Celebrating Hanukkah at Tiferet


It’s betiferet logo 2en a long, long time since I posted to the Tiferet Journal website. A few weeks ago, I received an email about updating my settings, and that was just the reminder I needed. I’ve been spinning in a whirlwind of activity–teaching, moving, returning to work full-time, walking the dog, being a parent, doing laundry– while my writing time and studio time has been severely curtailed. So I’m rededicating my soul this Hanukkah. I’m taking time to nurture my creativity, slowing down. And I’m returning to the online places I love and have missed visiting in 2016.

While the post is still “pending” over at Tiferet, I’ll add it here for those of you would like to read it before Shabbat:


The rabbis have a wonderful saying about moving to a new home, which loosely translates from the Hebrew as “change your place, change your luck!” I’ve considered this tidbit of Jewish wisdom often during the last nine months since we moved from our house in the suburbs to a town home just outside the Perimeter. Our lives have changed for the better in many ways: my commute to school is now ten minutes with my son as my co-pilot, my spouse parks in a free parking lot at the MARTA station and rides the train to work, and we are walking distance to many places we like to go, including the public library. Although we downsized, our college-age children are not deterred from coming home for weekends and holidays or from inviting friends to visit and sleep on air mattresses on the floor.

We moved right after Passover. I felt a little like the Israelites leaving Egypt in the middle of the night as I hurriedly packed up all of our belongings in the weeks leading up to the holiday. I took special care with ritual objects–many of them priceless only in sentimental value–and labeled boxes “Judaica, children’s art” and “Judaica, candle sticks,” so I would be able to find what I needed easily when each holiday arrived. However, in those last hours of packing, I failed to record a specific inventory as I rushed to find space for bubble-wrapped pieces in corners of unsealed cartons.

Before Rosh Hashanah I searched in vain for the shofar, the handmade honey pots and the apple-shaped trivets. Before Thanksgiving I came across a box on a shelf in the garage that contained four silver kiddush (wine) cups and the missing shofar. Before Hanukkah, during final exams week, I desperately searched for the menorah, the breakable, ceramic one I packed separately from the decorations that were stored in a plastic bin. I remember securing it in bubble wrap and white paper.

Had moving changed my luck for the worse? I can’t seem to find anything in time to use it! When I tell my colleague at school he laughs, suggesting it will turn up with the Passover items in the spring.

This morning I find it on a shelf in the garage: a large, sturdy box labeled “Judaica.”  It is filled with handmade honey pots and apple-shaped trivets, and some miscellaneous items made by a Kindergarten student who will soon graduate from college. I reseal the box and grab a Sharpie, scrawling the initials RH on the side of the box before returning it to the bottom shelf. We’ll just have to light the waxed-covered metal menorah I found in the plastic bin nestled among the dreidels and paper decorations.

I set up the sideboard in our dining room for Hanukkah, and I think about how lucky I am to be celebrating the holiday with all three children in our new home.


Reading (and other) Challenges

popsugar2017readingchallengeThe one time in my adult life I suffered a sustained bout of depression, I sought professional help as soon as I realized I hadn’t read a book in months. If there isn’t a pile of books on the nightstand, desk at home, coffee table and desk at work waiting to be read then something is wrong. It’s been a rough year, but I’m facing my challenges and staying healthy. I know this is true, because I’m reading about a book a week for pleasure.

The Dean of Educational Technology and Media–when I was a student we called this person a librarian, and now I call her “person who loves reading and books as much as I do”–sent me an email last week to let me know the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge was posted. Being 6 books behind schedule and feeling stressed out I’m only 89% finished with this year’s challenge, I’d pretty much decided to take a break in the coming year. But Tiffany’s enthusiasm proved contagious and the link in her email was too great a temptation. I think I’ll stick to the basic challenge, and I’m going to need some help with a few of the categories. I’m sure my students or my daughters–both voracious readers and college students–will teach me what a steampunk novel is.

Soon after browsing this list and my bookshelves for potential 2017 reads, I received another email, this time a notification from Goodreads suggesting I review my Year in Books. I was equally tempted by the link in this email, but disappointed to discover my Year in Books is fixed at 48 books, 14,528 pages.

I love the Popsugar Reading Challenge because it pushes me to explore genres I would otherwise overlook. I also appreciate the social media network of Goodreads; connecting with other readers and viewing their lists helps me achieve my goal and stick to the deadline. These are good challenges. The only difficult, yet not insurmountable, challenge is reading 32 papers and submitting report card narratives while completing the last 11% of my 2016 Reading Challenge.

With more than 2 weeks left in 2016, I fully expect to complete my challenge of 54 books. In fact, I’ve just begun reading John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to fulfill the category of “a book you haven’t read since high school.” It’s a slim, yet powerful, book. I’ve read 17 of 107 pages, and I should finish it before the weekend.

Sorry, students. Your papers may not get graded until Monday.



Be Not Afraid

header-rabbis-640x97I’m blogging over at Rabbis Without Borders on the My Jewish Learning website this week:

I am not Afraid: Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night? I was, but I’ve been taking a course—well, officially I’ve been teaching a course—on this very subject, and now I am not afraid. Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty to fear in these uncertain times. Somehow, though, learning about all the things people feared in previous centuries and Read more →