Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The book cover so evil I have been fuming for a year


What do you think – am I overthinking this?

Before I tell you what this post is about, let me first say that I believe “over” thinking isn’t always a bad thing.  Given how many people in the world under think things, including certain book publishers, it’s a good thing some of us are thinking more than others…

I also want to admit that this wasn’t going to be a blog post.  There’s just too much at stake, I feel.  Too much emotionally riding on this.  Some of those near and dear to me has already heard my rant about this children’s book cover.  Some have agreed.  Some have just shrugged.

But last night, working on an essay about images of male Jews and masculinity in Judaism, it all just came out on paper and I figured once it’s out, I may as well share it here, too.

The book is called “What was the Holocaust?”.  Amazon says it’s published by Penguin Workshop and isn’t due out until June 2018, but that can’t be right because I first saw this a long time ago now.  I pointed it out to my husband in a bookstore in Toronto in July.  So it definitely already exists.

Here’s the cover:


What’s your gut reaction to that picture?

Think I’m blowing things out of proportion?  (Um, like the illustrator obviosuly did with their heads?)

Now, before I tell you what I think, I will back up and point out

Monday, September 18, 2017

Crochet, hope, despair, and love – a tangled yarn


"With colour A, chain 166."

There's so much despair in those words; so much hope.


In case you’ve never crocheted, I’ll fill you in:  almost every blanket pattern starts the same way – by telling you to make a chain - a long, long, long chain, in this case, 166 stitches long.

(Unless it's the kind of blanket where you make squares and stitch them together, in which case what you have isn't a blanket pattern but a square patterns.)

You can't mess around with this chain, either, because it  will eventually be the width (or length) of your blanket.  So don't make those stitches too tight or you'll have a scrunched-up weeny blanket.  Or too loose, or you'll have a flopsy blanket with no structure.


I never used to know anything about knitting or crocheting.  It’s possible, like most people I encounter, I assumed they were the same thing. 

Now I know that there are many differences.  If you want to know if a person is knitting or crocheting (at the very least, so you don't sound foolish), look at the number of sticks they're holding.  Two sticks (especially if they're pointy) is knitting.  One stick (especially if it has a hook at the end) is crocheting.

The word crochet comes from the French word for hook.  Okay, actually, it is the French word for hook.  The hook lets you pull the yarn through loops, essentially tying one bazillion little teeny knots.

This blanket I just started uses 7 balls of yarn, and each ball of yarn is 448 metres.  That's over

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Great things come in… twos! Two new books to greet 5778 from the world’s 41,526th best-loved author


I confess, it’s been a rocky time, writing-wise.  Not that I’m not writing!  Actually, I’m writing more than ever, probably more than most writers do in a lifetime.  The problem is that most of it is your basic blah writing for clients, translating (from Hebrew to English), or essays for school.

(Did I mention I’m a full-time grad student???  More about that later…)

But somehow, despite having ZERO time to write the things I truly wish I was writing, I seem to have managed to finish not one but TWO book projects, and without further ado – I present… two gorgeous new books:


  • Oma is 100:  "It's been almost a hundred years since Oma was born, but she doesn't want a party..."  When a young girl’s grandmother decides she's too old for  a birthday party, the simple act of crocheting a blanket teaches them both an important lesson about love, family, and belonging.  This isn’t specifically a Jewish book, in that there are no Hebrew words or references to Judaism – the message of honouring and learning from older relatives is one that resonates throughout every religion I know.  I feel very lucky to have found a terrific illustrator for this project, Lisa Larsen; she made it a pleasure to bring this story to life through its images.

Here are some pages from Oma is 100:


Monday, September 11, 2017

Should you buy tichels and other religious headcoverings online from AliExpress?


Who knew?  Did you know??  Decent, cheap head coverings are now a reality thanks to Chinese mega-marketplace AliExpress – and a few weeks ago, I decided to get in on the action. 

As an ultra-scientific experiment, I bought four “pre-tied” tichels, which is what I usually like to wear around the house, to see what kind of quality they’re selling.  Down below, I’ve shown you the ones I bought and how they stacked up against what they looked like on the models.

(In case you’re not familiar with them, a pre-tied tichel has elastic at the back and tails that hang down, so you just pull on the cap and tie the back, without having to fuss with a big triangle or other shape of fabric…)

I’ve been buying tichels (mitpachot, or scarf-type headcoverings) online from a few different places, but it’s always a hassle – it costs way too much to begin with, and then you have to add the cost of shipping.  I have also bought a couple here in Israel, but mostly, I buy them online like everything else.  I really don’t like shopping in person, especially here.

Usually when we order from AliExpress, we then sit back and get ready for at least a month and usually more like two months of waiting.  But one of the nice things about buying tichels, apparently, is that they can squeeze into a cheap mailer envelope, and thus arrive practically instantly in comparison – well, two weeks for the fastest of the tichels.

And of course, the biggest and bestest part of all is the price – generally between $4 and $6 per tichel. 

So I bet you’re all curious now - how do they look???

Here are the 4 that I ordered

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Extra fridge magnets? Turn them into free magnetic shopping lists!


Do you have a few extra fridge magnets lying around the house?  Here's a fun way to upcycle them!

One of the fun things about living in Israel is having a magnetic front door.  Most front doors are metal, unlike back in Canada, where they were made of wood.  And because everyone's front doors are metal, it's very common for businesses to advertise by leaving information stuck to your door with a "fridge" magnet.

So far, we’ve been mostly throwing these out.  They're not powerful enough to hold up much, and I don't want them cluttering up our lives or getting us confused with the magnets we keep from the business we like and use (the guy who fixed our washing machine; the book store we like in Tel Aviv; the Chinese restaurant I went to in Beersheva).

But now I have an upcycling solution that's very quick and easy and kills two birds with one stone:  what to do with all those magnets, and what to do with clean white paper that's printed on one side. 

(AND which saves us from having to buy fridge-magnet notepads for shopping lists, which we used to do pretty regularly!)

Whenever I order online grocery delivery - about once a week, because it's soooo easy and doesn't cost much more than buying them in person - we get a bill that consists of three pages, quite a lot of paper in all considering that the actual groceries all fit on the first page.  The reverse side is completely unprinted, making it what my father used to call "good-one-side" paper.


So here's the quick hack:

  1. Trifold your Shufersal Online bill, a boring report from work, an old school paper, or any other small stack of "good-one-side" paper.  Three pages is ideal, but 4 or 5 might work if your magnet was strong enough.
  2. Cut off the outer edges of the two folds so you have 9 (or more) "shopping list" sized pieces of paper.  (Some of the pages will be backwards, so reverse these!)
  3. Tap the stack of shopping lists so the edges are neat.  If one page is creased, roll the pages gently the other way to neaten them up.
  4. Staple the fridge magnet to the top.

And ta-da!


The cheap fridge magnets can’t hold a ton of paper, but 9 shopping lists is a good start, and the magnet is totally reusable, so you can just do it again when you run out of paper.  One advantage of cheap magnets is that they’re super thin and easy to staple.

With more than one shopping list, you can use one for groceries and one for something else.  We like to hang a Shabbos food preparation list on the fridge sometime Friday morning, and I’ve started adding the weekly Shabbos in/out times so we have everything in one place.  So it’s handy having two fridge notepads so the two don’t get mixed up.

With a nice-looking paper (or a custom-printed message), this might make a good gift item for kids to make.  You’d want to test how many pages your magnet could comfortably hold and use as many as possible… and maybe also glue the magnet to the back sheet of paper so it didn’t flap around and reveal the advertising message.  Hmm… and while you were fancying it up, you could probably trim the magnet so it fit the size of the paper more neatly than I have here. Smile

Enjoy your new shopping lists!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

Friday, July 21, 2017

On Discernment and Doormats – a summer dvar Torah for Parshas Matos-Masei


Every year we’re in Toronto, and for years before we made aliyah, my mother hosts a shalosh seudos for the ladies of our shul.  For some reason, my mother’s shalosh seudos always manages to fall out on a different parsha, so I can’t repeat what I’ve said in previous years.

If you’re curious, here are some of these masterpieces from previous years…

    The point being - I had to start from scratch looking at this week’s combined parsha – Matos-Masei.

    There is a very shocking section near the beginning of this week’s parsha. It’s connected with what we read two weeks ago in parshas Balak. Back then, the people of Moav and Midian sent women in to seduce the men of Bnei Yisrael – not just physically, our commentators tell us, but spiritually, leading the Jewish men into worshiping idols.

    Now, it’s time for revenge. Interestingly, we’re told to take revenge only against Midian and not against Moav, even though they were both complicit. Why? Perhaps because Ruth – and hence King David – were destined to descend from Moav. This makes sense if you look at the crime as a spiritual one rather than just an episode of physical seduction, because our spiritual redemption is somehow eventually going to come from Moav. So that may be one reason we’re having compassion on Moav and not taking revenge.

    But as for Midian – it seems there is no such thing as compassion when it comes to them. Moshe tells us, in the name of Hashem, to wipe out every single man, woman, and child from the nation of Midian. Yikes. But Bnei Yisrael don’t do it. They can’t, with the memory of Amalek’s attack still so very fresh in their minds. After all, Amalek’s attack was so insidious that it must be remembered as long as there is a living Jewish person to tell the tale.

    Now, lots of people have attacked Bnei Yisrael throughout history