Is it possible to raise modern kids with a less gendered tone? And other thoughts on my tzitzit-wearing daughter

Here’s how my kids tell it:

This morning, Koala offered Bebe a pair of tzitzit to wear today. Note that this on the heels of last week’s Bebe deciding to wear a kippa to gan (and actually doing it the whole day – I was more impressed hair-wise!).

So Bebe accepted his offer. I walked into their bedroom and found her putting them on, over an undershirt, before her sweatshirt. She looked up, beaming.

“I’m wearing tzitzit!”

And I was beaming too, and kinda chuckling, and before I could say anything, she was blessing them. Correctly. Standing there, shuckling, holding the strings in both hands.

I dutifully replied, “Amen!”

The rest of the morning I waited for her to ask to take them off. When we got downstairs she was only emboldened. She took out one of Koala’s old kippot and put it on. She repeated the blessing for the tzitzit and danced around the room. Somewhere between walking Koala to gan and following Bebe to hers, the kippa came off – it was too big and bothersome. But I watched Bebe stride into her gan, greet her teachers, and walk off to see her friends. Confidently.

Later, I asked her – very delicately – if during gan prayers she had said the bracha on the tzitzit. This orthodox-religious gan is located in a very secular-traditional town, with a generally pluralistic (for national religious lite) religious community. The staff are either dati leumi or traditional mizrahi.

I was trying not to put a spin on her experience. She reported matter-of-factly that she had said the bracha – and proceeded to recite it again. I asked, “with the boys?” She replied, “the boys said [insert mumble mumble ‘mitzvat tzitzit’] and then the girls said [insert mumble mumble ‘k’riztono’] and I said the bracha on the tzitzit.”

So let’s get this out right here: This is way less about religion for me than it is about gendered experiences. I don’t wear a talit, I don’t wear a kippa, hell, I barely pray and when I do it’s not to who you might think.

My three-year-old daughter, any way you slice it, is not considering God’s law when she is trying out new things. She’s curious about clothing and ritual. She’s testing out what other kids do. She’s figuring out boys and girls. She wants to be like her older brother. She’s heard me say boys can have ponytails and girls can have short haircuts.

She wants to be involved.

So she’s feeling it out.

That’s how I see it. Is it a sign that my attempts at toning down gender expectations are working?

I mean, there is so much to beat back. So much, it hurts. The colors, from birth. The clothing that reads ‘Daddy’s little girl!’ or ‘Boys get dirty!’ The behavior expectations. The princesses and ninjas. The kinds of activities on offer. The words directed at them. The way we praise. The way we criticize.

Involvement. Involvement in ritual, in activities, in anything we desire to try.

How much of kids is who they were born as, and how much is the way we’ve sorted them into genderized compartments?

I don’t think we should ban princesses or force boys to take ballet. I wouldn’t deny my son the opportunity to be a Ninja Turtle on Purim and, gulp, my daughter to try her hand at princessing any given year. Turns out, of all the chugim I offered them for the year, Koala wanted soccer and Bebe absolutely loves her ballet class.

So it’s in the little things – the things they ask about, the things they want to try, the questions they ask – that I try my hardest to leave it objective. So they can choose their involvement.

And are my tiny efforts going to make a difference?

Perhaps now that I have children – or perhaps the times I’m parenting in – probably both – I can’t help but see instances, trends, expectations in my childhood that molded me to be a certain way. They were everywhere then. And they are everywhere now.

Sometimes it makes me sick.

So while maybe my son’s ‘black velvet kippa’ phase was more about religion (for adults) than anything else, I really believe Bebe’s tzitzit-wearing is more about gender. And for her, it’s more about being involved. She’s asked to wear them on shabbat for tefillot.

I don’t know where it will go religiously. It’s actually more shocking that my son still wears his tzitzit than that my daughter is interested in being involved in a daily activity.

But this should be about gender expectations. We should talk about gender expectations. When applicable, there are actions to take to break down some gender expectations.

And, c’mon, little girls in tzitzit is just as freakin cute as little boys in tzitzit.

So that controversial Tzur Hadassah mikvah grand opening happened.

So many mixed feelings.

We moved here knowing there was no working mikva, and it may or may not get fixed one day. I’d say the same of most of the people who will end up using the now open-to-public-but-still-waiting-on-a-few-details Tzur Hadassah mikva. And it’s a pretty diverse but reasonable bunch – I’m guessing mostly traditional sephardi women, plenty of dati lights like myself, the dati leumis like much of my shul, and others.

It’s not half of Tzur Hadassah women. It might be a quarter. Very possibly less. I guess we’ll know more later on. But it’s a decent part of our so-called pluralistic community.

And apparently this fact is tearing us apart.

Let’s be honest – whether you believe it’s paranoia or fair concern, the bottom line of what’s causing the mikva drama is the perceived end-game – the mikva is one more (possibly the most powerful) step towards being able to advertise the NINE HUNDRED new units being built as ‘religious-friendly – – sukkot mirpeset-friendly – in a yishuv with dati kindergardens, dati schools, and a mikvah!’ #truestory

(Seriously. I mean, NINE HUNDRED UNITS – if you think – without religion as a factor – the yishuv won’t change in character from nearly doubling, you’re as naive as people who think ‘charediazation’ is not a thing. Shouldn’t we be complaining about nine hundred units as the bigger picture here?)

The end-game being that Tzur Hadassah goes the way of Beit Shemesh. Ramat Eshkol. And so many other once-moderate communities that are now predominantly or completely charedi.

It’s a valid fear, then, since we’ve seen/are seeing it happen. On the other hand, we do live here now, have certain needs, and it would be nice to live in peace in a truly pluralistic yishuv.

Do we pay in advance for a potential problem?

Or do all of us in Tzur Hadassah say, screw it, this is who we are – we accept one another in tolerance – we’re proud of our character – and we will stand strong to continue that way?

That’s what Matte Yehuda regional councilman Moshe Dadon said in his opening ceremony speech.

“I drive on shabbat. My wife drives on shabbat. But she goes to the mikvah.”

Why can’t that be an acceptable form of Jew? Why can’t we keep working to make the middle road the main road?

A peek at Tzur Hadassah’s first and only mikvah [PHOTOS]

It’s been nearly a decade, I believe, but here it is – started with allotted government funds, ended with a generous donation – the long-despised, the long-awaited, Tzur Hadassah mikvah.

The ‘grand opening’ ceremony was earlier this evening. I was totally surprised to find a facility on par with American/Australian counterparts:

The reception:

The bridal mikvah – with its own personal mikvah in the room. Where was this when I was getting married and went to Katamon’s shteiblach?!

The outside is fancy too:

Some important details:

Did I personally desire a swanky mikvah? I’m just happy to not have to go to Beitar Illit anymore. Am I a bit of a mikvah apologist because of how it’s making the wider community feel? Perhaps. Is it nice for good people to get something they felt they needed for so long, despite the controversy? Sure, I think a true pluralistic community would feel that way.

Mazal tov and תתחדשו!

 

Baking ‘hamantaschen’ with your Israeli children.

Ears of a guy we’re meant to love to hate. Jews: still rocking weird drama since 3338.

First time making hamantaschen with my kids. Or as an adult. FYI: as you and the diaspora-born father of your kids keep talking about ‘hamentashen,’ your Israeli-born kids are bound to, at some point, look at you oddly.

“Oh. Right. Oznei Haman… it’s, uh, Yiddish to say ‘hamantaschen.’ Haman + taschen.”

Stares.

I had this thing baking hamantaschen. It wasn’t as bad as I thought… Here’s the recipe we used, nothing fancy. Obviously we traded fruit jam for chocolate.

Homemade Purim costumes. No pricey. No sexy.

This is the first year we had strong Purim costume requests… from two kids.

‘Hello Kitty’ I got pretty quick.

Once I figured out what צב צבי נינג’ה meant, I spent a few days hinting at other ideas because after a quick look at Pinterest I decided this would be too hard.

But I won’t lie: I derived a lot of pleasure from my son requesting to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle… in 2014.

I left Pinterest out of this and I’m pretty proud of what we came up with. Cheap and easy and something Koala actually helped with.

Costume ingredients for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle:

  • Green sweatpants and long sleeve shirt
  • Blue (or turtle hero color of your choice) light craft fabric for mask, arm and leg bands
  • Two round foil pans for back shell and front plate
  • Green and yellow paint
  • Green ribbon for the shell straps
  • Safety pins
  • Green face paint
  • Weaponry of choice, if that’s your thing

I had enough of it at home where the whole thing cost me around 55 shekel (12 bucks?). Not bad!

The shell is the biggest task: the back shell was painted by Koala in green, and the front plate in yellow. I trimmed the ‘walls’ of the pan and folded them in to make it flat. I used a whole puncher to create wholes to tie the green ribbon through four corners to make a ‘backpack’ sort of strap situation, but later realized safety pins work better since the foil pan is flimsy.

It was a huge hit with Koala, who wanted to try it on every day leading up to his class Purim party. It was a huge hit with me, who peeked at the price of a manufactured costume in the store and saw it was over 200 NIS.

As far as Hello Kitty… I was also a little intimidated by that one. How could I make her look like Hello KItty as opposed to a regular costume cat?

But Bebe is nearly three years old, let’s not forget, and has/will proudly tell everyone what she is… constantly. So She wore her favorite ‘nice dress’, I did the classic gold/yellow nose and black whiskers, bought a cat headband for ten shekel, and pinned a big red bow to it.

Two happy non-sexy or exaggerated Purim costumed kids. Two happy parents with cash left in the wallets.

Happy Purim!

(And you bet I posted this to Pinterest.)

When you end up in the girls’ Purim costume aisle in Bet Shemesh

Mom of the year spent a couple hours today exploring the Purim costume scene in Bet Shemesh.

I never really did that before because –

a. my oldest has wanted to be Mordechai HaYehudi for the last two years and bathrobe + makeup beard + paper crown = score!

b. I never had that much time anyway.

Yes, I learned a lot today.

  1. I learned that Israeli Purim costume options are both endless and extremely limited.
  2. I learned that I am never ever going to pay NIS 170 for a manufactured version of the costume my son wants and I’m going to make it from scratch and that’s that, kids (he’s getting it for around NIS 55 AND he gets to keep comfy shirt and sweats after).
  3. I learned that if that freicha in the aisle next to me were to whine the word ‘zombie’ one more time I was going to kick her in the shins. Even her son looked like he would take a bite out of her.

Most of all, I learned that not every Israeli Purim costume for little girls is sexy. In fact, in Bet Shemesh, they can go a totally different route…

1. The Matriarch

Quick, who’s your favorite matriarch? Is it Rachel? I bet it’s Rachel.

Rachel Imeinu Purim costume

Get your elaborate Rachel costume for only NIS 99.99, complete with camel imagery, as appropriate! Torah inside jokes!

2. The Other One

Yeah, I hear ya. Everyone and their mother is gonna be Rachel this year. So how about…

Rivka Purim Costume

Aw, you thought I’d say Leah? Nah, not Leah. Though the makeup could have been fun.

3. The Oddly Specific

Moving away from biblical female Purim costumes based on puffy gowns I’m pretty sure didn’t exist back then… and moving towards puffy gowns that exist for the sake of existing, and then some.

SpongeBob Princess

Hebrew-challenged? Disturbingly weird fifteen-year-old Nickelodeon cartoon challenged? That costume is: SpongeBob. Princess.

I officially can’t.

4. The Classic

And, if none of these options fit your daughter’s wild underage girlish fantasy, you can always go with – but of course – literally, ‘naughty kitten’… in a toddler size.

Naughty kitten Purim costume for girls

And don’t get me started on the sexy Hello Kitty costume line for grown women.

A 2-year-old’s perspective on Tisha B’Av

“Did you make this Beit HaMikdash today?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it burning, is there so much fire?”

“Yeah… …fireman come… put water… pssssshhhhhhhhh…”

Perhaps my 2-year-old has more wisdom about the Messiah than any of us could dream of, or she has a vast knowledge of history and the fire fighting capabilities of warring nations, but really, either way, her overly simplistic view on life is just all too refreshing… I’ll take it.