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. 

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