Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Campaign Aimed at Getting Gen X-ers Back to Synagogue

I always say I like social media, and particularly Twitter, not because I can learn what someone had for lunch yesterday, but if you target who you are following, you can connect with like-minded people from around the globe.

So I was excited to see a link to this article on a blog called "Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X" about a synagogue in San Francisco that is doing "hip and cool" stuff to attract younger Jews back to Synagogue, like Jewish Swim lessons, and "Outdoor Jewish Adventure," that they claim is not an oxymoron! The program is called "Nita: Get Your Jewish On."

Well, we've tried wine tasting and Salsa at the Synagogue...maybe it's time to take this show on the road! A progressive dinner? A hike in the Forest Preserve? The Gan Challah Baking was hugely successful--maybe it's Hamantaschen next time...at a Jewish bakery?

As we found with even the Salsa dancing and Havdallah, it's not so hard to take a moment to center ourselves and allow our religion/spirituality to be an anchor in our lives.

What do you think? What would you like to see us do to connect?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Salsa Night Sizzles at EHNT

Charlie and Miriam, and Bruce and Amy were among those showing off their fancy footwork at the EHNT Parents Club Salsa Night on May 1. Thanks to Nicole and her not-for-profit group Step-It-Up, which promotes healthy families and relationships through Dance, for providing superb Salsa lessons for all.

Dancers take a break from dancing to mug for the camera at Salsa Night, where guests enjoyed a little nosh, refreshments, Havdallah, Salsa history and dance lessons. (Don't let the pout in the front fool you--kids enjoyed ample snacks and fun with Hebrew School Aids Pauline and Svetlana while parents danced.)

"I'm ready for a field trip to the Salsa Club," said Geno. "Me to," echoed Yelena, post lessons.

This event was presented by the EHNT Parents Club and was open to all who wanted to attend. Rabbi Ginsburg kicked off the evening with a Havdallah service, followed by a lesson from our instructors on famous Jewish musicians who have influenced the Salsa. (Here's a great article from NPR more broadly on the connection between Jews and Latin music--but had to mention Irving Fields album that sold 2 million copies in 1959..."From Bagels to Bongos.")

Next up for the Parents Club? A Karaoke Event with the Teen Club and a Child Internet Safety Lunch & Learn/Seminar with a representative of the FBI.
Want to help plan either of these event? Just call Deanna!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hot! Hot! Hot! Parents Club Salsa Night

Learn to Dance Salsa and Uncover the Biblical Connections between Salsa and Judaism !

Please join the EHNT Parents Club, Rabbi Ginsburg and EHNT Hebrew School family Marcos and Nicole Gonzalez, founders of Step It Up, for…

· Salsa lessons for individuals, couples, all levels, ages 12 and up;

· Kosher Snacks;

· $10 Per Person;

· Bring a friend! All are welcome!

· Babysitting available in the classroom for $10 first child, $5 for additional siblings (there will be snacks for the kids, too!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010
8 pm – 10 pm
Havdalah at 8ish, followed by
Lessons and Dancing!
RSVP by April 23 to Deanna at dshoss (at) comcast.net

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cooking with Your Kids, from Braiding Challah to Making Hamentaschen

More than 20 families and 60 adults and children came to the synagogue on Sunday, February 21 to learn how to make Challah in a fantastic and fun event presented by the Gan Yeladim at Ezra Habonim, the Niles Jewish Township Jewish Congregation (EHNTJC).

Amy Claver provided her favorite recipe last week, and above you can learn how to braid a six strand challah. Here's another approach, if the one above is tricky. In fact, if you search "How to braid challah" on YouTube, you'll end up with a variety of approaches and styles. (Thanks, Miriam, for sharing this idea!)

With the Megillah reading and Purim Shpiel tonight, and the Purim Carnival tomorrow, probably a good idea to talk about making Hamentaschen too!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Teachable Moments

by EHNTJC Parent Amy Claver

When you teach your child, you teach your child’s child. –The Talmud

I love this Talmudic quote* for its simplicity in summing up what every parent, teacher, rabbi, and anyone who teaches anyone else what all our toil is about. Above all else, we are influencers of the next generation. As a parent, you shape the little people in your home, and how you do this will determine what they do and how they act with others, especially their own children. We will give our children a lot of information over the years, but it is what we do, not what we say that will have the most influence on the kind of people they become.

Next Sunday, we are having a teachable moment at the synagogue. We will come together as a community, little families one by one, congregating together to celebrate and make challah, one of the central symbols of Shabbat, the most sacred time of the week in the Jewish tradition.
There will be a lot of learning going on, how to make challah, how to shape challah, making a special plate for your challah. And above all else, Rabbi Ginsburg will talk about the special significance and importance of challah and Shabbat. It is our hope that this event enriches your understanding and appreciation for the most beautiful gift of Shabbat and you continue (or begin) welcoming and honoring Shabbat at home with your family. It is just possible that your children will share this beautiful gift with their own little people one day.

We will have a brochure at our challah event for you to take home with you. It includes a recipe for challah as well as some of the special Shabbat blessings. Please look at the previous post for a challah recipe that is one of my favorites. It is from Judith B. Fellner’s beautiful book, In the Jewish Tradition, A Year of Food and Festivities. It takes about three hours to make from start to finish, but this rich, eggy challah is well worth it (and makes yummy French toast).
For information on braiding and an explanation of when to say the blessing to separate challah when making the dough, please see http://secretofchallah.com/.
Finally, for a great book on celebrating Shabbat, I highly recommend The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat by Meredith L. Jacobs. It is a wonderful read and a great guide to all the elements of observing Shabbat at home.

I look forward to seeing you at our challah making event on Sunday!

*The original quote is When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.

Amy Claver is a member of Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation. Daughter, Sarah, age 4 attends the Gan, and son, William, age 6 is a Gan graduate and attends Hebrew School on Saturdays.

Making Challah at Home

From EHNTJC Parent Amy Claver

Challah from the beautiful book, In the Jewish Tradition, A Year of Food and Festivities by Judith B. Fellner

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

5-6 cups flour
¼ cup honey or 6 tbls sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 package dry yeast
½ cup pareve margarine, softened
1 cup hot tap water
4 eggs at room temperature, one egg separated
½ cup raisins (optional)
1 tsp cold water


In a large bowl, mix 1 ¼ cups of flour, the honey or sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast. Add margarine and hot tap water and beat 2 minutes at medium speed in mixer. Scrape bowl occasionally. Add 3 eggs, egg white, and ½ cup flour to make a thick batter. Beat 2 minutes at high speed. Fold in raisins. Scrape bowl and stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, approximately 1 hour.

Punch dough down and turn onto lightly floured board. Divide dough in half. Shape dough. Place both shaped challahs on greased cookie sheets. Beat remaining egg yolk with water and brush on loaves. If omitting raisins, sprinkle on 2 poppy or sesame seeds, if desired. Leave uncovered to rise until double, approximately 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Photo credit mollyali

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February Events: Lots of Learning, Living, Loving!

February is a fabulous time for families and for all at Ezra Habonim, The Niles Township Jewish Congregration. Be sure to sign up for the

  • Challah Baking (and Gan open house--please bring friends, neighbors, relatives, who might be looking for pre-school for the fall) on February 21, $8 per family.

  • Spaghetti Dinner, Megillah Reading and Purim Shpiel (writing by congregation member Ken Dermer and performed by the EHNT All Stars (e.g. the talented singers, dancers and comedians we sit next to every Sunday and never knew their hidden talents--including Elena Levin, just returned from her extended performance in Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas!), all on February 27, $12 adults, and $6 kids.

  • World's Greatest Purim Carnival, Sunday, February 28, 10:30 to 12:30

Call the office, 857-675-4141 to reserve a spot and/or purchase tickets for the Spaghetti Dinner/Megillah/Shpiel or Carnival; call Betsy Rotberg in the Gan for the Challah Baking, at 847-675-4152.

So much fun, so little time! Don't miss out on the great family fun and learning still to come in February at Ezra Habonim, The Niles Jewish Township, Your Jewish Home for Learning, Living and Loving.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Recommended Reading

by EHNTJC Parent Amy Claver

A wonderful benefit to having children is making new friends. Most of my close friends today are parents of children with whom my children are friends. I have also had the fortunate opportunity to attend a parenting group led by a professional family counselor through my son’s school enrichment program. In addition to commiserating with others in the same boat, I learned about some great parenting books.

One evening I read aloud from Louise Bates Ames’ series, Your 6 Year Old, to my husband who immediately sprang into action and tried out one of the strategies on our son to get him to brush his teeth and go to bed. It worked like magic. Bruce and I felt like we had struck gold.

There are tons of parenting books out there and I have barely scratched the surface, but these are some of my favorites. In the interest of full disclosure, I can assure you that I have no relationship, financially or otherwise with the authors listed here. My sole motivation in recommending these books is to share the wisdom they contain with as many people as possible in the hopes of minimizing family discord and maximizing the love and appreciation all parents have for their children.

I discovered this book serendipitously while looking for another book. I have since become a huge David Wolpe fan and am building my David Wolpe collection with this book, and Why be Jewish? and Why Faith Matters. Teaching Your Children is a book I love for its wonderful insights and accessible strategies to talk with children about some of the most difficult yet important questions like Where does God come from? and What does God want from us?

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish Great especially if you have school-aged children. Helpful conversational scenarios are included. I’m keeping it handy for the tween years.

Excellent guide that walks you through the major parenting areas like respect for others, the pitfalls of over protecting your child, how to help your child deal with self control, food, chores, etc. Don’t let “Jewish Teachings” in the title throw you if you’re not Jewish. This book is a blessing to parents of any faith.

Your Six Year Old - Loving and Defiant by Louise Bates, Frances L. Ilg, and Betty David

This is one in a series, Your Four Year Old, Your Five Year Old, etc. Each book describes the stages for the age and includes strategies for behavior management and recommendations for gift ideas and books that are appropriate for the age.

This is a beautiful tribute to family and the importance, beauty, and benefits of celebrating Shabbat at home. Recipes (real food, not just challah recipes), instruction on how to braid challah, and a discussion guide on the weekly Torah readings are included.

Bad news: children aren’t born extraordinary. Good news:you can make your children extraordinary. Esquith explains the essential tools children need in their “intellectual backpack” to navigate life in a productive, meaningful way and to help them maximize their potential.

Parenting is tough. Materialism, narcissism, and many more “isms” bombard our children every day. When you signed up to be a parent, you signed up to be their instruction manual. Arm yourself with these tools of the parenting trade and become a guerilla of grace. Enjoy your children.

The Claver family is a member of Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation. Daughter, Sarah, age 4 attends the Gan, and son, William, age 6 is a Gan graduate and attends Hebrew School on Saturdays.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Knead a Reason to Challah?

By Betsy Rotberg and Amy Claver

Save the date and plan to join us for a special parent-child challah making event at Gan Yeladim, the early child development center at Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation (EHNTJC). The event takes place Sunday, February 21 from 1:00 pm. 2:30 p.m.

Share the joys of making Challah with your children and gain a renewed appreciation for the wonderful gift of Challah. The program is geared for children ages 3, 4 and 5 with their parents.

We will mix the ingredients and prepare the dough together. You will take home your dough to bake (or freeze for later.) There will also be an opportunity for adult study with Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg while the chidlren engage in their own supervised activities.

This event is presented by the Gan Yeladim Early Childhood Learning Center at Ezra Habonim The Niles Township Jewish Congregration. The Gan offers part-and full-day early child education for children ages 2-5, in a safe, warm and welcoming Jewish environment.

Gan Yeladim will be open for visitors interested in learning about our preschool and daycare. You will have an opportunity to tour the school and talk with the Gan director about our various options for quality daycare and preschool. You can find out more about Gan Yeladim by visiting http://www.ganskokie.org/.

This event is open to the community. All are welcome. The suggested donation is $8 per family (pay at the door). RSVP's are requested by February 12 to Betsy Rotberg at betsy@ehnt.org or 847.675.4152.

Ezra-Habonim The Niles Township Congregation is located at 4500 Dempster Street in Skokie, IL.

Photo credit: Whistling in the Dark


By Amy Claver
It is January, but imagine summer—the green grass and trees that are fully dressed. The air is warm outside. Now imagine another thing to put on your to-do list. Back to reality.

The reality is that it is time to think about summer camp. Registration for many summer programs opens in January. As your child’s social secretary, you wouldn’t want little Sofie or Finn to miss out. Thankfully, it is easily done.

Camp Ramah’s day camp in Wheeling is fabulous for school-aged children. Our son William goes to public school. We love sending him to Camp Ramah in the summers for the wonderful Jewish reinforcement and enrichment that the camp offers, in addition to the great swimming, sports, and arts and crafts. With the camp’s pick up and drop off bus service included in registration, it is fun for the whole family. The bus service is door to door in Glenview where we live and centrally located at schools in Skokie, Evanston, and other areas.

Camp Ramah is holding an aptly titled Summer in January program on Sunday, January 31 at Beth El in Highland Park. This event is for alums (we’ll be there) and anyone interested in learning more about Camp Ramah.

For preschoolers, Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation's (EHNTJC)preschool, Gan Yeladim has opened summer registration. Contact Betsy Rotberg at 847/675-4152 or betsy@ehnt.org for more information on the program or come by and see the school for yourself. The Gan will hold an open house in conjunction with the Knead a Reason to Challah family challah making event on Sunday, February 21.

Gan Yeladim means Garden of Children. Growing children Jewishly is what the Gan is all about and is an integral component to EHNTJC's role as "Your Jewish Home for Living, Learning, Loving."

January means time to fill out your summer registration forms. And while you’re at it, book Grandma and Grandpa for some grandparent-grandkids bonding time for a few days between the end of the school year and beginning of camp. Sweet dreams.

The Claver family is a member of Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation. Daughter, Sarah, age 4 attends the Gan, and son, William, age 6 is a Gan graduate and attends Hebrew School on Saturdays.
Photo credit: Ramah Day Camp

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hanukkah Party, Parents Hidden Talents, Happy New Year

Hanukkah Party Smashing Success

I never thought of "mom's night on the town" as laughing it up at the EHNT Hanukkah party (I would have pictured a day at the spa, maybe?), but pictures don't lie! It looks like moms Deanna (3rd grader Lucca), Miram (1st graders, twins Dalia and Oren, and Gan-er Stav) and Alanna (7th graders, twins Logan and Lauren, plus college student Elissa-smiling in the lower right-hand corner) were whooping it up and enjoying the magic and humor by Randy!

Thanks to the Men's Club for once again hosting a fantastic and successful Hanukkah party. Members, potential members, kids and grandkids enjoyed the great show, listened to Rabbi Ginsburg sing Hanukkah classics (next year we should join in!), played (sometimes competitive) dreydl, ate kosher hot dogs and latkes and had an all around joyous and bright day.

Secret Talents of the Stars (aka fellow Parents)

Another treat this season was seeing Tami Glassberg (5th grader Robert) play concert violin at the Science and Arts Academy intercultural holiday show in December (they sang in English, Hebrew, French and more!). Okay, it's not an EHNT event, but watching mother and son play violin perfectly in concert with one another was fantastic. And, kvelling is never out of place!

Happy New Year...Again!

Having already celebrated, fasted, contemplated life and vowed to be a better me back in September, I felt like I had a real jump start on the "new year." But milestones like these (a decade ago many if not most of us would not have qualified to join the Parents Club!) always offer a moment to appreciate family, friends, health and all the blessings of life.

We look forward with hope to 2010, knowing that we have the power to be the change we want to see in the world, with every action, every day.

So, Happy New Year...Again!