Blessing the Children

A SPIRITUAL GESTURE BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN.By Tamar Fox -MJL                 New York Jewish Parenting

Many Jewish parents embrace the custom of blessing their children on Friday evening.


This custom is a nice way of bringing gratitude and spirituality into your family. On Shabbat and at other special occasions, it can contribute to a special feeling of closeness between you and your children.

The words of the blessing are taken from the priestly blessing(Numbers 6:24-26) and the introduction is altered depending on whether the child being blessed is a boy or girl.

For boys, the introductory line is:

May you be like Ephraim and Menashe.
יְשִׂימְךָ אֱלהיִם כְּאֶפְרַיְם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה.

For girls, the introductory line is:

May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
יְשִׂימֵךְ אֱלהיִם כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה.

For both boys and girls, the rest of the blessing is:

May God bless you and guard you.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God show you favor and be gracious to you.
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו  אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

May God show you kindness and grant you peace.
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלום

The blessing is performed differently in every family. In some traditional homes, only the father blesses the children. In other families, both parents give blessings–either together and in unison, or first one parent, followed by the other. In some homes the mother blesses the girls and the father blesses the boys.

Usually the person giving the blessing places one or both hands on the child’s head. Some parents bless each child in succession, working from oldest to youngest. Others bless all of the girls together, and all of the boys together.

After the blessing, some parents take a moment to whisper something to their child–praising him or her for something he or she did during the week, or conveying some extra encouragement and love. Almost every family concludes the blessing with a kiss or a hug.

There are also different customs as to when the blessing is recited. Some families bless their children immediately before or after Kiddush . Others prefer to bless just after lighting the Shabbat candles.  In some families with grown children who no longer live at home, this blessing is imparted over the phone on Fridays.


It seems strange that the blessing for boys singles out Ephraim and Menashe instead of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–or, for that matter, any other great biblical leaders who were men (Joseph, Moses, King David, King Solomon). A few answers have been proposed.

The view most commonly held is that of contemporary Israeli Rabbi Mordechai Elon who wrote that Ephraim and Menashe are the first pair of brothers in the Bible who do not see each other as competitors. They do not struggle for power, and their dynamic as a family never seems to be the source of great difficulty in either of their lives. By blessing our children to be like Ephraim and Menashe we seek to bestow upon our children the legacy of peace and harmony between brothers.

Another interpretation, by 19th century Israeli Rabbi Shmuel Hominer, notes that Ephraim and Menashe grew up in Egypt, unlike the patriarchs who all grew up in Israel. Ephraim and Menashe maintained their distinct identity as Israelites, even though they lived in a place where they were surrounded and outnumbered by the Egyptians and their gods. The ability to remain faithful to Judaism, even when it is a struggle, is a legacy that we want to pass on to our children.



Beyond the weekly blessing on Friday nights, many parents recite this blessing on special occasions, such as at a child’s brit milah or naming ceremony, bar or bat mitzvah, and wedding. Any important milestone in a child’s life, from the first day of school to birthdays, to the day they graduate high school or college, can be appropriately marked with this blessing.

Mh- New York Jewish  Parenting Guide

How to Talk About God

Instead of worrying about providing the right answer, lead thoughtful discussions with your child 

By Rabbi Sarah Reines


One great gift of parenthood is the opportunity to experience the world through children’s eyes. While we may rejoice in our children’s observations, sometimes we find ourselves unsure how to answer the questions they raise. This is often the case when they ask questions about God. “What does God look like?” “Where does God live?” “How come God lets bad things happen?”

These kinds of questions often echo issues left unresolved in our own minds and hearts. Here are some things to remember when they emerge from our little ones:

1. Judaism does not have a rigid understanding of God. 

When people tell me they don’t believe in God, I ask them to describe the God they don’t believe in. When they finish I say in agreement, “I don’t believe in that God either.” Often, if we are raised without being encouraged to grapple with the notion of God, the “old man in the sky” image of a God who metes out punishment and reward fills the void. Unable to accept that idea, people usually assume that the only alternative is to reject God entirely. The names used for God in Jewish texts and liturgy are seemingly endless. For example, “HaShem,” the Name; “HaMakor,” the Source; “Malkeinu,” our Sovereign, “HaMakom,” the Place; “HaRachamim,” the Compassionate One; “Tsuri,” My Rock, “Ein Sof,” Without End. These, and the multitude of others, reflect the vast possibilities of how we might experience and explain God’s presence in our lives.

2. There is no “right answer.” 

When our preschool children ask us why the sky is blue, we can go to the internet for a scientific answer, but a description of the atmosphere’s composition and electromagnetic waves may not be what they need. In the same way, a theological discourse on whether or not God is omniscient or omnipotent will likely miss the mark. Children’s questions may be a way for them to express their burgeoning spirituality. Leave space for your children to keep questioning and thinking for themselves. Engage in a conversation, rather than struggle to provide an answer. Spirituality requires questioning, imagining, and openness.


3. Positively reinforce your child’s curiosity. 

Often, children are more spiritually astute than adults. Give your child the space to explore this aspect of themselves. A legitimate, supportive, and honest answer can be, “That’s a wonderful question. I ask myself that question sometimes. What do you think?”

4. Try to speak of God from a soulful place, rather than an intellectual one. 

The word “belief” suggests something that can be proven or disproven. No one can argue with a personal feeling or experience. “I believe that God exists in the relationship between people” is not nearly as accessible or powerful as “I feel God inside me when I hold you.”

5. Actions often speak louder than words. 

The Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk said, “God dwells wherever we let God in.” Simple rituals can let God into our lives and our children’s lives. When we light Shabbat candles and pause to watch the flames dance, sing the

Shema in a whisper before tucking our child into bed, gather the loose coins in the bottom of purses and pockets and set them aside for tzedakah (charity), we foster an environment which will allow spirituality to flourish.


6. Read! 

Books about God or books with a Jewish flavor can help provide language and focus for us. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso’s God’s Paintbrush and In God’s Name are non-denominational picture books with beautiful illustrations which provoke and directly ask questions that you can discuss with your child. Some books for adult reading on this topic are When Children Ask About God by Rabbi Harold Kushner and Teaching Your Children About God by Rabbi David Wolpe.

The Maggid of Dubnov, an 18th century preacher, once told the following parable: Once there was a father who traveled with his son for miles. Each time they reached an obstacle, such as a river or mountain, the father lifted his son on his shoulders and carried him through the difficult terrain. Finally they came to their destination–a walled castle. But the gate of the castle was shut up, and there were only narrow windows on the sides of the wall. The father said to his son: “My son, up until now I have carried you. Now the only way we can reach our destination is if you will climb through the windows and open the gate for me from within.”

For many, becoming a parent ushers in a newly-found or recovered sense of the Divine. The miracle of birth, the wonder of raising a child, opens our eyes anew to God’s presence in our world. Allow your children to continue to lead you in this awe-inspiring journey of discovery.

Sarah Reines is a rabbi and mother living in New York City. She served as a rabbi of Central Synagogue for more than a decade and is currently the co-president of the Women’s Rabbinic Network.

5 Simple Ways to Teach Kids to Be Responsible

And it’s your responsibility to do it.    By Adina Soclof—

One of the biggest complaints parents have about their kids is: “They’re so irresponsible!”

Usually followed by:

“He never comes home on time!”
“Her room is a mess!”
“His teacher complained that he does not do his homework!”

A child’s irresponsible behavior can be frustrating for parents. It helps to know that kids are not naturally responsible, but they can be taught. That’s where we come in.

Here are five simple ways to teach our kids to be responsible.

1. Role modeling

Kids watch our every move. They rarely do as we say; they do what we do. It’s always helpful to check ourselves first and see if we are modeling responsible behavior.

Do we shirk our duties at home? Are the dishes left in the sink? Are our telephone messages unreturned, are we often late for meetings? If so, it might be time to take a good look in the mirror and decide how we can act more responsibly.

It is always helpful and comforting to kids to see their parents trying to refine their own behavior. Kids then learn to be responsible for their own actions. They have a living model for how to improve their behavior when they hear:

“I need to be more responsible about returning calls. I have to figure out a system that works for me. Does anyone have

any ideas?”

2. Look for the good

Human beings are programmed to look for the bad. It may have helped us once upon a time when we had to always be alert to the dangers surrounding us. Today, it’s a disadvantage and a real drawback to parenting positively. We have a tendency to focus on our kids negative behaviors, especially when they act irresponsibly.

We are more likely to notice when they have forgotten to do their homework, leave their dirty laundry on the floor and are late for school, then when they exhibit more pro-social behaviors.

When I ask parents, “Is there ever a time where your child acts responsibly?” parents are usually stymied. But after a few minutes they can usually come up with something: “She is great with our next door neighbor’s baby. Mrs. Smith, has called her a few times when she needed help.”

“Once his friend Sammy was out of school with the chicken pox for two weeks. He called him every night until he was better.”

Focusing on the times our children are responsible helps us to see that our kids are not all “bad.” It brings us to the next tip where we can…



3. Build upon our child’s strengths

Focusing on the times are kids to act responsibly gives us clues on how we can improve upon their already responsible behavior. If our child is good with little kids, we can help them get a job as a mother’s helper, which in turn helps build responsibility. If he likes to tinker with mechanics you can give him some more responsibility when you are working on your car, or fixing any other appliance in the house. If she loves to vacuum and organize, then that can be her chore at home.

Just like adults, kids tend to be more responsible about the things they like to do. We can capitalize on that. Once they feel good and understand that they can be responsible in those areas, they are more likely to be more responsible about the chores they dislike.

4. Praise Responsible Behavior

It’s not enough to notice our kid’s responsible behavior, we need to point it out to them and praise them. Anytime your child acts responsibly, describe what he or she is doing right to them and pour on the praise. This helps to positively reinforce that behavior:

“I appreciate that you came in to tell me you were going to Sammy’s house to play, that’s called being responsible.”
“Thanks for giving me my phone messages. That’s called being responsible.”
“You cleaned your toys. That shows responsibility.”

Kids will bask in the glow of your praise, and you are more likely to get a repeat of responsible behavior.

5. Use solution-oriented language

Every time we throw up our hands and say to our child, “You are so irresponsible!” we are covering up the real problem or issue with highly emotional language. Kids get defensive and their only recourse is to fight back: “Well, you never tell me what I should do, you only yell at me!”

It is better if we use language that is less emotionally charged with an eye towards resolving conflicts. Focus on the specific irresponsible act, instead of the general problem of “irresponsibility.”

“This laundry is not getting into the hamper. What would be a good way for you to remember to do that?”
“Homework needs to be completed. What are your plans to get that done?”
“Curfew was missed. How can you make sure that it does not happen again?”

You might also want to avoid bringing up all the other times they acted irresponsibly. Like adults, kids can only take so much criticism.

Raising responsible kids is something that we need to do. Role modeling, looking for the good, praising responsible behavior and using solution-oriented language can help us do just that.


mh- New York Jewish  Parenting

A Ceremony Beyond Words: Double Bar Mitzvah for Special Boys

By Menachem Posner —

Parker Lynch celebrates his bar mitzvah at Chabad of Poway with Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld, left and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, center.
Parker Lynch celebrates his bar mitzvah at Chabad of Poway with Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld, left and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, center.

The room was silent during the speech at a recent bar mitzvah in the city of Poway, Calif., in San Diego County. Not even the bar mitzvah boy spoke. In fact, he couldn’t.

Dozens of friends and well-wishers gathered to celebrate the religious milestone for two young men, both of whom are nonverbal. One of them, 24-year-old Andrew Lindhardt, delivered remarks he had prepared via Lightwriter, a handheld device that allows him to communicate with a keypad.

Andrew, a student at Palomar Community College who also volunteers at Head Start, has cerebral palsy, as well as an unknown syndrome that has severely limited many of his abilities. The other celebrant, Parker Lynch, is a teen with cerebral palsy and autism.

Both are part of the Friendship Circle Diego, an organization where both typical and challenged children, teenagers and adults experience the joys of friendship and learn to appreciate their unique gifts. Regular participants in the Friendship Circle events, the boys developed a special bond.

As time went on, their families drew close as well.

Rochelle Lynch, Parker’s mom, said that she nursed a secret wish that her son would one day celebrate his bar mitzvah. “I knew that walking up the bimahplatform and chanting in Hebrew are a big part of it, and there was no way that my son would be able to do that, so I really did not think of it as an option. Then Mushky Coleman, one of the Friendship Circle interns, approached me and suggested that we have a joint bar mitzvah celebration for Parker and Andrew since they have this special friendship. Mushky really made it happen. She spoke to everyone and got them all on board.”

‘Everyone Got Involved’

According to Elisheva Green, executive director of the Friendship Circle of San Diego, “everyone in the Friendship Circle got involved. A group of girls in ourbat mitzvah club volunteered to make sports-themed centerpieces. Some of the moms did the shopping, and the boys and their families started preparing.”

Andrew Lindhardt carried the Torah through the synagogue for the congregants to touch or kiss.
Andrew Lindhardt carried the Torahthrough the synagogue for the congregants to touch or kiss.

Since Andrew is able to communicate through his Lightwriter, he prepared a speech for himself and for Parker. They and their mothers started meeting regularly with Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld, youth director at Chabadof Poway, to study the theme of the week’s Torah portion and other aspects of Judaism.

During the course of the preparations, Rubenfeld realized that neither of the boys had Jewish names, as neither had a circumcision performed in the traditional Jewish way. Andrew underwent a bris and was given the Hebrew name Avraham Refael. His mother, Tara Lindhardt, planned to take the Jewish name Atara Esther.

The date of the bar mitzvah was Sunday, June 9, on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Jewish month, a day when the Torah is taken from the ark and read.

Almost all of the nearly 100 guests gathered at Chabad of Poway were family members and friends the two boys had gotten to know through the Friendship Circle—volunteers, as well as other people with disabilities.

Both boys opened the ark. Parker held the Torah scroll with Andrew’s help, and then Andrew carried it through the synagogue for the congregants to touch or kiss.

After the scroll was brought to the bimah, the honors were given to other members of the Friendship Circle who had the verbal ability to say the required blessings.

Regular participants in the Friendship Circle events, Andrew and Parker developed a special bond.

Then the young men were danced around the sanctuary in a mass of loved ones—some walking and others in wheelchairs. Jeffrey Freedman, whose grandson has special needs, said “I don’t think there was a dry eye in our shul. I have never, and don’t think I ever will, experience such a moment.” He added that he now looks forward to celebrating his grandson’s bar mitzvah with the Friendship Circle when the time comes.

“We were so engrossed in the celebration,” Tara later recalled, “that we totally forgot to give me my Jewish name, so we ended up doing it a few weeks later during Shabbat services.”

‘Different Levels of Understanding’

Sitting between Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, director of Chabad of Poway, and Parker, Andrew delivered his 1,500 word “talk” on behalf of both boys.

Other than the fact that the speech was not delivered orally, many elements were typical—it started with a few jokes and ended with a long list of “thank you’s”—but other elements went beyond the norm.

Working off the fact that the laws of the Torah are often beyond understanding, Andrew said, “Parker and I think this highlights that for everyone, there is much to be open to in relationships that is not logical. There are aspects of life and relationships missed if logic is the sole focus. For our bar mitzvah, we wish to point out that even if we do not cognitively or rationally understand—or if we have special needs or if we don’t—there is much to be open to and to appreciate. There are different ways of understanding and different things to be understood. There are different levels of understanding. Parker and I believe there are beautiful things missed if we are not open to this.”

Continued Andrew: “Parker and I understand a loving spirit; we understand hope, we understand that when I, Andrew, say Parker is ‘my boy,’ and I touch his face and Parker hugs me, we know that we love each other. Parker and I just know what we cannot see and what we may not be able to totally comprehend, but we feel and know anyway. It is real. Parker and I understand each other. This is a relationship. Parker and I know plenty of others with special needs (often conventionally considered unable to communicate ) who exemplify many wonderful insights, and they always show us in such wonderful ways—a wave, a hug, an expression, a kiss, sometimes a behavior that indicates an understanding far, far, above what we would ever expect and more … ”

Andrew’s mother, Tara, said that “during the speech, Andrew would occasionally touch Parker’s shoulder and help him stay calm. I was really proud to see Andrew acting like an adult taking care of Parker.”

Even with the bar mitzvah behind them, both mothers plan to continue their weekly study sessions.

“Feeling the acceptance and comfort of Chabad, the last few months have been life-changing,” said Rochelle. “We have been learning so much with Rabbi Mendy as we prepared for the bar mitzvah, and we really want to keep up our momentum.

“While we are not what you would call religious, we have been learning to incorporate Judaism into our lives, and we want to keep growing. There were so many things that I had not understood about Judaism, and the rabbi’s openness has really been incredible.”

Tara echoed those sentiments: “We came looking for a place where Andrew would have some social interactions and ended up with so much more. For now, learning about—and incorporating—Judaism in our lives is our priority. Andrew led us here, and what has happened is nothing short of a miracle.”


mh- New York Jewish Parenting

Handle With Care The Play



Tony® Award Nominee and Broadway legend Carol Lawrence (West Side Story) heads the ensemble cast of four in the “hilariously funny,” “fearlessly adorable” new romantic comedy Handle With Care, by Emmy® Award Nominee Jason Odell Williams, directed by Karen Carpenter (Love, Loss and What I Wore). Handle With Care comes to New York after charming audiences in successful regional productions across the country.

Handle With Care tells the story of a young Israeli woman who reluctantly travels with her grandmother to America. Fate and hilarious circumstances bring together the young woman, who has little command of English, and a young American man with little command of romance. Is their inevitable love an accident? Or destiny generations in the making?


Carol Lawrence, Charlotte Cohn, Sheffield Chastain, Jonathan Sale


GREAT NEWS! Due to high demand, we’re extending our $35 ticket offer through the rest of previews!!

Click the Broadway Offers link before for $35 tickets to all shows through our final preview on 12/14 at 8pm.
We can’t wait to see you there!!


mh- New York Jewish Parenting Guide


Jewish Routines for Children

Creating positive educational experiences for your family. By Caron Blau Rothstein

Routines are essential building blocks of life.


Parenting books, pediatricians, and early childhood experts will tell you that routines provide young children with a measure of predictability that is necessary and comforting. They give children a sense of safety in an unsafe world.

Routines and rituals are emotional regulators, guides to positive behavior and safety and social development, transition-helpers for children and parents, a way to decrease conflict, and perhaps most importantly, a basis for learning. Parents who establish routines and incorporate rituals into their children’s lives are providing them with an invaluable foundation and tools for living a full, rich life.

From the earliest days of a child’s life, parents and other caregivers can incorporate Judaism into routines and family rituals. There are some routines to which you can add a Jewish spin and other routines that are wholly Jewish. The patterns families establish for their children now will have a lasting impression on their children as they grow and develop.

Music, Television, and Books

Consider the CDs you are playing in the car or at home for your children. Why not make at least some of your musical selections Jewish? Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, and Judy Caplan Ginsburgh are just three of the many contemporary Jewish musicians who have Jewish children’s music CDs. Many parents use soothing music as part of the bedtime routine. How about Jewish lullabies?

Children’s television viewing evokes strong feelings and a wide-range of opinions, but within limits and with parental supervision, television can be an educational tool. “Shalom Sesame” is the Jewish version of “Sesame Street” and provides your children with the same format as “Sesame Street,” in a Jewish context. “Oy Baby” is a series of DVDs and CDs combining Jewish music with puppets and pictures for children. Set aside a special time when you and your children can watch Jewish-themed DVDs such as these together. As you are preparing for Shabbat or a Jewish holiday you can use the DVD or CD to help get the children “in the mood” and to set the tone for the upcoming celebration.

There are many wonderful children’s books with Jewish themes. Some are based on biblical stories and rabbinic tales. Others focus on a specific Jewish holiday or offer a Jewish twist on an everyday theme. For ideas, check out The PJ Library, The Association of Jewish Libraries, and  Jewish Publishers such as Kar-Ben, Jewish Lights, Jewish Publication Society, and Union for Reform Judaism Press.


Morningtime & Bedtime

You can incorporate Jewish-themed songs, music, and books into your child’s morning and nighttime routines quite easily. Consider incorporating traditional Jewish prayers that are recited upon waking and going to bed as well. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has downloadable informational pamphlets on morning and bedtime rituals for children available on its  website. Most Jewish prayer books will contain these prayers, too.

Another bedtime ritual can be blessing your children. My children cannot go to sleep without our sharing the traditional “Birkat Kohanim” prayer. Until I’ve “blessed” them, our bedtime ritual is incomplete.


Just as there are traditional blessings and rituals associated with waking and sleeping, there are many Jewish traditions surrounding food (and we know that food is a big part of a child’s life). Expose your children to “traditional” Jewish foods or foods that were traditional on Shabbat and other Jewish holidays in your house growing up. Don’t just serve these foods to children–encourage them to assist in the preparations. This is a great way to get grandparents and other older relatives involved. Have the children help Bubbe make latkes for Hanukkah or hamantaschen for Purim. Make matzo balls and chicken soup together for Shabbat or Passover.

Consider reciting blessings before and/or after eating. Also consider the Jewish dietary laws. While some Jews keep kosher as part of their traditional observance of Judaism, others who are less traditionally observant feel that observing kashrut reminds them of their relationship with God and the chosenness of the Jewish people. With a wide variety of kosher food available in supermarkets and specialty stores today, keeping kosher can feel much less restrictive than you might expect.



The Jewish calendar provides many wonderful opportunities to create Jewish routines for your family. Every week we are given the gift of Shabbat. As any modern parent will tell you, each day is filled to the brim with activities, errands, birthday parties, play dates, sports leagues, and lessons. How fortunate we are as Jews to have 25 hours set aside each week to step back from the hustle and bustle and enjoy some much-needed downtime. Recent studies on child development show that children need more opportunities for unstructured time–the Jewish people have known this for thousands of years.

Celebrate in a way that is comfortable for your family. In some families it’s the one time of the week that everyone makes the effort to be home to eat dinner together. Others go to the grandparents’ home every Friday evening or make time to be with friends. Still others may opt for more traditional Shabbat observance, including lighting candles, synagogue attendance and other rituals. What’s most important is setting aside this time for family.

Consider incorporating traditional Shabbat rituals into your observance at a pace that feels right for you. Perhaps you will start by lighting candles together, and saying kiddush and motzi every Shabbat. Many parents bless their children on Friday nights. Why not add a special, modern twist with your own special blessing for each child?

And how about going to synagogue? Chances are a synagogue near you has special family services, learners’ minyans, tot Shabbats or a junior congregation. These services are tailored to young families and can make synagogue feel more warm and welcoming. Your children will look forward to Friday night or Saturday morning services when they know they get to wear their special Shabbat clothes and participate in their special services.


The Jewish holidays provide other wonderful opportunities for establishing meaningful and memorable routines. Go apple-picking for Rosh Hashana. Decorate and eat in a sukkah for Sukkot. These days you can buy a pre-fabricated sukkah from websites like Dance with the Torah on Simhat Torah, and consider buying your child his/her own plush, stuffed Torah for this holiday and for bringing to synagogue on Shabbat. Light candles and spin dreidels on Hanukkah. Plant trees or flowers on Tu Bishvat. Dress up on Purim, and shake the grogger and boo every time you hear the name Haman read in the megillah. Get together with family and friends for the Passover seder, and teach your children the four questions. On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, consider ways your family can support Israel, from attending a community-wide Israel fair to purchasing Israeli products. Study some Torah on Shavuot.

Shabbat and Jewish holidays provide an opportunity to create routines–in the form of customs, traditions, rituals–that your children and your entire family will look forward to each week and every year. The details are not as important as the acknowledgement of these Jewish holidays as special times for your family. Do not feel that it has to be “all or nothing” in terms of your observance–do as little or as much as feels comfortable and be open to modifying your routines as the ages and stages of your family dictate.


Be a Jewish Role Model

Whether it is making the mundane sacred, or incorporating the sacred into your family’s routines, there are a variety of ways to develop Jewish routines for your children and your family. It is as important for parents to model the rituals and routines as it is to encourage them in your children. As your children’s first and most important role models, you need to “practice what you preach” to your children for them to truly absorb the values and traditions you are trying to instill in them through the practice of Jewish rituals and establishment of Jewish-themed routines. Before you know it, your children will be making Jewish memories that will last a lifetime.

Caron Blau Rothstein is the former Director of Special Projects at the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore, MD. She is currently developing programming for Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, OR.


6 Tips for choosing a pediatrician

by Naomi de la Torre – Posted in the New York Jewish Parenting


The truth is there are thousands of wonderful doctors out there, but everyone is different and you have to know what you are looking for. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends interviewing each candidate and asking a series of questions to determine whether a particular doctor is a good fit for your family. The list below will help you determine your needs and get you headed in the right direction.


If you happen to have a friend who has children and a similar perspective on medicine, ask for a recommendation. Oftentimes, this is the easiest way to get a few good candidates without having to blindly scour the Internet. If you don’t have any friends who like their doctors, try asking the local children’s hospital for their list of recommended pediatricians.



How easy is it to schedule a routine appointment? Does the office schedule same-day appointments for sick children? What are the office hours? Is emergency coverage available after the office is closed?

Nowadays, many pediatric offices will stay open until the last sick child is seen on any particular day, so if that is important to you be sure to check on the office policy. Doctors who practice in a large office with several other pediatricians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners typically have more openings than those who practice alone. On the other hand, in a large office like the one just described, you might find yourself seeing a physician assistant instead of your own pediatrician much of the time.



Do you have a specific view of medicine or wellness that you want to share with your child’s pediatrician? Are you interested in holistic healthcare, homeopathy or other forms of alternative medicine? Will your doctor support your views on breastfeeding, circumcision and immunization? Does your child have any special needs?

If you have any particular medical concerns, make sure to question your potential doctor up front. Be sure that you will be comfortable with the type of advice he offers. Don’t be shy. Put all your concerns on the table up front and find a doctor whose advice you will appreciate and find valuable.


Visit the office and check out the waiting area. Is it clean and family friendly? Is the office staff personable and kind? Are there separate waiting areas for those who are sick and those who are well?



Take time to interview your top three candidates. Does the doctor interact directly with your children in an open, sincere and friendly manner? Does he explain things in a way that you can understand? Is he willing to spend time with you and answer all your questions? Some doctors won’t take the time to have an interview with prospective patients. This is probably a good indication of the amount of time they will be willing to spend with you later.



If you find yourself with a doctor who you are unhappy with, don’t be afraid to make a change. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable with your caregiver and unable to trust his or her advice. It is important that you share certain basic values with your pediatrician for the relationship to be useful to your family. Keep an open mind, keep searching and eventually you will find a doctor who you admire and adore.


mh- New York Jewish Parenting Guide

The Picky Eater Solution

Kids cooking made easy – by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek


Excerpted from Kids Cooking Made Easy

Since my oldest child is only seven years old (he can still cook!), for me, writingKids Cooking Made Easy wasn’t only about teaching kids how to cook. It also helped me build my repertoire of dishes that my kids will actually eat: my picky eater solution.

So, this morning, before Mr. Pickiest-Eater-of-Them-All went to school, I asked him what he requested for dinner.

“Pizza Soup!”

He says he loves it better than candy. But only when I also make those cheese crisps on the side so he can dunk and dunk.

In Leah’s house, Honey Barbecue Chicken Nuggets has become the most requested dinner.

And so, tonight, while the soup is simmering on my stove and Leah’s nuggets are coming out of the oven, here’s two of our favorite recipes from Kids Cooking Made Easy to please the picky eaters in your house too.



4-6 servings

We love sauce and cheese, whether it’s on top of our pasta or our pizza. But when do we ever get an excuse to eat it on its own? If there’s picky eaters in your house who don’t like bits of onion, use an immersion blender to blend them into the soup.

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Using a wooden spoon, sauté until onion is soft, 5-7 minutes.

2. Add crushed tomatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add sugar, salt, basil, garlic powder, milk, and water and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

3. Add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Ladle soup into bowls to serve.

To make these cheesy pita chips, split a pita bread in half and cut it into halves or quarters. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, dried basil, and garlic powder. Bake at 425ºF for 7-8 minutes, or until crispy.


Honey Barbecue Chicken Nuggets

4-6 servings

Raise your hand if you like dunking chicken nuggets in ketchup. What if we updated ketchup and made an even better dipping sauce for you? I like to double the sauce because my family likes to dip and dip and dip. -L.

  • 1½ pounds chicken cutlets, cut into nuggets
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 1½-2 cups panko crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a small bowl, combine oil, honey, ketchup, mustard, and chili powder (optional). Use a spoon to stir the mixture until smooth. Pour half the sauce into a separate bowl to use as the dipping sauce; set aside.

3. Place panko crumbs into another bowl.

4. Dip chicken nuggets into the honey mixture and coat completely. Then, press into panko crumbs until chicken is fully coated on all sides.

5. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet. Spray the top of the nuggets with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. For extra-crispy nuggets, turn the chicken halfway through the cooking time, baking for 12-13 minutes per side.

6. Serve with dipping sauce.



Yield: 24 squares

I always knew I loved Rice Krispies Treats, but now I love them way more with ice cream in the middle. I’ll never make plain Rice Krispies Treats again. -V.

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) margarine or butter
  • 1 (16-ounce) container marshmallow fluff
  • 8 cups Rice Krispies®
  • 1 quart ice cream, slightly defrosted
  • ¾ cup sprinkles or chocolate chips

1. Melt margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add fluff and mix until margarine and fluff are completely combined. Stir in Rice Krispies, 1 cup at a time.

2. Divide the Rice Krispies treats between 2 9 x 13-inch baking pans and press into a thin layer.

3. Top one Rice Krispies layer with softened ice cream and sprinkles or chocolate chips. Freeze ice cream layer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until ice cream is firm.

4. Place second Rice Krispies layer over firm ice cream. Using a sharp knife, cut the treats into squares (this is easier to do when the top layer is not yet frozen). Return to freezer until ready to serve.

This is easier to do if you drop some all over the bottom of the pan rather than in one spot. You can also place a piece of wax paper over the Rice Krispies treats as you press down to help you flatten them evenly.

mh- New York Jewish Parenting

4 Ways to Build Resilience in Kids

How to instill confidence in children that they can handle life’s challenges and disappointments- BY Adina Soclof


Kids today seem to fall apart from the slightest adversity. They give up too quickly and are lacking a resilient mindset.

It might be us parents that are at fault. We are a generation that is used to our comforts and we want to make our kids just as comfortable. We don’t want them to experience pain or any type of difficulty. We try to micromanage their lives and make things go smoothly for them.

This is a big mistake. It makes kids feel anxious and powerless because we are sending them the message, “I don’t believe you can cope, so I will take care of everything for you.”

Instead we want to focus on building resilience in kids. We want them to know that they can handle their pain, disappointment and problems. They have the tools within themselves to bounce back from adversity.

Kenneth Ginsburg defines resilience in this way:

Resilience is the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances, allowing our children to exist in this less-than-perfect world, while moving forward with optimism and confidence.

Resilience is a very Jewish trait. As a people we have endured many horrific struggles throughout history. According to our Sages, our ability to survive and flourish is in Abraham’s merit. Abraham withstood 10 trials in his lifetime. He had resilience, that ability to accept, cope and bounce back from adversity. We have inherited this ability from Abraham.

Here are 4 ways we can make sure our kids are resilient.


1. It’s all in our minds

Dr. Albert Ellis, in his groundbreaking work on resilience explains that the ability to cope with adversity is all dependent on what we “think” when we are met with challenges. Resilient people react to stress with a “can do” attitude because they “think” of themselves as capable and competent. They will then “feel” good about their abilities to manage their problems and they will then view their difficulties as opportunities to learn and grow.

One way to promote resilience in kids is to make them aware of the relationship between “thinking” and “feeling.” So quite simply, if they “think” they are capable of solving their own problems then they will “feel” confident about their ability to cope with disappointment or even trauma. If they “think” that they are incapable then they will “feel” despair and will most probably give up.

As parents we can influence our kids thinking styles.

One simple way to do that is to role model a resilient thinking style by talking out loud about our own thought processes:

  • “I was really upset because our flight was cancelled. But I said to myself, in our family we try to find solutions to our problems. I called the airline and spent a lot of time on the phone, but I worked it out- we got another flight.”
  • “We are having all this last minute company and I keep on telling myself, ‘I can’t do this’, instead I need to say, ‘I can figure this out, I might need some help, like doing takeout or giving you guys some cooking jobs, but I can do this.’ It makes me feel so much better when I tell myself I can do it.”

When we see our children facing a challenge we can foster awareness of their thinking style by asking our kids: “What are you saying to yourself in your head? Are you saying, ‘I can’t do this?’ Do you think you are calm enough to say ‘I can do this’ or even ‘I can ask someone for help…and then I can do it…”

Teaching our kids that they have the ability to change their thinking from “can’t do” to “can do” will help them develop the necessary skills needed for a resilient mindset.


2. See the learning potential in your children’s problems

It is so hard to watch our kids struggle. Our initial reaction is to jump right in make them feel better and fix their problems. Unfortunately that is not what our kids need from us.  What they need is some empathy and encouragement in solving problems. This sends them the message: “You can do this. It feels tough but you can manage frustration and disappointment.” In other words, we help them develop a resilient mindset.

This is how it works. Your child says: “I can’t study for this test. It’s too hard. The teacher doesn’t teach us anything!” Don’t try to fix it: “You should complain to the teacher, maybe I will give her a call. You shouldn’t have to take the test if she didn’t teach you the information.”

Don’t try to make him feel better: “ Don’t worry it’s not such a big deal. It is not so bad, once you get started it will be real easy!”

Don’t try to save him: “I will help you. I will teach you everything you need to know.”

Instead you can try the following:

Empathize by just listening and reflecting their feelings: “You seem worried about this test tomorrow. You don’t feel like you have enough information to study for the test.”

Empathize and gently ask them their plans: “Sounds rough, do you have some ideas on what you could do?

Then sit back and continue to encourage them to come up with their own ideas on how they can solve this problem. You will have less fighting and more resilient thinking.

3. Help kids think positive

Resilient people tend to be happier and more positive. We can teach our kids to have a more positive attitude by letting them know that there are more positive ways to look at tough situations. There is a great Jewish expression that helps us to do that, “Gam zu l’tovah” – “This is also for the good.” This is a great phrase to bandy about when things don’t seem to be going our way.

  • “You really wanted to go the park today and now it is raining. Gam zu l’tovah. It does give us an opportunity to cuddle on the couch and read our new library books.”
  • “Our favorite ice cream store closed down! Oh no! Gam zu l’tovah, we can now try that new ice cream store that we wanted to try!”

(A quick disclaimer, we don’t want to use this phrase to dismiss our kid’s toughest and roughest feelings. When kids are down and out they might be really annoyed if you tell them, “this is also for the good.” You might want to wait until they have calmed down a bit. You can tentatively try them out by asking them, “Are you ready to come up with some ideas on how this can be positive?”)


4. Celebrate mistakes

Resilient people believe that mistakes can be viewed in a positive way; they are opportunities for growth and learning.

Children can be taught to think about mistakes in this way. We should not shame children when they make mistakes. Faber and Mazlish recount a story in their book, “How To Be The Parent You Always Wanted To Be” about a mother whose child left his cup at the edge of the table and it spilled. The child was very upset and the mother wanted to use this as an opportunity to help him understand the value of learning and making mistakes. So she said, “Sam, you learned something new! You just learned that when you leave a cup at the edge of the table it is likely that it will spill. Cups need to be set down more towards the middle of the table.”

We can all do this. It is helpful if we have some pat phrases and sayings that we can use to highlight this idea. For example:

  • “If we learn from mistakes, then they are not really mistakes.”
  • “Mistakes are a great way to learn new ways to do things.”
  • “We don’t get in trouble for mistakes in this house.”

Building resilient kids is essential to helping them grow to be healthy and resourceful adults. Teaching our kids to think, “I can do this,” seeing the learning potential in our kids problems, helping kids think positive and celebrating mistakes are all great ways to do just that.

mh- New York Jewish Parenting Guide

List of most popular given names: Top Israeli Baby Names

By Hannah Katsman



When Israelis are choosing names for their babies, they tend to focus on meaning as much as the sound of the name. And even though Israel has become more westernized, most parents continue to choose Hebrew names.

It’s true that most traditional biblical names like Rivka (Rebecca)  and Moshe (Moses) cannot be considered trendy except in the most religious circles. Yiddish and other ethnic names are out, as are the feminization of biblical names like Israela, Raphaela and Shimona or Simona–though Gavriella is one that is coming back.

The most popular Israeli baby names are short, rarely over two syllables, and they are often unisex.

There are differences among the various Jewish communities in Israel, with some names found only in secular communities and others only in religious ones. Secular Israelis don’t usually give middle names, while religious ones do. They might choose a modern name for the first name, and a more traditional one for the second name, after a relative.


Trends in Israeli baby  names include nature, weather words (boy—Sa’ar, storm), and Israeli place names (unisex—YardenJordan). Other popular themes are water (unisex—Agam, lake), light, music (unisex—Tzlil, note), animals, and angels like Uriel. A few biblical names have made a comeback or stayed in style, including Daniel (unisex), Noa (girl), Rachel (girl), and Assaf (boy).

Another trend is using foreign names that have a Hebrew lilt, such as LiamMay (pronounced my), Maya, and Yuli (Julie).  Ann, pronounced Ahn, is also appearing on popularity lists; this is because Israelis want names that will work in other countries. Bar, meaning wilderness, is a popular name, as in super-model Bar Raphaeli. Agam Rotenberg is another high-profile female model.


After someone famous dies, whether they be rabbis, sports heroes, politicians, terror victims, or generals, there is usually a rash of babies named after him or her.

As a rule, Israelis like slightly unusual names but avoid completely unique or made-up ones, not wanting other children to make fun of their child’s name.

To give you a taste for Israelibaby  names, I’ve chosen ten popular names in each gender, along with their meanings. For good measure, I threw in another ten unisex names.

Pronunciation: Unless noted, names are accented on the last syllable. “Ch” is pronounced with a guttural “h.” A is pronounced “ah” and I as a long “ee” sound. E’s are short as in bed. U’s are long as in boot.


  1. Alma, maiden.
  2. Hila, halo.
  3. Keshet, rainbow. Here the accent is on the first syllable.
  4. Keren, ray of light. Accent on first syllable.
  5. Moriahname of Jerusalem mountain. Popular in religious circles.
  6. Veredrose.
  7. ShirShira, song.
  8. Talya, a female lamb.
  9. Ya’el, ibex. Another biblical name that remains popular.
  10. Yahel, related to Hila, meaning it will light.


  1. Eitan, strong. The first syllable rhymes with hay.
  2. Hermon, a mountain in northern Israel.
  3. Matan, a gift.
  4. Narkis, narcissus.
  5. Peleg, brook. Accent on first syllable.
  6. Ra’anan, renewal or refreshing
  7. Sagi, lofty.
  8. Sela, rock. Accent on first syllable.
  9. Suf, reed.
  10.  Tzuk, cliff.



These are among the most trendy:

  1. Adi, ornament.
  2. Chen, grace (same root as the bibilical Hannah)
  3. Li, for me. This represents a trend toward choosing names that easily translate into English.
  4. Mor, myrrh
  5. Or/Ori, light/my light.
  6. Paz, golden, with Pazit for girls only. Many names are feminized or altered with an “it” ending including StavitSagitOritHilit.
  7. Shai, gift. Names ending with a long “I” sound are also in.
  8. Shaked, almond
  9. Stav, fall (modern Hebrew) or winter (biblical—Israel has no real fall season)
  10. Tom, innocence.


Mh- New York Jewish Parenting