Now the Real Chanukah Test Begins

Thanksgivikah has passed never to come again because of the unusual coincidence of secular and Jewish calendars. Still, today more than ever, due to the US-Iranian deal, the courage we celebrate with on Chanukah will be more needed than ever before. It has become clear that Israel and the Jewish people stand alone against the forces eager to appease evil in the false hope it will go away. They have forgotten the vow of Never Again and are eerily embarking on the same path that western leaders took the world down in 1938 promising peace in our time. We know what happened then.

For the rest of the week of Chanukah we need to steel ourselves with the courage of the Maccabees as we lobby our government, Congress, and the entire world to the grave dangers of a nuclear Iran and the need to stop it not just with vague, ambiguous words but with concrete actions.

Here are a couple of Chanukah stories to share with your families and friends.

Chanukah story

The Brightness of Candles

Chag Chanukah Sameach—may you spread the courage of the Maccabees to resist evil.

Also, feel welcome to check out all the stories on JewishFamilyStories.com.

And watch this blog for news about and excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up.  Online you also can find my paperback book: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families.

Follow this blog on Twitter, @storyjewish

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Thanksgivikah—almost a unique intersection of events

This year Thanksgiving coincides with Chanukah, a rare convergence of two different calendars, the secular Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar. According to Chabad it won’t occur again until 2070 when Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah eve. So, since Jewish holidays start the evening before, if you have a late Thanksgiving feast that year, you also can light your first Chanukah candle at the same time. If you miss it, the next chance is Nov. 28, 2165. After that, things start getting quite unpredictable due to the different rates of drift by both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars in relation to actual solar year.

While the calendar coincidence is fun, Thanksgiving continues to feel like the most Jewish of secular holidays. With that in mind, check out this story, Thanksgiving, on the JewishFamilyStories.com website. Just click here.

Also, feel welcome to check out all the stories on JewishFamilyStories.com.

And watch this blog for news about and excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up.  Online you also can find my paperback book: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families.

And follow information from me about Jewish stories on Twitter, @storyauthor1225. There will be more Chanukah stories coming.

 

Trepidation before the Jewish New Year

Jews this year will be approaching the Jewish New Year signified by the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays with more than the usual spiritual trepidation.  This year the trepidation revolves around the pressure being put on Israel by the U.S. to make even more concessions to get the Palestinians to the negotiation table. The High Holidays start with Rosh Hashanah the evening of Sept. 4.

This blogger is not optimistic. Until the Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state nothing good or lasting will come out of any negotiations or concessions. This is the Facebook page of one of the key Palestinian negotiators. Notice the green map of Palestine in the top center of the page. The State of Israel under any borders, not pre-1967, not 1948, does not exist. That has to tell you something.

Need more evidence of Palestinian intentions? Read the Palestinian Authority’s charter here (check out article 6) and Hamas’s charter here (check out section 24).

But let’s not let this farce in Washington ruin the High Holidays. I have written numerous stories about those holidays. Here is a readers’ favorite, The Silver Bullet, an Elijah story. Hope you enjoy it.

Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like The Silver Bullet from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You  also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

Tish’ah Be’av—a Really Bad Day for the Jewish People

Next time you’re having a bad day think of what happened on the ninth day of Av on the Jewish calendar.

On that day  the  Babylonian Talmud lists no less than five tragedies that occurred on Tisha  B’Av throughout history, noted Wayne Stiles in the Jerusalem Post : Five calamities happened to our ancestors on . . . the 9th of Ab: . . . it was decreed that our ancestors should not enter the Holy Land; on that day the first and second Temples were destroyed, the city of Bethar was taken, and the site (of Jerusalem) was ploughed up (like a field).” (Babylonian Talmud, Book 4).

Since the Babylonian Talmud was written Jewish historians have noted other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people on (or near) that date. For example, as posted on Original Jewish, in 1290 King Edward I signed the edict compelling his Jewish subjects to leave in England. The expulsion from Spain occurred on the same day in 1492. So did the outbreak of World War I, a prelude to World War II and the savage murder of six million Jews and the near destruction of Jewish culture in Europe. This year Tish’ah Be’av, commemorated as a fast day, falls on July 16.

Simon’s Bad Day is a story I wrote as the lay leader of Temple Reyim’s children’s services and needed to explain this observance in a way children could understand.

You can find more stories for children, teens, and young adults on JewishFamilyStories.com. And please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Simon’s Bad Day. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

How Can Jewish Parents Discourage Interfaith Dating?

According to an article in a recent issue of the Jewish Daily Forward, Jews are America’s most intermarrying people and Mormons its least. According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey 27% of Jews were married to someone of a different faith, compared with 12% of Mormons.

It’s probably safe to assume that interfaith marriage starts with interfaith dating. So, one way to discourage interfaith marriage is to prevent interfaith dating. But that is not so easy in Jewish America these days. America, which has always been a melting pot, has morphed into a multi-cultural stew and seems to be growing more so by the day. At schools, at the shopping mall, everywhere Jewish young people congregate they will encounter other young people of other faiths. And then hormones take over.

What can we as Jewish parents concerned with Jewish continuity do? Most Jewish parents today are unlikely to enforce strict rules to prohibit non-Jewish dating. You can try but the young people will find a way around it. In these matters, hormones rule.

As one in the process of raising two daughters, here are a few tips I’ve picked up.

  • Limit opportunities to mingle with non-Jewish young people.
  • Keep them engaged to the point of over-scheduling them for activities that foster mingling with Jewish young people. (As a parent I am always willing to pay for participation in Jewish activities. Non-Jewish activities they pay for on their own.)
  • Most importantly, make Jewish activities in the home attractive and engaging. (Our Shabbat dinners are filled with their favorite foods, favorite desserts, and invited friends.)
  • Invest in attending Jewish summer camp, both day camp and overnight camp, where they can develop a set of close Jewish friends. And encourage those friendships even outside of camp.
  • Sign them up for Passport to Israel and similar programs where young people will travel to Israel with their Jewish peers.

My parents were convinced that I would marry a non-Jew (I didn’t). With that in mind, I wrote this story, Sleeping with Strangers. Of course, we all want our children to marry good people who are great for them. But it would be nice if they also were Jewish.

Let me know what you think. Also, please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Sleeping with Strangers from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

Visiting Israel Makes for the Best Jewish Continuity

The blog On Jewish Matters asks an important question: What attracts young Jewish people to Israel and why it is important? The discussion also appeared on the LinkedIn interest group Jewish and Israel Topics. Be nice to see more discussion in this group, but that will come in time.

Making aliyah—relocating to Israel—can be seen as the ultimate step in ensuring Jewish continuity. It is the right step for some young people and even some older families, but it raises some questions too. For instance, do we want to encourage our most energetic Israel supporters to leave the U.S. permanently and relocate in Israel? We need those people, especially the young people, advocating for Israel here in high school, college, in the workplace, in our synagogues, and throughout American society.

But you don’t have to make aliyah to share in the Israel experience. A trip to Israel can do much to cultivate strong feelings for Israel. Once you get past the loud and brash exterior many Israelis at first present, Israelis are a warm and loving people and Israel is as welcoming a place as a country can be, especially given the adverse geo-political environment it finds itself in.

There are many ways for young people to visit Israel. Birthright Israel is a primary one. When I was in college decades ago I worked on a kibbutz in Israel and have returned several times since, taking my family with me. If you are Jewish, it doesn’t take long on any trip to Israel to feel that you have come home and are among family.

Living as a Jew in the U.S. is not simple. We certainly don’t encounter pogroms and outright violence although anti-Zionism has become the latest cover for what amounts to raw anti-Semitism. Trying to maintain even a modest level of Jewish observance, however, puts you outside the cultural mainstream.  If your child attends public school, Friday night and Saturday raise constant conflicts that must be navigated, especially if he or she plays sports.

This story, Shabbat Ghosts, tells a mystical tale of what happened to one family when Halloween coincided with Shabbat and upset the routines of the family and the children. I wrote this story when my children faced the Halloween-Shabbat conflict but it could just as easily been about Christmas, Easter, or July 4.

On Jewish Matters answers the question of the attraction of Israel to young Jews by suggesting that it resolves the constant compromises you have to make living as a Jew in America. To begin, it will be easier to find a Jewish mate in Israel. And that’s always a good start in the right direction.

Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Shabbat Ghosts from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for free online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

Giving the Law to a People Who Remember

Next week is Shavuot, the day that marks the giving of the law to the Israelites gathered at the base of Mt. Sinai. This law has marked the Jewish people as distinct for 4500 years, both as the Chosen People and as a target for whatever hatred, anger, and grudge someone might hold.

Even in the most ancient of times, Jewish law set the Israelites apart from other ancient peoples.  In more modern times, Jewish law as embodied in the 5 Books of Moses also formed the basis for the Christian Bible and for the Koran, which incorporated sections in their entirety.

The challenge for Jewish continuity today is to help young Jews understand the radical importance to the Western world of what happened at Mt. Sinai. It laid the foundation for the kind of just, humanistic society based on law that most people seek.

To try to give young people a sense of the monumental importance of what happened there, I wrote a children’s story, The One God. You can read it here. It is included among the children’s stories at JewishFamilyStories.com.

Since Mt. Sinai the Jewish people have held as constants two things: the primacy of the Law, the Torah, as given at Mt. Sinai; and the concept of remembrance.  It is said that every Jew—living, dead, and not yet born—personally received the gift of the Torah that long-ago day. The mission of each is to remember, learn from it, and make it real for the next generation. That is what Jewish continuity is about.

Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families.

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.