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. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blog Elul, I am late to the party but still here. Blog #26 Create

I try every year to Blog Elul with my colleague Rabbi Phyllis Sommer.  What's the big deal about the month of Elul?  Here is what we learn from Rabbi Phyllis:

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed.

This year Elul started when I was on vacation and when I got home from vacation I began immediately planning for Lakeside's Hebrew and Religious School and our Adult education program.  Every day my blog got away from me.  Now as we approach Rosh Hashanah and the end of Elul I may be late but I am ready to go.  Today's topic is Create.  Perfect.

I enjoy working on my blog and over the summer I did blog from OSRUI and I love to create blogs not just from camp but weekly during the school year.  I am lucky that my job allows me to create in many different ways.  I create new programs like this year's first day of school, Day of Awesome. I also enjoy creating iMovies which highlight different programs at Lakeside, camp and my family.   

I look forward to a new year of creating in many different ways and modes.  Creating keeps me motivated and keeps my job refreshed.  This is my latest iMovie from the first day of Hebrew school and from my Kitah Aleph class.  It's just a taste of what we do.  Can't wait for the rest of the year!

Friday, July 31, 2015

They're Back, your campers I mean.

Kallah Gimmel 2015
They’re back. It’s been three weeks and while your world may have kept its normal rhythms and pace, their’s has turned upside down. They’ve made new friends, connected to Judaism in exciting ways, and most astonishingly they have grown SO MUCH. 

I remember when my daughter came home from camp the first time. She was really quiet when she was younger and I asked her “how was camp?”

“Good,” she said.

Not satisfied, I pushed on. “Did you make new friends?”

“A few,” she said.

Keif, Yedidut and Flat Stanley
“What did you learn?” I asked and that’s when it started. Two hours later and she wouldn’t stop telling me. First she told me about limud, then about suss (horseback riding), then rekuday am (dancing), and then she told me how incredible her counselors were and how now she knew she wanted to come back again so that she could be a counselor someday. What I’m saying here is ask your chanichim (campers) questions that make them give you the big answers. Of course they made friends, yes they had fun; but what they really want to tell you is HOW everything happened. Open ended questions give your sons and daughters the opportunity to lead you through their camp experience and paint you a picture of the entire exciting ordeal. Your sons and daughters have grown so much, coax them a little bit with questions that require more than one word answers.

If they’re still giving you one word answers try asking a few of these questions. Here’s some easy ones.
-Tell me about your bunkmate
-Tell me two funny stories that happened in your unit
-What were different about services at camp?
Leading T'filot

Here’s a couple harder ones
-What surprised you at camp?
-What did you learn about Middot, Jewish values in Kallah gimmel.
-I saw pictures of puppets, tell me about the puppets

And of course, you can always ask them to “tell me more about that.”

Back to my daughter. She did go back to camp. She became a councilor and was on staff at OSRUI for 6 summers. She’s back at camp with me this weekend and now her former campers are madrichim (counselors) helping new campers grow and fall in love with our many Jewish summer camp traditions. I have bonded so much with my daughter over the years through our conversations (yes, open ended questions still help) about summer camp. This tradition between the two of us is sacred for me and I hope it carries the same meaning for you and your family. L’dod va’dor. We can’t wait to see you next year; OSRUI 2016.

Contributors:  Lital Ehrlich and Cole Leiter

Friday, July 17, 2015

A typical day in Kallah Gimmel, Anything but typical

Every day in Kallah Gimmel may have a similar format but the surprises are what all the chanichin, madrichim and Segel anticipate with great relish.  Our Boker Tov in the morning is followed by breakfast which today was delicious egg muffin sandwiches and of course a choice of cereal, cottage cheese and Israeli salad. After breakfast Segel leads the eidah in a short t'filah and Thursday was a Torah reading day.  One of our madrichim volunteered to read Torah and then we were on our way.

Our next activity was Limud and today we learned about Lashon Hara and our puppets, Keif and Yedidut helped us to learn about not spreading gossip or hurtful words.  We told all of the chanichim to spread blue gravel all over the eidah.  After they ran around and spread blue fish gravel all over we asked them to gather it back up.  They soon realized that this would be near to impossible task. They could never gather up all the gravel they had thrown so carelessly around our area.

Keif and Yedidut
We then told them that the blue gravel is like gossip and hurtful words.  It is not easy to get those words back once they are out of your mouth.  This limud is based on an old Hasidic tale, the Tale of the Feathers.  Some of chanichim recognized the tie in to this story immediately and we were glad that they made the connection.

After limud, chanichim have swimming, showers, Ivrit and lunch.  In Ivrit we learn Hebrew through games and movement.  In my kitah we are learning the names of fruits and vegetables by playing an old school game of SPUD.  You call out the name of the fruit in Hebrew while throwing up a ball, the chanich catches it and try to get another friend out.  They learn the Hebrew words while playing outside.

In the afternoon we have minucha, chug, and sports.  During minucha chanichim write letters home and also have an opportunity to read a book from one of the many "little Libraries" around camp.  I gather books all year and make sure there is always something to read in our "little Libraries."  Chug is a chance to horseback ride, water sky, sail, dance, music, theater and many more.  There is always time for sports, structured free time before dinner.

As you can see we have a day packed with fun and experiencing Judaism with our entire Kallah Gimmel family.  Just in this one blog piece I have used over 10 Hebrew words, double or triple that for the number of Hebrew words we use in day and you can see how our chanichim learn so much Hebrew over a 3 week period.

I love spending the day with both chanichim and madrichim.  For me there is not a better place to practice Jewish education.  I thank all of the parents, synagogues, grandparents and One Happy Camper for making it possible for all of our campers to come OSRUI.  As we prepare for Shabbat, a unique event  I look forward to spending more time with my eidah and continuing the traditions and fun at OSRUI.

Madrichim: Counselors
Segel: Faculty, Rabbi, Cantor, Educator attached to each unit
Eidah:  Unit
Lashon Hara: gossip
Kef:  Fun
Yedidut: Friendship
Limud:  learning session
Ivrit:  Hebrew
Kitah: Class
Minucha: rest hour
Chug:  different activities to choose 

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's official and it started at camp!

Arthur and I are pleased to announce that Lital is engaged to Cole Leiter from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is the son of Prof. Jeffrey Leiter and Carrie Knowles, author and artist.  Lital is a teacher at DC Prep Charter School in Washington D.C..  Cole is the Press Assistant & Digital Media Manager for Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Denver, Colorado. 

I am pretty sure this is as close as we are going to get to an official announcement.  What is not mentioned in the paragraph above is how proud we are of the paths Lital and Cole have chosen.  Lital is a teacher at an urban school deep in the heart of D.C.. She teaches Second and Third grade science and Cole has worked on the Hill for 2 different Members of Congress doing press work. Lital and Cole met at OSRUI and truth be told, that is one clear cut reason to send your children to Jewish camp.  The first time I met Cole was at camp when he was reading Torah at Shabbat morning services. Even now that I know he only did it to make a good first impression, it doesn't get any better than that for me.

Growing up, both Cole and Lital were active in their congregations and at their respective colleges.  Lital was confirmed, a madricha, counselor at OSRUI for over 5 years and a Hillel Intern at the University of Wisconsin.  Cole was also confirmed, a madrich, counselor at OSRUI, Co-President of the Williams College Jewish Association, managed the kosher kitchen, and actively organized for a two-state solution in Israel and Palenstine for JStreet and JStreetU.  Both of them spent a semester in Israel on EIE during High School.  

I can hardly believe that Lital is old enough to be married.  I recently celebrated 25 years at Lakeside Congregation and when I began in the summer of 1989 Lital was only 10 months old.   It's like that scene from Father of the Bride when Steve Martin's daughter tells him she is getting married and all he sees is her as a 7 year old.  Our baby is getting married. We couldn't be prouder of her and Cole who is already so much a part of the family.

They are millennials in many ways but feel strongly about their Jewish identity and frequently attend shabbat services for young adults at a variety of minyanim (smaller groups that meet at synagogues) in D.C.. We are so proud of the way 
they have sought out religious experiences that fit the way they would like to be a part of the Jewish community and people.   They have a wonderful life ahead of them and we are happy to be a part of this journey. 

I am so proud that Cole chose to ask Lital to marry him on the same day the Supreme Court ruled that marriage for all people is a constitutionally protected right across our country; their commitment to social action made the day even more meaningful.  As we look forward to a year of planning, praying and providing advice for our simcha next year I think we can all agree it truly is possible that "love wins."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Shabbatot: Enjoy and Relax

Come this Friday June 26!
I love our 6:00 pm Shabbatot T'filot (plural of Shabbat and service) especially during the summer.  We try to have as many of our t'filot outside as possible and I love to come to unwind and then go home to Shabbat dinner.  My Friday afternoons usually include time to make a nice dinner so I can get to Lakeside on time.  You could also order Pizza or order your favorite take out for dinner.  Shabbat is a time to take it easy and enjoy.

Getting into the habit of coming to Friday night services is just that a habit.  If you have not been come and try it out.  Enjoy our music and lean back and relax. Not in my area?  Try out your local synagogue; I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised and I am happy to send some recommendations your way of synagogues to try.  

During the summer and especially on Shabbat I also look forward to reading for our Lakeside Book group or just fun.  This summer I have already read:  The Orphan Train, Boston Girl and for young adults: Ember in the Ashes and The Red Queen. I leave for  OSRUI in a few weeks where I have SOME time to read.  On my list is:  The Mathmeticians Shiva, The Museum of Ordinary Things and this is just the beginning.

Take a minute, take a breath and enjoy our summer.  I look forward to seeing you at services.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Year: Home for the Summer: For College,High School or any age

Before Ethan came home from his first year at University of Wisconsin, Madison we received this letter:  

First Year: Home for the Summer (according to the U of W)

Before you know it, your student may be packing up and coming home for the summer. We have a few tips for conversations you may want to have with your student to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.
  • Schedule time with your student to make sure activities that are important to you aren’t lost in the shuffle.
  • Have a conversation with your student about expectations for schedules, housework, and behavior during the summer. Decide whether the original rules of the house still apply, and also consider some extra flexibility to take into account your student’s new-found independence and autonomy.
Ethan and his roommate Aman
I love having my kids home for the summer and then they go off to camp.  We didn't have much time with Ethan as he is off to OSRUI this week. Jonathan will be home and enjoys Friday night T'filot at Lakeside.  We tried to hit all the high points with Ethan before he left: favorite meals and visits to see his grandparents. I tried my best to keep some of these points from the letter in mind. My main advice with any age child is to keep the conversation going.

 I acknowledge that summer is different. and more relaxed.  Your children may not have any scheduled classes so looking over Hebrew or B'nai Mitzvah assignments may not be at the top of the to do list.  I always tell all my Hebrew students that they need to do some Hebrew review over the summer or they will backslide from where they were in May when they left Hebrew school.
Convocation, Kitah Gimmel

Kitah Aleph

A great way to practice is to come to Summer T'filot which are always at 6:00pm and we try to have them outside, weather depending.  If you want to participate in t'filot just let me know.  Find a fun Hebrew game on line and check out Behrman House's games. 

Enjoy your summer and remember Shabbat still happens every Friday and Saturday.  Friday Night T'iflot are at 6:00pm and Torah Study is at 9:30 am on Shabbat with a short t'filah at 10:30am.  I hope to see you at our Summer T'filot or just stop by for a visit.  I will be at OSRUI for a few weeks in the middle of July.  I will be available by email even when I am at camp.

Enjoy your summer.  Read some Hebrew, do some Mitzvot and have some fun.