Category Archives: Religion/Belief/Culture

Finding My Place. Finding My Home.

by Nick Charles

About a year ago after attending High Holiday services because of a pretty girl, I reached out to my local synagogue and said that I needed to make this official and go through the Conversion process. I grew up in a mixed household and always believed I was Jewish ever since I was a teen. I never had a bar mitzvah and never really tried to keep kosher, but I relished the tranquility of Shabbat and would tear up with pride in hearing the Hatikvah.

Continue reading Finding My Place. Finding My Home.

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The Other Side Of The Garden

I wasn’t always Jewish, you know.

Once upon a time I was a typical Haitian-American girl trying to figure life out in the United States of America. I ate the typical food–griot, rice, beans–had the traditional Independence Day meals come January 1st annually. I was pretty sheltered growing up getting to go out when we all went to church.  We spoke French at home, although my parents had the secret Creole language that they spoke when they didn’t want the kids to hear.

Of course, we picked it up and figured it out. Continue reading The Other Side Of The Garden

I Think I’m Finally A Baal Teshuva

I’ve had a lot of issues with the term baal/baalat teshuva over the past 5+ years.

It means “master of returning”, and usually indicates a person who grew up with Jewish ancestry but not Torah observant, or at least not fully. Sometimes it’s used in common parlance to refer to someone who was “religious”, and then stopped being religious, and then came back to Orthodoxy. These terms: “religious” “Orthodox” and “baal teshuva”…they’re so self righteous. I hate the way they’re used in every day life, and in Orthodox communities.

But that’s not the point. Continue reading I Think I’m Finally A Baal Teshuva

An Inspired Shabbat

Last night, I was present for the presentation of a Guinness World Record. Project Inspire now holds the official record for “longest loaf of braided bread,” with a 20 foot, oven-baked, perfectly seeded 6 braid challah. Somehow, though, the over 2,200 women and girls I was sharing the space with weren’t an official record on our own. It would’ve been something like “most people simultaneously kneading and braiding challah.” Or, maybe, “most unified Jewish event.” Who would’ve ever thought that Brooklyn Jews could pull that one off?

Well, Project Inspire is certainly the group to make it happen. Continue reading An Inspired Shabbat

You’re Talking to Gd Wrong

It happens to me every year. Every holiday. Every day, in fact.

I come across this one word, and my soul cringes inside my body knowing that millions of Jews have absolutely no clue that they’re saying it wrong. I didn’t know that I’d been saying it wrong for years myself until I stumbled across a random shul newsletter a few years back.

And, seeing as how this word is one of Gd’s names, saying it wrong is kind of a big deal. Continue reading You’re Talking to Gd Wrong

Off The Other Derech

“Off the Derech”, the term used to describe formerly frum Jews, is sort of a misnomer. It implies that there is one way to be an observant Jew, and one way to be a non-observant Jew. In reality, it would be difficult to draw lines to divide up the spectrum of practices among frum and frei alike. Leah Kleim, known online as “Rebbetzin”, saw that there were many people who, although no longer religious, still wanted to connect with others on Shabbos. She decided to create a Facebook group called OTD Shabbos, where any Jew can connect to make plans to celebrate Shabbos.

To find out more I interviewed Leah about the formation of the group, her goals, and its success so far. Continue reading Off The Other Derech 

Old Shul v New Shul

For both personal and professional reasons, I’ve moved a lot. Seven states all together, not counting the duplicates (California twice, three times in Illinois).

That’s also meant changing synagogues. I’ve got the routine down. Meet the rabbi. Get in good with whoever runs Sisterhood, because that’s who’s really in charge. Volunteer for something to meet some people. And pay dues at whatever level you can afford to make sure you’re on the mailing list. Continue reading Old Shul v New Shul