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.