Archive for the ‘Jewish values’ Category

We Are Jews: She-asani Yisrael/ Who made me a Jew

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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 We are on the twelfth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who made me a Jew.”

 When my husband and I were married, we had a Catholic priest and a rabbi perform the wedding ceremony. Because the Catholic priest would be doing most of the ritual, my husband (the Jewish party) had to agree to raise our children as Catholics.  You can understand, then, that when our son was born (almost 30 years ago,) and my husband said he wanted him to be Jewish, that I was a bit shocked. I had thought the decision was made. Yet there we were spending hours discussing the pros and cons of each of our faiths. Ultimately, after a lot of searching and researching, we decided on Judaism.

Recently, memories of those discussions flooded my mind with the news that three teenage boys had been murdered in Israel. While there may be debate about the appropriateness of their being out, alone, hitchhiking in Gaza late at night, the fact is they are dead. And they are dead for the simple reason that they were Jews. That truth has brought all of those endless discussions between my spouse and I back into very clear focus.  I vividly recall saying to my husband more than once, “You are asking me to make a choice that could ultimately result in the death of my child for the simple reason that we made this choice for him. People will hate him, find ways to hurt him and perhaps want to kill him, just because we decide to make him Jewish – AND FOR NO OTHER REASON.”

As I write this, I am hearing the awful news that a young Muslim/Israeli boy (15 years old, from East Jerusalem,) was kidnapped and murdered – possibly burned alive – by what appears to be Jewish fanatics looking for revenge. This tears at my heart as much as the murder of the three Jewish/Israeli teens. What right do we…does any individual have to take life for any reason? Will the murder of this child bring those other three children back? I wish…I hope the people of Israel will read the message of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, an Orthodox rabbi I greatly admire.  “Say Kaddish,” he writes. “Do Kaddish…” he goes on. Study Torah, give Tzedakah, perform mitzvot…make the world a better place. Honor these FOUR teenage boys who died needlessly.

I believe we made the right choice for our children, just as I know I made the right choice for myself. Everything about Judaism resonates with me and my beliefs in how people should care for themselves, care for each other and care for the world around them. Judaism is a faith that cherishes life over everything—Jewish zealots notwithstanding—using each moment of our precious time on earth to find a way to be our best selves and help in repairing the world. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do, and once the mourning period is over, we will be back at it.

Rabbi Steinsaltz knows. Jewish fanatics apparently do not. The Jewish People will survive this tragedy, just as we survived the murder of Daniel Pearl, the slaughter of the Israeli Olympic team, and the horrors of the Holocaust…Because we are Jews.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

CelebrateHolidays

Celebrate: A Book of Jewish Holidays. By Judi Gross. Illustrated by Bari Weissman. ©2005. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 3-8.  This small, concise little paperback illustrates and celebrates the major Jewish holidays from Rosh Hashanah through Passover and includes Shabbat. A fun, simple book for the entire family to enjoy throughout the year.

 ItsItsItsaMitzvahIt’s a…It’s a…It’s a Mitzvah. By Elizabeth Suneby and Diane Heiman. Illustrated by Laurel Molk. ©2012. Jewish Lights Publishing. Ages 4-8. Happy Meerkats teach young children the joys of performing Mitzvot and doing tikkun olam to help heal the world. Demonstrating easy to do tasks that can bring joy to others, these charmingly illustrated creatures show children how Jewish wisdom can be part of their lives as well.

Jewish ChJewishChildWhyild’s First Book of Why. By Alfred J. Kolatch. Illustrated by Harry Araten. ©1992. Jonathan David Publishers. Ages 4-8. The traditions and customs of Judaism are explained using simple language and captivating illustrations. Questions like: “Why do we fast on Yom Kippur?” and “Why do we plant trees?”  are answered in a style that even the youngest child can understand.

JKidsCatalog

The Jewish Kids’ Catalog. By Chaya Burstein. ©1998. The Jewish Publication Society. Ages 7-11.  For older children, this is Basic Judaism in a book. From Jewish History to Jewish Holidays, with songs, crafts, and a ton of information about important Jewish People and Sites, everything your child wants to know about Judaism is close at hand.

WhatMakesJewWhat Makes Someone a Jew? By Lauren Seidman. Illustrated with photographs. ©2007. Jewish Lights Publishing. Ages 4-8. This very modern look at Judaism reinforces that being Jewish is about doing good in the world and not how you look or where you live. Filled with photographs of Jews from around the world, adopted children, individuals who have converted to Judaism and any other person who might be considered Jewish, children will enjoy exploring and finding themselves in the photos and the simple, rhyming text.

 

 

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

 

Win Some, Lose Some: She-asani Ben/Bat Chorin/ Who made me free

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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 We are on the eleventh blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, 

Who made me free.”

 I grew up watching Thoroughbred horses run around race tracks. My parents, with some family friends, owned several race horses for a number of years. I learned at an early age, “You win some, you lose some.”

I watched excitedly as Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed won their Triple Crown races. I have waited over the years as other horses have tried and lost their bids to add their names to that notable list. A few weeks ago, another remarkable horse, California Chrome, entered that field. I truly thought he had a chance. But, like his many predecessors, he also lost the race after a noble try.  What, you might ask, does any of this have to do with She-asani Ben/Bat Chorin/ Who made me free?

It was the reaction of one of California Chrome’s owners, Stephen Coburn, that stopped me in my tracks that Sunday and started me thinking. Immediately following the Belmont Stakes race, Mr. Coburn said the owner of the winning horse took “The cowards way out,” referring to the fact that Tonalist, the Belmont winner, had not run in the previous two Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby & Preakness. He followed that criticism up the following day on Good Morning America with, “That would be like me at 6’2” … playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair. They haven’t done anything with their horses in the Triple Crown … You figure it out. You ask yourself, ‘Would it be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheel chair?’” Mr. Coburn (no doubt with some serious prompting from family and friends) has since apologized publicly for these remarks, however, he had the choice to never make them in the first place.

He had other choices as well:

  • Like all the owners of eligible thoroughbreds, Mr. Coburn had a choice to enter California Chrome in each of those Triple Crown races.
  • Up to the Belmont Stakes, his horse had earned his stable $3.5 Million dollars in winnings. California Chrome’s dead-heat Fourth Place finish, earned his stable an additional $80,000. He had a choice to express gratitude for topping the $4 Million dollar mark in winnings.  He has not said a word about this or the fame his horse has brought him.
  • His horse ran a great race, competing mightily, suffering a damaged hoof in the process. He had a choice to commend his horse and rider, along with all the other participants, and run to check on his horse’s condition. Instead, Mr. Coburn chose to degrade the winner and demand that the rules of a 95-year-old horse racing tradition be changed to conform to his idea of “fair.”

We all have the freedom to make choices, AND “you win some, you lose some.” Yes, the losing is hard – very hard. There was a lot riding on California Chrome winning the Triple Crown Trophy. But if losing meant showing off as a poor sport and an ungrateful competitor, the choice was a poor one. Unless his goal was to serve as an example of how NOT to behave after a loss, in that Mr. Coburn took the Grand Prize.  Mr. Coburn is new to racing. My hope is that he will soon discover the magnificent gift he has been given in California Chrome and choose to be grateful for that extraordinary animal every single day.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

 BenWord

Benjamin and the Word. By Daniel A. Olivas. Illustrated by Don Dyen. ©2005. Piñata Books. Ages 4-8.  Benjamin and his friend, James were playing handball at recess. When Benjamin won the game, James used a very bad word to hurt Benjamin and make him feel bad. A Benjamin discusses this with his dad, the two explore the reasons why people use angry, hateful language. A bilingual book (English/Spanish), Benjamin is also the child of an interfaith marriage (Jewish/Christian).

BreBelSlamDunk

Brendan and Belinda and the Slam Dunk. By Anne Rockwell. Illustrated by Paul Meisel. ©2007. HarperCollinsPublishers. Ages 4-8. Mr. Porker, Brendan and Belinda’s father, loves basketball, so he teaches his kids everything he knows. As soon as they are old enough, they begin to play in the All-Hoops Parents and Kids League. It turns out that Brendan and Belinda are very good players, and the Jump Shot Juniors recruit them. Now it is Basketball 24/7, much to Mr. Porker’s delight. Brendan and Belinda soon make it very clear that basketball is not their favorite sport and they want to do other things with their friends.

MeanThingThe Meanest Thing to Say. By Bill Cosby. Illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood. ©1997 Scholastic, Inc. Ages 5-9.  Little Bill is invited to play a new game, “Playing the Dozens.” Each person gets twelve chances to say something mean to a person. The meanest thing wins. So?

MsMalarkeySport

You’re a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey. By Judy Finchler. Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley. ©2002. Walker and Company. Ages 4-8. The class decides to join with the Youngstown Elementary Soccer League (YELS) and tries a number of coaches before settling on Miss Malarkey, who does not know much about soccer, but is excellent with the players. The parents, however, are another matter. When one day things get out of hand with the spectators, the league changes its name to Soccer Instructional League Elementary Neighborhood Teams (SILENT), and a new rule is put in place – parents can watch the game, but only with suckers in their mouths.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

 

I Wonder: She-asani B’tzelem Elohim/ Who made me in the image of God

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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We are on the tenth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who made me in the image of God.”

What a powerful and life affirming statement – each of us is made in the image of God. If we truly looked at each other in this light – seeing the God in each human being, I wonder how the world might change:

  • Would anyone need guns, weapons of mass destruction, war?
  • Would anyone be hungry, uneducated, too cold, too hot?
  • Would anyone be unable to find a doctor, a dentist, a hospital?
  • Would anyone be abused, forgotten, unwanted, lonely?

Think about it. Look around you. Is there a person in your life, in your neighborhood, in your office who, if seen differently, you might treat differently? How might that change their life…or yours?

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

 

I DrDreamWorldeam for You a World:  Covenant for Our Children. Written by Charisse Carney-Nunes. Illustrated by Anne Marie Williams. ©2007 Brand Nu Words. Ages 4-8.  While this book was written primarily for the African-American community, it is in actuality a road map for any group looking to build a foundation of values on which to grow and thrive in diverse community capitalizing on everyone’s skills and resources.

its-okay-to-be-different

 

It’s Okay to Be Different. Written and illustrated by Todd Parr. ©2001. Little, Brown and Company. Ages 3-8. Using his unique, colorful and distinctive artistic style, Todd Parr makes it very clear that being different is not only “Okay,” it is actually healthy, special and important.

 

MufaroDaugthers

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. Written and Illustrated by John Steptoe. ©1987. Lothrop Lee & Shepard books. Ages 4-8.  Mufaro has two beautiful daughters, Nyasha and Manyara. When the king decides to take a wife, Mufaro wants both girls to have a chance to be wed. However, Nyasha is kind and Manyara is selfish. Their traits are discovered by what how they react to the people and things they see as they journey to the king.

 

PeopleSpier

People. Written and Illustrated by Peter Spier. ©1980. Doubleday Books for Young Readers. Ages 4-8. This incredible picture book is filled with facts, figures and illustrations about people – how we are the same, how we are different and we can all live together on this big wonderful world. A classic!

 

ShadesPeopleShades of People. Written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. Photographs by Shelley Rotner. ©2009. Holiday House. Ages 3-8. If you really look at people…really, really look, you will notice that people do not come in colors, they come in shades. This wonderful book manages to show them all with incredible, colorful photographs.

 

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Look around, just look around! Hamaavir sheinah meieinai, ut’numah meiafapai/ Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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 We are on the ninth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

“Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids.”

Passover begins in one week, on the evening of Monday, April 14 with the first Seder. This blessing is such an interesting way to begin the Passover season. Because I am always a bit stressed out as I prepare my home for the Seder we host every year, I tend to get lost in all the details of writing our Haggadah, planning the menu, figuring out how the plagues are going to be presented, and of course, who we are inviting and who is coming. I am reading tons of material to make this year’s Seder different from last year’s. I am blinded by the amount of effort that goes into all of this.

Reading this blessing reminds me that I must not go through this with my eyes closed! In fact, I must remember this Bible story:

“Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An angel of Adonai appeared to him in a blaze of fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up? When Adonai saw that he had turned aside, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground…” (Exodus 3:1-5)  

What made Moses notice the bush in the first place? Then, once noticed, look deeper to see that the bush was burning, yet not consumed? Moses’ eyes were clearly wide open! How many things might we be missing in a day as we drive to work, rush through our daily tasks, and hurry to get home? It is spring (finally!) here on the east coast – the trees are blooming, the birds are singing. Let’s thank God for eyes that can see and stop and take some time to notice the beautiful world around us.

Happy Reading and Happy Passover!

Kathy B.

 

SeeWhaleIf You Want to See a Whale by Julie Folgliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. ©2013. Roaring Brook Press. Ages 3-8.  In this beautiful book, children will learn about all the things they should not see while searching for a whale. Oh, but during that search, there is so much to look at while you wait…and wait…and wait…

 

kinglittlethings

The King of Little Things by Bill Lepp. Illustrated by David T. Wenzel. ©2013. Peachtree Publishers. Ages 4-8.  Have you ever heard about “the little things”?  How important they are? How you need to pay attention to them? In this story, a very big king thought he could overlook the little things and learned a very big lesson.

 

manviolinThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson. Illustrated by Dušan Petričić. ©2013. Annick Press, Ltd. Ages 4-8. Dylan heard the music playing in the train station, and he was transformed. He wanted to stop and listen, but his mother was in a hurry. They rushed to meet their train, they rushed to do their chores, they rushed all through their day, as the music continued to play in Dylan’s head.  When Dylan heard the music again, on the radio, he grabbed his mother from the kitchen and made her listen—to Joshua Bell playing beautiful music on his Stradivarius violin. Based on a true story.

 

Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Illustrated by Robert Lawson. ©1936. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 4-10. The classic story about a friendly bull who does not want to fight anyone, he just wants to sit—quietly and peacefully—under his favorite tree and smell the flowers all day long.

 

ZoomZoom Written and illustrated by Istvan Banyai. ©1998. Puffin. Ages 4-9. Look at the first picture, and what do you see? A rooster on a farm, so this is a book about a farm! Better keep zooming…As with all things in life, how you see something is all about perspective.

 

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

A well to draw from: hanotein layaeif koach/ who gives strength to the weary

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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 We are on the eighth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who strengthens the weary.”

 In October 2000, my sister and I walked the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk (Back then it was a 3-day, 60 Mile walk!) in honor of our mother z’l, a survivor of breast cancer. The walk began in Santa Barbara, CA and ended in Malibu, CA. It was an incredible experience. One I hope to participate in again someday.

Along with fundraising, I trained for the walk for months ahead of time. However, no amount of training could have prepared us for the massive rain storm that hit the coast of California the Sunday morning of our walk. My sister and I were determined to finish, in spite of the rain, but we had different walking styles. We therefore agreed to split up (she being the faster walker), meet at the designated rest stop one mile before the end and walk that last mile together.

I walked…and walked…and walked. 20 miles is a long walk in the best of weather, but with rain pouring down and wind blowing around and the temperature dropping by the minute, those 20 miles felt like 1000. Still, I walked. And I prayed, really I sang to myself, Debbie Friedman’s (z’l) Mi Shebeirach, over and over, to give myself the strength and courage to take the next step, then the next. It was amazing to me, how much strength I gained from singing and walking, as if I had a well inside me  filled with energy from which to draw whatever strength I needed to continue. During that time, I felt I could actually walk to the moon and back!

While I did not make it to the moon, or to the finish line (another long story,) I was given the strength to walk 59 miles on my own two feet for this very important cause. Mi Shebeirach has become my anthem for any situations in which I find myself low on reserves, but in need of strength to continue the task at hand. I hope you will find a similar talisman for the trying times life often throws along life’s journey.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

 

BraveIreneBrave Irene Written and Illustrated by William Steig. ©1986. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Ages 6-10. Irene’s mother has made a most beautiful dress for The Duchess to wear at tonight’s Ball, but she is too sick to deliver it. Can Irene make it through the blizzard and deliver the dress before it is needed? Irene is loving, strong and brave…so of course she can!

 

 The Little Engine that Could. Retold By Watty Piper. Illustrated by George & Doris Hauman. ©1930. 1976. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 2-8.  In this classic story, a little train helps get a cLittleEngineargo of charming, fun toys and delicious, healthy food to the good girls and boys on the other side of the mountain. “I think I can. I think I can….I thought I could. I thought I could!” A timeless message for young children.

 

ManTowersThe Man Who walked Between the Towers. Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. ©2003. Roaring Brook Press. Ages 5-9.  Imagine your goal is to walk on a tightrope as high in the air as you possibly can. There was a young man who did this once. He walked between the Twin Towers in New York City, NY. Why, how and what happened after he did it are all beautifully explained and drawn in this Caldecott Award winning picture book.

 

SparrowGirl

Sparrow Girl. Written by Sarah Pennypacker. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. ©2009. Disney-Hyperion Books. Ages 5-9. What do you do when you are small and young and someone older and, supposedly, wiser tells you to do something that you know is wrong? When Mao Tse-Tung declared a war on sparrows in China, 1958, Ming-Li knew there would be problems, so she quietly, secretly and courageously saved 7 sparrows. However, the lack of sparrows to eat the insects caused a flourishing locust population that ate all the grain and China suffered a huge famine that killed over 40 million people. Except in Ming-Li’s town where 7 sparrows helped her village survive.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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