Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Blog Ideas: Got a good one let me know!

No one said blogging would be easy; I try to post at least once a week and then cross post in my Lakeside email blast, Machberet.  At this time every week I start asking "what should I write about?" Depending on the time of day I ask different circles of friends, co-workers and family.  My co-workers are very patient with me and give me all types of suggestions.  My family (read children) sometimes tell me that they should not be asked to do MY work.  Inevitably I do get suggestions for what to write.  I then cull out what I thinks fits best for the week and start to write.  Some weeks topics are easy especially seasonal, current events or a special event that may be coming up. It's January, Tu B'shevat is 2 weeks away so again this week I asked what should I blog and this is what I got:

SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder:  I still may write disorder but I am not a doctor and could not really think of any feel good ending.  The only thing I came up with is to suggest a visit to Lakeside and to attend our services which I believe will leave you feeling good.

Gun Control:  I am all for Gun control and in fact we have sponsored many programs here on this very topic.  I am not sure what I could add to the conversation at this time.  I am very proud that the Reform movement has recently come out strongly for gun control.  I don't mind taking a stance but what new information or ideas can I add to this topic.  I may eventually find a niche to talk about Jewish lessons in Religious School which have to do with gun control.

The weather:  We live in Chicago what is there to say? It's cold, or it's not as cold as it was or it's snowing or it's not snowing.  Even in the summer this is not always a fun topic.  I could talk about global warming which I BELIEVE is happening but not sure I have enough to add on this topic.  The only time Educational directors talk about the weather is when everyone wants to know if we are CANCELING school because of it.

2016 Television Shows:  There are some new TV shows on this month but I don't have that much time to watch a new show.  I am also Not a fan of reality TV.  I know there are some great shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime and just on my DVR list.  It can be overwhelming trying to watch all the shows that are being talked about on line, in person or in our classrooms.  Should I watch TV so I can talk to my students, learn more about what's happening in the world or just watch Downton Abby over and over?

Politics is out.  No good can come from me doing a political blog.

I do enjoy sharing my thoughts in my blog and I think it is important to spread the word on special programs, Camp (OSRUI of course), simchas and other special events.  In all seriousness if you have a great idea for a blog post let me know.  I would love to hear from you.  In the meantime I will keep blogging away and hope to find just the right sweet spot of topics.  

Have ideas? Respond to this blog or email me at:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

I am not big on New Year's resolutions but it is hard not to think about them at this time of year.  I take stock at the Jewish New year on Rosh Hashanah but New Year's resolutions seem to fit into lists at least in my head.  I would also love to influence other people as they make their New Year's resolution for 2016.  Here are a few:

Continue to spend more time with family.  Last year my family was on a great trip to Cuba.  We had planned the trip long before the United States decided to open up relations. It was a wonderful trip and because in Cuba there is no easy or plentiful access to the internet no one on the trip was on their phones, computer or any other devices.  We talked and didn't worry about people trying to contact us.  We just had fun. This is the best way to spend time with family.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What happens in Vegas at ICamp should NOT stay in Vegas

Welcome to ICamp

I have been home a week from this year's Icamp sponsored by the ICenter and with the celebration of Chanukah I have not had time to collect my thoughts until now.  250 educators, including supplementary Educators, Organizational representatives,
Shilichim,(Israeli ambassadors to different communities), the dedicated staff of the ICenter and more converged upon Henderson, Nevada to come together to learn about Israel Education.  As my mother commented when I returned "It is not as easy as it once was to teach Israel and I'm no Jewish educator".  It certainly has become a much more complicated endeavor to teach Israel and to find the right place in your curriculum for this corner stone of Jewish education. Visiting Israel for the first time in 1972 on a family trip and studying in Israel in 1979 for a year means my Israel is the one of Chalutzim, (pioneers) Israel as the underdog; a picture that was easier to read. The Israel picture today is more cloudy and harder to identify the heroes and the villains.

The Aleph Bet of Israel Education
Our Icamp meetings for 3 days and 3 nights, gave us the tools and time to discuss more complex issues and to be introduced to the 2nd Aleph Bet of Teaching Israel.  This is not what you may imagine, such as concrete lesson plans on geography or Israeli politics.  The Aleph Bet of teaching Israel teaches us that you must start with the learner.  Certainly at Lakeside we teach Am Yisrael, (the people) Eretz Yisrael,(the Land) and Medinat Yisrael, (the state of Israel).  However we also add our own Israel stories, teach modern Hebrew in our school so that our students can create their own relationship with Israel.

The Aleph Bet of Israel has made me realize that I am heading in the right direction.  It provides me with the pillars of my curriculum.  After Icamp I understand that I must talk about Israel even more in the future with my parents.  I came to the conclusion that as with all my curriculum my parents are my partners.  If your parent partners are not invested in the continuation of teaching at home what you teach at school your students will not have the full benefit of the curriculum.  I can not hope to teach a full curriculum in only 2-4 hours a week; I need the reinforcement at home of all our curriculum topics.  I hope that I will be available to continue to provide the Aleph Bet of Israel education to my students and that they add their Israel story to the ongoing dialogue.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving and the Jewish connection

What’s Jewish about Thanksgiving?  I see the world through Jewish colored lens and certainly there is much in Thanksgiving which is Jewish.  Thanksgiving does remind us of the holiday of Sukkot, our harvest holiday and gives us a minute to say thank you and be grateful for all we have.  

When I teach or prep for a holiday I like to have concrete examples and a plan of action.  Here are a couple of easy to do and concrete ideas for Thanksgiving:

1.  Say the Motzi (blessing over the bread) before your meal. You are thanking God for bringing forth bread from the earth and at a festive meal is a wonderful time to thank God.
2.  Most volunteer opportunities are very crowded on Thanksgiving day itself but since most of our students have the week before Thanksgiving off I suggest volunteering during that week.  The Northern Illinois food bank is a great place to start and spots are going quickly but if you can't volunteer before Thanksgiving sign up for the future.  
3.  If you can’t make a morning at the Food bank you can always shop for our Blessings in a backpack.  Here is a menu you can shop for with your children and bring them into Lakeside for next time we pack.
4.  Come to Friday night T’filah at Lakeside Congregation, 6:00pm.  We always like to have a minyan, 10 people, for our congregants who are saying Kaddish.  It is usually a small group and we always like to see more smiling faces.
5.  After your Thanksgiving or Shabbat meal make cards to send to the military.  Whether in the United States or Israel if you bring your cards I will make sure they reach the soldiers.  Let  them know we are thinking of them.
6.  This month’s mitzvah is warm hats, gloves and scarves which we will deliver to a school in Waukegan.  If you have any gently used items bring them to Lakeside. We also have a Dreidel board where you can pick the age of a child and buy a present.  
7.  Donate to your local food pantry.  Highland Park, Deerfield and Northbrook all have food pantries which our neighbors in need use.  Give them a call to see what supplies they may need.  It could be cereal, toiletries, diapers or something else.  

I could go on but I am sure there are more things to do and I encourage you to let me know if what great Mitzvah opportunities you find over Thanksgiving, Winter break and beyond.  I love to hear of new projects and it always feels good to pass the news to other mitzvah makers.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Not a Jewish holiday or another American holiday?

I was never a fan of Halloween.  I did allow costumes on Halloween with the caveat whatever costume you bought for Halloween you wore at Purim and you better make sure this costume would still fit in 6 months.

I never decorated our house for Halloween, we of course will hand out candy tomorrow night and stay home and enjoy the children visiting our house.  Take a look at what Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has to say in the latest Reform Judaism email. She talks about not decorating for Halloween and other hints for the holiday season.  It does seem that Halloween gets bigger and bigger every year.  When it is closer to to Sukkot you can link some of the activities.

After Halloween is a great time to pick up costumes that you can use for super Hero capes which I have used on retreats or up at camp.  Using the area of costumes is a great start to use in schools, camps or at home.  What super hero power would you have?  One super power for tikkun olam and one just for fun.

Enjoy the weekend and start planning your Purim costumes now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Doing Mitzvot year round or Every Day is Mitzvah day!

At the food bank last year.
This year Lakeside Congregation has taken on an ambitious social action project.  We packing 19 backpacks full of food for 28 weeks for a local Middle school for students to have food over the weekend.  These students receive free breakfast and hot lunch at school during the week and this programs allows them to have food over the weekend.  Blessings in a backpack as I call it has us packing on Sunday mornings and delivering to our Middle school on Thursday mornings.  I know that the school is grateful we have taken on the project and I am so happy we can provide this service. Special thanks to Congregation Solel for helping us out once a month.  We are still looking for partners and if your family would like to sponsor one week please feel free to contact me

I have tried explaining to our students what it means to be really be hungry.  I know they feel hungry on Sunday morning when they skip breakfast or Tuesday afternoon as Hebrew school comes to an end at 5:45pm but they have not had to skip meals because there is no food at home. We are fortunate to live in an affluent community and I hope by packing back packs every week on Sunday morning in the lobby our students will see that other students in our community are counting on us so they will not be hungry.

From Mitzvah Day 2015
We have different menus for each week so that we can change our bags from week to week.  We also try to include fun items and snacks.  The week before Thanksgiving we will also try to pack a hearty bag as well.  I want to thank everyone who has brought food for this project and for those that will in the future.  This will certainly make sure that Lakeside is making every day Mitzvah day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Christmas Lights and Sukkot

I have always thought Christmas lights are beautiful.  Growing up in a Crystal Lake, Illinois and being the only Jewish house on my block without lights I remember thinking about what type of lights I would put on my house if we did that sort of thing. I called my Mom today and asked if my sister and I had every asked for lights. She said we didn't that it wasn't really on the table for discussion so we didn't say anything. 

Lakeside Sukkah 2013
 My now adult children tell me that if we had to put up Christmas lights I would be in trouble.  They doubt my organizational skills although I have successfully decorated the Sukkah at Lakeside Congregation for the past 25 years. Granted I do have help from our the students, parents and families in both our Religious School and our Children's Center to make sure the decorations are fantastic.

My Sukkah, It eventually gets finished!
Having my own home for many years we have had a Sukkah in the back yard most years.  I thank my husband, Arthur Ehrlich and kids for getting it up.  It's a busy time of year and occasionally we just can't do it.  I enjoy decorating it and have bought some great lights which make it festive and also give off some light when we have dinner in the Sukkah.
This must have won a prize for best Sukkah lights

 In fact if you want to build a Sukkah you can google it and find many different ideas but I like this video from Moishe house the best.  It does not have to be an elaborate design.  You can use different types of materials.  You need to make sure it is not a permanent structure, it should have at least  3 and 1/2 walls and you should see the stairs at night.  You cover the roof of a Sukkah with Scach, a natural material which can be bamboo, wood or evergreen tree trimmings.

If you are not putting up a Sukkah at your house we are putting one up here at Lakeside and you can always come and help out here.  Feel free to bring your own decorations, gourds or even lights you would like to see in our Sukkah.

If you need more help in putting up a Sukkah or need to know where to get an Etrog and Lulav feel to email or give me a call.  Don't forget Pizza in the Hut at Lakeside, this Sunday September 27 at 6:00 pm.  RSVP to Lakeside.