Free, Downloadable Guide Books for the High Holidays feature recipes, activities, blessings & creative fun for kids from PJ Library


Why do we blow a shofar?  What should we do in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?  When do we sit in the sukkah?  The answers to these questions – and much, much more – can be found in “A Time to Grow: A PJ Library Family Guide to the Fall Holidays”, a beautiful, free resource to help Jewish families around North America celebrate the fall holidays in an engaging fashion.  PJ Library’s bigger refreshed guide for 2021 is available to download now at  The high holidays begin SEPT 6th.

Whether you’ll be at synagogue or celebrating at home, the beautifully illustrated “A Time to Grow” offers families myriad creative ways to connect with the High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Festival of Small Huts” and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah).  In 2021, the colorful newly-expanded guide offers such engaging activities as “Make Your Own Shofar,” “Round Challah-braiding,” the story of Jonah for kids, instructions for shaking the lulav during Sukkot, fill-in-the-blank discussion questions, step-by-step celebrations, including blessings all aimed at making the High Holidays meaningful, memorable and fun, this year and in the future.

Join a virtual PJ Library community of thousands of Jewish families celebrating the fall holidays by using the downloadable guide!  In addition, PJ Library also offers an interactive online companion filled with helpful how-to videos, music, and audio versions of blessing and prayers.

About PJ Library

A free program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library sends engaging storybooks that provide fun and easy ways for families to connect with Jewish life. PJ Library’s high-quality books have become everyday favorites of kids from birth through age 12, whether the stories serve as first introductions to Jewish values and culture or inspire families to create new Jewish traditions at home. To find out more, visit

New York Jewish Parenting Guide

Study shows tonsillectomy can solve childrens’ sleep apnea

‘The most important aspect of what we found is that the effects of the sleep apnea were totally reversible with tonsillectomy,’ said Prof. Asher Tal, who led the research.

The way to improve the sleep quality of children with sleep apnea – as well as helping to solve their behavior and academic problems – may be a tonsillectomy, according to new research at Israel’s Soroka Medical Center.

Removal of the tonsils and the adenoids improves the quality of sleep and as a result, better academic performance and overall cognitive ability in children who are suffering from what is known as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

“The most important aspect of what we found is that the effects of the sleep apnea were totally reversible with tonsillectomy,” said Prof. Asher Tal, who led the research along with Dr. Haim Reuveni of the Department of Health Policy Management and Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Ariel Tarasiuk, Head of the Sleep Laboratory.

The findings were published in two separate studies published in the December 2003 issue of the medical journal Chest and in the December 2003 issue of the medical journal Sleep.

Tal, of the Department of Pediatrics at Soroka Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, notes that 3 percent of all children suffer from breathing problems in their sleep, resulting from blockage of upper respiratory passages.

The syndrome is known as “obstructive sleep apnea” is mainly associated with overweight men in adulthood, but is far more common in children according to Tal. And the most overlooked factor in the cases of child sleep apnea is enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

The syndrome has implications for children in their daytime lives as well as at night. Many research studies have found that OSA can cause children to develop cognitive and behavioral problems, accompanied by problems with listening and concentration that lead to learning disorders. They also suffer from growth and other health problems.

“We knew from previous studies in the states that sleep apnea is probably related to ADHD and there was some preliminary evidence that it may impair cognitive function. An Israeli physician in Louisville Kentucky has proven that among first graders in the lower percentile of grades, 20 percent of them presented with sleep disorders,” Tal told ISRAEL21c. “But ours is the first research that addresses the issue directly.”

Earlier studies led by Tal found that children who suffer from sleep apnea are heavy users of the health system, are treated, hospitalized, and medicated more than their peers. In order to better understand the sleep patterns of children with OSA before and after the removal of tonsils and adenoids, Tal’s latest research was initiated at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Unit at Soroka.

Thirty-six children were examined in the sleep laboratory before tonsil and adenoid removal and then several months after their operations. General assessments of the children at the clinic, with questionnaires detailed about their sleep habits filled out by their parents, and devices in the sleep labs.

The results showed clearly that the removal of tonsils and adenoids greatly improves the quality of their sleep, most notably during the important REM phase.

An accompanying Soroka-Ben-Gurion University study, published in the December issue of the medical journal Sleep, looked at the behavioral problems, attention disorders, and learning disorders that can accompany OSA, due to the reduction of the provision of oxygen to the brain during sleep. In this study, 39 children suffering from OSA, ages 5 to 9, were examined before and after their tonsil and adenoid removals and compared to a control group of 20 healthy children.

Before their operations, it was clear that among the children when had sleep apnea greater level of behavior and lowered cognitive ability was found as compared to the control group. But just a few months after their operation, their cognitive function improved significantly and reached that of their peers.

The research indicated for the first time the fact that removal of tonsils and adenoids in children with sleep apnea can significantly improve their academic performance and achievement in school.

Currently, the level of awareness among doctors of the influence of OSA on academic performance is relatively low, and the BGU researchers believe that the results of this study will be an important contribution to doctors’ decisions as to whether to remove tonsils and adenoids in children.

The trend in pediatrics currently leans towards only performing tonsillectomies in cases when it is considered absolutely necessary, such as when a child snores loudly. This research, says Tal, is likely in time, to alter the balance in decision-making as awareness grows among doctors, parents, and teachers.

“It will take time for people to understand that sleep apnea is not benign,” said Tal, “and that when children have decreased oxygen supplement to the brain during sleep, and their sleep is fragmented, there are cognitive and behavioral implications. We are now having neurologists refer us to children for suspected ADHD, and found that 20-30 percent of them suffer from sleep apnea. It may turn out that for some children, correcting their sleep may correct their ADHD and they won’t need drugs like Ritalin. That’s important information.”

Tal’s research is ongoing, currently focusing on sleep issues in young children aged 2 to 5 years old.

Putting ultrasound in the hands of all doctors

UltraSight makes video game-like software that guides any healthcare practitioner in grabbing the best image of a patient’s heart.

Ultrasound machines are slimming down and going portable. Handheld wands connected to off-the-shelf iPads and other tablet devices are the future, which is good news for cash-strapped clinics and those in the developing world.

A traditional ultrasound machine from the likes of Siemens and GE can cost upwards of $300,000, while a handheld tablet-based device might run as low as $4,000.

One of the most important contributions ultrasound can make is diagnosing cardiac problems early when they can still be treated. Some 18 million people around the world die from cardiovascular-related causes; in the United States, the number is 800,000.

But conducting a cardiac ultrasound requires skilled technicians, of whom there is a general shortage.

For Davidi Vortman, the answer was obvious: Computers and artificial intelligence could make cardiac ultrasound scanning as easy as operating a video game.

Vortman is the CEO of UltraSight, which changed its name recently from OnSight Medical to emphasize its singular focus on ultrasound technology.

UltraSight makes the software that guides operators in grabbing the best image of a patient’s heart. Vortman says it cuts the training time down from two years to just a single day.

Line up the crosses

Over Zoom, Vortman demonstrated for ISRAEL21c how UltraSight works. On-screen is a blue cross and a gray cross. The latter represents the heart. The operator simply guides the blue cross until it is over the gray cross. When the blue cross turns green, the ultrasound device is ready to snap a picture.

“Simplifying the cardiac image acquisition process makes this scalable,” Vortman tells ISRAEL21c. “You don’t have to be a cardiologist or a sonographer. The operator can be a nurse or a paramedic.”

Vortman notes that some 20 percent of cardiac ultrasound images “are of suboptimal quality, meaning they cannot be used for decision making. If we can improve that, it will represent a major change in the industry.”

The interpretation of that image is a separate process; UltraSight’s software makes it easy to share the picture with an off-site expert.

“A cardiologist thousands of kilometers away can look at the image and say, yeah, we need to get this patient on a chopper to the hospital right away. Or the patient can be seen without urgency,” Vortman says.

“Triage of patients becomes more accurate and, as a result, treatment improves. It’s true for both emergency situations and chronic disease management.”

Geometric deep learning

UltraSight can be used with any platform, Vortman says. “We are starting to work with most of the major device manufacturers. We’ll release for each serially, one by one.”

UltraSight’s artificial intelligence is based on a mathematical specialty called “geometric deep learning.” The AI can analyze a 3D image of the heart in real-time and determine where the probe should be positioned. The more hearts scanned, the smarter the AI gets in guiding the hand to get the best picture.

Despite the clear need in the developing world, UltraSight is targeting the United States and Europe first.

“There’s such a big potential getting ultrasound in the hands of physicians at the point of care,” Vortman says.

“Right now, it’s limited mostly to echocardiography labs. If we can put this in the hands of every doctor, every ER, and ICU, and eventually primary care physicians in the community, it will be a great addition to the stethoscope.”

The idea originated from Dr. Achi Ludomirsky, professor of pediatric cardiology at NYU School of Medicine, who serves as UltraSight’s chief medical officer. The Israeli-born and educated Ludomirsky (he received his medical degree from Tel Aviv University) was distraught after treating several young people who died on the football field after having a sudden heart attack.

“This is something that can be easily detected with a cardiac ultrasound,” Vortman says. “If we had a way to scan people anywhere, we could have detected these heart problems at an earlier stage.”

Ludomirsky approached his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and a fruitful collaboration ensued.

UltraSight’s biggest competitor in improving ultrasound imaging is US-based Caption Health, which is focused more on larger machines than on smaller, emerging handheld devices.

“It’s always good to have competition,” Vortman says. “It validates the concept.” But in contrast to Caption Health, Vortman notes, “Our mission is to make cardiac ultrasound accessible across the industry.”

Put the power near the user

Vortman is a long-time entrepreneur and tech executive who most recently was involved in bringing solar energy to Africa. There is a certain similarity to his previous and current missions.

“We want to put the power near the user, to make it distributed and easy to use with no central dependency,” Vortman says.

“Here we’re giving the power to the people closest to the patient. We don’t ask them to come to the hospital. It’s the same principle we brought to the solar space.”

UltraSight is now starting clinical trials in the United States and Israel with the goal of completing trials by the end of 2021 and then seeking regulatory approval.

Meanwhile, the company will be conducting a study in outer space as part of the Israel Space Agency’s upcoming Rakia mission.

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe will operate a handheld ultrasound device connected to a tablet and will acquire cardiac ultrasound images in real-time throughout his mission. The research is intended to monitor changes in heart anatomy in space since long durations in space have a negative impact on the cardiovascular system. The interpretation of the images will be done back on Earth.

UltraSight has raised $16 million from investors including Seoul, Korea-based Yozma Group; the Weizmann Institute; Atain Insurance Group; and private US physicians. The company employs 12 in its offices near the Weizmann Institute.

About the Author:

Brian has been a journalist and high-tech entrepreneur for over 20 years. He combines this expertise for ISRAEL21c as he writes about hot new local startups, pharmaceutical advances, scientific discoveries, culture, the arts, and daily life in Israel. He loves hiking the country with his family (and blogging about it). Originally from California, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.

Social Distancing Has Its Pros and Cons for Children

There are concerns about how some families with young children have begun to abandon social distancing guidelines. Pediatricians see benefits and costs.

Even though some parents have relaxed their concerns about the coronavirus and some families with young children have begun to abandon social distancing guidelines and venture out more often, Dr. Sarah Gard Lazarus, a pediatric emergency room physician, has stood her ground.

Lazarus, one of the AJT’s “40 Under 40” last year, still recommends that parents keep their children home.

But following social distancing guidelines, as critical as they are, maybe creating other health issues. On Wed., May 20, the same academy of pediatricians that originally issued the distancing recommendations launched a nationwide campaign to get more children out of their home and into their doctor’s offices for their shots.

The president of the American Academy of Pediatricians, Dr. Sara Goza, who practices in Fayetteville, Ga., argues that while it’s important to practice safe distancing, it’s also important to make sure children are up to date on their scheduled vaccinations.

Dr. Sarah Gard Lazarus is a pediatric emergency room doctor who was one of the AJT’s 40 Under 40 nominees for 2019.

“As states begin to open up and families move about in their community, we are afraid that we could see outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other diseases that can spread very rapidly and be deadly for children.”

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study that showed that doctors in the Vaccines for Children program had ordered 2.5 million fewer doses of vaccines between mid-March and mid-April than during the same period last year

Doctors who specialize in the treatment of children point out that they should receive vaccinations early. In the first 15 months of life, children may receive up to 25 shots, including five new vaccines that have been introduced since 1995.

Still, the pediatric physician’s group, advises on its website that keeping children away from each other and keeping them away from adults is what is most important today. Children are still at risk, the doctors said, even though for some reason they have had a much lower incidence of the viral infection than adults, and therefore may be less contagious.

“Staying home and physical distancing is still the best way to protect your family from COVID-19,” Dr. Corian Cross of the Academy wrote on the AAP website,

“Especially for younger children who may not understand why they can’t run up toward other people or touch things they shouldn’t, it’s best to keep them home.”

It is advice Dr. Lazarus endorses in her own home for her 6-year-old twin boys.

“I am following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, which is to try to limit engagement, and that any child that’s over age 2 and not at least 6 feet apart, is wearing a mask.”

But she admits that it is difficult and she worries that the virus is not only taking a toll on preventative physical health care but on the psychological health of children who have spent weeks at home, away from school and social activities.

“I’ve seen a big increase in depression and behavioral concerns among children in the emergency room. In general, it does seem like we are proportionately seeing a higher number of kids with behavioral health problems, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, drug use, all being part of that.”

Lazarus is also troubled by the psychological effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on her. Even during ordinary times, female physicians face much higher rates of depression than the general population, according to Medical Economics magazine.

When she comes home from the hospital, her children are old enough to know that they must keep their distance. They know that she could be contaminated, she said. Lazarus also acknowledges that it is hard for grandparents and other relatives are not able to readily hug children as they would ordinarily.

“So technically there should be social distancing. With our family it’s a risk-benefit analysis. My mother, on her birthday, really wanted to hug both my children and me. And that was a risk she was willing to take that I was nervous about. We don’t know what that means. We don’t know what a lot of this means. So it’s all a risk-benefit analysis.”

Every day, she points out, adults confront their fears and make a choice. It’s also something she must recognize while she is treating children in the hospital.

“I always considered myself a very warm doctor. I like to give hugs and to pick up babies and snuggle them. And that’s always been something that’s both rewarding to me and that the patient seemed to be responsive to. But now I can’t do what I would typically do to give parents or children the comfort that they usually get. For me, it has been very challenging.”

Teaching Children Respect

A mother called to tell me that while on vacation her husband slipped and ended up in the emergency room. Her teen kept texting – not to inquire about her father but to say that she’s bored and wants to leave the hotel room.

“Can you believe her?” she asked.

When I asked her if she confronted her daughter’s behavior, the mother sheepishly replied she didn’t.

Living in a selfie generation, parents and educators struggle with teaching children to think of others. Along with being self-absorbed comes a lack of respect.

We are responsible with teaching our children how to act respectfully. We can’t expect them to automatically correct their wrong behavior. Some parents are afraid of their children’s reactions so they say nothing. They would rather be their child’s BFF than a figure of authority. Others ignore the rudeness and misbehavior until they angrily explode and lose control. Both situations breed disrespect.

Creating a relationship built on respect with our children is forged by infusing our homes with an atmosphere of ‘kavod’, the Hebrew word for honor. More than simply teaching good manners, we are talking about transmitting dignity, values and character. It describes a respect and reverence that is felt for your parents and those who came before you.

Here are some practical ways we can bring a spirit of respect into our homes every day.

1. Create an atmosphere of peace in the home

Children seeing their parents speaking and acting respectfully towards one another is the most important way to inculcate respect. Husbands and wives who despite differences of opinion maintain their dignity, speak in calm tones and use words and body language that do not threaten, do more to teach your children the value of respect than any lecture.

Children who witness put downs, mocking comments and eye rolls and lack of consideration for each other’s thoughts and opinions learn to disrespect.

Seek out ways to convey that you hold your spouse in high regard. Show your children acts of kindness that you are happy to do because you love one another. Be positive about your spouse. Express appreciation in front of your children. Tell your kids how special their mom and dad are.

When disciplining, be on the same page. Children who see alignment are more likely to respect their parent’s decisions. In unity there is strength.

2. Teach respect for others

Expect your children to respect others. And if you see a deficiency, act upon it.

Here are some daily examples that your children can do to treat others with dignity:

  • Look at people instead of your smartphone when speaking to others
  • When grandparents come to visit stand up and greet them; don’t wait for them to find you and then grunt your ‘hello’
  • Smile. There is a famous teaching in Judaism: “Encounter all individuals with a pleasant face.” Your smile or lack of it has an impact on others.
  • Don’t interrupt others while they are speaking-even if it is your younger brother and you feel that what you have to say is more important.
  • Listen and be open to other’s ideas and opinions. . You are not always right and you do not know it all. Even if you do not agree you can still listen respectfully.
  • Parents, be respectful when you discipline. Embarrassing your child will push your child away. Behind most angry children lies pain. Of course parents must discipline but be sure that in the process you do not make your child feel like a zero. Be clear and consistent. Follow through. Don’t ruin the teaching moment through shaming and public disgrace.

3. Teach respect for the world around you

It is a mitzvah in the Torah to respect the incredible world that we’ve been given and not destroy it needlessly.

Teach children to take care of their things. Throwing away filled plates of food because too much was taken, carelessly losing headbands and baseball caps, leaving clothing all over the house are small examples of kids forgetting that everything we have should be valued and cared for.

The Torah also teaches us not to hurt animals and to take care of the environment.

When children value “things” they come to a place of gratitude. Those who take “things” for granted eventually take the people in their lives for granted.

4. Teach Respect for Heaven

Too many children today feel apathetic and disconnected to spirituality. A relationship with God provides our children with an inner strength that cannot be drawn upon elsewhere. Challenges come, unexpected disappointments arrive. We cannot shield our children but we can give them tools to thrive. Spirituality empowers the next generation with an understanding that there is a Higher Being who watches over us. We are not alone. There is a Divine Plan.

How can we communicate this to our kids?

  • Try to have a daily prayer routine. Even if it is just a few moments of spiritual connection, children absorb our actions. While praying don’t engage in conversation.
  • Maintain proper respect for holy books such as prayer books not lying on a floor or being treated casually and piled under other books.
  • Children should see dignified behavior while celebrating traditions. Ask: what is the attitude shown toward keeping holidays? What is the conversation at my Shabbat table, my Seder table?
  • Beautify the mitzvot you keep. Show that you are happy to welcome Shabbos, invite guests, make a blessing or sit at your Seder table. Engage your child and show him the beautiful menorah, Kiddush cup or Shabbos candlesticks you are using. Don’t put your mitzvot at the bottom of your to-do list.

Honoring parents through thoughts, words and deeds are the basics of imparting respect. In addition, we have countless opportunities each day to mold our children’s character and help them discover the dignity that lies within their souls.

About the Author:

Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and parenting lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and daughter of Rebbetzen Esther Jungreis. Slovie is the author of the parenting handbook, Raising A Child With Soul. She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S.,Canada, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa.

4 Lessons for Parents and Teachers on Distance Learning

The reality of distance learning has brought with it many challenges, discoveries and new experiences for parents and teachers alike. It occurs to me that there are four main ingredients to make distance learning successful, which we can then hope to apply back in our lives and classrooms once life goes back to some semblance of normal.

1. Choice: As soon as the schools closed, the floodgates opened with resources, videos, links you grab too much, you grab nothing’ and tutorials pouring in. For parents and teachers, it was an incredible opportunity to embrace the situation and offer students quality educational content. But it soon became apparent that tofasta meruba lo tafasta—“if you grab too much, you grab nothing.” We would need to choose.

Technology is defined as the skills, methods, and processes used to achieve goals. Its strict definition says nothing about media, devices, gimmicks, or moving screens. All of these things are useful inasmuch as they can help our children reach their goals. To this end:

  • Parents: Select a menu of acceptable content for your children and let them choose. On a Sunday or school day when chores are done, you might say, we have time for three videos at x o’clock. The content should be meaningful and inspiring, and curating it sends the message that you are sharing it with your children because of its value, not simply to take up time.
  • Teachers: Access to so many resources can help make your job easier and your class more engaging, and we hope that you continue to use them back in your classroom as well. As tools in your hands, however, it is up to you to choose resources based on their a) efficacy in attaining your goals; b) age-appropriateness; and c) quality and value. Also, grant choice to your students on what to access and how to complete assignments, whether as a written presentation or a PowerPoint one, as artwork or video. A student succeeds bemokom shelibo chafetz, “in the place of their heart’s choosing” (Avoda Zara 19a), i.e., when their learning involves a choice of their own.

2. Self-regulation. A whole slew of “soft skills” are vital in the physical classroom and much more so in life, which are highlighted by distance learning. In the current situation, no walls hold a student in his or her classroom, and frustration tolerance is in high demand. We can see this as an opportunity to build our children as people.

  • Parents: When “homeschooling” began, I told my children that the two most important things for us to be successful during this time are to be organized and to be flexible. I chose these because these are two sides of the self-regulation coin that I knew our family would need to work on. We cut out dollars and distributed them when my children were organized (did homework without bidding, folded their own laundry or davened first thing in the morning) and flexible (did not meltdown when the Internet crashed mid-lesson, calmly informed me of a missing worksheet that I forgot to print or dealt gracefully with a change in schedule). When the dollars accumulated, we assigned an exchange rate to keep things affordable and went to Amazon to choose well-earned prizes (learning a bit of financial management along the way, I hope).
  • Teachers: Recognize how challenging this time period is for your students! Encourage, acknowledge, praise and reward not only academic excellence and acuity but soft skills such as coming on time, remaining on task, and self-sufficiency in their work. Articulate the things that will help your students succeed at this time, such as having a set place for all of their books and schoolwork, how to handle an interruption from a sibling, and the need to pause regularly for movement and healthy snacks. Hopefully, these new skills will carry over into the physical classroom as well.

3. Engagement. Technology can breed passivity; steer clear of that. Technology is at its best when it encourages active involvement and learning, and good old-fashioned engagement tools from pre-corona days are often effective in an online setting as well. Accountability is another form of engagement, as it ensures that students take responsibility for their role in learning.

  • Parents: When a child says a d’var Torah at a Shabbat table, ask questions. When kids are viewing an educational video, let them know you would love to hear about their favorite parts at the end. When going on a nature walk, have them count the puddles they can splash in on a rainy day or the newly budding trees they spot on a sunny one. When baking together, children can count the eggs or convert measurements. Engagement and accountability turn any experience into learning.
  • Teachers: Now more than ever, students need you to appreciate the model of “guide on the side” versus “sage on the stage.” As hard as it is to sit through a lecture in a physical classroom, doing so online is exponentially harder. Involve students through questioning and active learning. Check for understanding often through every means at your disposal. Hold students accountable, but only inasmuch as you involved them in the learning throughout.

4. Relationship. Relationship and connection is the foundation for all learning, especially Connection is the foundation for all learning about life, which is what ultimately our kids are looking to us for at this time. Studies show that students learn better in a positive emotional climate—that the emotional context is what ingrains certain experiences in our memories.

  • Parents: No homeschooling, schedules, learning goals, or anything else should get in the way of our relationship with our children. Make time every day during this challenging time to laugh with your children, be silly, tickle, sing, go outdoors together, snuggle, and listen. If nothing else, just flash your kids a heartfelt smile whenever you can remember to. In our family, we each share the favorite part of our day at dinner time. This way, even if we were all cooped up indoors and even if there were too many meltdowns to count, everyone ends the day remembering the one activity or moment that made this day special and brought us closer together.
  • Teachers: The kids need you now to be more than a conveyor of information. Start every day by greeting each student. Ask how they are faring in the current crisis. Ask about their life outside school. Compliment freely on mic, chat or a phone call. Ask them to bring pieces of their life into school in the form of show-and-tell, sibling day, or parent-child events. Your smile needs to travel much further through that webcame than it ever needed to before, so pack it with as much love and warmth as you can muster to send it on its way.

We hope that those of us who have moved online from traditional schooling can move back as soon as possible, rendering the new distance learning no longer necessary, except for those who choose it. However, all four ingredients of distance learning are powerful drivers for brick-and-mortar learning as well. And all four of them bring one message home: Parents, teachers, the most decisive factor in any kind of learning—in school, at home or online—is you.

You hold the power to choose educational experiences, to nurture independence, to bring learning to life and life into learning, and to care. No technology, resource, homeschool schedule, or anything else can replace or diminish the decisive role that you play.

Respecting your Child’s Uniqueness

Appreciating your children’s uniqueness is essential to their overall self-esteem.

How do we respect each child as a unique individual?

Our patriarch and matriarch Isaac and Rebecca had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob became the progenitor of the 12 tribes who became the nation of Israel. Esau sold his birthright and pursued a life of physical gratification. At some point, Isaac and Rebecca must have looked at each other and said, “Where did we go wrong?”

One of the well-known commentators of the Torah (Sifsai Chachamim, Genesis 25:27-28) explains that until they reached bar mitzvah age, Jacob and Esau seemed relatively similar and Esau’s pranks were attributed to childishness. After that age, essential differences became apparent, with Esau turning to idols and Jacob to the study hall. Esau became a hunter and was particularly good at trapping his father by asking questions that would make him appear to be pious.

Rebecca saw who Esau really was, while his father appears to have been deceived. This is clear because Rebecca had to disguise Jacob as Esau when the time came for Isaac to bestow the blessing that would define the future of the Jewish people. Isaac seems to have had a major block when it came to understanding who Esau really was.

As parents, we do not always see who our children really are. Sometimes we are blinded by our love for them. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking our children are who they are not. Also, our own expectations for our children can prevent us from perceiving their true essence. Whatever the reason, if we do not seek to understand our children as unique individuals, we risk raising children who will not feel good about themselves, an outlook that could jeopardize their overall success in life.


Each child is unique. One of the most important ways we build self-esteem is by appreciating the uniqueness of the child and by expressing this appreciation.

We cannot have any preconceived ideas about who our children will be, what they will be interested in, their level of academic performance, or their professional future. How many parents have hurt their children by being disappointed by their lack of athletic prowess, academic achievement, or social graces?

Be open to exploring the unique personality of your children and to working with them on their terms — not yours.

King Solomon says in Proverbs, “Educate the child according to his own way.”

Therefore we must know what “his own way” means. Who is that child? If we know who our child is, we will be better able to speak to him, discipline him, encourage him, and guide him towards appropriate activities and professions.

If the child sees that we are making an effort to appreciate who she really is, she will feel valued. This is no easy task. There is such a wide range of personality types and it is important to realize that there are no good or bad personality types. The world needs them all. Being aware of your child’s personality type will help you understand what kind of language he responds to best and what’s important to him.

For example, I always used to think it was good to be extrovert and bad to be an introvert. Well, it turns out that I married an introvert and our eldest daughter has a lot of introverted tendencies.

As I learned more about introverts I realized that introverts are not antisocial or inferior people. They are just different than extroverts. They get de-energized in a crowd, for example. They need time alone to recharge their batteries after being at a party. They don’t like staying at parties too long (I always want to stay longer and my husband wants to go home).

As a consequence of these new insights, I understand why my daughter doesn’t always want to be in groups or go to summer camp after a long year at school (I was a big camper and was sure my kids would love camp too!) I understand how she needs her own space and I don’t insist that she sit with the family when she needs to be alone in her room.

Did you ever have the experience of your young child begging you for months to take her to a wedding or other crowded affair and then 15 minutes after you get there she wants to go home already? You can either be totally exasperated with her and berate her or understand that she may be very overwhelmed by the crowd (something she did not anticipate).

Another example is the personality who is a high energy, spontaneous, needs a lot of sensory stimulation, likes excitement, and dislikes a lot of rules and regulations. This type of child is all over the place, can drive his mother crazy, and is often a teacher’s nightmare. You cannot automatically assume that this child has some sort of problem. Such children need teachers who will allow them to fiddle with things in class, do a lot of “hands-on” learning and field trips, and not overload them with too many rules.


There are many personality types and parents are not given a choice when it comes to their children. We are each given the children we have for a reason. If you have a child that is difficult, or a different personality type than yourself (which is more common than not) try saying to yourself:

  • This child was specifically chosen for me.
  • I need this child for my growth.
  • I need this child to learn how to appreciate his uniqueness.
  • I need this child to learn how to get rid of my own ego and to learn how to really be a giver.

If a child feels, “my parents are really trying to understand me and appreciate me. They are trying to work with me in a way that is consistent with my essence,” she will have fuel for self-esteem. She will feel valued for who she is.

The worst scenario is when a child denies his true self in order to live up to what he feels the parents want from him. A child will do this because gaining his parents’ love and approval is so vital to him. The tragic result, however, is the child not feeling valued for his true self.

Trust in Parenting

This morning I had an unexpected conversation with my youngest child’s physical therapist. The therapist told me that my son has had such disappointing progress during this school year, that he is recommending he be transferred from his inclusive program to an intensive therapeutic program for the coming year.

The program he recommended is one I had previously dismissed as unsuitable for my child for a number of reasons. Children who participate in this program have limitations that my son doesn’t have and this doesn’t seem appropriate for his needs. And yet, for now this seems to be the only option.

Right away frustration and worry started swirling around my mind: lots of paperwork will need to be filed, evaluations will have to be conducted, who do I need to speak to, when can I visit this recommended institution, and how is my son going to be successful in such a dramatically different framework?

I’m no stranger to emotionally gnashing my teeth over situations like these. Over my years as a parent, I’ve often had concerns arose over some issue or another involving one of my children. With time, I’ve recognized that I have two choices: to get caught up in anxiety and worry, or to press the mental ‘pause’ button, and replace the anxiety with a feeling of trust that everything is going to work out for the highest good for all involved.

Rather than mentally churn about the pressure, the time constraints, the paperwork and most of all, my deep disappointment at how poorly served my son has been in his current framework, I had to take a deep breath and take a long-term view of this issue. Is this going to limit my son’s future forever? No. Is this going to define him as a human being? No. Is this going to prevent him from getting the help he needs? No.

As the fears flowed out, they were replaced with a sense of confidence and trust in the long-term outcome. I started feeling optimistic that new opportunities and support would manifest from what had seemed depressing and constraining just a short time before. I don’t know how the specifics will play out, but I can now look at the decision in front of me with trust rather than anxiety.

The well-known adage “Seeing is believing” isn’t really true. If you can see something in front of you, you don’t need to exercise any belief.

Believing is what you do when you can’t see something in front of you, when something doesn’t yet exist, when the facts in front of you indicate one conclusion and you have to imagine a different outcome.

The Jewish perspective toward parenting is better expressed by “Believe it and then you’ll see it.”

How do you develop trust and what is it you’re meant to believe?

Trust can seem vague and murky, slippery and hard to hold onto. For me, trust rests on three basic core concepts: 1) everything that happens comes from God; 2) everything that happens is for my benefit; 3) God loves me more than I can imagine and wants me to experience good.

As parents, it’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day behaviors. My son is depressed, my daughter is disrespectful, he is hanging out with friends that I don’t like, she isn’t acting as she should. When you see the behaviors, it feels intense and you want to do whatever you can to change the situation fast.

But before you rush to do something, pause.

Don’t rush to act. Slow down and take a deep breath. Whatever the specifics of the parenting dilemma you’re facing right now, those problems and the actions you take to mediate the issue are just a small part of the solution.

The bigger part of the solution is how to respond to what you don’t see. This is where trust comes in, and this is the hardest part of parenting.

When you take action, you feel like you’re doing something. You’re making changes, you’re showing you care. And yet there’s an important, critical step that has to take place before all of that problem solving.


When you can look beyond the current situation or difficulty with your children and know with absolute confidence that o-d is there to help you and your child is going to be fine, it changes the way you react in the moment.

It changes the attitude you have toward your child. It changes the actions you take, and the emotions you feel when you take those actions.

It shifts you from a place of fear to serenity and inner calm.

And perhaps most importantly, your belief in the positive resolution of your challenge actively and powerfully impacts the outcome. Your trust is not only a thought, but actively brings God into the picture and activates His assistance on your behalf. Trust is an action in its own right.

Years ago one of my children was struggling with an issue. A big one. There was plenty to be worried about and the long-term image that kept coming to mind was very disturbing. I just couldn’t picture her overcoming this challenge, and that concerned me more than anything. I knew that if I couldn’t visualize this situation being successfully surmounted, I was losing the most powerful tool in my arsenal, my unspoken belief.

During that time, I repeatedly filled my mind with positive feelings about my daughter’s future and every time the fear and negativity started to creep in, I would refocus on my those hopeful thoughts. The more I did this, the more I began to feel confident she could and would rise beyond this challenging period in her life.

Years later, I asked my daughter how did she not only get out of a place of darkness that many get stuck in, but came out growing and glowing?

Her answer brought me to tears: “It was because I always knew you and Daddy believed in me.”

That’s the power of belief. That’s the power of trusting in your child’s positive future possibilities, rather than getting stuck in the current temporary mess.

As a parenting consultant, parents often ask me what to do with a child who is struggling. My first message, prior to taking any specifics action steps, is to imagine him successfully on the other side of the current issue. The existing problem seems so big, and it’s so hard to imagine getting past it. That’s the challenge. But the potential reality lies in your imagination of what can be.

Know that for every single challenge you and your child are facing, there is a hopeful outcome waiting on the other side. Trust that this challenge has been custom designed for you by God, and that He wants you to experience joy and happiness as it is settled. You don’t have to see how the challenge is going to be work out, but you do have to believe that it can and will conclude positively.

Once you have the clarity and confidence that a desirable outcome is likely, then the actions you take to support your child will be productive and beneficial.

Top 10 Parenting Mistakes


Parenting is a doozy of an emotional workout, chock-full of highs and lows, joys and despairs. Children give you the chance to keep evolving and developing as an individual. Growing with your kids won’t just make you a better parent – it will make you a better human being.

So let’s count down parenting mistakes that every parent is bound to make:

10. Micromanaging

Micromanagers are dedicated and hardworking people; they love their kids and want them to succeed. The problem is that they do too much for them. As a result, their kids remain dependent on their parents and have great difficulty standing on their own; they have trouble self-governing, they lack drive and motivation, and, despite their intelligence, they’re emotionally immature. Instead of micromanaging, give your kid the tools to be self-reliant and independent. The more your kids can succeed without you lording over them, the more drive they’ll have to succeed on their own.

9. Enabling

A parent’s actions are usually well-intended, but enabling is one of the most disastrous parenting tendencies. When parents pander to their kids’ every need, their kids fair poorly in relationships; they expect everyone else to cater to them. They shrink from challenges and avoid hard work, yet maintain a sense of entitlement. Emotionally, they suffer from a bizarre mix of low self-esteem and arrogance. To sidestep the trap of enabling, strive to engender personal responsibility in your kids; encourage them to achieve on their own. Stop enabling – and star empowering.

8. Bad Modeling

A parent’s first and foremost job is to be a good role model. Yet, there are many parents whose misbehaviors serve as poor examples for their children. Parents who erupt in rages, blame others, tell untruths, or play the victim are subconsciously training their kids to do the same. Blaming your kids for the behaviors and bad habits you taught them is like blaming the mirror for your reflection. Behave the way you want your kids to behave. Be the person you want your kid to be. Above all, before you fault your kids for their conduct, consider amending your own.

7. Bullying

Bullying parents tend to be control freaks. Rather than understand their kids, they overwhelm them with orders, directives, threats of violence, or actual violence. They aim to shape and define their kids by intimidating them, rather than letting their kids unearth their own individuality. Sadly, children of bullying parents suffer low self-esteem and anxiety problems; they have difficulty trusting others. Bullying parents may get their way, but their kids suffer mightily for it.

6. Inconsistency

Inconsistent parenting drives kids nuts. Parents who change their minds often, don’t take a stand, and have difficulty making decisions or providing strong leadership are very likely to produce emotionally volatile children. These children emerge with unstable cores and weak identities. They have trouble defining themselves, and often develop oppositional and defiant behaviors to camouflage their insecurities. Providing a stable and consistent home may not always be possible, but providing stable and consistent parenting is always within reach.

5. Criticism and Comparison

No one enjoys criticisms or comparisons. Yet many parents compulsively criticize and compare their children daily: “Why can’t you be more like _____?” or “Why are you so _____?” This is a surefire way to impair your kids’ esteem and damage their fragile egos. Children who are criticized grow up to think of themselves as outsiders and underachievers. They don’t celebrate their strengths, because they were never taught to do so, a direct result of having internalized their parents’ negative voices. It only takes a thoughtless moment to hurt your kids with criticism or comparisons – but it can take a lifetime for them to recover.

4. Poor Structure, Limits, and Boundaries

Providing balanced structure, limits and boundaries is essential to good parenting. What exactly are structure, limits and boundaries? Here’s the breakdown: Structure means consistent schedules and routines; limits means curbing destructive or risky behaviors by engendering good judgment; and boundaries mean honoring and respecting the physical and emotional space between people. Some parents are too strict with limits; some don’t provide enough structure or boundaries. Strive to find the right balance for your children, and they will be better prepared for relationships, jobs, and the world outside your door.

3. Neglect

Parents don’t set out to neglect their kids, but many do. Adults get absorbed in their work, delegate parenting responsibilities to eldest children or grandparents, miss important events in their kids’ lives, or worst of all, they become terrible listeners – all forms of emotional neglect that undermine a child’s healthy sense of self. Emotionally neglected kids always suffer mood and behavioral problems. The simple act of listening to your kid has a healing effect that remedies many parenting dilemmas. Children who feel understood by their parents don’t act out for attention and are less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Spend quality time listening, understanding and identifying with your kids. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it will save you a fortune in therapy bills in the future.

2. Disregarding Learning Problems

Many academic and behavioral problems are the direct result of undiagnosed learning difficulties. Impatient parents, who are too quick to label kids lazy, unmotivated and apathetic about school often fail to consider what might really be triggering their kids’ attitudes toward learning. Even exceptionally smart kids suffer from difficulties with processing speed, executive functioning, and sensory and memory deficiencies. These under-the-radar complications often don’t emerge until middle school or high school. Such difficulties make learning a painful and exhausting experience. So save your money; psychotherapy isn’t going to help solve these problems in the least. If your kid has even the slightest difficulty with learning, an educational evaluation is the first step to finding a solution.

1. Invalidating Feelings

When your children reveal their feelings and insecurities to you, don’t contradict them, correct them, offer unsolicited advice, or use it as an opportunity to lecture about your experiences. Remember, they are taking a risk in doing so; therefore; you sensitivity is imperative. Kids want to feel understood; they want to feel validated by their parents. Many symptoms of hyperactivity, defiance, and mood problems are generated in children of parents who invalidate their feelings.

Parenting is a full-time job without training or supervision. Everyone is certain to make mistakes, especially during those chaotic first years. But no need to fret; parenting is an evolutionary process. You grow into it day by day, year after year. Strive to learn from your mistakes and improve; your parental journey will be far less hindered by self-doubt and worries, and far more joyful for you and your kids.

by Sean Grover, LCSW

New children’s book launches with Israeli mission to moon

SpaceIL wants to inspire kids to dream big and learn about space exploration with this tale based on its upcoming lunar mission.

Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL is launching Israel’s first unmanned aircraft to the moon in early 2019, and is using the occasion to inspire children on Planet Earth.

The Little Spacecraft tells the story of Berrie, a toy spacecraft based on SpaceIL’s real spacecraft, Beresheet (Genesis).

Berrie dreams of going to the moon, but the other toys believe she is too small for such a big dream. Berrie explains to her friends how each of her special tools is designed to help her accomplish her mission.


The story is of course analogous to SpaceIL’s mission of achieving an Israeli lunar landing, an endeavor historically carried out only by the world’s superpowers. Should SpaceIL’s mission prove successful, Israel will join the big league of space exploration.

Set to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida in the first quarter of 2019, Beresheet should reach the moon at the end of a two-month journey.

SpaceIL was established in 2011 by three young engineers who decided to take part in the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon. Although the competition was aborted in March 2018, SpaceIL decided to see through its mission anyway.

One of the organization’s goals is to inspire the next generation to become interested in aerospace engineering and space exploration.

To this end, SpaceIL teamed up with Israeli multimedia company StellarNova, which produces toys, books, videos and science experiments to encourage children to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


SpaceIL’s VP Education Sari Brosh Rechav said The Little Spacecraft aims to inspire children to think differently about the STEM subjects and to nurture their dreams.

Written by StellarNova cofounder “Dr. Mom,” The Little Spacecraft is available in all major online bookstores including Amazon. Other resources for children are available here.

About the Author:

Naama Barak is a writer at ISRAEL21c. A PhD student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she loves all things history and politics. Food and fashion come a close second. Prior to joining ISRAEL21c, Naama worked for Israel’s leading English-language dailies and cutting-edge startups.