...

We have also been trying to toilet train Mitch as well. My wife and I have him in underwear for part of the day and encourage him to go. I am in the live and let live camp - i.e. tell me when you have to go. She tries to get him to go on a schedule. In either case we know are efforts are starting to pay off, as he went to the bathroom himself today for the very first time.

Hopefully he will learn to do that regularly between now and September.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sibling Rivalry begins

I have noticed lately that my two boys have been going at it a bit here and there. Sure, my 3-year-old has both attempted to hurt his little brother and also has been 'overly affectionate' with him, but it seems that little Mikey is now fighting back so to speak - if both are sitting on one of our laps Mike will try to claw at Mitch's face and/or grab his hair. He also exhibits this behavior when Mitch takes away a toy that he is playing with.

I am sure that this will last for many years to come -as I know from the experience with my brother, who is about the same distance in age from me as they are from one another. I just hope it requires fewer trips to the ER :).

A little more about my morality post

... apparently there was some confusion about the details, it seems that the person in question was not asked to become a prostitute but rather a bartender in a brothel. While this is probably not as offensive and reprenhisble in the eyes of most people, there is still an issue here in the form of legalized prostitution. Imagine me, as an Orthodox Jew and the grandson of Holocaust survivors being assigned to work as a programmer for a white supremacy group? Or an arab 'charity'?

I guess I really want to make two points here:
1) It is definitely a low point when the unemployment office is filling jobs at a brothel.

2) Granted, the incident happened in Germany, but imagine here in the US if I was forced to take a job where the employer's mission or the nature of their business was completely contrary to my religious, social or political beliefs.

I guess in the latter, I would have an out, as I am sure that I would not pass the interview, but still, to even think it a possibility makes me cringe.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


I was watching Fox News the other night on TV, when they ran an very interesting story. Apparently, a woman in Germany had her unemployment benefits taken away because she refused a job as a prostitute. Apparently, since prostitution is illegal in Germany, a job as a prostitute is treated like any other job, and if you are referred to a job that you are qualified for and turn it down, you lose your unemployment checks.

This is ludicrous! Legal or not, and fitting the description or not, this job is dangerous!! - Prostitutes can be exposed to HIV/AIDS and other types of disease (Even condoms break), shouldn't there at least be an opt out for her here?

Even so the topic of this post is Morality - this story just seems to be one more step towards the lowest levels of immorality in the history of I world. I am not going to chime in on what I think that the other steps are, or what does or doesn't constitute moral behavior, all that I am saying is that this is definitely a sign of our immoral times. I just don't want to think how much lower we will sink between now and the time that my sons are adults. G-d save us.

David Asman on this story:,2933,146657,00.html

I have also pinged 'A-stitch-in-haste', not sure 100% what his opinion is, but there was some talk of this being a hoax

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


I talk about my older son, Mitch, an awful lot, and not too much about his younger brother. But the truth is I love them both equally. Mikey is just something else. He isn't tracking as big as Mitch did, nor is he as physically advanced in some ways (At his current age, Mitch was walking for almost 2 months already, while he is just beginning to pull himself up), but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in spirit. He is a feisty (in a good way) child, and very inquisitive. Walls can't contain him, something which will take on a larger literal dimension when he does learn to walk. And trying to change his diaper - forget about it, he just doesn't sit still. I had to learn to do it one handed because the other hand was necessary to hold him down with.

We have a standing policy in our house (a bad one, admittedly) that if one of our kids wakes up within two hours of our wakeup time, we let them stay in bed with us. We have done this several times with mike, had him fall asleep with us, and only to be woken up by a pair of tiny hands clawing at your face.

As I sit their with him on my lap in the rocking chair in his room, all the memories of Mitch at his age come back to me. Sometime I wonder if I am giving him too little attention, and others I wonder if I give him too much to spite his older brother.

At the very least I need to give them equal time on this blog.

Friday, February 04, 2005

My new-look little boy....

So after a snow delay, we finally cut Mitch's hair last Sunday (1/30). It wasn't as traumatic as it initially seemed it would be (for him or us), and I have to say he sat still while the whole thing went on almost to the very end when he got some shpilkes and wanted to go play with his cousin.

It seems like only yesterday that I was cradling him as a newborn baby in my arms, and now he is is a little man. Now his education is just beginning. We are sending him off to Yeshiva in the fall, and I can hardly wait until he comes home talking about the weekly Parasha.

As for the traumatic effects we were anticipating, it seems that while the teachers in his pre-school were oohing and aahhing his he new coiffure, while the kids hardly noticed the difference.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Staying little....

In the buildup to his Upsherin*, we borrowed a book about the process called 'Ephraim's First Haircut'. He seemed to be okay while we were reading it, but then, as I was putting him to bed I noticed that he had his younger brother's pacifier in his hand, and was trying to put it into his mouth. I took it away from him and reminded him that he was a big boy now and didn't need a pacifier anymore. He then started to get frantic, and began to look under his bed, to see if he could find a missing pacifier he might have dropped long ago while he still used one. I asked him why he needed it, and he said 'I want to stay little Daddy, I don't want to be big'.

Lately we have been prepping him for the upsherin, as well as telling him about the new school that he will be attending next fall. I wondered how much sinks in. I guess more than I thought.

I too have my fears about his upsherin. I wonder how I will feel, how he will feel, and how he will look after all is said and done. Will he be freaked out? Will his friends go through the intial shock of trying to re-recognize him with short hair? Will some of his cuteness and charm be taken away from him Samson style?

I also wonder about his fears, and their roots - is this just another manifestation of regression when he thinks his little brother gets more attention? Or is it true fear of the new 'big boy' unknown. He wakes up in middle of the night, saying that he is afraid - of what exactly he won't say. (Of course, 24 hours earlier, as I wwas dressing him after his bath, he was quick to point out that he was getting hair on his legs - even though he really isn't).

In either case, it just shows a level of congnition that just wasn't present in him 6 months ago.

And as he sat there in my arms as I consoled him about his fear of becoming big, I told him flat out - one day he will be a big man like Daddy. But even then, he will always be my little boy.

I am going to miss his mane, and his little brothers hair won't start getting long for another year.

* Upsherin is a Yiddish word meaning to share off, and is the term used to describe the ceremony at which a little boy is given his first haircut at 3 years old. Customarily, Jews from Hasidic and/or Middle Eastern backgrounds grow out the hair of their little sons until the age of three - a custom which is rooted in Jewish Mysticism and Kabalah. Known neo-kabalists like Madonna have observed this custom with their children.