Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

From our archived column, “Not Your Grandparents’ Shtetl: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western MA,”  Amy Meltzer shares different symbols and rituals of Rosh Hashanah.  Also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar, this year Rosh Hashanah takes place Sept 4th at sundown to Sept 6th, 2013.

SWEETNESS OF ROSH HASHANAH

One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples…

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Purim Events in Western MA, 2013

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Purim in Western MA

One traditional delicacy that can almost always be found in a Purim basket are the three-cornered fruit-filled pastries known as Hamentashen (The word means Haman’s hat, and recalls Haman’s triangular shaped headdress.). Every year, my daughters and I bake several batches of the recipe that’s been handed down for generations in my family.

Jewish heroines in the Bible are few and far between. The upcoming holiday of Purim is unique amongst Jewish holidays in that two strong, independent women are at the heart of its story. Indeed, one of them saves the entire Jewish people from imminent destruction.

The story of Purim comes from the Bible, and is set in ancient Persia. Haman, an evil and egotistical minister of the King, concocts a plan to destroy all of the Jews in the empire because they refuse to bow down to him. Little does Haman know that the new queen, Esther, is herself a Jew. (Esther, incidentally, has replaced king’s first wife, Queen Vashti, who was banished for refusing to dance for the King and his drunk friends. Yay, Vashti!) After a series of plot twists and turns truly reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy, Esther bravely reveals her true identity to the king. The Jews are spared and Haman is destroyed instead. (Yay, Esther!) For a more detailed  version of the story, try Eric Kimmel’s picture book The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale or Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Gelman. For a tamer version (both picture books mention capital punishment, gallows-style) try the Shalom Sesame version on youtube.

The holiday of Purim has many rich and joyful traditions. Families gather in the synagogue on Purim eve (Saturday, February 23, 2013) where the story of Esther is recited aloud in Hebrew, from a scroll known as a megillah. During the reading it is customary to drown out Haman’s name each time it appears in the story with loud noisemakers known in yiddish as graggers. Adults and children wear costumes to the megillah reading; these disguises are a reminder that God’s miracles are often worked behind-the-scenes, or in disguise. Often the story of Purim is also acted out in a humorous skit known as a Purim shpiel. Other traditions include giving gifts to the poor and exchanging baskets of food with friends and neighbors.

One traditional delicacy that can almost always be found in a Purim basket are the three-cornered fruit-filled pastries known as Hamentashen (The word means Haman’s hat, and recalls Haman’s triangular shaped headdress.). Every year, my daughters and I bake several batches of the recipe that’s  been handed down for generations in my family. My mother, whom my girls call Bubbe, yiddish for grandmother, used to make them with her Bubbe in her kitchen in Boro Park, Brooklyn.  Here’s the recipe – they are, quite honestly, the best hamentashen I’ve ever eaten.

Hamentashen

  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 c flour (start with 2.5 cups and slowly add the last half cup as needed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs. Mix. Add the dry ingredients. (Sometimes I need to use my hands to get it thoroughly mixed.) Form a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Prune Filling  (my great- grandmother’s specialty): 1/2 lb pitted prunes soaked overnight in water (about an inch higher than the prunes), cook with a little sugar and cinnamon until very soft. Mash to break up the prunes. (I sometimes puree it with an immersion blender, but it’s not necessary.) Squeeze in a little lemon to taste.

Roll the dough, and cut out circles ~3” diameter (I use a drinking class for this.) To see how to fill and fold the pastries, watch this video from Shalom Sesame, made by the Sesame Street Workshop. (Folding starts at around 2:00, but the whole video is worth watching.)

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, until lightly brown around the edges.

PURIM EVENTS IN WESTERN MA

Here’s a round up of Purim events in Western Massachusetts. Hope to see you at one or more!

Friday, February 22 at 11am
During Purim, it is a tradition to send gifts and food to neighbors!  Learn about this tradition – called mishloach manot – with Lander Grinspoon Academy kindergarten teacher Amy Meltzer, while reading stories, singing songs, and doing crafts.  For pre-school aged children and their caregivers. 257 Prospect Street.  Northampton, MA.  (FREE)

Friday, February 22 at 5:30pm
“A Night at the Temple —The Marx Brothers Purimshpiel.” Shabbat services, community dinner, and Purimshpiel! RSVP for dinner by Tuesday, Feb. 19th. Temple Anshe Amunim. 413-442-5910. 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield, MA ($)

Saturday, February 23rd from 9-10am
Purim Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show airs on 103.3FM WXOJ (Northampton, MA). Mama Doni celebrates the Jewish holiday of Purim as a guest DJ with a fun mix of songs like “I Ate Too Many Hamantashen” by Mindy Kornberg, Mama Doni’s original tunes “Kooky Cookie,” “Hey Man, You’re Acting Like Haman,” to Andy Statman & Bella Fleck’s beautiful instrumental, “Purim.” Celebrating the universal theme of Purim: standing up to adversity, having a voice, self empowerment, Mama Doni shares classic songs of strength like “I Will Survive” and Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley. As always, special guest appearances from Mama Doni’s own children who share their favorite  thing sbaout Purim! This unique Radio Show will give listeners a flavor of Purim –  from the fun and crazy, to the history and traditions of this Jewish holiday. Produced by Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg. Encore airs on Sunday, February 24th from 7-8am.  Podcast and playlist available here on www.HilltownFamilies.org immediately following Saturday’s broadcast.

Saturday, February 23rd from 5-6pm
Havdalah and Festive Megillah Reading. Temple Anshe Amunim. 413-442-5910. 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield, MA (FREE)

Saturday, February 23rd at 6pm
Megillah reading, Purim shpiel and dance. Greenfield Temple Israel. 413-773-5884. 27 Pierce St.  Greenfield, MA

Saturday, February 23 from 6:15pm-8:30ish
Purim Circus Party with Megillah Reading. This family-oriented Purim Party will include a megillah reading interspersed with loony entertainment.  The party will include a rockin’ band, amazing jugglers, poi-spinners, walk-around magic, a joke contest and a costume parade.  Refreshments will be served.  Adults and kids please come in costume. 413-584-3593. Congregation B’nai Israel. 253 Prospect St. Northampton, MA (FREE)

Saturday, February 23 at 6:30pm
Mask-making and Purimspiel. At 6:30, join Congregation Beth Israel to decorate masks (for those who don’t have costumes — or those who do!), and at 7 transition into enjoying a Purim Play, which will feature a creative and fun retelling of the Purim story along with a few verses from the megillah. All ages welcome! Dessert will follow the Purimspiel — feel free to bring cookies if you have some to share. Congregation Beth Israel. 53 Lois Street. North Adams, MA (Free)

Saturday February 23 at 6:30pm
Megillah Reading. Costume Parade & Family Friendly Frolick from 6:30pm.  Megillah reading primarily in Hebrew for adults begins at 7:15pm.  Bring your own grogger, noisemaker or box of macaroni to shake. Open to the community. At the Jewish Community of Amherst. 413-256-0160. 742 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 23 at 7:45pm
Community Purim Celebration. Come one, come all to a Purim masquerade!  Put your best face on ‘cuz there will be prizes for creative costumes. Hear the megillah, snack on delicious (and kid-friendly) hors d’ouvres, and be amazed by Tomm Magician.  Havdala at 7:45pm, Megillah at 8pm, followed by the magic show. Sponsored by Chabad House in Amherst, MA.   413-549-4803. Event held at the Holiday Inn Express on Route 9. Hadley, MA ($$)

Saturday, February 23rd from 6-8pm
Purimspiel Beach Boy Style. Everyone is welcome to celebrate Purim Beach Boy Style! Dig out your Hawaiian shirts and join in for a fun evening. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire. 413-528-6378. 270 State Road. Great Barrington, MA (Free)

Sunday, February 24th from 11am-1pm
Purim Carnival.  Dress like a queen, twirl a grogger, nibble a hamantashen.  Playful and educational activity booths for ages 3-12.  Attendees who come in costume, bring BoxTops for Education, or bring food for the Amherst Survival Center will receive an extra shekel for prizes.  All children must be accompanied by an adult. Proceeds go to the JCA Children’s Fund. At the Jewish Community of Amherst. 413-256-0160. 742 Main Street. Amherst, MA. ($)

Sunday, February 24th at 11:30am
Purim Carnival Hollywood. Join in for JCC Goes Hollywood at the annual community-wide Purim Carnival.  Come dressed in costume and enjoy inflatables, games, prizes, food and more. Springfield JCC. 1160 Dickinson Street. Springfield, MA (>$)

Sunday, February 24th from 3:30-5:30pm
Purim Justice Fair. This family-oriented Purim Festival is for all ages.  Festivities will include spirited singing, interactive games and booths including facepainting, bingo, palm reading, blackjack, bowling and ring-toss.  All proceeds from the event will go to support local and international social justice and environmental causes.  Please bring canned food for a sculpture activity with all food being donated to the Northampton Survival Center.  Bring some homemade hamantaschen to share if you want to take part in our hamantaschen bake-off contest and, by all means, come in costume. Beit Ahavah. 130 Pine Street (in Florence Congregational Church). Florence, MA (>$)

Sunday, February 24th at 4:30pm
Purim, Chabad Style.  Come one, come all! Let the blessings flow (and the wine!) Fun for the whole family. Come in costume. 4:30pm – Megillah Reading. 5pm – Delicious Purim Seudah Meal. Drop in, the party never stops. Chabad of Northampton. 81 Milton Street. Northampton, MA.

Monday, March 5th from 10:30-11:30am
PJ Pals -Purim celebration for young children (ages 1-5) and their parents/caregivers. Held at The Church On The Hill Chapel. 413-442-4360 x14. 55 Main Street. Lenox, MA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Joshua Bousel]

Celebrating the First Harvest with Shavuot in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Shavuot: Celebrating the First Harvest

During the celebration of the first harvest, many communities decorate their synagogues with local greenery and flowers, while children in Israel often create and wear crowns made of flowers.

The holiday of Shavuot celebrates two seemingly unrelated events – the gathering of the first harvest of the year, and divine revelation – the day the Hebrews received the gift of Torah at Mount Sinai. Most contemporary Jewish practices focus primarily on the latter theme, honoring the day by publicly reading the Ten Commandments as part of their worship services, and holding all-night Torah study sessions for adults and teens. Some synagogues also hold a consecration, an opportunity for older children to affirm their commitment to Jewish traditions.

To honor the agricultural roots of the holiday, synagogues read the biblical book of Ruth, which recalls the ancient imperative to allow those in need to glean, or gather the usable crops that are left behind after the farmer has harvested. Many communities also decorate their synagogues with local greenery and flowers, while children in Israel often create and wear crowns made of flowers. In Western MA, there are several opportunities to celebrate local agriculture as part of Shavuot – check out the listings below for the Shavuot Bread Festival in Colrain.

I’ll be taking a break from my column for the summer but I’ll be back as the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, approaches in September!

Sunday, May 20 from 10am-12Noon – YOM YERUSHALAVIM:  Jerusalem Reunification Day. Come learn about Jerusalem, the State of Israel, and Hebrew at Sinai Academy of the Berkshires. This family oriented program will include storytelling, crafts, music, and snacks, offering several concurrent programs for children up to 9yo. Other family members and friends are all invited.413-442-4360 x14. 199 South Street. Pittsfield, MA (FREE)

Sunday, May 27 at 12Noon – ICE CREAM PARTY: Shavuot Torah Reading of Ten Commandments followed by an ice cream party at the Chabad House.  413-549-8749. 30 North Hadley Rd. Amherst, MA (FREE)

Sunday, May 27 10am-6pm – BREAD FROM THE EARTH: Everyone is welcome to workshops on Jewish food and farming with hands-on artisan bread-baking in a wood-fired oven with einkorn, an ancient Israeli grain at Colrain Seed Farm. Potluck festival Shavuot meal. 413-624-0214. 400 Adamsville Rd. Colrain, MA (FREE)

Monday, June 4 from 10:30-11:30am – WONDERS OF CHALLAH: Are you looking for a child-friendly activity to do with the family? Try PJ Pals, a Jewish book-based program for young children (6mo-6yo) and their parents/caregivers for book reading, crafts, music, snacks and fun at The Church On The Hill Chapel. In June the them is The Wonders of Challah and Challi-days. Participants will shape challah rolls, design challah covers, and enjoy a reading of A Holiday for Noah by Susan Remnick Topek. 413-442-4360 x14. 55 Main St. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

July 2 – August 10SUMMER CAMP: In its 26th year, Camp Shemesh serves young people ages 6-16 with diverse, creative and joyful Jewish programming. Amherst, MA ($$$)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Tomer Arazy]

Passover Events in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Passover: A Celebration of Freedom

The Passover seder is part holiday dinner, part ceremony, part experiential activity. At the meal, foods that symbolize bondage are served: salt water to represent tears; horseradish to represent bitterness' a paste of fruit and nuts called haroset to represent the mortar slaves used to build bricks; and matzoh, representing the flat bread baked during the escape to freedom.

The central story of the Torah, the Hebrew bible, is the the long and sometimes arduous journey of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Moses, an Israelite raised in the palace by Pharoah’s daughter is called by God to lead the slaves out of bondage. He and his brother Aharon plead with Pharoah to release their people. When Pharoah refuses, God sends a series of plagues against the Egyptians; finally, Pharoah relents. The Israelites hurry to pack their belongings and flee before Pharoah changes his mind, which he invariably does, his army chasing the Israelites to the banks of the Red Sea. The Torah explains that in their haste the Israelites did not have even enough time to let their bread rise. Instead, they packed up the dough and let it bake on their backs under the hot desert sun. For a more detailed version of the story, try the picture books Why We Celebrate Passover for very young children or A Picture Book of Passover by David Adler for older children.

Jewish tradition mandates that we never forget that our ancestors were once strangers in a foreign land. The holiday of Passover is devoted to not only learning about the experience of slavery, but actually reenacting it. We are enjoined to relive the story – to consider that we ourselves were once slaves, and more importantly, to have our children do this same.

How do we teach our children this important lesson? We begin with the Passover seder – a holiday dinner/ceremony/experiential activity. At the meal, we eat foods that symbolize bondage – salt water to represent tears, horseradish to represent the bitterness, a paste of fruit and nuts called haroset to represent the mortar slaves used to build bricks, and matzoh, representing the flat bread baked during the escape to freedom. Throughout the seder, we tell stories, sing songs, and give thanks for our freedom. Children play a central role, launching the service by reciting the Mah Nishtana, the Four Questions, and ending the meal by finding a piece of hidden matzah known as the afikoman which is eaten as part of the dessert (Here’s a video of my kindergarten students practicing the Four Questions.). The holiday continues for eight days, when traditional Jews do not eat any “leavened” products – just lots, and lots, and lots, of matzah.

There are few community seders taking place in Western Massachusetts as well as a few other Passover activities. Passover is typically a home-based holiday, so your best bet to experiencing a seder is to wrangle and invitation to a friend’s house!

PASSOVER COMMUNITY EVENTS IN WESTERN MA

  • April 6th and April 7th at 8:30pm in Amherst:  Community seders at Chabad House (30 North Hadley Rd). Experience the timeless messages of Pesach that have sustained us for thousands of years! Hand baked matzah, wine and grape juice and a four course dinner. Call 413-549-2008 to reserve. ($$)
  • April 7th at 5:30 pm in Pittsfield:  Second night seder at Temple Anshe Amunim (26 Broad St).  For members of the temple and greater community.  Led by Rabbi Josh Breindel and the temple religious school students. Call the temple office at 413-442-5910 for reservations. ($$)
  • April 7th at 6:30pm in Greenfield: Community seder at  Temple Israel (27 Pierce St). Full course kosher for Passover dinner.  Call 413-773-5884 to reserve. ($$)
  • April 14th from  9:30am-12noon in Florence: Shabbat B’Yachad service & learning, with “Maimoona Festival” & Crossing the Red Sea, 8th Day of Passover at Beit Ahavah (130 Pine St). At 9:30am: Adult Torah study with the Rabbi; Learning for K-7 with Beit Ahavah Community School teachers – celebrating the day the Israelites crossed the Red Sea! At 10:15am: Family-friendly Shabbat Morning Service with Torah reading led by Rabbi Riqi with Anna Sobel and B’nei Mitzvah Class and students. At 11:30am: Community Kiddush, Motzi & Shabbat oneg “Maimoona Festival” – a traditional Yeminite custom for the end of Passover. Contact 413-587-3770. (FREE)
  • April 28th from 4-5pm in North Adams:   Havdallah Program at Congregation Beth Israel (53 Lois St).  The PJ Library and Congregation Beth Israel will hold a joint program to include readings, Havdallah ceremony,  craft project, snacks and more.  Free program geared for families with children ages 3 – 9, older and younger children are most welcome to join in as are parents and grandparents. 413-442-4360 x14
  • April 29th from 9am-1pm in Springfield: Springfield JCC (1160 Dickinson St).  Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation presents  Mitzvah Day—a day to repair the world. Choose from a variety of hands-on volunteer projects, including planting trees on a street devastated by last year’s tornado, making sandwiches for the homeless, knitting blankets for premature babies, gardening, cupcake decorating with nursing home residents, and more.  Some projects are family-friendly.  Space is limited.  The event will begin with a kickoff breakfast for all volunteers at 9am.  Project listings and registration will be online at www.jewishwesternmass.org.  This program is sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, and is supported in part by a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.  This event is free, but pre-registration is required.  For more information, contact Debbie Peskin at 413-737-4313 x121 or email dpeskin@jewishwesternmass.org. (FREE)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Matt DeTurck]

Purim Events in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Purim in Western MA

Jewish heroines in the Bible are few and far between. The upcoming holiday of Purim is unique amongst Jewish holidays in that strong, independent women are at the core of the story – one of them even saves the entire Jewish people from imminent destruction. The story of Purim comes from the Bible, and takes place in ancient Persia. An evil minister of King Achasverosh concocts a plan to destroy all of the Jews in the empire because they refuse to bow down to him. Little does Haman know that the new queen, Esther, is herself a Jew. Esther has replaced Achashverosh’s first wife, Queen Vashti, who was banished for refusing to dance for the King and his drunk friends (Yay, Vashit!). After a series of plot twists and turns truly reminiscent of a Shakesperean comedy, Esther saves her people and Haman is destroyed instead. (For a great picture book version of the story, try Eric Kimmel’s The Story of Esther, which came out last year. You can also hear him read it aloud here:

The holiday of Purim has many rich and joyful traditions. Families gather in the synagogue on Purim eve (Wednesday, March 7, 2012) where the story of Esther is recited aloud in Hebrew, from a scroll known as a megillah. During the reading it is customary to drown out Haman’s name each time it appears in the story with loud noisemakers known in yiddish as graggers. Adults and children wear costumes to the megillah reading; these disguises are a reminder that God’s miracles are often worked behind-the-scenes, or in disguise. Often the story of Purim is also acted out in a humorous skit known as a Purim shpiel. Other traditions include giving gifts to the poor and exchanging baskets of food with friends and neighbors (John McCain once inaccurately referred to Purim as the Jewish Halloween, presumably because of the costumes and treats. Amongst the many difference is that children arrive at their neighbors’ doors offering treats rather than demanding them!).

One traditional delicacy that can almost always be found in a Purim basket are the three-cornered fruit-filled pastries known as Hamentashen. (The word means Haman’s hat, and recalls Haman’s triangular shaped headdress.) Every year, my daughters and I bake several batches of the recipe that’s  been handed down for generations in my family. My mother, whom my girls call Bubbe, yiddish for grandmother, used to make them with her Bubbe in her kitchen in Boro Park, Brooklyn.  Here’s the recipe – they are, quite honestly, the best hamentashen I’ve ever eaten.

Hamentashen

Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup sugar

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs. Mix. Add the dry ingredients (Sometimes I need to use my hands to get it thoroughly mixed.). Form a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Prune Filling  (my great- grandmother’s specialty):  ½ lb pitted prunes soaked overnight in water (about an inch higher than the prunes) then cook with a little sugar and cinnamon until very soft. Mash to break up the prunes (I sometimes puree it with an immersion blender, but it’s not necessary.).  Squeeze in a little lemon to taste.

Roll the dough, and cut out circles ~3” diameter (I use a drinking class for this.). To see how to fill and fold the pastries, watch this video from Shalom Sesame, made by the Sesame Street Workshop (Folding starts at around 2 minutes, but the whole video is worth watching.).

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, until lightly brown around the edges.

PURIM EVENTS IN WESTERN MA

Here’s a round up of Purim events in Western Massachusetts. Hope to see you at one or more!

Friday, March 2nd at 5:30pm — “Purim Shpiel,” the annual presentation by Temple Anshe Amunim’s “Broad Street Players.”  This year’s theme is “A Purim Home Companion,” a parody of the public radio hit program, “A Prairie Home Companion.”  The production, under the direction of temple music director Alan Gold, will include klezmer and other music from local musicians and takeoffs on “Home Companion” staples such as the “Powder Milk Bisquit Song” and “The News from Lake Wobegone” (which will tell the Purim story.).  The show follows the Friday night shabbat service, and includes a pizza and hamentashen dinner.  Call 413-442-5910 for dinner reservations. 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield, MA ($)

Saturday, March 3rd from 4-5:30pm — PJ Havdallah at Hevreh of Southern Berkshires, will host a PJ Havdallah Service for children 8 and younger with siblings invited.  The program will feature the theme of Purim. The service, which is co-sponsored by the PJ Library, will feature a cozy Jewish story time as well as crafts and snacks followed by a brief Havdallah ritual.  Pajamas and stuffed animal friends encouraged as is an RSVP.  For further information, please call 413-528-6378 or email hevreh.temple@verizon.net. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State Road, Great Barrington, MA(Free)

Sunday, March 4th from 11am-4pm —Join the National Yiddish Book Center for hamantashen, a costume contest, interactive workshop, and a lively performance of the story of Purim! “Esther: A One-Act Opera” begins at 2PM, with an upbeat score, juggling, dancing, and wry, poignant lyrics that recount the story of Purim for the whole family.  Come at noon and attend an interactive drama workshop led by Leslie Elias, artistic director of Grumbling Gryphons Traveling Children’s Theater. Dance, sing, and parade in a Purim Pageant adorned in festive masks and costumes. Free, pre-registration suggested. www.yiddishbookcenter.org. National Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West Street, Amherst, MA ($)

Monday, March 5th from 10:30-11:30am — PJ Pal: Purim celebration for young children (ages 1-5) and their parents/caregivers. contact Susan Frisch Lehrer, 413-442-4360, Ext. 14, jfb.volunteer@verizon.net. Held at The Church On The Hill Chapel, 55 Main St., Lenox, MA

Wednesday, March 7th from 5-7:15pm — Purim at JCA: 5-6:30 Purim activities, story and family service – make a grogger, design a mask, prepare your shpeil and enjoy a pizza dinner; 6:30-7:15 Family service: bring your own grogger, noisemaker, or box of macaroni to shake! Start with a costume parade, read the megillah, and do some shpeiling. contact the Jewish Community of Amherst at 413-256-0160 or http://www.j-c-a.org. 742 Main Street. Amherst, MA (Free)

Wednesday, March 7th at 6:30pm — Megilla Reading: Family program with musician and puppeteer Felicia Sloin. Contact Information: CBI religious school 413-584-3593 ext 203. Congregation B’nai Israel 253 Prospect St. Northampton, MA (Free)

Wednesday, March 7th at 7pm — Chabad House Family Purim Party! Megillah reading, costume party, yummy refreshments including hamantashen, entertainment and prizes for children. march 7th 7pm Chabad House Family Purim Party! contact: Yocheved Adelman 413-549-8749 Holiday Inn Express Route 9. Hadley, MA (Free)

Wednesday, March 7th at 7pm  — Purim service at Temple Anshe Amunim, highlighted by Rabbi Josh Breindel’ comic reading of the megillah. Call 413-442-5910. 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield, MA (Free)

Wednesday, March 7th from 7-8pm — Purim shpiel…with Puppets! Our annual celebration of the festival of Purim. We’ll host a play which tells the Purim story; come in costume, make noise with your graggers when Haman is mentioned, eat hamentashen, and make merry! This year’s spiel will be performed by puppets made by several CBI members and friends. www.cbiweb.org Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams, MA (Free)

Friday, March 9th at 6pm — Beit Ahavah Purim Megillah Reading and Kabbalat Shabbat Service led by Rabbi Riqi Kosovske contact 587-3770  for information www.beitahavah.org 130 Pine St. Florence, MA (Free)

Sunday, March 11th from 10:30am-12:30pm  —Purim Carnival at JCA- Dress like a queen, twirl a gragger, nibble a hamantashen! Playful and educational activity booths for ages 3-12. Attendees who come in costume, bring Box Tops for Education, or bring food for the Amherst Survival Center will receive an extra shekel for prizes. Refreshments available at additional cost. All children must be accompanied by an adult.  For more information, contact The Jewish Community of Amherst at 413-256-0160 or www.j-c-a.org  742 Main Street. Amherst, MA ($)

Sunday, March 11th from 11:30am-1:30pm — Purim Carnival: Celebrate Purim with games, prizes, hamentashen and costumes Everyone is welcome Contact Information. CBI religious school 413-584-3593 ext 203 Congregation B’nai Israel 253 Prospect St. Northampton, MA (Free)

Sunday, March 11th from 3:30-5:30pm — Beit Ahavah Community School and Purim Justice Fair! – Games, music and the famous Hamantashen Bake-Off Contest – Bring a tray of your favorite treats. Proceeds to support your favorite Tzedakah organizations.  130 Pine Street, Florence, MA (>$)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Joshua Bousel]

Tu B’Shevat: New Year of the Trees

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Tu B’Shevat: A Birthday Celebration for the Trees

Last month, I wrote about the Hebrew calendar and the lunar months that make up the Jewish year. The month of Shevat began with the last crescent moon, and features one of my favorite holidays of the entire year – Tu B’Shevat (which means, literally, the 15th of Shevat.)

Tu B’shevat is best known as the New Year of the Trees, or the Birthday of the Trees. Why, you might ask, do trees need their own New Year, and why would all trees celebrate one birthday no matter when they were planted? The primary reason is that there are several Biblical commandments that require knowing a tree’s age. The ancient law of Orlah prohibits eating any tree-grown fruit until it hits the ripe old age of four; agricultural tithes also depend on the age of a tree. Rather than expect people to keep track of each individual tree’s birthday, the Rabbis determined that all trees would share one birthday – the 15th of Shevat – for the purpose of these calculations.

In Medieval Times, Jewish mystics, knows as the Kabbalists, recognized Tu B’Shevat as an opportunity not just for running the numbers, but for honoring and celebrating trees (and by extension, all of creation.) They developed a Tu B’Shevat seder, not unlike the Passover seder, in which participants would eat and drink a variety of symbolic foods that grow on trees while reciting prayers and studying ancient texts. In recent years, the Tu B’shevat seder has become a popular and eclectic tradition. Some seders still delve into the complex and esoteric themes of the ancient kabbalists. Many seders focus instead on the theme of environmental stewardship, while others are more simple affairs – a chance to eat, sing and tell stories while celebrating a love of trees. There are many seders for all ages taking place in the area this month. If you would rather try your own, there are some wonderful resources are compiled at the website of Hazon, a Jewish organization dedicated to sustainability. I especially loved this animated version of a traditional story about Honi the Circle Maker and the the importance of planting for future generations:

If you are looking for other ideas for how to honor the birthday of the trees, I’ve offered 15 suggestions over at Homeshuling.

In Israel, Tu B’shevat falls just as the rainy season is coming to an end and the almond trees begin to bloom. In New England, Tu B’Shevat falls in the dead of winter. Nevertheless, it is a great opportunity to start keeping an eye open for one of our most beloved gifts from trees – the maple sap which will soon be rising and boiling up at sugar shacks all over Western Massachusetts. When I write next month’s post, I hope to be baking up treats for the holiday of Purim with fresh maple syrup!

Here’s the round up of events for families interested in learning more about Jewish culture in Western MA. Hope to see you at one of these great programs!

  • Friday, Feb. 3rd at 5:30pm is an intergenerational family service and concurrent Tot Shabbat. Followed by a vegetarian potluck dinner. (Bring a nut free, vegetarian dish to feed 10-15 people). For more info contact Jody Rosenbloom at 413-256-0160 x203. Jewish Community of Amherst. 742 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)
  • Saturday, Feb. 4th at 11am is Tot Shabbat with Peggy Walker, a fun, active event celebrating Shabbat for ages 5 and under. Contact CBI religious school for more info: 413-584-3593 x203. Congregation B’nai Israel. 253 Prospect St. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
  • Saturday, Feb. 4th at 10:45am is Shabbat B’Yachad/Shabbat Together, an ecclectic morning for all ages. Choose from a range of activities. At 9am is Shabbat yoga with Corinne Andrews. Services begin at 10am with lively song on this “Shabbat Shira.” At 10:45am is a traditional Torah service and hevruta study as well as a choice of artistic and movement choices for Torah expression. By noon we are back together finishing services by 12:30pm. Followed by a potluck Shabbat meal – bring a vegetarian, nut-free dish to feed 10-15 people. For more info contact Jody Rosenbloom at 413-256-0160 x203. Jewish Community of Amherst. 742 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)
  • Sunday, Feb. 5th from 10am-12noon is Hand in Hand Family Education Program for children in Pre-K and Kindergarten. This month celebrate Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. 413-663-5830. Congregation Beth Israel. 53 Lois Street. North Adams, MA.  (FREE)
  • Sunday, Feb. 5th from 10:30am-12noon  are Tu B’Shevat activities, songs and crafts in ‘stations.’ Grades k-6 and Parents.events are geared towards family participation. You do not have to be part of our religious school to attend. 413-584-3593 x203. Congregation B’nai Israel. 253 Prospect St. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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The Moon in Jewish Tradition

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

A Marvelous Night for a Moondance

January full moon over the trees at dusk in Goshen, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Have you ever wondered why the Jewish holidays seem to wander all over the calendar? By way of example – this year, Hanukkah coincided with Christmas, while in 2013 we’ll be lighting candles on the menorah the week after Thanksgiving. There’s a reason for this seemingly random placement of the major festivals. Most of the world follows the Gregorian solar calendar. The Jewish, or Hebrew, calendar, in contrast, is primarily lunar (with a little bit of solar tossed in for good measure.)

What does this mean? Each month of the Hebrew calendar represents one full cycle of the moon; the new month begins when the crescent moon is visible in the sky and ends when the moon wanes and seems to disappear. In ancient times, the new month was declared by the high court in Jerusalem after two reliable witnesses testified to having seen the moon. Then, and only then, would the court send out word (through a series of hilltop fires) that the month had begun.

So, that’s the lunar part of the calendar. Where does the solar calendar fit in? A lunar year is about 11 days shorter than a solar year. In a strictly lunar calendar, holidays would fall 11 days earlier each year, until eventually we would find ourselves lighting the menorah in July. Because the Jewish holidays are connected to the seasons of the year  (many holidays were originally agriculturally based), the rabbis added a leap month, an entire extra month that falls seven times in a nineteen year cycle. This additional month readjusts the calendar so that the festivals fall during their appointed season.

While the placement of the Jewish holidays may seem random, in fact, every ancient Jewish holiday is linked to a particular phase of the moon. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, always falls on the crescent moon. Sukkot and Passover, harvest festivals, always begin on the full moon. Hanukkah always falls on the 25th day of the cycle. Additionally, the first day of each month is a minor holiday, known as Rosh Chodesh, or the “head of the month.” In Jewish tradition, Rosh Chodesh is considered a women’s holiday, honoring women’s relationship to the moon. Some women refrain from work, and some gather together in Rosh Chodesh groups, where they might sing, study, chant, share or simply celebrate the new month. (There’s a Rosh Chodesh group for middle school girls that meets in Northampton.)

One of my favorite Jewish moon traditions is Kiddush Levana, the sanctification of the moon. In this ritual, we go outside at night when the moon is waxing (between day 3 and day 14 of the moon’s cycle). After looking at the moon, we recite a blessing, and jump up and leap or dance towards the moon. If we’re in a group, we greet others with the words “Shalom Aleichem”, peace be with you. I’ve only done this ritual once with my own daughters, but one of my new year’s resolutions is to take them outside to bask in the moonlight just a little more often. Maybe one of these months I’ll even be able to invite you to a Kiddush Levana ceremony in my own synagogue’s beautiful garden. Stay tuned….

In the meantime, here’s what the new (Gregorian) month has to offer to anyone interested in learning more about Jewish culture:  Read the rest of this entry »

Hanukkah in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Hanukkah in Western MA

One way we celebrate is by displaying all our menorahs, from the fancy one we received as a wedding gift to the ones made by our children in preschool and kindergarten, and lighting at least two each night. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

If you aren’t Jewish, Hanukkah may be the only Jewish holiday you’ve ever heard of. But in fact, it’s a relatively minor holiday. It falls into the surprisingly large category of Jewish holidays which can be neatly summarized as follows: someone tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.

In this case, the “someone” refers to  Antiochus, a ruler in ancient Israel who prohibited the practice of Judaism. A small and unlikely group of Jewish rebels, known as the Maccabees, stood up to the tyrant and ultimately defeated Antiochus in battle. When they retook possession of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life at the time, they discovered that it had been defiled with idols and pigs. According to tradition, when the Maccabees sought to rededicate the Temple (the word Hanukkah means dedication) they could only find one day’s worth of pure oil to light the menorah, the everlasting light in the Temple. Miraculously, that oil burnt for eight days, long enough for new oil to be prepared. (Looking for a good picture book version of the story? Try David Adler’s new book The Story of Hanukkah.)

Most Hanukkah traditions are connected in some way to the story of the miracle of the oil. In the United States we eat latkes, or potato pancakes fried in oil; in Israel, families make sufagniyot, or jelly doughnuts, also fried in oil. The menorah, or chanukiyyah, is lit each night for eight consecutive nights with candles or, more traditionally, olive oil. And the presents? Well, they don’t really have much to do with the story of Hanukkah. In fact, exchanging presents is a relatively recent phenomenon, most likely popularized because of the holiday’s proximity to another, slightly more well known, solstice-time celebration. One that typically features lots of presents.

Our family’s observance of Hanukkah is fairly modest. Don’t get me wrong – we’re really into holidays, but we make a much bigger fuss over Sukkot and Passover, which are traditionally more significant holidays.  We celebrate by displaying all our menorahs, from the fancy one we received as a wedding gift to the ones made by our children in preschool and kindergarten, and lighting at least two each night (the girls choose which ones). We make these potato latkes (usually only once – way too messy and well, too oily) and play dreidel with M&M’s. We also borrow and bend some traditions from our non-Jewish neighbors, decorating our house with blue lights and homemade decorations and decorating star-shaped cookies (Jewish stars, that is). The kids receive one present each night, with a few annual traditions – one night of  puzzles and/or games that we can do as a family, and one night of art supplies to share. The other nights’ gifts are small items like books and socks.

Some Jewish families feel a little threatened by the enormous appeal of Christmas, and find the need to sell Hanukkah to their children as being as-good-as-or-even-better-than Christmas. I understand the sentiment, but I’m not in favor of  the “we get eight days and they only get one!” refrain.  From my perspective, Hanukkah can’t possibly compete with Christmas, for the simple reason that Christmas is a major Christian holiday (what could be bigger than the birth of Jesus?) and Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday. Rather than trying to turn our holiday into something that it isn’t, we take time to enjoy the beauty of our friends, community’s and extended family’s Christmas festivities. We ooh and ahh over the holiday lights, watch the Christmas specials, and attend the Nutcracker. And with a non-Jewish set of grandparents, the girls even get a chance to do something I always wanted to do as a child – help decorate a Christmas tree. Of course, we also invite others to join in our Hanukkah celebrations. After all, what could be better for all of us than more opportunities to add light to our dark winter days? (The answer: more opportunities to add light AND a chance to learn about other cultures.)

There are a lot of wonderful pre-Hanukkah and Hanukkah events this month, including puppet shows, menorah lightings and festive meals. I’m especially looking forward to the conversation about Christmas and Hanukkah with award winning author Anita Diamant (see the December 4 listing below.) This month I’d also like to personally invite you to a party to celebrate the release of my new-(ish) picture book, The Shabbat Princess. Scroll down to December 10th for more details.

UPCOMING HANUKKAH EVENTS IN WESTERN MA (Dec 2nd-23rd, 2011):  Read the rest of this entry »

Sukkot in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Sukkot: The Backyard Harvest Festival

Kids participate in decorating the walls for our sukkah. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

October is the month for harvest festivals in Western Massachusetts. It seems that every weekend there are numerous joyful celebrations of the bounty that our local farms produce. It’s one of the many reasons that I love Autumn in our region. And, of course, the changing leaves, the cool crisp nights and the much awaited departure of the mosquitoes (they will depart, right?)

It’s also the time of year when our family celebrates my very favorite Jewish holiday, Sukkot, known in English as the Feast of Tabernacles. An ancient agricultural festival, the holiday celebrates the completion of the Fall harvest. The holiday is commemorated by building temporary shelters known as a sukkah. Traditional Jews eat all of their meals and even sleep in the sukkah for the duration of the week long holiday.

Not just any temporary structure counts as a sukkah. According to traditions that date back thousands of years, a sukkah must have at least two and a half walls. Its roof must be made out of natural materials that grow from the ground, such as branches or corn stalks. In order to be “kosher,” the roof must offer both shade from the sun and a view of the celestial bodies (the Sukkot festival always begins on a full moon.)

Once our sukkah is built, neighbors and friends join us to celebrate the harvest. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

Our family has been building a sukkah each year since my husband and I were married. As an interfaith couple, this holiday has been one of the few Jewish celebrations where my husband doesn’t just watch quietly or follow my lead – he takes charge of the construction of the sukkah walls each year, while I’m in charge of the roof and the girls are in charge of decorations. We bought a basic kit from The Sukkah Project, with wood from our local lumber shop, and corn stalk roof gathered from our neighbors’ yard. I buy white sheets at Good Will each year for the walls, and invite our childrens’ friends to decorate them with acrylic paints. We hold an annual sukkah party featuring local cider and popcorn, and invite friends and neighbors to celebrate this year’s bountiful harvest with us in our own backyard.

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Rosh Hashanah in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Celebrating the New Year in September

Kids learning to blow a shofar. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

The first of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, falls this year at the end of September. Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar. According to ancient texts, Rosh Hashanah marks the “birthday of the world” or the anniversary of creation.

If you grew up Jewish, as I did, you might remember that the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are big synagogue holidays. In many synagogues, there are two days of services that often run from early morning until mid-afternoon. Synagogue marathons really don’t work for me and my family; consequently, as I’ve tried to strike a balance  – spending a limited amount of quality time in synagogue, while also finding other meaningful and enjoyable ways to celebrate the high holidays, both indoors and out.

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

SWEETNESS OF ROSH HASHANAH

One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples. (Here’s a link to my mother’s Jewish apple cake, which is on the menu every single year.)

SHOFAR

Another symbol of the holiday is a shofar, a musical instrument made form a ram’s horn. The shofar is sounded in synagogue, but my kids love to try to blow the shofar on their own. We often forgo synagogue on the second day of the holiday in favor of a hike and a picnic. We take a shofar along and I let my kids blow it as often as they like (at least when no one else is around – it tends to sound like a dead seal in their hands.) Did you know you can buy a shofar on Amazon? They really do sell everything. This slightly silly but terrifically informative video shows how to blow the shofar.

FOOD CEREMONIES FOR ROSH HASHANA

Tashlich is a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of the holiday. The ritual involves tossing bread crumbs into a body of water to represent casting off one’s mistakes from the past year. While most synagogues organize a group tashlich gathering, it can be especially meaningful to do with your family or in a small group at a favorite watering hole. A lovely book, Tashlich at Turtle Rock, tells the story of one family taking part in their own, homemade tashlich service.

Almost every Jewish holiday includes one or more festive meals. Jewish communities all over the world have developed their own unique traditional foods, all symbolizing hopes for the upcoming year, ranging from pomegranates, to seven-vegetable couscous, to, well, the head of an animal. Here’s an article describing these traditional in detail, recipes included.

As promised last month, here’s a link to my very favorite challah recipe, from the wonderful blog, Smitten Kitchen. While most of the year, challah is prepared in a long braid, it is a Rosh Hashnah tradition to make round challahs, representing the cycle of renewal.

And now, the listings for September. I’ve divided the listings into two categories, Rosh Hashanah related events and Shabbat/Sabbath Events. But first, an event that doesn’t fit into either category (but sounds like a lot of fun!):

  • Saturday, Sept 10, from 7 -10pm in Pelham, MA.
    Come dance the night away at the Pelham Library with the Jewish dance band Klezamir to support the Pelham Library. Klezamir’s mix of traditional Jewish favorites and  classic rock ‘n’ roll will delight all tastes and all ages. Enjoy easy Jewish dance instruction plus seasonal snacks including apples, honey and challah. ($)
    Pelham Library, 2 S. Valley Rd., Pelham, MA 413-253-065

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Sharing Shabbat in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Shabbat: Friday Night Dinner

Painting of Shabbat symbols by my daughter, Ella.

I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore. At 17, I left for college in New England. I eagerly traded sprawl for small town centers, malls for main street, and never once looked back. Other than family, what could I possibly miss?

The answer caught me by surprise. I was raised in a Jewish family, and almost everyone I knew in Pikesville, Maryland celebrated the same holidays, observed some version of the same dietary laws, and casually tossed around the same Yiddish expressions. At the time, I despised the lack of diversity. Now, as my husband and I raise our daughters in the Jewish tradition, I sometimes miss how easy it was to be part of the majority.

In Western Massachusetts, we’re a minority, and it’s not always so easy. But this challenge is also a gift. We take nothing for granted, and every ritual that my husband (who is not Jewish) and I choose to observe with our daughters involves a conscious choice, an explanation, and a concerted effort. If Pikesville was a few steps away from the traditional shtetl of my Eastern European ancestors, then Western Massachusetts is a good, long shlep. Which means that finding other families to celebrate with isn’t as simple as looking next door or down the block. We’ve had to work a little harder to create community, and, our definition of community has expanded.

This new column, Not Your Grandparents’ Shtetl, is my attempt to share a little bit of how our interfaith family has made Judaism a part of our lives, and to look more closely at what Western Massachusetts has to offer other families who are interested in doing the same.

Friday Night Family Dinners

The girls help prepare homemade challah bread for Shabbat. (Photo credit: Amy)

One of my favorite rituals is the traditional Shabbat, or Friday night, dinner. The Hebrew word Shabbat means rest, and harkens back to the biblical story of creation, when God rested on the seventh day after forming the world.  While our family makes a concerted effort to have a family meal almost every night of the week, it tends to be rushed, without much fuss on the part of the cook (me) or much lingering on the part of the diners. There’s a race to get homework done, the dog walked, lessons planned, and bodies cleaned (or sort of clean) before a 7:30 bedtime.

Shabbat is different. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday. The meal traditionally starts with blessings of thanks – we light candles, sing a prayer over wine or grape juice, and recite a blessing over braided challah bread. The food is usually a little fancier than weekday fare – in our house, the challah is homemade, the entrée is usually chicken, and there’s always a special dessert. Bedtimes are stretched, or ignored altogether. Many weeks, we invite another family to join us. Other times, another family invites us. Sometimes, we gather at our synagogue for a communal meal.

The traditional observance of Shabbat involves abstaining from all work until nightfall on Saturday. In our non-traditional family, Saturday isn’t always quite so restful. The girls might have swim lessons, my husband might referee a soccer game, and I might catch up on housework. But a relaxing Friday night dinner is non-negotiable.

Western MA Events: August 2011

This month, an array of Jewish institutions are co-sponsoring a series of Friday night intergenerational picnics called “Shabbat Under the Sky.” Open to all, these evenings are a chance to experience some of the traditional aspects of a Jewish Shabbat dinner along with music, conversation, kid-friendly activities, and a picnic in a beautiful outdoor setting. Challah, juice and dessert will be provided. The events are from 5:30-7:30pm and are free of charge. More information is available here, or by calling Dyan Wiley at 413-439-1941.

August 5 –Amherst
Location: Groff Park off Route 116.
Entertainment: Puppet Show and music by Felicia Sloin.
Dinner: Bring your own vegetarian picnic.

August 19—East Longmeadow
Location: Heritage Park.
Entertainment: Puppet show by Anna Sobel.
Dinner: Bring your own vegetarian dinner or purchase sandwich wraps (click here to pre-order by August 10).

August 26 –Greenfield
Green River Swimming & Recreation Area, Nash’s Mill Road.
Entertainment: Puppet show by Anna Sobel.
Dinner: Bring your own vegetarian dinner OR potluck item to share.

August 26—Northampton
Location: Look Park, Westwood Shelter.
Entertainment: Jam by local musicians, TBA.
Dinner: Bring your own vegetarian dinner.

Next Month

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, falls in the month of September. Next month we’ll look at ways to celebrate the new year with apples, honey and a delicious challah recipe, and find out about family friendly events for the holiday.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com. Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

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