Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jewish Book Carnival, May / Iyyar 2016 Edition!

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Welcome to this month’s Jewish Book Carnival, brought to you by the concept, from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, that “Whoever is able to write a book and does not, it is as if he has lost a child.”

As a writer, I know how much creating a book, creating any text, is like giving birth.  And as a reader, how marvellous it is to be handed someone else’s precious and fragile thoughts and words.  May we as a people never lose our fascination with books or our drive to keep creating them.

This carnival has been going on continuously since August of 2010.  The Jewish Book Carnival is headquartered at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ site here.  Stop by for information on past editions or to sign up to host a future issue.

  • Last month’s carnival (April 2016) was hosted by The Book of Life.
  • Next month’s carnival (June 2016) will be hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah
  • And for now, you’re right here… at Adventures in Mamaland!

Read on for the roundup… and if you’re featured in this month’s roundup, be sociable:  click through and visit others’ posts… and tell ‘em I sent you!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Breathing Lessons for the Canadian diaspora

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Growing up as a hyphenated Jewish-Canadian, I admit, the “Canadian” part didn't really matter much.  It was just a word for everybody around me, including me, but mainly everybody else.

These days, being Canadian usually comes up when Israelis ask me, "What part of America are you from?"
The answer, of course, is NONE.

Sure, I could get by on a technicality, since I'm from North America just like United Statesians are.  And Cubans, Barbadians, and many other people.  Heck, even if I was from South America, it's all still America, right?

But that's not what they mean.

What they mean is which state, which major American city?  Am I from LA, New York, one of the handful of other places in the U.S. that a typical Israeli has heard of?

Nope.  I'm from Canada.  Oh, Canada.  Great.  They nod.  They've heard of it.  "Isn't it cold there?"

Canada… is the cold bit, the hat America wears to protect itself from the arctic.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5776: Celebrating Israel with a Free Kids’ Chapter Book Excerpt!

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Yom Ha-what???  Yeah, I admit, we never really did anything special for Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, before moving to Israel.  And neither did most of the Jews around me. 

Sure, some years we had a flag, maybe even a car flag, but really, that was the extent of it.

It’s so incredible celebrating every single yom tov and chag here in Israel… but especially Yom Ha’Atzmaut.  It just makes sense, but I never gave it much thought before we made aliyah.  Indeed, huge swathes of the Jewish world as I knew it outside of Israel didn’t really celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut at all… and that, I’m convinced, is a shame.

And when it comes to Israel, there’s no better way to study its history than by studying its STORIES, the stories of the people who built this incredible place.

The history of modern Israel is inseparable from the story of the life of Naomi Shemer. Born in 1930, she grew up as the country became more mature and established, and became an adult exactly as the country was becoming independent.

So many of the great “folk songs” of Israel’s 20th century were created by Naomi Shemer, but what has always really impressed me is that her writing goes far deeper than the 20th century, all the way back to the times of the nevi’im (prophets) and the words of the Tanach. Though she and her family were not religious, Israel was for her deeply spiritual – more than a homeland, it was a place Jews could live and thrive like nowhere else in the world.

She travelled and spoke passable English but never really reached much fame even in the Jewish world outside of Israel, besides her song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, written just before the six-day war in which the Jews won back the city after thousands of years. (Here’s one version of the song with translated lyrics, sung by Ofra Haza.)

In honour of Israel’s 68th Independence Day this week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing.

I started writing this book in 2005 after my daughter Naomi Rivka was born and we named her – partly – after Naomi Shemer. I wanted her to really understand who this namesake was. But I didn’t actually finish it until 2013, in the final stages of planning our own move to Israel. Throughout that time, my knowledge and understanding broadened and deepened considerably – as it has continued to do during the almost three years we’ve lived here so far.

Throughout the book, I’ve tried to use scenes from Naomi Shemer’s life, along with her poetic, poignant lyrics, to explore the history of Israel and tie it in with the history of the Jewish people all over the world. It’s history, but the kind of history I love best: one that sets important events within a context that’s enjoyable for adults to read alone or with children.

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Please read on for the free excerpt… and Like, Share, etc if you can!

© 2013 Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, excerpted with permission.

 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Trembling with Gratitude: a Sentimental Yarn

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There’s a feeling when you’re crocheting and your yarn gets tangled.  Even if you don’t crochet, you’ve probably felt something like this.  A moment when everything mounts into impossibility and you want to scream and give up.

I’m sure you’ve felt something like that.

It’s a feeling of frustration.  You just want to stash the entire project.  It’s a feeling of disgust.  You never want to look at it again.  It’s a feeling of pointlessness.  Snipping the yarn would be both so easy and so wrong.

But more than that, it’s a feeling that you’re all alone in the world.

It’s your ball of yarn.  It’s your crochet project.  And it’s your snarl.

Ultimately, nobody cares if you untangle it or not.  How depressing is that?

If I stashed the project – no-one would know.

If I threw it away – I doubt anyone would notice.

If I snipped the yarn and carried on past the tangle – for sure, nobody but me would know about that.

But it’s a tangle, and there’s something both depressing and important in working through it and not taking shortcuts.

Last month, while I was in Toronto oh, so very briefly (2 days!), my mother and I were visiting an older relative.  I had brought along a big blanket project I’d been working on for more than 2 months.  I was so close to the end, but I had had to unwind a big section of it, and I did it carelessly, and the yarn kept on getting tangled as I tried to crochet it together again.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Gullible Manifesto (Just kidding!)

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Twice in the last few weeks, people have done that thing to me.  Maybe this has happened to you? 

They tell me something absolutely astonishing, so I’m like, "Really?"  Then they laugh, because I’ve fallen for it.

And I cringe, because I've forgotten again.
I've forgotten the tendency of reliable, fairly nice people to turn around and lie.

Why do I always forget?

Probably because the idea is so foreign and, hey, I'll say it, kind of repulsive.
To me, it says more negative things about the person who's doing it, the suckee, than about you, the sucker.  As repulsive as a fart in polite company, this person has breached every conversational and societal norm for the sake of a not-very-good joke.

A relative once brought his young kids to our seder and told them the spicy red horseradish on the table was strawberry jam.  I'm sure they never took jam from him again in their lives.  But is that really the point?  What's the message?  "Be careful about jam?"

Nah, the message truly is nothing more complex like, "Watch this person carefully.  They'll turn on you so you can never trust them."

I even hate the WORD "gullible."  It sounds like something a drowning, helpless, floppy goldfish might say.

I am that goldfish.

Friday, January 01, 2016

What kind of God? Yahrzeit/Birthday Thoughts for Parshas Shemos

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Someone once told me, “If there is a God, then certainly he is much too busy with wars and everything to care whether you eat kosher food.”

This is interesting, but it is not what I believe about Hashem.

Many more people say, “There is no God, because if there was, he wouldn’t allow ____ to suffer.” With the blank being whoever in the world is currently suffering, whether it is Yezidis or Tibetans or Sudanese, or, in this week’s parsha, us.

But this week’s parsha tells us he did indeed allow us to suffer. It says that, right there in the pshat.

For years, and years, and years, we suffered as slaves. Some say until we cried out, until we begged him in exactly the right way. But as a parent, this feels petty to me. Sure, sometimes I make my kids apologize “properly” – no sarcasm allowed. But I’d like to think Hashem is a lot less petty than me.

My friend Nina pointed out that twice, Moshe calls Hashem on this, face to face. Asking Hashem what kind of God he is that he’s doing this to his treasured people. I think I’m paraphrasing.

But Hashem is telling Yosef right there exactly what kind of God he is. He’s the God who appears in a thornbush. Not only appears – we know the thornbush is not just incidental, like the desert equivalent of a coffee shop where it was convenient for Hashem to meet up with Moshe while he was out shepherding.

The thornbush, it turns out, is crucial to understanding who Hashem is. Later on, in Devarim, the Torah refers to Hashem as שֹׁכְנִי סְנֶה, shochni sneh, “the One who dwells in the thornbush.” This is actually part of Hashem’s identity.

And the root of that word, שכן, shachein, is important. It’s the same word Hashem tells us when it’s time to build the Mishkan, as we’ll read in a couple of weeks: וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם. “Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst.”

Which is a little strange. If Hashem