Welcome to the August 9, 2013 edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel havalim .

The Jewish blog carnival  is a weekly digest of several Jewish blogs from around Israel and the world. Please feel free to join us and submit your blog posts. Make sure to comment at each of these wonderful sites,  and tell them I sent you!  To be a host, you can contact us at the  blog carnival index page, and/or join us on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/283537885020583/

Since my last blog post my family and I have reached our 1 year aliyah anniversary. I had expected this to be commemorated with a meaningful and reflective blog post. While I still hope to write one about being in year two, the reality is that every single one of us has been too busy LIVING life in Israel to stop and do much celebrating, reflecting – or blogging. This is a tremendous mark of aliyah success in my book, and while I am sorry for the lack of blog, I am happy about the reason.

I participated today in a wonderful Elul tradition on my yishuv. A diverse group of women get together Shabbat afternoon, Rosh Chodesh Elul, for singing, food, and words of Torah and inspiration for the month. One participant, Yael of Yaelle Yells… Softly* mentioned that she enters Elul with trepidation but her father, z’l, always did so with excitement.  (*This is Neve Daniel, after all, “Har Habloggerim”….. ) 

What about you? Do you enter this month feeling fear? Excitement? Or both? I am feeling the weight of my very heavy to do list – work, school supplies, bus schedules… and spiritual cheshbon.

Whatever your feeling about the month, Chodesh Tov and enjoy all of these posts:


If you have never checked it out before, take a peek at Jewels of Elul, a project where different writers / bloggers contribute for and about Elul. This recent post “Elul 4: Choose, Don’t Refuse” is from my friend and all-around brilliant superwoman, Yael Untermann.


Ima on and off the Bima, tries to blog all of Elul… a better blogger/woman than I. Her first post in the series is Blog Elul 1, “Prepare”


Esav Exposed gives us some insights into one of Tommy Wallers teachers in an ongoing effort to expose Christian Missionaries proseltysing specifically to Jews in Who Are Tommy Wallers Teachers Part 1


Jacob Richman of Good News from Israel bring us his own digest of cool stuff to help us prepare this Elul in Educational Resources, Cool Videos, Games and Greeting Cards for Rosh Hashanah.


Good News from Israel also posted his photo album from Jerusalem’s current Model Train Exhibit. I would love to make it over there, but am at least going to share the pics with my kids.


Sharon of the Real Jerusalem Streets blogs to say Thank you, Women of the Wall. Regardless of personal feelings or opinions on this controversial issue, I am so happy to hear that she has had a positive experience!!!


My Parnasa tell us How to Make a Million Blogging for Times of Israel. One could argue that the Haveil Havalim Carnival is for those looking for the non-TOI blogs, so what do you think?


Batya of Shiloh Musings has brought us a variety of different kinds of posts, in


Loni Books presents Making Challah posted at Small Thoughts, saying, “I’m a college student by day, a writer by night. I love to write about those small moments that inspire me all day long.”


… Before I leave, I would like to ask all of our readers to make a quick stop off at Crossing the Yarden, and leave a little note, blessing, prayer, or token of love for Yarden and his “Rock Star”. Just tell him how many of us are out there with their amazing family in our thoughts and prayers. Thanks.


I hope this is an inspiring and uplifting Elul for you, and that you blog about it!

Chodesh Tov,



That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel ha using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Picture Day.

September 12th, 2011

no; this isn't my kids' school, it's just a random shot of the misery of class photos.

Today I decided that for our “Elul Experiment” our family would focus on davening (praying) with kavana, with proper intention.

Today was picture day at school, and one might find this fact to be completely unrelated, but it isn’t.  No one, including me, was able to focus on that particular mitzvah today, as it seems everyone had to instead focus on the proper management of frustration.

As I blogged yesterday, my six year old broke her wrist on Shabbat. So for my husband and I we spent the entire day very frustrated, although not by picture day. It seems that no pediatric orthopedist’s office in New Jersey saw my daughter’s pain as their personal urgent crisis. We both spent the day on the phone, mostly on hold, trying to get an appointment made. While we have one for tomorrow, I personally felt unsettled while her care is still in limbo.

As for the kids? Although this is the second week of school, picture day messed with their sense of routine. As well as messing with their wardrobe choices, their recess and even their lunch. They all told me they had an awful day. I tried to console them with the notion that when the move to Israel (as far as I know) they will be spared the experience of “picture day”. As most of my readers know, they will undoubtedly meet a whole new host of frustrations with which picture day will pale in comparison, but I didn’t get into that.

Everyone seemed to fare relatively well in the frustration management challenge of the day. I choose to confront it with distraction since frustration is almost always born of our lack of ability to change the situation. So we might as well not focus on it. I know this works with me; I try to shift my focus on to the things I can improve or change.  At least for today, this seemed to work with the kids as well.

I would like to share with you one of my tools for distracting them today, a  hip-hop dance video… from Aish HaTorah. I hope you enjoy it!

Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem  



Setting an example

September 8th, 2011

So much for my blogging Elul. I haven’t been here in a number of days.

We have continued our experiment, choosing a mitzvah a day to focus on as a family, but I have seen the kids so little this week that I haven’t been able to nag them monitor their progress as much as I would have liked. They chose v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha yesterday. This mostly related to school and didn’t seem to spill over to a cessation of sibling rivalries or bickering, unfortunately. Today they chose don l’kav zchut, giving someone the benefit of the doubt. This seemed to go better, but wasn’t as relevant throughout the day as some other choices, like brachot.

Back to school and back to my full-time work load has simply been the focus this week, consuming a lot of time.

I am not sorry for staying away for the few days; I was needed in the real world, not the cyber-world, and it is an important part of my Elul experience to remember that and stay focused on it.

Jack B. put up and interesting article in June that I stumbled upon now, called “Mean Girls Come from Mean Moms.”  He has an interesting premise that basically states that girls aren’t mean because their moms are mean to them. Girls are mean because they see and hear their moms being catty and mean to other women. I never really thought about it that way before. But it is just another stark reminder that our children do as we do, more than as we say.

My eldest daughter started a blog this week. She is both more proficient and more profound than I. I am at once awed by her efforts so far, and equally unsettled by them. She spends her time singing, reading, working with / playing with little children and now blogging. Which is exactly what she sees me doing.  (To be fair to myself, she also loves to come learn Torah, something she sees me do as well.)

I suppose I should be proud. If she resented my time blogging she certainly wouldn’t emulate it right? At the same time, I never want my children to feel that my time on the computer comes before them. Sometimes they do feel that way, since I can’t always shut off work when they are home.

So once again, it all comes down to balance. I invited my daughter to “guest blog” here, even though her doing so may put me out of business.

My hope is that in sharing this on line experience it becomes family time instead of competing with it.

Now to just translate this into everything else in my life. I have to keep reminding myself every single day that my children will grow to become what they see us be, not what we tell them to be. I realized very early on as a parent that raising good kids meant raising up myself. Being a better me would make the best “thems”.  Yet I have to keep being reminded. It is so much easier to give fine speeches than to set a fine example.

So when I don’t blog Elul, you will know that I am demonstrating to my children that this isn’t my parnasa and it isn’t my family. It is my outlet. An outlet which has value and is important to me but never to the extent of eclipsing higher priorities.

And that’s me raising up myself.

An Elul Experiment….

August 31st, 2011


Female chemist

I am feeling prodded? inspired? by Rabbi Phyllis Sommers’ BlogElul project. She challenges us to blog daily for the month of Elul about the month and its process of introspection and teshuva. Since I am working on the parameters of my computer and internet use this month, it might be quite counterproductive for me to participate.

I have to see whether the exercise helps me use my internet time better, or becomes one more task that just pulls me away from the people I love. Time will tell… and I am here, blogging Elul, for now.

I am trying a new family project this Elul, as an experiment.  We are going to (try to) focus on one midda (character trait) or mitvzah each day of Elul and try to improve it.

While I know this is not that different from what many people do during the omer leading up to Shavuot, I am trying this new approach with the children that somehow managed to turn into big kids on me this summer. All of them. All at once.

That’s a different blog post. What I have found to be so interesting so far is the list itself. I had put some choices down on paper to give the kids some ideas and a head start. What they wanted to add was such a personal and honest reflection of what they know they need to work on that it simply fascinated me.

I know that part of real teshuva means not focusing on everything. Choosing one, maybe two areas or challenges in your own life and truly focusing on change in them is the advised course, and often the most effective.


I wanted everyone to be setting an example for each other, and it of course is forcing me to step up. Today the kids chose to focus on saying all of the brachot, or blessings, and doing so properly. So I had to be more focused on nursery-teacher like loud pronouncements of my own, making time and space for their “Amens”. Which is all good.

It feels a little like the office pool that loses weight together. We are a team, trying to take baby steps and improve, but together.

I don’t know if this will work, or if we will keep it up all month. I hope we do. It certainly is a self-imposed mechanism for me to focus on my family on that which matters.

I will keep you posted on our progress, but if you have any ideas for what should be on our month long list, I would LOVE to hear them!

Rosh Hashanah was only a few days ago, and yet I find myself not at all sure just where to begin blogging. So much has gone on, and it has been so long since I collected my thoughts here.

I was determined to remain calm at holiday time this year. With unexpected guests, a steady pile-up of details, the kids’ intense first week of school, kids having off from school on the day I needed to prepare, two new jobs and that other minor detail of my SOUL BEING UNDER FINAL INSPECTION, consistent calm was a large enough goal to be the only one. I am happy to say that in the days leading up to and the days of Rosh Hashanah I did manage to remain calm…. I lost it a little once, only once, (with my husband) and promptly sentenced myself to some time in bed, which led to a half-hour long nap and a return to myself.

Early in the morning erev Rosh Hashanah I had gotten a last minute announcement from my DSS that he was coming for the holiday. I knew that three days of yom tov (and sibling time) in a row would be no small feat for a teenager who generally lives a completely secular life, primarily as an only child. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to the change with basically no notice.  At the same time, it made the whole holiday feel more real, more complete. I had my whole family home, and it filled my heart. That just doesn’t happen as much as I would like anymore.

I missed Shofar blowing entirely the first day of Rosh Hashanah because the first night one child got sick and spent the better part of the night vomiting. We stayed home together the next day. I stayed calm. I wound up with tons of leftovers because some of our guests understandably didn’t feel like taking chances. ( Said child was on the trampoline and asking for food all at the same time by three in the afternoon, but I had to stay home with him that morning nonetheless.)There is a tzadik in our community who blew the shofar 100 blasts for a second time in one day, before eating his meal or taking his nap, so that I and his mother-in-law could fulfill the mitzvah. Other guests came hours earlier than my husband got home, trying to be very patient while lunch hour got much closer to dinner hour.

I had to miss (part of ) shofar blowing on the second day of Rosh Hashanah because a GANG of teenagers were on their way to my house without any adult supervision or permission! I took it as a backward compliment that any teen would be crazy enough to think that we are that “cool”… we aren’t. Part of me really wanted to resent my removal from davening…. but I remained calm.

Over the course of those three days, some of my possessions were damaged. My children got into it with each other, and younger children got hurt by older children. Albeit accidentally, there was a lack of care and restraint. After so much “together time” some of us forgot to “use our words”. And I remained calm.

I think that I have made a consistent mistake in the past to confuse excitement with seriousness. If there is no build-up, tension, excitement and drama then there is no serious “largeness” to the holiday.

The learning I was able to squeeze in during Elul this year kept returning to the idea of  our effort being the point, not the output, or other people’s expectations.  I heard repeatedly that accepting that this might not be my year to win medals in High Holiday davening, but that sometimes having small children  means showing devotion to G-d by refraining from davening and focusing on the needs of others.

I guess it was my time to hear this message, to learn this lesson.

I davened when I could, set up and cleaned up a lot of meals (gave away as much honey cake as I could so it wouldn’t stay in my house) and tried to prioritize remaining a calm presence in my home as a means of showing my service to G-d and my way of crowning him King.

I don’t know if it improved the holiday for any of my kids. Three days of yom tov, long hours at shul, too much dessert and too little sleep seemed to be a lot for everyone to handle, Ima’s mood notwithstanding.

I know the change made for a better holiday for me. The serenity I cultivated translated into a great sense of emunah, faith. There was no lack of noise and chaos throughout the days, but the lack of anxiety and stress or a “having to” feeling made my holiday more meaningful.

This is only the beginning in a long month of three-day holidays. I hope I can keep the calmness up. Only a few days out, I sit amongst piles of work, mess, laundry, leftovers and dirty dishes… and pray I am really up for the challenge!

Teshuva is hard.

I could say that teshuva is hard for me, but from what I have learned teshuva is supposed to be hard. Recognizing your flaws and dedicating time and energy to personal change is just hard.

During the month of Elul we are supposed to be reflexive, taking a full accounting of our behavior for the year. We know Hashem is going to be “checking the books” soon, so if we are going to ask him to forgive the screw-ups we really ought to know what they are first. Or at least try to know what they are.

The Rabbi of Twin Rivers, where I live, is a big proponent of an Elul Cheshbon Hanefesh, or spiritual accounting, to properly prepare for Rosh Hashana. A book by this name was written by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov in 1812, with a prescription on how best to do such an accounting.  The problem is a true Cheshbon Hanefesh is really difficult! To sit down and take a real honest look at one’s behavior towards G-d and our fellow human beings is time consuming and uncomfortable. Of course perhaps my readers are much better humans than I am and your Cheshbon Hanefesh is a walk in the park because you get to remind yourself of how many wonderful things you did…. but that isn’t the case for me.

I have made a number of people decidedly unhappy, uncomfortable and even hurt throughout this past year. It makes me quite unhappy, uncomfortable and hurt to know that I have done this.   If you are reading this and you are one of those people, I hope you will accept my heartfelt forgiveness. If I come to realize what it is I did and when, I will do my best to contact you directly and try to make amends before my time runs out.  If you want to tell me in case I don’t get there on my own I won’t enjoy the experience at the time but I will be truly grateful.

Saddest of all, I know that try as I may to be a better person, which I will, I am most likely going to be able to say the same statement next year at this time.  Some of what I have done seems to be misunderstandings. Or justifiable. Or a difference of opinion. But I would be kidding myself if I said it ended there. I still have a lot of work to do in this lifetime in order to be at my best. It definitely does not feel like fun to have to beat myself up so as a part of religion. A lot less fun than Homeshuling’s Top Ten. (Oh, just go read it after you finish this.)

Judaism isn’t always about fun. It is about pleasure. Pleasure in this world and pleasure in the world to come*. The Sages say that pleasure and fun are NOT the same thing. They also teach (I am told) that pleasure will come from the mastery of my own shortcomings. From my personal growth and slaying of my dragons. That this is the true pleasure in both worlds.

It is a lot more fun – or at least pleasurable – to live with myself when I “clean out my soul’s closet” as it is described in our  latest PJ library book, “New Year at the Pier” … I just wish I hadn’t let it get so messy and cluttered up this year.

*If you want to watch a very short and fabulous video on “the world to come”, check out jewinthecity.com


August 12th, 2010

I had a shocking experience today.  I have a cordial and somewhat of a “working” relationship with the local public library. Now.

I remember the librarians’ trepidation when as new residents I would stroll in with six children in tow, confident in my ability to maintain “order”.

There is one librarian in particular is, well, just the cranky type. Over the years, I have listened to my fair share of curt reprobations and reminders, and I have tried to respond to with consistent smiles, patience and cheeriness. Over the years she has come to understand that my children actually won’t trash her library. She has come to appreciate my desire to not only respect her, but the library itself. My volunteering to teaching music programs there hasn’t hurt.  I only learned this year that the library is her baby. She is responsible for its existence, and has been there tending to it since it was a storefront with some boxes of donated books. So, she is naturaly protective.  I have come to understand and have tremendous admiration for her efforts and concern for the library. I recognize her worries as those of a mother cub, the library being her baby.

I gave a performance at the library yesterday, a celebration of Jewish music for children and their families.  I went back to the library today for some follow up, and she was very kind and appreciative.

And that is when she said it:  “You know, I have to say, you are just, well, more put together than a lot of those Orthodox women. You should talk to them. You know it really is such a shame.”

She truly meant it as a compliment.  What I think is lost on her is that when I go into the library the VAST majority of the people coming in are in T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc.  It is totally, utterly normal in our small, rural town to be very casually dressed. From where I am standing, “dressed” is a very kind adjective some of the time. Yet it’s those “Orthodox women” that are slobs. Isn’t it always?

I think it goes without saying that the only reason she noticed so starkly and felt she could say something to me is because she is a non-Orthodox Jew. You know the lack of funkiness on the part of us religious ladies is really giving the rest of the Jews such a bad name… and clearly it isn’t appreciated.

I don’t resent her feeling the way she does, or even her telling me. In fact, I am glad she feels she can speak plainly to me with candor.

Having lived in the US as a non-Orthodox Jew, Israel as an Orthodox Jew, and then back in the US as an Orthodox Jew, I really, really do understand exactly how she feels.

Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock* produced an album of original songs called No Limits.  On that album he has a song called “Representing”. “Every day we’re representing…” he sings. And we are. We are Hashem’s agents. Ambassadors. Everything we say and do is watched, noticed and judged.  By EVERYONE who isn’t a religious Jew, especially other Jews. It is true all of the time.

This morning I put on a little makeup and jewelry to go to the library and grocery store. I am known in both. (Did I mention this is a small, rural town?) No one who spends what I do in the grocery store on a weekly basis goes unnoticed. Consistently needing two shopping carts doesn’t help either.  Today they remarked on the miracle of my having no kids in tow. Really.

Part of me feels really silly getting done up for the library and grocery store. Why take the time? Who cares what other people think? It is a trip to the grocery store, after all.

The other part of me knows that every three to four weeks a complete stranger will stop me while I shop and tell me about their intermarried daughter, their trip to Israel 15 years ago, or even that they have a “baal te-something” child that won’t eat much in their home. Do I mind if they follow me and watch what I buy?

There was a day I was wearing particularly shlumpy clothes into the local CVS. Who would notice? Who would even know I was a frum Jew? In a denim skirt, sweatshirt and baseball hat I could be anybody…. only I forgot that my son with his tzitzit and kippah was with me.  A Jewish couple that had just moved into town stopped me outside and introduced themselves as I went back to my car. I have (embarrassing) reminders like this happen to me all of the time.

It is Elul, and we are supposed to remember now more than ever that Hashem is always watching us. That he sees what we do, how we behave, and that he deeply, deeply cares. It can be a positive motivator to remember that people are watching too. Whenever you think “it’s just me” and they aren’t watching you, they are. It isn’t just a question of whether we bothered with makeup or some jewelry, or clothes that have even some modicum of fashion.

We frum Jews sort of think that the world is holding us to a higher standard when it comes to how we speak, how much we smile at others, our patience when waiting in line, etc. But “we” is awfully communal and vague.  Each and every individual one of us really is.  The way I see it, it is an obligation and a burden, but also a privilege .

It is a burden of privilege the same way that living in Israel is: it is a burden of relevance.

*Shlock Rock is coming to the US later this year and I am booking engagements for them, so if you are interested, write to: mooreconnected@gmail.com

My daughter is at sleepaway camp 133 miles away. She has been sending letters daily explaining that she cannot wait until visiting day – since she will be coming home with me then. That Visiting Day was this past Sunday.

A week earlier, she had called from the office begging me to pick her up. My answer was “we are not even going to talk about it until visiting day.” Clearly in her mind this meant that she had every right to come home on visiting day.

So, with a sense of dread (which I have already blogged about), I packed up eight people into a seven seater van (don’t report me, some of them were really small) for a 2.5 hour drive up into the mountains.

I gave all passengers a sturdy pep talk on the way up. Everyone in that car was to encourage daughter/sister to STAY at camp. The only talk of home was to be of how boring it is. I went armed with GPS, food for the day, food for daughter, gifts, extra blanket, new books…you get the point.

Ten miles before we arrive at camp… the car dies. Rather the transmission dies, but I was not aware at the time that this was the case. Daughter is at camp no doubt crying that everyone else’s parents are there, and we have abandoned her. Our passengers below the age of fourteen, which comprise the majority, climb out of the car and begin to whine.

DH flagged down the first frummy*-filled car he spied, and of course they were on their way to the same visiting day. Miraculously, they had room for (and were willing to take) four of us. Only four to go.

At least an hour, and many failed phone calls later, (we were in the mountains) the next four arrived. I was now talking dear daughter out of coming home, managing six children and a mother’s helper with only the help of the mother’s helper, trying to calmly figure out a way to get everyone home, and avoid collective heat stroke — all at the same time.

My brother arrived from Hoboken, NJ, which is almost as far. He had arranged for a car, but he had to get it back by a certain time. He got to give his dear niece a hug.. and then run out to try and help DH (darling husband) with the car.

Brother and DH had their own bout with frustration as I wandered about camp, hugging daughter and calling around for solutions on my dying cell phone, all at the same time. Overpriced snowcones seem to mollify the children. While daughter wept quietly about being forced to remain suffering in the clutches of a place that structures her time for her, (imagine!)many other of my offspring went on at great length about how unfair it is that she got to stay there and they did not.

By the time Brother and DH finally made it back to the camp, it was just about time for my brother to turn around and leave. I think he got maybe an hour with his niece, and he spent the whole day in the car (which did not make it back by the arranged time, resulting in a fee.)

At almost the same moment I miraculously found an angel of a man/principal/Rabbi who lived very far from us, but happened to be driving 20 minutes south of our house … and leaving momentarily. So DH dropped everything and gave one of what must have been two hugs to his dear daughter, and hastily arranged our two youngest in the back of Angel Man’s car.

We have friends who spend the summer as a family at another camp in the same mountains. They have two cars at camp, and incredibly were willing to allow us to drive one of them home. I  have known for a long time that they are tzadikim, (righteous people), but I am perpetually humbled by the amount that they do for us personally. They drove the car to us, so that the other five of us could get home.

So, we went to back to the bunk to pack up the things I had to take home. This, of course, was the point at which reality finally hit my daughter, who returned to crying and pleading.

We eventually got her to say goodbye to us. I actually  bribed my daughter to stay at the camp that cost a fortune to send her to. She did agree to it though. I am such a sucker.

We eventually got our things packed up in the car, and our friends back to their camp, ready to hit the road and finally head home. On route 17 on visiting day.

Ask any parent who has ever sent their child to a frum sleepaway camp in New York about route 17 on visiting day. All of the Orthodox Jewish camps are apparently on this one piece of this one road. And they all have visiting day on the same day. It is truly historic. The people who live in bungalow colonies there know that one simply does not go out in the car on visiting day.

I don’t think I have ever been around that many Jews in one place at one time, except at the kotel on a yom tov.

The 2.5 hour drive took 5.5 hours. That is only because I got off of route 17 for a while and snuck through the local roads. Everyone in the car was hot, tired, and hungry. Then the car’s air conditioning stopped working. Of course I was only grateful; the car was a gift, a/c or not.

We did get home. Finally. My van is still in the mountains, and I expect to be without a car for at least ten days. It will cost us thousands to fix, right as our next tuition bill comes in,( now for six children) to be in yeshiva.

I am really not making this more dramatic than it was. I got home and tried to decompress for a few minutes before crashing into bed… on my computer.

It died too. The laptop’s fan has stopped working so it overheats frequently and easily and the computer just shuts itself off. At least I won’t have to retrieve it from the mountains before it can be repaired.

One of my sons, the same tzaddik who wrote me the scholastic book letter, turned to me during the parking-lot-like part of the trip and said “at least we are having some quality time together, Ima.”

I would like to think that there is some great cosmic reason behind the sudden and intense heaping of rotten luck and frustration. I know that Hashem knows what he is doing. He certainly could have found some easier ways for us  to spend “quality time” together.  I spent a lot of time in the car asking Hashem to let this be kapara (atonement) for the month of Elul (which just started) and make my teshuva for Rosh Hashana easier.

I spent the next day exhausted, cranky, sluggish, with mounds and mounds of work to get done. In addition, of course, to tending to the broken car in the mountains and its retrieval, plus the scheduling of repair for the broken computer.

However, I am much luckier than I was one year ago. Now, as I sit during horrible, terrible agonizing days like this year’s Visiting Day, at least I continually think;  “Now this is going to make for a great blog post.”

*frummy=Orthodox/religious. Meant affectionately; some of my best friends are frummies.