Friday, December 31, 2010

Well, I Guess it Was Good ...

To you, me, and the entire Jewish blogosphere. Let's drink to 2011 (and the rest of 5771, of course).
It's weird being Jewish. I don't mean that in the general sense (although sometimes it really is weird, like when you're waving that gigantic lemon and those twigs around), but in the sense that New Years is upon us and a whole lotta Jews everywhere are shutting down for Shabbat, not New Years. There will be no parties, and I'm sure plenty will go to bed before the ball drops or the clock strikes 12 (although I'm guessing a lot of people do that anyway). Booze might be had, and an abundance of food surely will be consumed, but that's just what Shabbat is about, right? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow will come Y2K.

I actually didn't realize that New Years fell on Shabbat this year until last week, and I wasn't as depressed as I'd thought. I mean, my family had a very specific New Years plan when I was growing up. Mom would cut up various meats and cheeses, she'd make cheeseball (not the kind you're thinking), various dips, and we'd sit around noshing for a few hours on what we liked to call "Picnic" food. My mom would make the kids a non-alcoholic Pina Colada and my dad an alcoholic Margarita (the only alcohol he'd consume all year). We'd eat, watch the ball drop, then go to bed. That was our tradition since, well, forever. When I started dating Tuvia, I opted to hold on to bits of this tradition but making the Pina Colada alcoholic and choosing either meat or cheese as the cuisine of choice. Last year we did some cheese and crackers with veggies and dips, as well as chips and dip. It was really great, and it connected me to that childhood event that so defined New Years for me. And Tuvia was more than happy to play along.

This year, however, what to do? We can't run the blender on Shabbat, and by the time we eat (after all, Shabbat starts around 4:30) and try to bide some time, we'll be tired by 9 p.m. Will it be worth it to stay up until midnight not watching the mayhem on television? Not seeing the ball drop? I mean, Snookie of Jersey Shore fame will be going down in a ball, too! This is life-altering stuff, folks. And it will all take place behind the darkened screens of hundreds of televisions while Jewish families get their Shabbat on.

It seems stupid. Maybe it's not such a big deal. But isn't it? There are four New Years for Jews, and one of them is coming up -- Tu b'Shevat, aka the Jewish arbor day -- on January 20, 2011. But it's not a ball dropping, Pina Colada drinking kind of holiday. It's a "respect the trees" kind of holiday. I get that. But I can't help but feel like I'm missing out not watching the gaudy experience of Times Squarers every where.

But I shouldn't complain. 2010 saw a lot of really amazing things for me for which I've already belabored the points. What I didn't mention, however, is how incredibly well-read this blog has become, and that, for me, is a huge blessing. The nearly 14,000 page views a month (my eyes are popping out of my head right now) doesn't get me anything in revenue, but it does bring me a lot of interesting things to think about and write about, and it does suggest tiny little hugs at the rate of about 500 views a day (except on Shabbat, of course, you guys are serious). And, you have to remember, the goal of this blog is not money-making: It's people making. The goal here, is to light a fire under all the souls I can. And this year has done that. My most read and commented-on posts have all been written this year, 2010. (Check out the list over there on the right column.)

I never thought this blog would become as respected as y'all think it is, and it's a huge compliment to me. I wanted this blog to be a place of truth, surprise, and story-telling. I wanted my readers to see that I'm a real person, saying real things, expressing real emotions about real events in my life that mean something to me. The motto, I suppose, of this blog, is that "I cannot tell a lie -- to a fault." Sometimes that might be good, sometimes it might be bad, but for better or worse, it's me.

So thank you all, for an amazing, explosive 2010. I only hope 2011 brings more awesomeness and what you want to see and hear from me. And, of course, might 5771 continue to be as stellar as it has been all along. I hope to resurrect some old topics from 2006-2009 that y'all might have missed out on, but those things are so much about who I am now. I also hope to tell more stories about how I got to where I am and how I even came to Judaism in the first place. It didn't all happen in a vacuum!

And with that, I say, happy (Gregorian) New Year, everyone. Eat, drink, and be oh-so-merry!

Medium-Rare, That's How It's Done

I joined, the restaurant and general review site, back in the day, probably in 2007, and I really took off in 2008 reviewing restaurants like crazy while living in Chicago. When I moved to Connecticut and became kosher, my reviews became some of the first on kosher restaurants in Connecticut, Monsey (NY), New Jersey and elsewhere. Now, I'm blessed with a bevy of restaurants to review on a weekly basis, and believe me, I do. I review Starbucks locales, local coffee shops, and, of course, as this blog's title post suggests ... Steak Houses.

Lucky for me (and you), I've got a stellar review right here for you, on ETC Steakhouse (that's E, T, C steakhouse, not etcetera), and a very sweet deal, too. I know what you're thinking ... I'm hocking lots of stuff lately, but 'tis the season for tightening purse strings. Thus, for places like steakhouses and fancy pasta joints and sushi digs, you want to save a little change, right?

Then, I insist that you all go to and sign up for a card. The card works at butchers and restaurants around New Jersey and New York, but also places online and in locations like California and Florida and Baltimore and, yes, Canada. I have no doubt in my mind that the Kosher Advantage card is going to spread its wings and fly across the country in all cities with a substantial kosher consumer population, but for now, simply go to the website and check out the many places that do take Kosher Advantage.


And? You can get THREE FREE MONTHS of membership by using the code "kvetching" at checkout on (There will be a little box that asks if someone suggested it to you, and that's where you enter "kvetching.") If you decide to give them a call, just mention "kvetching," too. Three months free is worth a try, eh? Yes. Yes it is. And now? My review of ETC Steakhouse in Teaneck, New Jersey. Prepare to salivate.


Note: ETC Steakhouse did not pay me to post this. In fact, they didn't even pay me to eat there. I paid for the meal. Except the cake, because that was Tuvia's birthday cake. This is all me here. And really, it was that good. 

Five, blazing red Yelp stars on this one.  I would have taken a photo of my food, but, well, I sort of ate it really fast. 

If you scout out my reviews, you'll notice that I wasn't always kosher. In fact, I went kosher strictly in mid-2009. Before that? I indulged in all the non-kosher food out there, including a bounty of steakhouses while living in Chicago. In fact, if you check out my reviews, you'll notice some particularly drool-worthy ones where I go on and on about the masterful filets at some of Chicago's best joints.

But then, I went kosher. Technically, filet mignon isn't kosher. Steakhouses, all the good ones, weren't kosher. I was left on an oasis of meatlessness.

I've had plenty of kosher steaks since then. Plenty of "filets" at kosher joints, with the requested cooking style of "medium rare" (it's the only way to eat beef, people). And all of them have been less than impressive. Doable, but simply impressive.

Enter ETC. Steakhouse. Yes, it was my husband's birthday. Yes, he should have been the one having the ethereal experience (which, by the way, he did, but this is about me here), but it was I who ordered the Peppercorn Encrusted Filet with frittes, marrow, and some kind of greens. I got mine sans marrow, because I'm a gluten-free eater, and ordered it medium rare. I also ordered the Potato-Leek Soup as a starter.

Evan's delicious gluten-free "happy birthday" cake!
The soup was good, but nothing I'd write home about. I make my own potato-leek soup at home and it's thick and creamy (not to mention vegan). This soup was a little on the oily side. But I came here for the meat. So when the main course arrived, I was elated. The steak was huge, thick, and was oozing juice. The filet was cooked perfectly. I mean, absolutely perfectly. It had the perfect crust with a juicy, pink center. And the taste? You'd need taste-o-vision or smell-o-vision to really get the full impact of just how good this was.

When I say this is the BEST steak I've ever had, I mean it. I really, really mean it. I've had a million steaks in my life, and this was, hands down, the most delicious, perfectly cooked filet I have ever had. And I take meat seriously. Very, very seriously.

The frittes were good, and I didn't eat the greens (it seemed kind of like sprouts, but was more for decoration). We got the Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Orange Mousse for dessert because, as I mentioned, it was my husband's birthday. If you ever though gluten-free cake couldn't be delicious, you were lied to or mistake or insane. It was moist, rich, and absolutely to die for.

I've decided that my last meal on earth will be a steak cooked by the chef here, who, by the way, came in to say "hello" to us and the other tables and see how the meal was. If you don't fine-dine much, this is a sign of a really high-class joint. To have the chef come out? You see the face behind the plate, and that's important.

Take-away: Go here. Order the filet. Order it medium-rare. And be prepared to want that steak for every meal for the rest of your life. And if you think I'm wrong? Let me know. I'd love to hear you kvetch. 

(Also: A nod to our amazing waitress, Lily, who made the entire experience excellent. The cozy little joint is perfectly coifed in that red-black steakhouse feel, but without being cheesy. The wait staff is all in black, making it a classy, classy joint.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Are You On

Note: This is sort of an ad, sort of not. It's awesome, no matter what. It might seem confusing, but if you have questions, just ask. At the very least, click here and "like" my comment!

Some of you might have noticed that I've been posting on Facebook to "like" a comment I made on the JDeal NY Facebook page regarding the (loud booming voice) "Battle of the Bloggers" competition. If you haven't noticed, you're now abreast of the situation. There is a competition, and all bloggers are invited to take part. Here's the 411: is a "premiere online discount site offering daily deals geared toward the Jewish consumer," and the site is looking for a 2011 Ambassador. The competition will run online for three weeks, and the first week already is over! The search is for the blogger who believes he or she is the most influential and best-suited blogger for the title.

There will be nine finalists (three each week), and the winner will be named at the launch party in New York on Thursday, January 13, 2011.

Did I mention there will be cash prizes? (I caught your attention, right?)

To be qualified to enter, you have to follow these simple steps:

  1. "Like" the page on Facebook.
  2. Go to the Notes page for on Facebook and add a comment under the Competition Note, "Help me win the 'Battle of the Bloggers' competition." Be sure to add your blog's URL to the post!
  3. Write about in your Facebook status and tag @jdealny.

The winner who receives the most "Likes" each week will be one of three winners per week, with prizes of $100 and $100 in credit and an entry for the grand prize of $500 and $500 credit, plus $1 for each "like" the Facebook page has received by the end of the competition.  Confused yet? There's been one week already, so that means there's still a chance for six more contestants!

The winner among the nine contestants will be the blogger who provides the most convincing case of becoming the ambassador for the year.

(There are also extra opportunities for the winner to recieve cash prizes, so please read the Terms & Conditions on the Facebook page. You must have a blog and be 18 years old or older at the start of the competition.)

jdeal was started by MetroImma co-founders Allen Ganz, an entrepreneur who has been involved in multiple successful technology start-up companies over his 20-year business career, and Jewish International Connection New York (JICNY) co-founder Jodi Samuels, who is a networking savvy entrepreneur and community activist. Founded in 2010, is a premiere online discount site offering daily deals geared towards the Jewish consumer. With an initial focus in the New York area, jdeal aims to offer exciting daily deals from kosher restaurants, spas, hotels, salons, and more. jdeal is a division of JMedia Connections Inc. For more information, please visit For queries, please contact Elena Magg and Alana Pelosi at and

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DovBear & Scientology?

I'm not sure if the cabin fever of two feet of snow has made me crazy, or if I'm just in a mood for hilarity, but I would like to give you another funny for the week.

DovBear is a widely read and an even more widely known blog by an anonymous fellow who I someday hope to meet (I did invite him to my wedding, to no avail). I read his blog, and dozens of others using Google Reader, which means that weird ads sometimes show up within the body of the text if the author of the blog has deemed that something they want. I'm very anti-ad, but that's because I don't want to muddy up my good-looking blog, and, it appears, now I have another reason: unwanted ads. I hope DovBear doesn't mind this, but this was too hilarious to pass up.

Miss that? How about a close up. I'm reading one of the recent blog posts on DovBear and ... 

Ahh yes. Scientology. Something DovBear writes about all the time, right? Not. Tee hee hee ...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jews + Chinese Food

I couldn't help but share this. My darling husband Tuvia sent this to me (I believe he got it from his pops). Enjoy!

EDIT: This image needs attribution. Just got wind that it was drawn by David Mamet for Tablet.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Let's Bring Back: A-L

Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone ByI recently finished reading a book that probably wasn't meant to be read straight-through. The book, "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By" by Lesley M.M. Blume, was so absolutely amazing, however, that I couldn't not read the entire thing from A to Z in two quick sittings. I mean, it's an entire book devoted essentially to kitsch, the days of yore, and traditions and ways of living that are lost on many of us today.

The great thing about the book, however, is that I realized that many of the things that Blume longs for are things that are alive and well in the Jewish world. Blume lists a variety of things from A to Z with quirky notes about each. Here are my notes to sort of "respond" to her quips on these lost arts/items/ideas/words/foods. This will be the first of a two-part installment, and it will include letters A-L. Tune in for the next installment, letters M-Z.

  • Bathing Costumes and Caps | What Orthodox Jewish women wear surely are costumes, and caps are necessary. Check out Aqua Modesta
  • Beards | I think beards are disproportionately present on Jewish men, not merely on the Orthodox. 
  • Berets | Hello! anyone? Winter headgear for Orthodox Jews everywhere?
  • Books | Shabbat is good for one thing, no matter how observant you are: Reading actual books. Those paper things that are bound, you know? That you buy on, or, better yet, a brick-and-mortar store. 
  • Bread | Shabbat means challah. The two are synonymous. Thus, bread is still alive and well in the Jewish community! No "parole" needed. My stand-by recipe can be found here
  • Cold Fruit Soup | I will need more than my two hands to count how many fruit soups I was served at Shabbat meals over the summer. It's the quintessential substitution on a hot night!
  • Crumpets | Have you not been to Trader Joe's lately? I lament that my gluten-free-ness keeps me from being able to eat the delicious crumpets they have at Trader Joe's. They're so good. And? They're kosher!
  • Door-to-Door Peddlers | Do schnorrers count? 
  • Dressing Up | Luckily, I get to dress up every week, once a week. It's called Shabbat, and I get gussied up for dinner in my finest attire and shoes. It's an excuse, sure, but it's a good one.
  • Evening Strolls | I actually know quite a few couples who use their return from a Shabbat meal as their "evening stroll" time. In the spring, I know plenty of folks who take the kids out and go for a walk, as well. 
  • Feasts | Blume says, "A cultivated approach to gluttony." I say, "Shabbat." (Or, at least, Shavuot.)
  • Formality | Once upon a time we went to a shul. Tuvia didn't have a suit jacket. They required a suit jacket to even stand on the bima, so he had to borrow one in order to do his duties with the Torah. That was seriously formal business. 
  • Gossip | I'm not trying to make a statement about Jewish folks in general ... but ... there's a reason we talk so much about lashon hara and how naughty it is, right?
  • Grocers | Being kosher means needing a specific type of meat, butchered in a specific way, not to mention cheeses and a host of other goodies that sometimes you just can't find at Big Box Superstore. Thus, the Jewish grocery is alive and well. Here in Teaneck there are three of them, and they're all small, cute, and crowded as all get out on Friday morning.
  • Hat Boxes | Another necessity of the Jewish variety. Hat boxes double as wig boxes, sometimes, but men schlep their hats from here to Vilna and back. 
  • Hats | They're pervasive in the Orthodox community, and your hat says a lot about who you are. Is this a good thing? Probably not. It's funny how the costume can make the man (or woman) in Orthodox Judaism.
  • Head Scarves | Welcome to "Being an tzniut Jewish Woman 101." You'll own too many of them and then wonder why every corner of your bedroom has been taken over by them. 
Then, of course, there are those things that I equally lament the loss of, including 
It might taste good, but how's the ambiance?

  • CBGB | Luckily, I swung by here shortly before they closed. However, I didn't go in ... 
  • Coffeehouse Culture | I miss the Coffee House in Lincoln, Neb., desperately. Starbucks is not a "coffee house" folks. My shop in Nebraska had couches and rickety chairs and a chalkboard in the women's bathroom. It was dark and dingy and perfect.
  • Courtship | Once upon a time, I did get mixtapes from my significant others. It was romantic and cheesy, but I was happy.
  • Divinity | This amazing treat is ... amazing. I'm going to have to make some, stat. Luckily, Blume provides the recipe! Curious about what divinity is? Try this recipe
  • Dumbwaiters | Along with Laundry Shoots, I can't figure out why on earth we would have dispensed of such an awesome household feature. Life was easier once up on a time ... 
  • External Kitchens | This would have been the perfect solution to the Passover Kitchen issue. No need to clean ... just head to the external kitchen!
  • Fountain Pens | I really want one of these ... really. I saw a kit at Barnes & Noble, but then I thought "it's probably cheap and won't be the 'real deal'," so I opted out of the purchase.
  • Green Accountant Visors | I'm thinking about procuring one for Tuvia. And the five million other Jewish accountants with whom we're friends.
  • Journalism | Not much to say here. I have a Bachelor's in Journalism. I suppose it garnered me the ability to write and edit ... but the real stuff? Long dead.
  • Love Letters | I used to write them. I used to get them. But that was when I was a love-struck teenager and college kid. Someone should teach husbands how to write them. 
Also, a serious hat tip to the inclusion of such gems as the Original Girl Scout Cookie Recipe (p. 98 | yes, it was once upon a time just a one-cookie recipe and not Samoas and Thin Mints). I'm also giddy with excitement about the recipe for a Grasshopper (p. 102), which is my all-time favorite alcoholic drink.

Stay tuned, y'all, for the next installment: Let's Bring Back: M-Z

One Year Later

That's me, the then-Amanda Edwards, circa May 1985.

It's now 20 Tevet 5771 on the Hebrew calendar. On January 1, 2010 -- aka 15 Tevet 5770 -- I converted as a Jew under Orthodox auspices, post-blizzard and pre-Alec Baldwin spotting near Bagels & Co. on the Upper West Side. That means that I'm sort of half-way between my Hebrew conversion date and the Gregorian conversion date and a blog post probably is in order to commemorate or reflect or acknowledge that a year of my life zipped by without me really noticing it. And I really mean that.

Between last year and this year, I was converted and engaged and then I finished school, took grad exams, got married, got my first M.A. in Judaic studies from the University of Connecticut, moved in to Evan's place in Connecticut, moved out to New Jersey, got a job working for a Jewish organization in NYC, started my second and third master's degrees at NYU, finished my first semester there, and left my first job for a new job working for another Jewish organization, but this time in New Jersey. Did I miss anything?

I mean, I missed a lot -- in all of your lives. I have to mention that amid all of that hullabaloo many of our friends got married, had babies, moved, got degrees, and so on. Our lives are so flux-y. Right?

The interesting thing about my first year as a halachic Orthodox Jew is that it really did fly by without much fanfare. It feels like I've been living this way my entire life. Only those fleeting moments of people talking about camp or visits to Israel as a child or how their grandma kept kosher or family tradition do I remember that I haven't been living this way forever. It's funny how fluid it all is. How keeping kosher and Shabbat and covering my hair and dressing modestly and celebrating simchas like weddings and bat mitzvahs and deaths have become normative. How even some of these have become mundane in some way or another, making me an Old-School Jew who suffers the same struggles with making things fresh and meaningful as people who've been doing this since birth.

Perhaps this is how it was meant to be. After my Reform conversion, I almost instantly felt like I was changing, morphing, moving forward. I spent all of those years between April 2006 and January 2010 learning, growing, and becoming comfortable in my skin. So comfortable, perhaps, that when that mikvah date rolled around back in January, I sort of stepped out of the mikvah as myself.

Finally, at last, me. Who I always was meant to be, like HaShem's note to Abraham, Lech Lecha. Go forth, become who you were meant to be. Realize yourself in all things.

A year later, and I'm still marveling at how it all happened. How I went from being a proud member of the Nebraska Fellowship of Christian Athletes jaunting on Weekend of Champion retreats of praise and worship to being a kosher-keeping, hair-covering Orthodox Jew in Teaneck, New Jersey of all places. Those memories are all so vivid for me, and I relive them every day. It's how I know I'm in the right place today. But still, it's so bizarre how I've become who I've become.

I'm lucky. I'm really lucky. How often do people figure out what community and religion and lifestyle makes sense to them? I suppose if anything, that's the take-away a year later. I'm lucky. Really lucky. To be who I am, where I am, and living this life surrounded by friends and family and people who love me for who I am, who I was, and who I will be.

So thank you, every one of you, for standing by me through everything. I know this blog began a mere 4.5 years ago, and that means there were 20 odd years before that that you all didn't know me. Over the next year, I hope to tell more stories, relate who I was as a kid, a teen, and an adult, telling the story of how I became who I was always meant to be: Chaviva Elianah bat Avraham v'Sarah ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Obligatory Christmas Post No. 1

Last year, I blogged about being a Secular Christmas Dropout. Here's a chunk from that post:
I imagine if I lived in Israel, the feelings of Christmas would fade over time, and I probably wouldn't even long for the lazy days of mom's cookies and bulk gifts and cheesy, old Christmas ornaments. Did I mention the tree? My mom loves her tree -- it was her prized possession, always. Every year she struggled to get us to help her put it up, and begrudgingly we would always help her. Now? Mom doesn't have anyone to help her. She managed to get my little brother to help this year (with the help of his girlfriend). She sent me a photo of one of the ornaments, a very old one that she has put on the tree since the 1980s. It's a mirrored one, much like all of her early ones (the entire tree is white/silver with a few hints of color here and there), and her comment with it was "Did you know that one of the mirrors was a six pointed star....we must have know way back then that it would represent you :)." My mom, as always, has brilliant insight into these things.
I don't know if my mom read the post, and I'll have to ask her, but the ornament in the photo? I now have it in my possession! My mom sent it to me (among a bunch of other awesome gifts like a Pampered Chef bar pan, Mad Gab, some cute kitchen towels from my Grandma in Branson, MO, and another cute gift that I'll share once my mom sends me the corresponding picture).

Once again, she struggled to get the tree up, but she said it's up now and only a few ornaments broke this year. My mom's tree is beautiful in white and silver. It was always one of my favorite things about the holiday season. We'd sit around the floor in the living room sorting the tree branches by color coating on their ends, and then separate the branches (yes, it was fake) and then put the tree together. My hands always got itchy because whatever the fake tree was treated with just made my hands scratch. This year, my parents will be spending time with my older brother and his preggo (with twins!) wife, as well as my little brother Joe and his girlfriend, both who are home form South Carolina (where they're at school) for the holidays.

Do I wish I were there?

Of course I do. Would it be weird? Without a doubt. Would I deal with it? You betcha. Why? Because -- no matter who you are -- it's always important to remember and cherish where you came from. It makes who you are now all the more valuable, because it's a narrative that you must understand to grow as a person. (I'd post photos of my family, but, well, I don't know how my mom and brothers feel about the face time on my blog.)

So, to my readers celebrating Christmas, Merry Christmas to you. And to all my Yidden, Good Shabbos! And to all my other friends? Happy Winter Solstice and be well.

Be Prepared to Review the Conversion Manual

December 25, 2007. I was living in Chicago, at a point of frustration with my Judaism. Unsatisfied with the Reform synagogue I was attending, I stopped attending. On December 25, 2007, I was in flux. I volunteered at the Spertus Jewish Museum for their family day because, well, what else do Jews do on Christmas? I was excited. I was eager. I was stoked to spend Christmas Day -- a day of alienation in the U.S. -- with gobs and gobs of other Jews, appreciating Jewish history and art. And then? Well, I'll let you read for yourself. I think that this day, and this post, was a huge turning point for me in my Jewish journey. If you've never been put in a situation like this, then you likely don't know how intense and soul-crushing the words of a single little old Jewish man can be. Even as strong and confident as I am in my Judaism today, this story continues to hurt. This, folks, is the reality of being a convert.

Warning: It's long, but I promise you, it's worth it. And if you do read it? You'll be touching my soul in a way you cannot possibly understand. 

Please read all instructions carefully. 

I read all the books. I made sure to read and reread all of the chapters and digressions into the plight of not converting Super-Mega-Ultra-Orthodox. I checked the little box that said "You realize that a lot of Jews won't think you're Jewish, right?" I joked with my Reform rabbi and my Reform friends and even made sure to read all of my mom's nonchalant e-mails about how "You know, you'll never REALLY be Jewish, right? Just look at what's his face, you know, Sammy Davis Jr.!" But a lot of the time, it doesn't matter. About, oh, I'd say, maybe 36 percent I guess. But then there's wanting to marry the perfect Jewish mate (did he have to go through this? or was he lucky enough to be born into?), or have kids, or go to Israel, or interact with other, well, Jews. And most of the time, I don't really think about who thinks I am or am not a Jew. It's irrelevant, because I know that I am a Jew. Yes, I went through the process, I dipped, I was presented, I had the bet din, I did the whole shibang. But I did it Reform, and to a lot of Jews, that isn't good enough. It isn't enough because those three Reform rabbis aren't *really* rabbis and the ceremony wasn't *really* halakhic, and my process definitely wasn't *really* halakhic.

And then this guy today had me back to that square one point, where all Jews by Choice end up at least every now and again, when something happens or someone says something. That point where you think, "If I was meant to be a Jew, then why the heck wasn't I born that way?" It's not a statement of denial of the present person, but rather a struggle to figure out why it's so much easier for everyone else, why the trials and tribulations for me? And as I write this, I recognize that it's quintessentially Jewish to run into these hurdles, these questions, these insecurities -- but for these things to be brought on by another Jew? Albeit, a Jew who thinks ("knows") he or she is a *real* Jew?

Listen. I volunteered today at the local Jewish museum. It's Christmas, and for Jews that means we need something to do that doesn't remind us that, ya, the rest of the world is ignoring their credit card debt while opening shiny new toys and noshing on ham. So I volunteered to hang out for three hours and make sure little kids didn't shmear their chocolaty fingers all over the new exhibit on the top floor of the brand spanking new building. The day was going along absolutely perfectly. I was so stoked to see Orthodox and Reform and the random passersby join together for some Kosher baked goodies and a giant inflatable caterpillar. It was this Jewish utopia where all Jews are created equal. I even ran into a coworker who is as excited about Judaic studies as I am (she's the Orthodox gal I work with). I was on top of the world, I was hanging out in the upper echelon of Jew excitement and happiness, and it seemed like it was only getting better when this stout elderly man in a newsboy cap started talking to me.

His name was Wolf. He was carrying a bag of something and had his pants pulled up in that old man way where they sit far above the waistline, which disappeared years ago. His little cap made him look like an overgrown child and when he asked me where all the food was, I thought, this is someone's grandfather! someone's father! and here he is asking me where to get a nosh. I explained that the treats had been gone long ago, swept up by hungry munchkins. I then told him he could go down to the cafe for some food if he was interested. We walked for a little bit and he struck up a conversation with me, poking fun as to why I hadn't managed to save him a brownie. After nearly two hours of silence and wandering around, I was excited to be talking to this little old Jewish man.

Then came the questions.

Is the cafe kosher? he asked. Yes, I answered. Do you keep kosher? he asked. I grinned, knowing where it was going. I made a motion with my hand to sort of say "so so" and said, To some extent, yes. He responded with, You're a good Jewish girl, no? You should keep kosher! I laughed a little and explained that I was working toward it, feeling almost guilty that I didn't, in fact, keep fully kosher. Old people have this way of making you feel guilty, and this guy, without even trying, was laying it on thick. What's your name? he asked. Amanda, I replied. What's your last name? he asked. I hesitated. This is that point where that whole "What's in a name?" thing comes out. Um ... Edwards, I replied. The look on his face made me anxious and nervous, so I blurted out, Not very Jewish, eh? He got a very stern look on his face. You are Jewish, yes? he asked. I quickly responded, (realizing that if I was volunteering there on Christmas I had to be Jewish, right?) Oh yes, of course I'm Jewish. He cocked his head a little, still looking fairly serious, children were buzzing around us, strollers and people muddling about the lower gallery. So what are you then? he asked. A convert? I got excited suddenly, with this jolt of convert pride flew up out of me, forcing me to respond, Yes, I am a convert ... by my own accord, too. He then started asking me why I converted and what led me to where I was and I gave him the brief version of how I ended up where I did. I explained Nebraska wasn't filled with Jews and that I'd spent about three years on the process.

So what are your parents? he asked. Christians? Jews? What? I never know how to answer that question, because they're more or less agnostic, I guess, but they believe in Jesus, so they're sort of Christians, but completely non-practicing. I explained this to him and he said, So are you sure they're not Jews? Are they definitely Christians? I didn't get what he was implying, though now that I think about it perhaps he wanted to know if there was any Jewish lineage in my past. I responded, Nope, they're Christians all right. I'm the only Jew -- so far as I know -- in my family tree.

Just then a lady he knew walked by, and I felt absolutely relieved. He went back into jovial-old-man mode and started showing pictures from his recent trip to Israel. He had pictures of him playing the violin for the rebbe (or at least this is what he said, I'm not sure about the status of the rebbe, so I could have been misunderstanding) in Israel. He was so proud of the pictures, and kept saying, Now those! Those are some serious Jews! Eventually the woman walked away and the old man named Wolf picked back up his questioning. This is when the situation got truly uncomfortable, and at the end, I was left feeling emotionally drained and as if I'd let down the world. As if I wasn't good enough. As if I'd failed on my mission to become who I was meant to be (Lech L'kha). So you converted? he said again. Yes, I replied, in April 2006. How did you convert? he asked. I stopped, dead in my tracks. It's times like this that I wish I could create lies on the spot, but I've never been good at that. I can't make up fake telephone numbers or random facts or anything. I'm just no good at lying, but I regret the truth so much because of how it made me feel, because of how it turned this nice little old man into the ultimate naysayer about who I really am. Well, I said with a slight tone of disappointment, I converted through the Reform movement.

He just stared at me. With these piercing eyes, like all of a sudden I was a stranger, I wasn't worth joking with and I wasn't really his kin, his anything. I laughed uncomfortably.

But, I said, you know, I have considered going through more serious (yes, I said serious, because I knew that was the right word for this man) conversion. I think about getting married or having kids, I said, and I wouldn't want them to be ... (I trailed off.). Then he finally spoke up. You know, he said, do you want to marry yourself a nice Jewish boy? I replied, Of course, of course. Then, he said, you know you're going to have to convert Orthodox, it's the only way, really. At this point I just listened. He started talking in this flurry of urgency that when I think about it almost sounds more like he was saying "You idiot, what were you thinking!? You have to be more serious! You have to go the whole nine yards! What a waste of time and flesh!"

But then came the real kicker.

You know, he said, I don't want to sound like I'm judging you, because I'm not, but you know, and I'm being serious here, that you're not really Jewish, right? You're not really Jewish Jewish. I felt like I was going to vomit. It was those words "You're not really Jewish Jewish" that echoed in my head from the point he walked away until just now. And those words will continue to echo from this point forward. Before, I'd read those words, from my mother and friends and people who didn't really believe what I was doing. But I'd just read them. On paper or the erasable tablet of the Internet. No one had ever said them to my face in a way that was so cutting, so vile, so personal ... and even now, as I write this, those words and this story -- what should have been a pleasant story -- brings me to tears.

Our conversation deteriorated after that. He repeated the "I'm not judging you" line, and continuously encouraged me again and again to convert Orthodox. He wanted me to understand the "reality" of it. He then started talking about wanting to hit up Lake Geneva and then wished me a good day and walked away. I was absolutely devastated. From that point on, I started noticing things. All the men with their yarmulkes and the Orthodox women with their caps and long skirts and the tzitzit and sidelocks and the quintessential "Jewish" nose. I went to the bathroom to escape it. I suddenly felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was outside the window, looking through the glass at this world that I so want to belong to, that at my very core I know I am a part of, yet at that moment I was so far away from it. I looked into the mirror, and thought to myself, At least you were born with hair as dark as night and skin as white as the snow. At least you look Eastern European, Amanda. At least you have something going for you.

I get that being Jewish isn't about looks or about perceptions. And 98 percent of the time I really get it. But this time, just this time, I stopped feeling Jewish and started feeling like someone who is trying so hard to be something that she wasn't born as. I looked at the kids and the teenagers and was reminded that I'll never go to Hebrew school or have the traditional bat mitzvah. I will never grow up learning the aleph-bet or see my little brother be circumcised in the tradition of our people that has survived thousands of years. I will never. And every time these thoughts crept back in, I reminded myself that when they came for the Jews, they didn't come for the Orthodox, they came for ALL Jews -- secular, converted, religious. They came for them all. And I hate that this is what it comes to, sometimes, when I'm reminded that I am not Jewish enough for the rest of the world.

I'm struggling right now to feel positive about where I am, and it's because of an old man named Wolf who just wanted a nosh, but the words from this old-school Jew who plays the violin and keeps kosher was enough to really tip me over and spin me around. I don't think my reaction to a similar conversation with a Jew my own age would have incited such panic and stress and emotion in me, but when an elderly Jew who has managed to retain the tradition his entirely life calls me out and questions my Jewish authority, I just feel the need to feel accepted. Maybe it's because I never connected with my own grandparents, or maybe it's because I admire the Jews of generations past who had to grow up with such different lifestyles than me, when assimilation and acculturation were so pressured upon new Jews in America. Now, I know I can't know where this Wolf comes from or how long he's lived here, but I do know that when he was a kid his family used to go to Lake Geneva. He had the slight hint of an accent, so maybe his parents were from the old country or maybe even he was born in the old country. Either way, I'm projecting this imagine of the traditional Jew who, despite all odds, managed to hold on to his tradition, his culture, his people-hood. And what am I to this old man?

A nothing. Schmutz. Someone who is trying, but hasn't tried hard enough, and who isn't Jewish Jewish. If you get my drift.

I'm not sure where to go from here. I have this mental image of what I want my life to be like, how observant I want to be, how observant I want my future husband to be, how I want to raise my children to be proud and involved in their Jewishness. And I know -- at this point I am completely conscious of this -- that my present state just isn't going to make those things happen. And then here comes Wolf, reminding me that I'm definitely not able to make those things happen, being Reform and all.

Listen. I'm happy with who I am, believe you me. I'm happy with my conversion, and it was right for me when it happened. I was my newly ordained rabbi's first convert, and for him and me that's something memorable. My conversion had a goof in it and caused me to dip in the mikvah twice. My rabbi took me for sushi afterwards and we talked about how I should enter the rabbinate (his idea, not mine). My conversion, the night of, that is, was the night of the final banquet for my college newspaper, and a few of my friends skipped the formal part to come watch my conversion ceremony at the temple. I then went to the party and got drunk, on what else, Manischewitz. The thing is, my conversion has a story, and there was a lot leading up to it that is emblazoned on my brain, and I wouldn't change any of it for the world. In 2006 when I converted, I truly became Chaviva bat Avraham v'Sarah.

But times like these, times like these I wonder if I shouldn't go further. If that Orthodox kid who I met at Starbucks in D.C. in summer 2006 -- ho said "So why are you Reform again?" when I explained my status, my beliefs, my observance -- had a point. I think, if anything, his point was more significant and dare I say it, thoughtful, than old man Wolf's thoughts on my situation. At any rate, if I convert more "seriously," it won't be because of Wolf or the Orthodox kid. It will be on my own terms, in my own time, and in my own efforts. And that will never change.

I just wish Wolf, and his posse of holier-than-thou Jews, would let me be, would let my mind be at ease, would allow me to be who I am, Jewish as I am. I get that I'm not Jewish enough for a lot of you, but I'm Jewish enough for me. I checked the little box, remember?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Because You Don't Get Enough of Me, Right?

In case y'all missed it, there's an interview with me up over at You, Me & Religion.

Check it out: Chaviva G. The comments have been *very* interesting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm a Statistic, and That's Okay.

I give you, the world's most awesome info graphic. Ever. It breaks down Facebook & Twitter by demographic, knowledge and use of the service, and more. This is the kind of stuff that makes me giggly and social media gooey. Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mikvah is Lost on Me

NOTE: Please feel free to leave a comment anonymously. I know this is a very personal topic for ladies!

The mikvah: a strange, sometimes spa-like, place where there are mikvah ladies, cleaning ladies, and a pool of water that you hope is clean and lacking floating hairs. The ritual bath, required of women after their niddah period (i.e., days of menstruation + 7), is a part of the lives of many Jewish women, from the secular up to the most religious. Men, too, use the mikvah, but the command to go to the mikvah and "tovel" is one for women, which really binds the greater community of Jewish women the world over. We go, we clean, we dip, dip, dip, we leave, we return to our spouses, and we resume the duties of, well, let's say physical interaction.

I've been waiting to blog about my mikvah experiences, simply because I thought if I posted too soon after marriage y'all would be able to plot my entire life, and that, well, would defeat the purposes of modesty. So here I am, many months post-marriage, and many times mikvah'd. Of course, I attended the mikvah three times prior to my wedding day. One for my Reform conversion in 2006, another for my Orthodox conversion in January 2010, and again the day before my wedding. So, even before that third dip, I was a mikvah pro.

What I wasn't a pro at, however, was the evident truth that the act of toveling would lose that charm, that feeling of floating, of weightless abandon in the presence of G-d. Like living next to the Eiffel Tower. It loses its historic charm when you see it every five seconds, right?

I've been to the mikvah quite a bit where I live. I've never had the same mikvah lady, and they all vary -- in looks, in mannerisms, in friendliness, in chatter. I'm a "say something to me" kind of mikvah-goer. Several times it's been this mechanical ritual without any sense of comfort or ease, but rather more of a factory-style approach. Rush, rush, rush. I've had the awkward experiences (including my pre-wedding dip) where the mikvah attendant neglected to embrace that whole "modesty" thing and removed the robe while giving me a once over, only to watch me walk into the pool (talk about creepy). I've also struggled to figure out exactly how long I'm supposed to be prepping. As in, from front door to back door -- how long is a woman in the mikvah building? To bathe or shower, to futz around while getting ready.

There is a rhyme and a reason to the way the mikvah dip itself goes, hence my comment about the creepy-tendencies of some of the attendants. You go into the mikvah room with a robe on. The attendant pulls the robe down and checks your back for loose hairs (which never made sense because they'll float off in the water anyway, like any loose hairs on your head), and then the attendant fully removes the robe, holding it up to shield the attendant from seeing you walk into the pool. Once you're in, you give the go-ahead, and do your first dip. Up, you say the blessing. Down again, the attendant yells "kosher!" And then, a third time, you dip and get a "kosher!" The attendant holds up the robe, again, and you walk up the stairs and pull it on, and then you're shuffled back to the changing room where you were. On your way out, (at least at my mikvah) there's a room of lotions and hairdryers and the like. And then? You're off homeward.

There are varying opinions about whether to bathe post-dip or whether to take the mikvah waters home with you. I used to do that, but then my very astute dermatologist and I had the following conversation:
Him: So ... you're Orthodox Jewish, right?  
Me: Yes ...
Him: So you go to mikvah, right?
Me: Um, yes ...
Him: You should bathe immediately afterward, because of the chemicals in the water. They're horrible for eczema.
Me: Oh ...
So bravo to my dermatologist!

But that's the practical. It's all simply practical. I feel like I've lost the spiritual, the emotional, the lightness that I felt during both of my conversion mikvah experiences. That clarity of knowing I'm close to something so much bigger than myself. Is it me, or have I awoken to the true nature of the mikvah as nothing more than a practical pursuit of the commandments?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HH is Up: The Cold of Tevet

The newest installment of Haveil Havalim -- the Jewish blog "carnival" -- is live over at Letters of Thought, the thoughtful (bada ching!) blog of my good friend @Mottel. Head over and give him some love and enjoy the variety that the Jewish blogosphere has to offer.

And, of course, don't forget to submit for next week's blog carnival. If anything, it's the best way to get your blog's name and content out there in an easy format. I've found some of my favorite blogs that way, and the traffic it's driven here has been great. Another great way to drive people to your blog? Offer to HOST a Haveil Havalim installment! They're always looking for hosts.

Which reminds me ... I should probably volunteer again.

Formspring + Me

So I've had a widget in my right sidebar for some time now, and I'm really happy with the interaction it's provided. Thus, I've decided to throw some of the questions and answers here. For more Q&A, visit my Formspring account, and feel free to ask ask ask! Enjoy!

If/when you decide to have kids, how do you think you'll come to deal with the disconnect between your upbringing and theirs? Do you think your hypothetical offspring will be able to fully understand your personal journey and world view if they're FFB? I think, if anything, my personal background growing up without camps or b'nei mitzvahs will allow me to offer a unique and unmatched experience for my children. Growing up non-Jewish and married to someone who went to 15 years of Jewish day school, I think we can approach child-rearing with a mix of the secular and the religious, with the ability to understand that "the outside world" does exist and will impact our children greatly if we live in the U.S. My biggest fear? Jealousy. I do fear being jealous of my children and all of the simchas and life experiences that they will have that I did not. I don't want to become of those "you must do this" kind of mothers, simply because I want to experience vicariously, through my children, what I could not in my own life.

I've been wondering about this for a while. If I see someone asking for money on the street, what should I do? Is it wrong to save for causes that I pick personally, or should I just give to the first person I meet? (Is it wrong to totally ignore them?) This is an excellent question, and a friend and I ran into this a few weeks ago -- with an observant Jew, no less. My policy is always to donate to causes, foundations, and organizations that I trust to dish out the money appropriately (food banks, charitable organizations, etc.). I've tried to give food handouts before, and every person who I tried to give to eventually just asked for money. So I stopped trying with street folks. I give to organizations, and that's my tzedakah. I don't think it's wrong to do this, to save for causes that you pick personally, because I think you probably get a greater feeling of giving out of donating to causes that are important to you. If someone is really making a scene for money, don't ignore them, apologize and just move along.

What about the commandment to guard your health as much as possible? How is it okay to eat greasy chulent, kugel, etc on a regular basis? And how is it permitted to remain overweight (you and me both!)?Well, I can't tell people what to eat, but I know that most of the recipes I make for Shabbat are not greasy and unhealthy -- I make a lot of chicken, vegetables, and good stuff (being gluten free helps with this). I also only make cholent probably once ever two months as a last-resort Saturday food! When I eat out kosher, I try to eat grilled chicken, salads, and rice, etc. But I think people who keep kosher have just as much of a problem eating the "good stuff" as non-Jews do with eating out. It's an everyone problem, not just an Orthodox Jews or people who keep kosher problem

Thursday, December 16, 2010

If I Walked Off the Pages of My Blog

As a departure from my last post -- which I could probably now call "Sleepy Time Hair Covering Mayhem!" -- I'd like to talk a bit about an article I spotted on Twitter thanks to @critiques4geeks about what brands look like, in the physical.

"What Kind of Person is Your Brand?" details the personality that is depicted by a brand, what it looks like and sounds like, what people think of it, in the sense that it's sort of a living, breathing organism more than a word or identifier. The writer did a survey with photos of people being matched to brand names like Starbucks, BP, and Google, and the results were not shocking. Starbucks = soccer mom; Google = hip Asian guy; and BP = old, white, curmudgeonly man. The point, the writer says, is that we project personalities onto brands, whether we mean to or not.

It reminds me of how in many languages, nouns have gender. So, for example, an autobus (אוטובוס)in Hebrew is masculine, while oogah (עוגה), or cake, is feminine. There have been studies done for years where people are asked to match pictures to objects, and most of the time -- if people are from cultures where nouns have gender -- people match the item to its gender image. So a cartoon drawing of a cake would have female characteristics, while a bus would more likely be trained Thomas the Tank Engine style.

Maybe the connection is loose, but it makes sense to me.

The writer goes on to explain three types of brands:

  1. The brand that we sort of take for granted. We don’t swoon when we see the logo but we trust it. If it were a person, we’d say hello, and perhaps go for a beer at the local bar. I go to my local grocery store every week and like it well enough. But if a competitor opened up down the street, I’d have no hesitation in trying it out. 
  2. The sort of brand that we really, really like. We would like to have dinner with this brand, even go on a date. I feel this way about my Marvis Toothpaste and my Happy Socks. I’ll go out of my way to buy it. 
  3. The sort of brand that we’d bring home to meet our parents. We want to marry this brand. Harley Davidson, Apple, and even Crayola Crayons. People get tattoos of these brands’ logos inked onto their bodies.

This all, of course, makes me wonder: What kind of brand am I for my readers? How do you all see me? My picture is plastered all over this blog, so you all know what I look like, and many of you have even met me and know that my real-life personality and my blog personality are pretty close to one-in-the-same. And I know that the term "brand" is hard to use when referring to a person's personality and created content, but I do have a brand. Social media professionals are brands. Mine is kvetchingeditor, which means you can google that term and find every last bit of content I've created, not to mention all the facts about me that you do or don't care to know. My brand stands for very specific things, whether my readers know it or not. As a brand, kvetchingeditor is a fine purveyor of Jewishly-themed, sometimes academic, and always thoughtful content. But the question is, if I had a storefront, what kind of brand would people see me as?

Anyhow, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what kind of brand you think I am. If I walked off your computer screen, would you give me a firm talking to? A hug? A slap on the back? Would you take me home to mom and dad or a dinner party? What kind of person is my brand?

Niddah: Cover Your Hair in Bed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chaviva's Greatest Hits

Because I appear to be in a creative drought (this time last year I wasn't blogging because of conversion drama), I've decided to take a page from the book of many great bloggers and give you some of my greatest hits. These are some of my favorite blog posts, as well as some that seem to be exceedingly popular with the Googling-and-Reading crowd. Enjoy, and let me know if you want any guided posts in the coming month. Happy Holidays!

Enjoy, folks. There is a *lot* of good stuff in the archives. I just wish I had been using tags and labels pre-2009 ... growl. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


You'll have to click it to see full size. My apologies.

See you soon!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home Bittersweet Home

Well, we're back from Israel. I've been largely incommunicado because, well, surprise surprise I'm ill. It started with a bout of nausea motzei Shabbos (Tuvia went for falafel at Moshiko on Ben Yehuda Street, and I went to bed), and it culminated with a temperature drop (I don't get fevers, I drop in temperature), chills, and a horrible headache yesterday. I went to bed yesterday at 4 p.m., woke up at 8:30 p.m. for some soup, and then went back to bed until 7 a.m. this morning. I'm feeling better, sort of, but the nausea is killing me. No, I'm not preggo. Don't even ask.

Our last major adventure in Israel was a trip to Hevron and Kever Rachel. Here's a view from the טיילת.

Leaving Israel was bittersweet, but because I wasn't feeling well I was ready to just get home to my bed and my stuff in my house. Traveling is hard, it's fun, but it's hard. Living out of suitcases and being without your favorite toiletries is just rough. It is. Being in Jerusalem and Israel all over was beautiful and exciting and riveting and ... yes, I was elated to be there, to feel the feeling of being a Jerusalemite for 10 days, but there's something about being home. Being in the U.S.

I know what you're thinking: But Chaviva! You want so much to move to Israel! To make aliyah, right?

It's funny, and you all will find this shocking, but this trip didn't sing to me like ones in the past did. Yes, it was nice to hang out with gobs of awesome Twitter olim and seeing family who are living in and loving Israel. But the trip was frustrating for me. I'll admit it's probably because of the language frustration -- being almost there, but not fluent. Or it might have been the weather and the idea of losing winter if we ever moved to Israel. Not having the normal stores with the normal stuff, too, was frustrating. And, of course, the water giving me stomach aches was no fun (this was my third trip and the water never bothered me before). But there was something about this trip that made me ask myself, "Could you really do this?"

Don't get your panties in a twist just yet. I'm just saying there was something about this trip that didn't hit me right. And it might just be that I'm grumpy and sick and have nearly 40 pages to write by Wednesday ... but something gave me pause. Caution. And it's a scary feeling. Knowing that my neshama and heart are in Jerusalem and that my brain and body are wondering "hrm ..." is frustrating.

At any rate, Happy Chanukah, this time from New Jersey.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do You Throw Your Latkes in the Air?

I'm sure you guys have seen this already, but I can't help but share. And ask: What's up with the astronaut?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Jerusalem, All is Aglow

In Nachla'ot, this is what we see. Lights, lights, in every shape and size.
I'll admit it: I am incredibly spoiled being in Jerusalem for the first half of Chanukah. In fact, spoiled probably isn't even the most appropriate word. I need a word with more awesomeness and emphasis on "special" and "unique."

If you've never been in Jerusalem for Chanukah, then you're missing out. There's something about walking down a street and, when you turn to look down any alley, seeing doorway after doorway bright with the lights of chanukiot or menorahs. I was telling Tuvia that it reminds me of Christmastime back in Missouri and Nebraska, when my dad would insist on us driving around -- as a family -- to look at the varied and unique displays of lights in every neighborhood of town. Some went all out with every last inch covered in beautiful white lights (classy) and some would go all out with plastic Santa figurines and colorful lights upon every door and window frame (barf).

In Jerusalem, you see gigantic chanukiot and small ones. Silver and pewter, small glasses filled with oil, some in boxes, some simply on chairs in doorways. The variety is beautiful, the light is uplifting. I suppose this is one of the times of year where Jerusalem feels whole, connected, complete, and as one. I can't fully describe how beautiful it is -- you have to see and feel it to believe it -- but I hope some of the photos here can give you a taste of what it's like.

You can light 'em on a chair ...
I also wish I could go into a big academic diatribe about Chanukah really being (probably) a belated Sukkot celebration, but I'll save you the drama that it might unfold. I'll just say that for what it's worth, most people don't know the whole story about Chanukah and how it evolved through the years to what we know today. I will add, of course, that I love how appropriate it is to see so many chanukiot lit on the right side of the doorpost here -- after all, this is where we are meant to light our chanukiot because they are meant to sit opposite the mezuzah upon our right doorposts as a reminder of the rekindling of our commitment to HaShem and the Torah.

At any rate, Chag Chanukah Sameach, Chag Sameach, Happy Chanukah -- all from Jerusalem, which is a'glow (but not a'blaze, Baruch HaShem!).

We chose to set up our tea light chanukiah on our window ledge. Chag Chanukah Sameach!
For more photos, check out my Facebook! Also, for what it's worth, we were interviewed by the friendly faces behind Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem, so stay tuned to their website to see if my hilarious comments about Israelis and Floridians make it on-air.