Saturday, December 8, 2012


Tonight is the first night of Chanukah and my kids were thrilled beyond belief. We were able to light the menorah (D'vorah lit the menorah tonight) and place it in the window and look at it from the road... it was so beautiful!

I know it looks like there are four candles but that is the reflection from the window.
We played dreidel.


Earlier this week the kids decorated the front window as well...

Taken from the road
 Every night we add a paper candle and flame to the menorah the kids made.

It's been a wonderful first night... I can't wait for the rest of the week.

And now, another video for your viewing pleasure! More Maccabeats!

Friday, December 7, 2012

I wish Friday was longer in the Winter

Fridays are always busy for me. It is the day that I prepare my home for Shabbat. Since we do not work (which includes cleaning and cooking) on Shabbat, I spend Friday getting everything ready for a peaceful and restful Shabbat (or as peaceful and restful as it can be with 4 children). And with sunset being earlier in the winter time, I miss those extra hours to get everything ready. I always feel rushed in the winter.

What does my typical Friday look like?

I get up in the morning and fix breakfast for everyone. Then I organize the kids and pass out their chores. The older kids are responsible for cleaning their bedrooms, vacuuming their carpets (they alternate every week who vacuums the upstairs hallway) and making their beds. If they have any clean laundry, they fold it and put it away. If the two oldest have dirty laundry, they bring it to the laundry room and start washing/drying.

Once the kids are taken care of and have something to do, I begin with my list of chores (usually with a 10 month old following me around and tugging on my leg).

If the kids aren't using the washer and dryer, I start on the adults laundry and the younger kids' clothes. I'll check back throughout the day to switch over the loads and distribute the clothes where they need to go (and if I start running out of time, the laundry is the first cleaning job that is cut from my "to do" list - by this point it's usually washed and dried, just not put away yet - it can wait until Sunday).

I never do the same routine twice. Some weeks I start in the kitchen, other weeks I start with my bedroom. Today, I started with the living room. I picked up the clutter that has accumulated, clear off tables and the top of the TV and the mantel over the fireplace. Everything gets dusted and scrubbed. The windows are washed. Finally I sweep and mop the living room and dining room floors and the downstairs hallway.

I moved on to the kitchen to clean off and wash the counters, empty and refill the dishwasher, scrub the sink, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and freezer, and finally scrub the kitchen table. I move on to the sliding glass door and the window to make them nice and shiny clean (and to remove the fingerprints of the 10 month old from the glass). After washing the fronts of the cabinets and drawers I then sweep and mop the kitchen floor.

On to the bathrooms. Scrub the tub, the sink, the cabinets and counters, and the toilet. Sweep and mop, was the mirrors and windows. Moving on...

Usually by this point the kids have been finished with their bedrooms and had a little time to play. Now they take over in the schoolroom, picking up and vacuuming. They clean off the white boards while I was the windows and dust. Books are returned to the shelves and desks are cleaned off and scrubbed. The computer desk gets cleaned and the computer dusted.

In amongst all the cleaning I am also baking challah (egg bread we have at meals on Shabbat) and preparing dinner for Friday night. Tonight we are having a nice thick beef stew with the challah.

Before I am done, I set the table for Shabbat. We have a tablecloth just for Shabbat, I put out the candlesticks and get everything ready to welcome the time of rest.

That's just a glimpse of what all happens on a typical Friday in my house. Now to get back to work...


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From the Maccabeats!

My kids love all of these videos and songs. Maccabeats is high on their list of favorites. As are Matisyahu and the Fountainheads. As a matter of fact, Yaakov's Hebrew school class is singing "Candlelight" by the Maccabeats at our school Chanukah Carnival this coming Sunday! YAY! So here's "Candlelight!"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How we celebrate Chanukah

Every family has different traditions for what they do for Chanukah. Many come from what the parents families did in the past. As converts, we get to figure out our own traditions.

Every night, just after sundown, we light the menorah (a candelabrum with 9 branches - space for 9 candles). The only night(s) this is different is on Shabbat. When Chanukah is over Shabbat then we light the menorah candles before we light our Shabbat candles. Part of Shabbat is to not kindle a fire (that is work, and we abstain from work on Shabbat), so once the Shabbat candles are lit, we cannot light a fire, which includes lighting the Chanukah candles. After we light the shamash, we say the blessings for Chanukah, then we light the rest of the candles in the menorah.

Everyday we light more candles on the menorah. One night one we light the shamash (helper) candle and then one candle for the menorah. One night two we light the shamash and two menorah candles. On night three we light the shamash and three menorah candles. We increase the number of menorah candles by one each night, for eight nights.

After the menorah is lit we sing songs and eat (it's never a Jewish holiday with food). Because Chanukah is the story of the rededication of the Temple and the miracle was that the oil burned for 8 days when there was only enough oil for one, fried foods are popular for Chanukah munchies. Jelly doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes) are the usual foods of choice. YUM!

Next the kids usually insist on playing dreidel. That is a game with a spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each of its four sides. All together the four letters mean "A great miracle happened there" (meaning the miracle of the oil). During the game the letters tell the player what to do. Landing on one letter means the player who spun the dreidel gets all the "money" in the pot (we use chocolate coins, try keeping the kids from eating all the "money" before the last night of Chanukah, it's not an easy task and we usually end up having to bring out the jar of pennies), another letter means the player has to add money to the pot. Yes, it's a gambling game but the kids still enjoy playing.

Next we come to tzedakah (charity). Before we do our own gift exchange, we encourage the kids to contribute a little something to tzedakah. They are going to be getting some nice gifts but there are many people who cannot even afford to feed their families. We may not always have a lot, but we have more than many and we shouldn't feel burdened to give to those who need help, but we should feel happy to give. We put our money in our family tzedakah box and after Chanukah we will donate the money to a charity with which we all agree.

Then we come to the gifts. Exchanging gifts at Chanukah is actually a fairly new tradition. Traditionally, the only "gift" giving associated with the holiday was the giving of gelt (a small token of money). However, since Chanukah falls around the same time as Christmas, many have expanded the traditional giving of gelt to giving of gifts.

Gift giving in our house comes at levels. Nights one through four are all small and inexpensive gifts (usually less than $3.00 each). On nights five and six the gifts get a little better and there are usually a few more as family and friends have also sent gifts to the children. On night seven the kids exchange gifts they bought for each other. Finally, on night eight, each child gets their "big" gift.

Once we get to the gift part, we usually lose all the attention of the kids. They just want to play with their new toys and games. LOL They are kids after all.

I am almost as excited about Chanukah as the kids!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

No, we do not celebrate Christmas. This has come as a bit of a shock to some family members as it is the "Christmas" season.

Recent conversations have revolved around one topic lately, "what should we get the kids for Christmas?" The reply being wholly unappreciated, "we aren't participating in Christmas, but here's what the kids have mentioned for Chanukkah..."

"You aren't putting up a tree or lights or ornaments this year?"

"No, we do not celebrate Christmas."

Strictly speaking, we never celebrated Christmas from a religious stand point anyway. Without getting into the whole "well, Jesus wasn't born in December anyway" argument, it just wasn't something we believed. Our Christmas celebration was entirely secular. We exchanged gifts, we encouraged the kids to think about those less fortunate, we gave to charity and we took the time to be together as a family and focus on that relationship.

Yes, we used to put up a tree and decorate it with ornaments. However, over the past few years the tree has been coming out later and being taken down earlier. Since we began the conversion process, we have put more emphasis on Jewish holidays and less on the holidays we celebrated as children.

While the transition went almost totally unnoticed for the last 2 years but not so this year. Our children and families knew last year that that was to be the end of Christmas in our home. The children are fine with this decision... some family, not so much.

Maybe they do not like losing the extra shopping days? Chanukah comes early this year, December 8th-16th. Maybe they do not like that we put so much less emphasis on presents and gifts and more on family and tzedakah (giving to others)? Maybe they feel we have somehow "betrayed" them by converting to Judaism? Whatever the reason, they do not share with us. So far some of the family has been very tight-lipped... thought through their actions and the few words they do speak, their displeasure is noted.

I can't help but be sad. These people are a part of my life and family. I love them deeply. Yet I feel so hurt that I cannot share with them the biggest and best change for all of us. Converting to Judaism has been wonderful for our family. We have grown stronger as individuals, my husband and I have never had such a wonderful relationship with each other, and as a family unit we are much stronger and closer than ever before. We attribute all of this to our conversion. And to not be able to share that with some members of our extended family... it hurts.

I only hope that these members of the family some together with us before our oldest takes a huge step next year. We are, right now, planning Yaakov's bar mitzvah next fall. I want our families to be a part of this. Yaakov wants these family members to be a part of his bar mitzvah, he wants them to share in his enthusiasm and excitement and joy. I want for them to share in it as well, instead of getting hung up on 1 day in the dark of December.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hanukkah is Right Around the Corner

Because it falls around the time of Christmas, many people think that Hanukkah is one of the most important holidays in Judaism. They would be incorrect. It is not the "Jewish Christmas." There are far holier days on our calendar than Hanukkah but it gets more of a glance than our High Holidays.

So what is Hanukkah anyway? It is the commemoration of an even that occurred after the time of the Torah.

During the 2nd century, Israel was divided up by the Greek empire. The emperor prohibited all local religions and tried to make the locals worship the Greek gods (and the emperor). The Jews insisted that their G-d was the only G-d and resisted. These rebels were called the Maccabees. They fought back and won their religious freedom. But the Temple of Jerusalem had been turned into a Greek shrine. It had to be cleansed and rededicated for Jewish worship.

To be cleansed the menorah had to be lit for 8 days. It was found that there was only enough oil for 1 day. They lit the menorah and the menorah remained lit for 8 days.

Now Jews commemorate this miracle by lighting candles in a hanukkiyah. A hanukkiyah is a special menorah with places for 9 candles. The 9th candle is the one we use to light all the others (it is called the shamash which means servant or sun). On the 1st night of Hanukkah, we use the shamash to light 1 candle. On the 2nd night we use the shamash to light 2 candles. We add another candle each night until on the 8th night all 9 candles are lit.

Many Jewish holidays also have certain foods associated with them. For Hanukkah, latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts are popular because they are both fried (fried in oil, oil for the menorah... see the reasoning).

Gift giving is a more recent development for the holiday. Yes, our family exchanges gifts but we also encourage the children to give tzedakah (giving money to charity). The gift exchange has made the transition easier for the children from Christmas (celebrating from a secular aspect).

Now for your viewing pleasure... a little fun... one of my favorite Hanukkah videos!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My first blog rant

I may anger and offed some people with this post, I do not apologize. 

I have lived many, many, many years hearing about how Christians are still being persecuted. I could list about 20 but the biggest "persecutions" I hear have been:

1. kids can't pray in schools
2. bible should be taught in schools
3. legalized abortion is against their religion
4. birth control is against their religion
5. doctors and pharmacists are forced to write/fill prescriptions for birth control against their religious beliefs
6. gay marriage is wrong and destroys traditional marriage
7. it's not safe to say you're a Christian because you will be hated/persecuted

As far as personal beliefs go, these are all valid. I make no claim that they aren't. Some have simple solutions:

1. pray silently, why does everyone have to pray the same thing as you do anyway?
2. religion is personal, you want to teach bible, teach it at home and in your church
3. don't have an abortion
4. don't use birth control
5. don't go into a field where you may have to do something that violates your personal beliefs
6. don't fall in love with some one of the same gender
7. stick a sock in it, most people will assume you are a Christian, they don't hate you for being a Christian - they hate you for pushing your beliefs on them and using "but we are called to preach the gospel of Jesus" as your reasoning - and stop acting like a hypocrite, if you LIVE the way you preach, you wouldn't be nearly as hated

But, quite honestly, Christians have NO CALL to claim persecution, not here in the USA.

You want to talk about persecution? How about you come with me next year to the Yom Kippur service at my synagogue, where we have to have police protection and armed security guards patrolling to keep the loony anti-Semites out and keep us safe?

Until you actually FEAR going to services at your place of worship you are NOT persecuted!

End of rant.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Preparing for Shabbat

Shabbat begins just before sunset on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. Nightfall is when 3 stars are visible in the night sky. Because of the work restrictions for Shabbat, many people will take Friday to prepare for Shabbat... and there are a lot of preparations to be made.

Friday is particularly busy in my home. It begins with getting the kids up early so we can all start cleaning. Once I have assigned cleaning chores to each of the older kids, I start making challah. Challah is an egg based bread that we eat at our Shabbat meals.

Two loaves of challah - the left topped with sesame seeds, the right topped with poppy seeds.
Since the kneading, rising and baking of the challah is time consuming, I start that nice and early in the day. While the dough is rising I will go about other Shabbat preparations.

Next I check on how the kids are coming along with their cleaning projects. If they are going well, I will start my own cleaning. Once a week my house gets a complete and total scrub-down! It is like a mini-spring cleaning every week. Windows get washed, floors get scrubbed, walls are de-handprinted, carpets are vacuumed, toys put away, dishes washed and laundry gets put away.

Why so much work crammed into a single day? Because I prefer to go into Shabbat with a sparkling clean house. It makes it much easier to observe the Shabbat rest when I am not surrounded by clutter and dust. :-)

My favorite day of the week is Shabbat. It is a day when we focus on G-d and family and Torah. Every have a holiday where you don't have to work and you can relax and enjoy your family? THAT is what Shabbat is, a weekly holiday!

Speaking of Shabbat, I have taken a break from my hectic cleaning and baking to tell you a little bit about what it is like to get ready for Shabbat, but now I must continue to prepare for Shabbat... back to work for me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah has passed and tonight begins Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. Jewish adults spend the day fasting and praying. We will be spending most of the day at our shul (synagogue).

Today is Erev Yom Kippur. It is a day to seek forgiveness for our wrongs of the past year.

Fasting will begin 18 minutes before sunset tonight and last until nightfall tomorrow. This year my husband will be fasting alone, adults and those who have had their bar mitzvah are required to fast, but there are a few medical exceptions. As my youngest is only 8 months old and still breastfeeding, I will not be fasting this year.

It is also a day where I will be away from technology, just like on Shabbat. So I wanted to update with a short blog before shutting down the computer until after Yom Kippur.

See you in 2 days!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

L'Shanah Tovah!

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays, or High Holy Days. It is the Jewish New Year.

HERE  is a link to a short article about Rosh Hashanah.

In my home, I have been preparing for Rosh Hashanah by baking. Honey is a staple around Rosh Hashanah, it symbolizes the hope for a "sweet" year. We also have challah shaped into a circle and baked (it is also really good dipped in honey!). As a special treat for Rosh Hashanah, I am sharing my Rosh Hashanah challah recipe.

I will admit to a little time saving device called a bread machine. It has been a huge help over the years but during the fall and winter when I bake even more than normal, it has come in especially helpful. If you do not have a bread machine, you can also do this by hand.

Rosh Hashanah Challah (makes 2 loaves)

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup pareve margarine (Fleishman's unsalted margarine is pareve)
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
3 and 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 and 1/4 tsp yeast

Put the ingredients in your machine as instructed by the manufacturer. Set to the dough setting and let it go.

Once it has finished the dough cycle, remove the dough to a lightly oiled counter and cut into 8 even pieces (set 4 aside to work with once you finish the first loaf). Roll out the first 4 pieces into long (about 15 inch) strands. Now comes the fun part, braiding in the round!

Lay the first 2 strands parallel to each other and the second 2 should be perpendicular and woven into the first two strands like this (see the over, under, over under?):

You will have 4 "sets" with 2 strand in each set. Start with any of the "sets" and take the strand that was under and lift it over the other strand in its set.

The first "set"

Do this with all 4 "sets."

The second "set"
The third "set"
After the fourth set - you may have to even up the strands a bit to make seeing the "sets" easier.

Now you have 4 new "sets. We are going to change direction (I went counter-clockwise the first round, now we flip to clockwise) and repeat the process (the one that was under now goes over top of the second strand in the "set" until all 4 sets are complete.

Starting the second round
Just finishing the round. Don't worry about the small gaps, they will disappear soon.
Repeat the process again if your strand are long enough (I was able to make 4 rounds). Once you can go no farther (the strands are too short),

Not enough of the strands left to go any farther with the weaving.

tuck the ends up over the top of the dough.

I know, it doesn't look pretty, but this is the bottom of the challah.

Very carefully place 1 hand over your ends and lift gently with the other hand to flip the dough upside down. Carefully place the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then repeat the whole process about with the second set of 4 pieces of dough.

Flipped and ready to rise again

Cover the challah lightly with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. (Preheat oven to 350 degrees).

Once it has had a chance to rise again, use a pastry brush to brush an egg wash over the tops (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water).

Put in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Freshly baked and hot out of the oven.

 Perfect for Rosh Hashanah! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maccabeats - Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem

Here's another of my children's favorite music videos. The Maccabeats, again, this time singing about Rosh Hashanah to the tune of "Party Rock Anthem."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maccabeats! Rosh Hashanah Video!

With Rosh Hashanah beginning Sunday evening, here is one of our favorite music videos.

Maccabeats - Book of Good Life

Meet Me!

Hello! My name is Channah and I am a 30-something (ha! Not giving an exact age) year old wife and mother. My husband (Adam) and I have been married for 14 years and we have 4 children. Our children are Yaakov (12), Yitschak (11), Dvorah (5 - almost 6), and Gideon (7 months).

As the new year, Rosh Hashanah, approaches, I have been inundated with questions about Judaism from family and friends. The questions are understandable. I was not born Jewish. I recently converted to Judaism. This blog is in response to those questions.

Over time you will hear the story of how we came to be the family we are now, about our daily life, special occasions and holidays, what led me to Judaism and much more.

I will blog as often as I can with 4 children and a husband allow.

I look forward to telling you all about my journey.