Like the MamaLand Empire!

Have you Liked the MamaLand Empire?
      ... and join my mailing list for biweekly Jewish parenting ideas - no spam, no ads, just me!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jews and Jobs: MAMALAND REVIEW of Can I Wear My Kippah on Job Interviews?: Career Guidance for Sabbath Observant Jewish Professionals, by Lavie and Rachel Margolin

Can I wear my kippah on Job interviews, by Lavie Margolin & Rachel Margolin

Should you wear a kippah to your job interview? Well, yes.  In the year 2015, except in some places in the world (most of which don’t speak English), if you're a person who wears a kippah, you shouldn't NOT wear it if you're going to a job interview.  I mean, who would do that?

When I saw a book called Can I Wear My Kippah on Job Interviews?: Career Guidance for Sabbath Observant Jewish Professionals from two authors who have built a business creating business- and employment-consulting books, it caught my attention right away (which I think is the point of the title).  I eagerly requested a review copy, and the author, Lavie Margolin sent one along.

First of all, the book isn’t really about wearing a kippah or not.

I quickly came to the conclusion that the cover question is mainly an attention-getting trick.  The Margolins never advise removing your kippah for a job interview – perhaps because they know that that would alienate too many readers. 

(At one point, the book even mentions wearing a kippah or headcovering specifically for an interview or at a job, even if you don’t normally wear one, if it will make you more comfortable or better accepted working in a religious setting like a school or shul.)

The title sure does make a splash, though.  When I mentioned the book on facebook, one person simply saw the title and replied “OF COURSE! ARE YOU ASHAMED OF BEING JEWISH?”  Others were more calm, but immediately pointed out the inconsistency, with a few saying something along the lines of “it would be dishonest to present oneself as non-religious and then make any religious demands of the employer once hired.”

Someone suggested that “It doesn't have to all come out in the first meeting, but probably at some point in the interviewing/hiring process,” which is exactly the line taken by the authors of this book, who discuss at which point in the hiring stage it’s best to ask for Shabbat and holidays off.

So if the book isn’t just about whether or not to wear a kippah to a job interview, what is it about?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

True confessions of a (Jewish) mama sea turtle


Let me tell you a thing you might already know about sea turtles:  they live in the sea.

Obvious, right? 

Except the one time a sea turtle comes out of the sea is a female turtle, when she’s ready to lay eggs.  She crawls up onto land, digs a pit and lays her eggs there.  Then, it’s back into the sea with her.

So what happens to the eggs? 

They need a miracle, that’s what. 

When they hatch, the baby turtles are on their own.  They need a mad dash to the sea to get themselves covered and protected by the water before Very Bad Things can happen.  Bad things like predators.  Like dehydration.

Because they are sea turtles, they can only survive in the sea. 

But their eggs can only incubate on land. 

So the mad dash is inevitable – it is essential for their own survival.

This is like us, as Jewish mothers.  (Hint:  the water, as always, is Torah.)

I met a young couple once who'd adopted a baby from China.  I was waiting for my husband, who was meeting with the bais din for his conversion.  The couple was waiting to meet with bais din, too.  They were in the process of converting their baby, they told me.  They were naming her Miriam.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jewish Books for Kids: Less is More


Maybe I’m still a homeschooler at heart?

(Are you one, too?)

When I asked for feedback about the book I’m currently working on, Elephant Tisha b’Av, I got a ton of helpful comments. 

Sure, some were a little LESS than helpful, like one person who didn’t think we should be observing Tisha b’Av at all:  “In my opinion it is time to stop mourning the past.” 

But others gave me fantastic inspiration.  More people liked the idea but asked for more about the elephants themselves, and I realized I’d jumped right into the “sad memories” part without showing how magnificant and fun these creatures are in their own right.  Some felt the connection wasn’t clear between the elephants and the observance of Tisha b’Av, and I did my best to tighten up that link so it’s clear without being smack-on-the-forehead obvious.  I like a little subtlety.

A lot of people wonder why I'm doing these animal books at all. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What do otters have to do with Pesach? (aka Passover)

image from Otter Passover, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

What do otters have to do with Pesach?

Nothing, right?

Otters have absolutely nothing to do with Pesach.  Then again, pandas have nothing to do with Purim.  And penguins… well, totally not Rosh Hashanah critters.  And my best most popular book on Amazon right now (yes, even in March) is a little story called Penguin Rosh Hashanah.

It was tough thinking of a follow-up, though the first one, Panda Purim, came fairly easily. 

My husband figured I should try to find a connection between the animal and the yom tov.  Okay, actually, he suggested Cow Shavuos.  I told him if he wanted to read a story about cows on Shavuos, he could write it himself.  It just didn’t interest me.  Too obvious!

At last… after trying to find an animal that was cute but not cloyingly so, I came across this adorable otter.  And thus, Otter Passover was born.

Penguin Rosh Hashanah, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeodPanda Purim, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeodOtter Passover, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod  

The thing is, even if the title is incongruous, I wanted a story that made sense.  And I wanted to bring in genuine elements of Torah and Jewish belief without teaching the basics of what Pesach is, which I usually steer away from. 

Somebody actually complained about this in a one-star review of Penguin Rosh Hashanah.  She wrote, “It left me wandering what Rosh Hashana was about.”

Why don’t I want to teach what the holiday “is about”? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Jewish Defense League – why they don’t speak for me (or you?).


I just got flamed on Facebook – now that’s something that doesn’t happen often.

(My life’s pretty boring, I guess.)

But when I saw this story in a Facebook group, about the Jewish Defense League setting up shop in Montreal, I mentioned that I found their tactics "disgusting."


JDL marshals at the Sephardic Kehila Centre in Toronto, September 24, 2014 (photo credit: JDL Canada website)

(photo credit:  JDL Canada website)

Apparently, it was the wrong thing to say.

Apparently, for criticizing those who hate the haters, I become hated myself.


I was attacked on all sides by my fellow Jews who offered such threats as:

  • "Wait until one of the savages comes after your kids and delivers their heads on platters to your front door,"
  • "[you are] the poor little Jew who skips into the cattle car excited to get to the spacious work camps," and
  • "[you] to Nazi officer: "Sir, which cattle car door should I use?'",
  • "[you] portrait of a Jewish lemming."

These comments tell me everything I need to know about the JDL, its supporters and their tactics – today and in the past.


Bloody track record

The JDL Canada website proudly brags about how they helped arrest Canadian Holocaust denier Nazi Ernst Zundel.  They should be proud.  But they don’t mention that they also tried to burn down and bomb his house.  They don’t mention Baruch Goldstein, a JDL member who murdered 29 praying Muslims.  Or many other JDL-initiated murders and murder attempts over the years.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Daddy and the Zhlub: Should baalei teshuvah be ashamed of their families?


I used to resent my parents for not being religious.

(Mommy, if you're reading this, keep going - there's a happy ending.)

It was a baal teshuvah thing.  One of those not-nice things they don't tell you about in the rosey-coloured-glasses books about being a baal teshuvah. 

Do we all (all of us crazy BT’s) resent our parents because they're not frum?  At the time, I thought it was resentment, but now, I think it was more like shame.

Are we, as BT’s, ashamed that our parents didn’t give us the advantages of a day school education?  That they didn’t teach us to keep milk and meat dishes separate?  That they sent us to inadequate Hebrew schools that taught us only to resent our Jewish identity and the loss of a sleep-in on Sunday?

I’ll admit it:  I was.

(If you weren’t, then you’re a better BT than me!)

I did my best to make up for lost time, in part by pretending my parents didn’t exist.  And I think I wasn’t the only one.  I think that the frum world encouraged us to turn our backs on where we’d come from.  My husband was a geir, so in his case, the feeling was less subtle, but even with my own Jewish family, we got the message on every side that we would have to make a clean break, a fresh start.

I remember telling someone about my Nanny once, after I’d become frum.  She was a devout Presbyterian and took care of our Jewish family for over 60 years.  For Nanny, there was no contradiction in this.  She loved her own faith, and she loved ours as well.  (That was Nanny; she could love everybody.)

And the person I was telling said, “Well, you never know.  Maybe she was secretly serving you non-kosher food.” (I didn’t bother explaining that there would have been no point bringing in non-kosher food… coals to Newcastle, as they say.) “…Or trying to get you to convert.  Unless they’re Jewish, you really never know.”

Believe me, I know.  With Nanny, you knew where you stood.

But I got so many variations on that message that I couldn’t help absorbing it.  Unless they’re Jewish, the right kind of Jewish, Jewish like us, they’re simply not part of what you’re doing in your life now.