Life lessons

Jewish Baby Naming

Jewish Baby Naming

Recently our niece gave birth to a baby girl and we finally learned the name that they had been keeping a secret during their pregnancy (it is Adelina in case you were wondering). In full disclosure, I must say that I am married to a goy, and this niece is from his side of the family. So the practice of naming a Jewish baby did not enter into it, but it got me thinking all the same. What are the practices and parameters around naming a Jewish baby?Growing up as an Ashkenazi Jew, I had always heard that we name...

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Musings on Hanukkah

Musings on Hanukkah

The essence of Hanukkah is found in the soul of the Jewish people. Sometimes it's in oral tradition, sometimes in the written word, and sometimes it's found in humor and wit. That's why the best Hanukkah quotes range from inspiring to pithy to downright silly, and they all represent the vast personalities of the Jewish religion and its people. A reminder that no matter what Jews have faced, are facing, and will undoubtedly face in the future, there is light and reason to celebrate. Just as a small amount of olive oil could burn for eight days, so does the inner...

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Golems, dybbuks, and other things that go bump in the night

Golems, dybbuks, and other things that go bump in the night

Halloween may be October 31st, but it seems like the whole month of October is dedicated to goblins, nefarious beings and things that go bump in the night. The Talmud has a rich, though vague, demonology.  While the Kabbalah provides many insights into demons and dybbuks, golems, and ghosts which are all the results of misspent life energy. They are part of a long history of Jewish speculation about shedim (demons, also a word used to refer to foreign gods) and demonic personalities such as Lilith.So what about when the life-energies are misappropriated? What happens when something goes wrong? If we...

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The Borscht Belt - The Jewish Alps - The Catskills

The Borscht Belt - The Jewish Alps - The Catskills

It was the highlight of the year - our getaway to the Borscht Belt. There would be a group of families, cousins, and friends of my parents, and we would pile into cars and reassemble at the agreed-upon location that year - either The Concord, The Nevele, Fallsview, or Kutschers. We only went for a few days, not the entire summer like in "Dirty Dancing" or "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel", but to us, it seemed like a decadent dream. It was the 1960's, the food was endless, as were the activities and entertainment. The adults would get all dressed up...

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Funny Jewish Women

Funny Jewish Women

"I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better." As in so many other areas, coming to America meant breaking the Old World pattern by which Jewish women performed in dramatic roles but rarely as comedians. American Jewish women became prominent comic performers in the immigrant generation, when comedic talents like Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, and Molly Picon took to the stage. Their comic routines expressed the experiences and desires of many second generation Jews, yet they appealed to mainstream audiences as well.In every successive generation, Jewish women comediennes helped shape the contours of American comedy. From Sophie Tucker,...

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