Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Fun Puns and Alliterations for Celebrating Sukkot in 2021

Yes, Sukkot has come and gone this year, but after many years of creating alliterative names for the nightly meals in the Sukkah, I thought it might be fun to compile a ton so that when next year rolls around and we're hopefully gathering with friends and family ... you can have some fun, alliterative meals!

For those not in the know, a sukkah is a temporary structure that is also called a booth or a hut or a tabernacle (the latter most often outside of Jewish circles). With that, I give you the alliterative options:

In the sukkah ...

  • Sushi in the sukkah (served with sake in the sukkah)
  • Spaghetti in the sukkah
  • Make-your-own-salad in the sukkah
  • Make-your-own-sandwich in the sukkah
  • Sabich in the sukkah
  • Sausages in the sukkah
  • Smoothies in the sukkah
  • Subs in the sukkah (as in, sub sandwiches)
  • Sambusak in the sukkah (think: middle eastern samosas)
In the shack ...
These could also be used for "in the sukkah."
  • Shakshukah in the shack
  • Schnitzel in the shack
  • Shakes in the shack
  • Shepherd’s pie in the shack
In the booth ...
  • Beers in the booth
  • Brews in the booth
  • Burgers in the booth
  • Bagels in the booth
  • Banana splits in the booth
  • Bibimbap in the booth
  • Blintzes in the booth
  • Burritos in the booth
  • Bourekas in the booth
  • Hummus v'basar in the booth

In the hut ...
  • Hot dogs in the hut
  • Pizza in the hut (this is not alliterative, but a nod to Pizza Hut!)
  • Hamburgers in the hut
  • Hot pot in the hut
  • Herring in the hut
  • Heroes in the hut (as in sub sandwiches)
  • Hamin in the hut (hamin is similar to coolant)
  • Huevos rancheros in the hut
In the tabernacle ...
  • Tacos in the tabernacle
  • Tequila in the tabernacle
  • Turkey in the tabernacle
  • Make-your-own-toast in the tabernacle
  • Tajine in the tabernacle
Another one that I came up with was cholent or chile en la choza (chili in the hut), but I was told that choza in Spanish is actually more of a hovel than a hut. If you speak Spanish and can let me know, I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Want to share one I didn't think of? Post in the comments and I'll add it to the list!


Thursday, August 13, 2020

True Story: I'm on an ISIS Hit List


Note: This story was original published on Medium in February 2019. I don't know why I chose to post it there instead of here, but I did. But now, I want to share it here, where people know me best. Can't wait to hear what you think about this one, friends!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be one thing: an artist. As I got older, this “future me” strove to be a photographer, poet, copy editor, and, ultimately, a writer.

Of course, one thing I never followed up “When I grow up I want to be …” with was “A target on an ISIS hit list.”

I’ve been an online blogger since the dark ages of LiveJournal, parlaying my love of storytelling into a blog back in the mid-2000s focused on my journey into and through Judaism. Yes, I’m a small-town girl from southern Missouri whose family relocated to Nebraska during my formative years. I went to and graduated from a Midwestern school, converted to Reform Judaism in 2006, and then I lived here, there, and everywhere around the U.S. Several years later, I converted to Orthodox Judaism, got a Master’s degree, got married, got divorced, moved to Israel, got married again, had a kid, moved back to the U.S., had another kid … you get the idea.

And all of this? It’s online. My life is quite literally an open website. I’ve always been an early adopter, and every digital space I find online is a medium for me to share my story — not for selfish reasons, but because I’ve found that my voice gives other converts a voice and I’ve got hundreds of outreach emails from people around the globe to prove it. I used to speak on panels, make good lists like “Top XX Jewish Women on XX,” and be the go-to for all things Jewish and social media on the web. I lament that my days are now filled with poopy diapers and scut jobs needed to pay the bills, but my digital life is still very much active.

My truth is that I have nothing to hide, so I don’t have to hide. The government can pop my laptop camera (or microwave, of course) on and watch me if they feel like it, because everything in my life is safe, legal, open.

But let’s be honest. What you see out there in TV land is the “Candyland version” of my life (props to Rivka Malka Perlman for this concept). Although I like to think that everyone sees and experiences my life exactly as it is, that’s not the truth. It’s not even close to the truth.

So here I am, one year out from an incident that shook me to my core and made me question everything I thought I knew about being a super-public Jewish blogging mommy, and I still haven’t written about it — until now.

I usually leave my house in the morning, because if I attempt to do my various contract jobs from home my day becomes all about the laundry, the dishes, the cucumbers and potatoes embedded in the carpet, the filthy fish tank, and all of the things that distract a working mother from, well, working. But one day last summer when my baby was still a newborn, I came home mid-day for something, I don’t even remember what, and found a business card stuck in the iron screen door of our small home.


I plucked the card out, and it was just a blank card, with the handwritten words, “Please Call Me” and an arrow. I turned the card over and saw that it was from an FBI Task Force Officer. My first inclination was that someone was playing a joke on me, because the shiny gold seal looked absolutely fake as can be.

Me being me, I Googled the information on the card, half expecting to get a dozen links about some prank or phishing scheme.

The officer on the card was real.

My next inclination was that they obviously wanted to talk to my husband my husband, the British-Israeli Green Card holder, for some kind of immigration hangup. He had, after all, gotten stuck outside the country from October 2014 to July 2015 thanks to the bureaucratic mess that is immigration.

I sent my husband a text with a picture of the front and back of the business card and suggested he call the number because, it only made sense, they needed to talk to him.

A few seconds later, he texted me back: “They want to talk to you.”

Me being me, again, began to panic. I couldn’t fathom what the FBI would need from me, and then my husband followed up with, “A threat has been made.”

I started racking my brain. I thought about all of the online spaces where people bashed me, devoted entire threads of forums to talking trash about me and my life choices, and wondering if one of the trolls had actually turned into violent. But these were just anonymous whackjobs hiding behind their PCs in Suburbia, not the type to elicit a response from the FBI. Right?

my husband told the officer he could come over and then he came home from work because I was, understandably, a bit panicked. When the officer arrived, he came in, sat down, and got to it.

“You’re on an ISIS hit list.”

In a fog of WTF is happening to my life, the officer went on to tell me how easy it was to find me, physically, that day, despite the fact that my divorced name was on the list. The officer also said that there are a lot of these lists and that I don’t really need to panic. Not too much, the officer said. The list, I was told, was geared toward lone wolfs, extremists who want to do their individual part by knocking off a single person — me.

When I asked how I ended up on a list, the officer didn’t have a great answer. Was it because I’m Jewish? A blogger? On Twitter?

The officer left, saying that if we see anything suspicious or alarming, to be in touch with him immediately. He also reminded us that we had a good friend in the community at the FBI (“I should have just asked him where to find you, it would have been even quicker!”), and that we were in good hands.

So. There I was, in my single-family starter home, counting down the moments until I needed to pick kids up from daycare, wondering when I was going to get assassinated in the name of a Holy War I really don’t understand.

I reached out to the local ADL, just so they’d know they had an ISIS hit list member in their midst. The response I got: “There has not yet been a case of violence resulting from any of these lists, but it is very important for everyone to be smart, alert and vigilant.”

Even my rabbi seemed unphased. My neighbors, on the other hand, asked if they should relocate, move, perhaps go into witness protection. I think they were half joking (they have a dog named ISIS, which made for some fun jokes), but maybe they weren’t. Who wants to be associated with someone potentially in the crosshairs of a militant terrorist group?

I basically spent the next two months being completely irrational and paranoid. There was one day where someone came to my door that I didn’t recognize, so I hid and called my husband, who told me to call the FBI. The person outside the door started to peek in the windows of my home and I was pretty sure he was an operative sent to end it all. I felt silly calling the FBI about it, so my husband came home from work quickly and when I re-described the person outside the house to him he quickly said, “Oh, that’s our new neighbor! Maybe he lost something over the fence?”

I genuinely thought I was losing my mind.

Every time I’d be walking across an intersection and a cab driver was edging slowly into the intersection I was convinced that he or she was sent by ISIS to commit vehicular manslaughter. I realize now, outside the fog of irrational shock, that assuming every cab driver is either Muslim or an ISIS operative is pretty crazy. Probably racist, too. Being on an ISIS hit list was making me a paranoid racist who was losing her mind.

The worst part about it all was that I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t tell anyone except my immediate family, my rabbi, my kids’ daycare director, and our neighbors. It wasn’t safe to write about it, to talk about it. And writing about it was my natural form of self-therapy. Storytelling is my drug.

And then? I woke up one day and had all but forgotten about it. Most days, I don’t even think about it. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not likely to be tagged and bagged by a lone wolf out to fulfill his ISIS mission. There has to be a statistical analysis of the likelihood, doesn’t there?

But every now and again, the fear and paranoia sneaks up on me. Sometimes, like this week, when I open Twitter and I’m being trolled by a “Muslim cleric” who liks approximately 30 of my Tweets in quick succession, I start to fear for myself, my husband, my kids. I fall down the rabbit hole Googling the name, location, trying to figure out if it’s a credible threat or just a zealous Twitter user showing me some legitimate love.

Last week I got a series of emails from someone trying to “meet up” with me to discuss something. They even called me, although I don’t know how they got my number. Luckily, I hate talking on the phone and never answer. I Googled the name, the email address, any identifying information, and what came up was not what the email sender provided and I began to panic again. I cut off communication and am hoping it wasn’t a legitimate request to meetup that could help me make millions.

At this point in my life, I can’t hide. What I’ve put out on the web is there for all eternity. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t delete even a single step in my digital footprint, just like I can’t delete my name from that looming ISIS hit list.

And I know what the comments will say: “You’re crazy! You’re writing about it? Now they’re going to find you!”

Storytelling is my drug, remember? My reality is that, for better or worse, the only way to overcome being on an ISIS hit list is to write about it.

Friday, July 31, 2020

It Begins Again

As I sit and await Shabbat’s arrival I find myself filled with exhaustion and frustration. I’m asking myself why we are bringing in another Shabbat without a Temple in Jerusalem, without Mashiach, without the safety and serenity that comes along with knowing we as a people finally got it right. 

I really want to reread The Princess of Dan, but I feel like it’s just going to make me sad and fill me with longing and even more frustration. I want to experience the potential and possibility but not the frustration that we aren’t there yet. 

So, I’m bringing in Shabbat again and hoping I find the mental and emotional space to step back and find some peace and hope. 

And, here’s to more regular blogging here. It’s been far, far too long. Shabbat shalom!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

When You Can't Live Your Dream

I've written nearly 2,000 posts on this blog since launching it in 2006. In my life and career, I've written millions of words. I was once an influencer in the Jewish world who spoke at conferences on panels and was a sought-after source of ... something. I've somehow impacted hundreds of people, answering questions about Judaism and converting to Judaism. I've managed to be the subject of forums and conversations and harassment and abuse, as well as praise and appreciation.

When I launched this blog, I wanted to tell my story and share my experiences. I don't know that my goal was to help others, but it was most definitely my version of self care before it was trending. And it had the happy byproduct of making me something of a "who's who" in the world, even if that world was small and it was Jewish. I loved that world.

And now? Although I have a dozen angles with which to share my life to the world, it no longer feels like a priority. I post a lot on Instagram, but my life is largely consumed with work and then the side hustles and helping my kids' preschool with marketing and my kids and husband. My spare moments are rare, and when they come, they're eaten up by grocery shopping or cooking or maybe catching an episode of Superstore with my husband or taking a shower.

I don't know who I am or what I'm doing anymore. When I ask myself what my passion is, what would make me happy, all I hear is "I want to write. Just let me write."

But most of the time, when I sit down to write, the keys are empty.

I write at work about manufacturing and marketing and fintech and senior living and a million other topics that I'm proud to be able to write about because I'm a damn-fine researcher and an even better writer.

I think the biggest problem is that I can't drop everything and do whatever I want because I'm not independently wealthy and we haven't saved properly. I can't live on a whim or live my dream or live my passion or whatever because it's not an option. I can live my truth, that's for sure, because my truth is that life is hard and I can't do what I want. Still.

So I'll keep plugging and chugging along and hoping something clicks, something happens, something sparks, something that means I can stop the side hustles and extras in favor of something that is fully satisfying and stuff-dreams-are-made-of worthy.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Ask Chaviva Anything: Shabbat Candles, Mitzvah #16, and More



Hey hey, it's time for another installment of Ask Chaviva Anything! Let's dig in.

Q: How do Jews participate in lighting candles on Friday evening when they have a son who plays high school football on Fridays?

If someone has a son playing football on Friday evenings, after sundown, on Shabbat, there is a pretty good chance they're not Torah observant (Orthodox if you want to go that route), so their observance of candle lighting will be in accordance to however they understand the law. Many families across the spectrum will light Shabbat candles, have some challah and wine and a nice dinner, and then go to the movies or sit down to binge on Netflix on Shabbat. 

Is this how I believe and feel that it should be done? Nope! Would I chastise someone who is going to take the step to light candles and then go to a football game? Nope! Is this how I want my children to observe Shabbat when they're older? Nope! But Jewish observance is fluid and people are on the ladder moving up and down and up and down. The ladder leads us all to HaShem, so as long as Jews are on the ladder, I think that's a darn good thing. 

Q: I am studying the 613 Mitzvot. #16 - what is the scroll of Torah that is to be written?

Good question here! So according to the Rambam's list of mitzvot, #16 is actually a mitzvah about character: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17). The #16 you're citing comes from a different list, probably those listed out by the Chofetz Chaim.

In most lists, the writing of the Torah mitzvah is #82 I believe.

Either way, the scroll of Torah is exactly what it sounds like! It's the five books of Moses, the written Torah. 

Q: Do Jews light a 7 branch menorah in their homes and is there a special way to light it?

Nope, and nope. Now, if you're thinking about the chanukiyah that we light every Chanukah, then yes, we light an eight-branched chanukiyah, and there is a special way to light it. Read more here.