Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: The Shabbos Party Box!

Awhile back, I was contacted about reviewing a new product for families that love Shabbat but might struggle with Shabbat activities and snacks for their children. This product is a "box of the month" called the Shabbos Party Box! And, before I even start my review, let me just say that they're giving away some boxes, so pop over to their website and enter to win one!

Now to the review. I really like the concept of the box, but I don't know that it's something that I'll buy into long term because I wasn't super jazzed with the contents. It definitely has plenty of nosh and activities for the price, but the sugar-coated goodies aren't really something that we go for in our family. We don't do the "Shabbat cereal" or "you can have brownies for breakfast because it's Shabbat" philosophy, so maybe this box isn't for us.

Our box came with

  • Gummies
  • Mentos (the fresh maker!)
  • Sour sticks
  • A flipstick
  • Three cards with activities/fun for Shabbat
  • Rally Up (a game)
  • A magnet
Where was the gift for mom!? 

Okay, now that I think back on this, Little T does love chewing on the Lipstick, and Asher actually uses Rally Up as "peanut butter and jelly" (don't ask) for his babies. I felt bad that I just chucked the three containers of candy, however. Why not something healthy? Or even moderately healthy? Like a bag of veggie chips, natural gummies, or something that doesn't have a million ingredients? That's all I'm saying here. 

Overall, this just isn't for us. I like the idea, and I know it'll work for many people, but I don't think it'll ever be on our Shabbat "to do" list. 

Have you seen this box? Do you think you'd buy it for your family? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ask Chaviva Anything: Of Marriage and Mr. T

It's been awhile since I responded to some of the Ask Chaviva Anything questions, so I thought I'd go through and answer a bunch in one quick (hopefully) post. This round of questions is devoted to marriage and family life, in honor of celebration FOUR YEARS of marriage to Mr. T on February 20th.

Ready? Let's roll.

Did you go through the shidduch process with Mr. T?

For those of you not in the know, the shidduch process is a matchmaking process, wherein you rely on a third party to find a suitable, meaningful marriage match. The answer to this is yes! I actually used a website called Saw You at Sinai, wherein there are matchmakers around the world who look through your profile and answers to questions to find you a match. Then they pair you up with people and both sides get the opportunity to deny/accept the potential opportunity to talk or meet. I'd been on SYAS for months, and I can't even begin to tell you how many men declined the opportunity to even talk to me. As a divorced convert, I wasn't such an attractive match, it seems. I tried to be really open and not picky, so I accepted several potential matches, but the first one that stuck was Mr. T. His profile said he was divorced with a kid and was a smoker, but something about his photos and profile sang to me. Shortly after we met, he quit smoking cold turkey (I have asthma, so this was a deal breaker), and the rest is history. 

What / when will you tell your children about your first marriage?

Honestly, I don't know that I'll tell them anything about it. However, if it comes up, or they ask, or they're getting toward the age of marrying, I'll tell them about it, because I believe it provides a valuable lesson about expectations and when to follow your heart and when to follow your gut. My first marriage and that entire relationship is an example of so many things, primary among them happiness, what that looks like, and what you're willing to do in pursuit of it. 

When are you returning home, permanently?

Home is where the heart is. My heart is currently in Denver. If you're asking when we're going to return to Israel, the answer to that is when we have enough money and stability to get by for 2-3 years without worry. It is taking longer than we anticipated for that to happen. I refuse to put my children in the position of "living in the red" and struggling from paycheck to paycheck. It might be the Israeli way, but it's not the way I want to live my life. 

You seem to be having a rough time of it lately, between 2 kids & your job. Do you feel things would have been easier had you stayed in Israel? Or, despite the difficulties, is it still easier in the US?

No. Life would have been rougher had we stayed in Israel. Period. Also, since this questions was asked, I quit my job, and I'm finding that ONE THING that will make me happy, so I'm moving in the direction of finding my happy/stable/productive place.

Do you ever find yourself upset still at how hard it was for your husband to reimmigrate to the USA?

Absolutely, yes. Especially as Little T gets closer and closer to the age Asher was when Mr. T left, I start to see milestones that he missed, and it breaks my heart that he missed those opportunities with Asher, but it also makes me so happy that he gets to experience those with our daughter. 

Next up: Questions About Conversion! Stay tuned ... 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Once Upon a Time, I Was Going to be Something

Eleven years ago, I was poised to be a Judaic studies scholar. It was my dream, and I was willing to do just about anything to make it happen. After graduating with my bachelor of journalism, I went to The Washington Post for an internship after which I got hired on as a full-time employee. I was miserable in DC, and I started working on chasing my real dream: a master's in Judaic studies followed by a PhD followed by a prolific career as an academic, professor, and writer.

Instead, I ended up moving to Chicago, living with a guy I thought was my forever, working for a Nobel-prize-winning economist, and only a year later heading to graduate school. Just a few years after that I was married, divorced, and quitting a program at NYU where I was attempting a second and third master's degree.

Now? Well, life is different now. I don't have time for books or papers or pursuing all those fascinating topics that were going to keep me happy and sane and on the chase. So what did my dreams look like? This. And, I'll point out, I was going to be the scholar to blow up the Ulysses S. Grant history, not Jonathan Sarna. When I interviewed at Brandeis in 2009/10, I mentioned the fascinating issue to Professor Sarna. Then, in 2012 he released his book.

Coulda been me. Here's a letter I sent with my application to the University of Chicago. Maybe, someday, I'll get back on this track.
Does the world really need another Jewish studies scholar? There are truckloads of academics in pursuit of answers from the Holocaust or the perplexing makeup of American Jewry and the Diaspora. But what about the uncharted grounds of Jewish history and thought? What about, for example, Ulysses S. Grant and his expulsion of the Jews in 1862? A piece of U.S. history you won’t likely find in most history books, this is just one of the complicated, uncultivated avenues on which I plan to tread in pursuit of a career in Jewish studies. 
During my junior year, while pursuing a journalism degree and minor in Judaic studies, I took an ethnopolitical conflict class – nicknamed the “genocide class” – which I was told by those who had taken the course that it would either break me down or change my course of study. The class, taught by Prof. Patrice McMahon, was centered on a single ethnic conflict research paper written in three parts throughout the semester. I knew instantly that I would research Grant’s infamous action, which I had heard about from a rabbi visiting my synagogue as part of the celebration of 350 years of Judaism in America. Unfortunately, the rabbi couldn’t tell me much about the event, thus piquing my interest. 
I spent weeks in the library scouring the school’s collection of Civil War, Grant and Jewish histories. It turned out that few people had heard about the incident and even fewer had written extensively on the topic. It was clear that I had my work cut out for me, which only wrapped me up more in the research. My research focused on what motivated Grant to issue the order, including the effects of war, economics and other generals on his decision. My research turned up a rabbi and professor, both of whom had detailed accounts and assessments of the incident. My shock of the unexplored event turned into excitement. Could I chart a new path or cover new ground on an anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic act sanctioned by the U.S. government? I set out to advance the study of General Order No. 11. 
The result of my semester-long effort was a comprehensive look at what led Grant to issue the antiSemitic order in a paper, “Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews: A Mighty Order and a Blemish on U.S. history.” At the end of the semester, in presenting the research to classmates, the expression of surprise on the faces of the 30 or so students was the most rewarding aspect of the venture. When detailing this seemingly veiled incident with others, friends were hesitant to believe and fellow scholars were shocked to know they were unaware of such a significant instance of antiSemitism in U.S. history. It was then that I staked my claim as a scholar, researcher and educator. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Passion … is a powerful spring.”

I hope to expand my undergraduate research on Grant to explore aspects of the incident beyond the motive. Few have focused on the lasting effects of the order or how Grant managed to carry the Jewish vote in both of his bids for president. Additionally, I would like to explore how such a significant event has managed to go unmentioned in textbooks and whether similar orders were issued during the Civil War or during other U.S.-inclusive wars. In a way, Grant has helped me find my raison d’etre.
But my interests reach much further than Grant and U.S. Jewry. My passion for Jewish studies spans American-Jewish fiction and authors such as Tova Mirvis, Jonathan Safran Foer and Cynthia Ozick; biblical Judaism; Jewish printing of the Middle Ages; and Jewish, Christian and Muslim relations. I hope to explore Rashi, his daughters, and whether his encouragement of their Talmud study was widely explored or purely rejected. I’m also fascinated with Emma Lazarus, whose outward effort to connect to the Jewish people seems hypocritical and insincere; I’m drawn to her understanding of Jewishness. Perhaps the most interesting avenue of research I’ve pursued and hope to look at further involves Jewish television and the rise of the sitcom, which spanned “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Bonanza.” 
My passion for Jewish languages has made me desperate to learn Ladino in order to study the Jews of Salonika, which I know so little about and yet am constantly reading about. My knowledge of Hebrew is limited, having taken only one semester of biblical Hebrew with Prof. Stephen Burnett late in my undergrad. Although my undergraduate university lacked regular Hebrew courses, my liturgical Hebrew is strong, and I am constantly working toward a fluent understanding of Modern Hebrew, in addition to biblical Hebrew.

I have to stress that this field of study is as much an academic endeavor as it is personal. The pursuit of a master’s degree will serve as another spring on a path to teaching, writing and researching, whether through a PhD and professoring or, as my rabbi has suggested, through rabbinical school. My work with Grant and the Jews proved to me that there are a bounty of uncultivated avenues in Jewish studies begging to be examined and shared by curious, burgeoning scholars such as myself.

The University of Chicago has a history and reputation of excellence, brought forth by the presence of passionate scholars – both students and professors – who are searching for answers to some of history’s and society’s most significant puzzles. While researching the scholars of the Committee on Jewish Studies, I found professors who I know will be beneficial to work and study with. I only hope that my passion for Judaic studies is apparent and that I can continue my studies and work toward a career in teaching Jewish history, religion and philosophy with the help of the Jewish Studies department at the University of Chicago.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Quit My Job, and I Feel Great

Those of you who have been following this blog for the past 11 years of its existence know that I've gone through a bajillion life changes, and they often happen in quick spurts of anxiety and chaos all at once.

Well, welcome to another installment of "What did Chaviva do now?" I keep wavering between "This is going to be awesome" and "This is going to make me vomit." It's an epic place to be.

I'm happy to say that every job I've ever left, with the exception of two, I've left on my own free will and at my own time. The two jobs that this didn't happen with were soft "letting go" situations and both happened after I moved to Israel and the two Denver companies I was working for decided they needed people closer to home to make things work (thanks Marissa Meyer). Every other job I've ever had I left. I quit. I walked away Most of the time, I leave a job because I grow impatient or bored.

This time? I left a job because I was stressed, depressed, and felt terribly devalued. No job is worth those feelings.

So what now? Well, I've got three part-time gigs I'm juggling, and thanks to a close friend who lit a fire under me, I'm going to start developing my own company. And this time, for one in my life, I'm going to start charging what I'm worth. I have this problem where I just want to make brands amazing, so I'll take whatever they pay me to get the chance to make them awesome. No more, folks. I'm a pro, I've been doing this for a very long time, and I'm really, really good at what I do. If I continue to devalue myself, my clients will, too. If I say it's $100 or $150/hour, you better bet I'm going to work my tuches off during that hour and you're going to shine because of it.

Onward. Upward. It's time for me to take the reins of my destiny instead of someone else's. I'm ready to get back to where I was all those years ago where Chaviva was the brand, where my expertise was sought after, where I was the pro on panels. That's the person I am.

Stay tuned for a website geared toward my marketing prowess, a new logo and name, and more. Exciting times ahead, folks!