Nishei Ora | Chanukah 2020/5781

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Chanukah 2020/5781 Tenth Edition

Philosophy and Vision As women of Nishei Ora, the content that we share is based on Torah values of Godliness, honesty, kindness, generosity, joy and self-expression. Our vision is to be a light unto ourselves, our families, our communities and the world.

Mission Statement for creative and spiritual expression, through writing and art, to Jewish women and teenage girls of all Jewish backgrounds. We span the vast spectrum of observance, and together we have created a beautiful, one-of-a-kind publication with meaningful, thought-provoking and inspiring content. The ten editions of Nishei Ora we have created so far are filled with stories of women working to create within themselves a home for Hashem, bringing holiness into the world.

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Founding Editor Mindy Rubenstein Contributing Editor Michele Asa Contributing Editor Carin Smilk Editorial Assistant Anna Freiman Copy Editor Sandra Terminey NISHEI ORA JOURNAL

Contributing Writers Sarah Ansbacher Jenny Bahssin Noa Behar Devora Benchimol Elisheva Ben-Hamo Dalia Brunschwig Heidi Cohen Miriam R. Feldman Surie Fettman Anna Freiman

Manya Goldstein Blimy Konig Esther Simon Riette Sinclair Contributing Artists Joni Aliza Boroda Marlene Burns Judith Fox-Goldstein Graphic Design Sima Morgan

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Table of Contents EDITORIAL 6

Choosing to See G-d Mindy Rubenstein

H E A LT H & H E A L I N G 10

Listen to Your Body Dalia Brunschwig


A Healthier Kosher Standard Manya Goldstein


Weathering the Temporary Normal Blimy Konig

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E D U C AT I O N 23

Chanukah and Chinuch Surie Fettman


Releasing Community Control Miriam Feldman


Living Menorahs Gavriela Sinclair


Making Good Use of Time Off From School Esther Simon



Cover Art by Joni Aliza (


Let There Be Light Jenny Bahssin

C R E AT I V E S O U L S 16

Chanukah and Chesed Marlene Burns


Born to Create Joni Aliza


Let the Light Shine Again Judith Fox-Goldstein


A Bow in the Clouds Heidi Cohen


Turning Towards Judaism // Shalom Bayit Tips Elisheva Ben-Hamo


Kibbutz Galiyot Sarah Ansbacher


Life Isn’t Just Dancing Devora Benchimol


Starting with the Left Anna Freiman




Choosing to See G-d, Even in the Darkness by: Mindy Rubenstein

I grew up secular: American first, Jewish by birth. No one in my circle of family or friends talked about G‑d. Life as I knew it was about work, food, intellect. My family includes doctors, lawyers, judges, scientists and accountants. But we were in it alone, pushing forward as feeble humans. Or so it seemed. Yet in the darker, lonelier moments of childhood, somehow I knew to use my voice to cry out for help: I’m here, and I need You. Please help. I realized then and know now, that there is some greater Power out there, or within me, that is pure love and goodness, even if the humans in my life aren’t. There is a Power beyond what I can see and understand.

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During my career as a writer, I have worked for Jewish organizations where G‑d is never mentioned. I was told by a former employee that it may be a Jewish organization, but that’s just culture. We weren’t allowed to share or discuss anything overtly religious. My sweet and loving mother says that she believes there is no G‑d because of the painful things she has experienced. Yes, the pain persists on a personal and global level. After generations of punishment for practicing our religion, I think some Jewish people feel an inherent fear, as well as a persistence of intergenerational pain, that doesn’t allow them to open themselves up to G‑d. Yet I continue to reach out, to reconnect to that unwounded, infallible Force of love that is within me


and beyond me. It’s something that goes beyond the intellect. The words we assign to anything in life are inherently finite. How do we use our brain and language to define, process and understand something that is infinite? But still, when others proclaim that G‑d doesn’t exist, I understand them. “G‑d” is only a word, after all, a simple combination of letters. In fact, the G‑d of their construct perhaps doesn’t exist. In Hebrew, there are many ways to refer to G‑d, and some of the letter combinations aren’t actually pronounceable. So we prefer to use the term Hashem, which means “the name.” The word “dog,” for example, represents this animal I adore, but it’s not the actual animal. If I use different words to describe my schnauzer-mix Diego, it doesn’t affect his existence. It doesn’t really matter what I call him. Only that I care for him, feed him, love him. Yes, I can see Diego with my eyes, I can feel his fur with my fingers. So I know he’s there. So the truth is, if I sit quietly and clear the clutter and chatter of my mind, I know that Hashem is really here, too. I am breathing, my heart is beating, for now. I can feel my chest rise and fall. That breath is life, it is love and can’t be denied. In Nishei Ora, we write about parts of ourselves and the world that need repair. We dig deep, get vulnerable, share some of life’s most painful experiences, and bring G‑d into our writing and our artwork.


We aren’t afraid to talk about the life force that keeps us going. Even when things feel utterly painful—from the death of a child in a car accident to a Nazi officer killing a sister—these women choose to still seek the light. The pain didn’t break them. When I lost a baby 12 years ago, the pain didn’t break me, either. But there are still moments when I feel pain so deeply that it’s indescribable, and I sometimes forget to call out to Hashem.

Attention Artists & Writers!

So as a Jewish woman, why do I feel tasked with the mission of bringing down the light and love of G‑d, when so many, including those closest to me, proclaim He’s not really there or shouldn’t be discussed? BecauseI I value truth and authenticity. And I feel the need to speak up for goodness and light. There are no atheists in foxholes, as the saying goes. In other words, when things feel desperate and intellect can no longer save us, we go beyond what we know. We reach out to what’s beyond our finite brains, to what we intuitively feel on a soul level. And that is the Love of a Creator. Growing up, I loved the joyful, light-hearted days and nights of Chanukah. Now, as we approach this magical holiday of miracles and light, it’s a great time to remember why we kindle the menorah. Because, as you’ll read within these pages, G-d created miracles for us, and light prevailed over darkness. We all have miracles in our lives, whether we can or choose to see them. Especially during the struggles, He just wants to hear from us, in our own words. It starts with a simple breath. Maybe a few words uttered: I’m here. And I need You. Please help.

Writing Contest Revealing the hidden within: Explain the deeper reason behind why we wear Purim costumes and what it means to you. (Under 500 words)

Art Contest Submit an image of your original Purim-themed art in any medium. Each winner receives a �50 gift card and a Nishei Ora subscription for herself and a friend. Submit art and writing to by Jan. 14th

Have a Happy Chanukah filled with peace, love and light! Min d y Please reach out to me to share your stories at




Let There Be Light! by: Jennifer Bahssin

With the dark days of winter approaching, we welcome Chanukah, our “Festival of Lights.” In the beginning, on the first day of creation, G-d said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). What was this “light”? The sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day. For every word and concept in the Torah, there are at least 70 interpretations. I heard from Rebbetzin Miriam Hodakov that the candles we light on Shabbat are to rectify the sin of Eve in the Garden. My friend, Devorah Miller, shared that lighting Shabbat candles relates to the menorah in the Holy Temple and to the Chanukah menorah. So what does all this mean? To me, it points to our very purpose on this earth—to bring light to the world. Not the physical light, exemplified by the sunshine, but the spiritual light of the first day of creation, and of the eternal light that Aaron was commanded to keep burning in the Holy Temple. The power to transform all darkness and negativity into love and hope.

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How do we do this? By being kind and helping those in need; by smiling and cheering up someone who is down; by seeing the good in all people and situations; and by having faith, even when things are challenging or difficult. Being mean and jealous and selfish only causes darkness. We can turn all that around with lovingkindness, compassion, generosity and forgiveness. By recognizing the Divine light that G-d bestowed in all people and by being respectful to the earth, the environment, the creatures and each other. By being grateful for the life we are given and this beautiful garden we are privileged to behold. This is how we transform darkness to light.


When we light the candles on the menorah and gaze deep into their flames, we are tapping into that eternal light of creation and can also connect to the very root of our own souls. Chanukah is another chance for us to do teshuva, to “return” to our inner essence, to that eternal place, where we connect to G-d. Like that pure cruse of untainted oil found under the floorboards of our desecrated Temple that miraculously fueled our lamps for the rededication, we have that oil in the core of our souls. So when we light our Chanukah menorahs this year, let us rededicate ourselves to igniting our own spark and shedding light to those around us and to all the dark places we may encounter. Through gazing at the holy flames, may we all find the peace, sovereignty and eternal light that remains intact, hidden but sealed, pure and waiting in the recesses, under the floorboards of our sanctuary, the essence of our true souls. Chag Sameach! Let there be light! Jennifer Bahssin is an adventurer on the journey of life. She is a fan of music, cats, candles, poetry, sunshine and nature. She enjoys art, design, crafts, beading, reading and delving into Torah study with others who share this passion.


H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

Listen to Your Body by: Dalia Brunschwig

Chanukah, the wonderful holiday of lights, is once again approaching. I personally experienced my own miraculous “seeing the light” story after my daughter was born seven years ago. It was an extremely difficult pregnancy and birth, and I had many complications afterwards. Nevertheless, the fact that I was able to breastfeed, hold her in my arms and be able to be back home with my husband and older children was a miracle. Although I was conscious of it at the time, I only realized what a big present my daughter brought me when she turned one, and I started on my journey empowering other Jewish women with the knowledge that it’s not so hard to make healthier lifestyle changes. By then, although grateful to be alive and healthy, I was still not back to myself; everything took longer, I was still carrying the pregnancy weight and going very often to the doctors for different check-ups (digestion issues, infections, etc). Once I stopped nursing, it was time to do something. As I cleansed my body, I started regaining control of myself. After many long months of inactivity, I was back! I regained my energy to walk everywhere and slowly started fitting back into my clothes. The changes were so visible that I was approached by friends to help them regain back their strength and lose weight naturally. That is when I began coaching others with what had worked for me. Before I knew it, I had helped more than 40 women in Zurich. I was just eating clean and healthy foods, and I was maintaining my weight and my energy. I learned that everyone has individual needs and what was good for me was not necessarily good for others. It was then that I decided to create my own program to help busy women adopt a healthier lifestyle. I put NISHEI ORA JOURNAL

together a system based on the right mindset shift and an elimination process that guides people to learn to love their body by giving it the right nutrients at the right time. Since I began coaching others in May 2017, I have been blessed to have grown my practice from four women to more than 30 groups, both local and internationally, with my five-day reset programs and my eight-week “Balance Redefined” program. My approach is that you should listen to your body and fuel it with what it needs, and you will reach your ideal weight. There is no need to feel deprived when it comes to our traditions. You can always find alternatives, but I teach how to have a 90/10 food mindset. Whether enjoying the occasional treat or learning to crave healthy food, the key is to allow flexibility and find out what works best for your body in each situation. Hashem gave us a most amazing gift—our incredibly complicated body—and it behoves us to take care of it properly. When we stop and think about how complex our body systems are, especially as women, we can come to a much closer relationship with our Creator, and consequently, we can appreciate and understand what a responsibility it is to look after ourselves. Part of the message I transmit to the women I work with is a direct consequence of the story of my life—what seems to be so difficult and challenging is actually what is going to lead to the best things in your life. Every year 9

H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

on my daughter’s birthday, I feel it is my birthday, too; as though through that incredibly difficult birth, I have become the person I am today.

Dalia’s Tips to Living with Intention

On Chanukah, we talk about the Greeks and how they placed enormous emphasis on the body. We know however, that taking care of our body is only a means to an end. We are obligated to look after our health because it is a mitzvah, and by taking care of ourselves, we will have the energy to be able to do more mitzvot as well as look after our families better.

1. Take Time to Center Yourself Regularly If you notice that you’re feeling scattered or frazzled, stop what you’re doing for a second. Take a few deep breaths and turn your attention to the present moment. Ask yourself, “What do I need to be focusing on right now?” Give that one thing all of your attention, keeping your mind in the present.

Everything we do as Jews, even the seemingly mundane things like healthy eating and exercising, becomes part of something so much higher when we do things with the right intentions of serving Hashem.

2. Focus on Your Health Your health makes a big impact on your overall well-being and productivity, so make a conscious decision to prioritize it. Eat well, get enough sleep, and get some exercise every day. Even small lifestyle changes can make a difference in your mood and energy levels.

I would like to encourage the Nishei Ora readers to practice more living with intention. Choosing what to do with each hour helps you feel less stressed while making the most of your time at work and at home. If you want to make the most of your time, living intentionally is a must. Make a habit of being intentional with your time and attention, and you’ll become happier, more productive, and more mindful.

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It is all based on creating healthy habits with baby steps to make them sustainable! Dalia Brunschwig, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, founder of FULLY IN BALANCE GmbH. Born in Israel, she lived in Spain, the United Kingdom, Israel and now in Zurich, Switzerland, with her husband and three children. As a busy mum, Dalia provides insight into natural healthy weight loss and well-being via one-on-one private sessions or coaching, always factoring in that no one size fits all, and taking into account the kosher diet and our Jewish beautiful occasions.


3. Rethink Your Habits Do you spend a lot of time on social media, on the phone or internet? Most of us have some mindless habits that can eat up a lot of time. In moderation, it’s okay to enjoy these activities. But if you aren’t happy with how much time you lose to these mindless habits, it might be time to cut back. Decide how much time you’re willing to spend on these activities every day, and set a timer to remind yourself when it’s time to stop. 4. Allocate Your Time Wisely We all get twenty-four hours every day, but if you use your time well, it can feel like much more. Take a few minutes every morning to decide what you want to accomplish and when. Making a to-do list can help keep you on track. This simple tip can increase your everyday productivity dramatically.


by: Dalia Brunschwig

Healthy Levivot (Latkes) INGREDIENTS: 2 sweet potatoes 1 big onion 3 Tbsp. avocado oil 1 egg ¾ glass oat flour Chopped parsley Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: 1) Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water until soft. 2) Mash them with a fork and set aside. 3) Sauté the onions in oil. 4) Mix the sweet potatoes mixture with the onions. 5) Add the rest of the ingredients. 6) Form small patties with your hands and place on a greased oven tray. 7) Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 8) Serve with tahini and herbs, or with Greek yogurt if you prefer a dairy version. If you’d like to understand more about Dalia’s approach, she has a free guide on “First Steps to Healthy Weight Loss” on her website:



H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

Envisioning a Healthier Kosher Standard by: Manya Goldstein

Judaism commands us to live at a very high level of consciousness. We are called on to watch what we say, what we do and even what we eat. Yes, not only must we guard what comes out of our mouths, we must guard what goes into our mouths as well! The laws of kashrut train us to be mindful about our food choices; there are limits to what we can purchase, cook and eat. I believe that this training can help us become more conscious food buyers and eaters, ready to raise the bar even more.

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In the last issue, we established that Judaism commands us to guard our health. As Rambam states, “One must avoid that which harms the body and accustom oneself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger” (Ch. 4, The Laws of Personal Development). Unfortunately, the majority of today’s food supply harms the body since it consists largely of ultra-processed foods laden with sugar, seed oils and additives. As you walk through the grocery store, take a look at the ingredient lists of common household staples like bread, cereal, yogurt and granola bars. Most of the ingredients lists are long and complex, containing sugar disguised in multiple forms and words you might not even be able to pronounce. Even the less processed food items can harm our bodies and the planet. Just think of all the factory-farmed eggs, dairy, fish and meat filled with hormones and antibiotics


to keep sick animals alive. Yet countless ultra-processed foods and conventional animal products are considered kosher, despite their potential for harm. As Jews, I think we can do better. I believe that kosher food should champion health, animal welfare and sustainability. G-d calls on us to be a light unto the nations—to set a prime example for the rest of the world. In my opinion, this includes treating ourselves, our animals and our planet with the utmost care and respect. Here are a few questions I have: The Torah commands us to guard our health. So why are there so many unhealthy kosher products? Didn’t Rambam say that we should “avoid that which harms the body?” I don’t think he meant, “Avoid that which harms the body … unless it has a kosher symbol.” The Torah commands us to treat animals with compassion. So why is the majority of kosher meat raised in crowded, inhumane factory farms? The animals might be slaughtered properly, but are they raised properly? As Rabbi David Rosen writes: “Kashrut involves more than just the way the animal’s throat is cut and the checking of its vital organs. Kashrut involves the whole relationship between humans and the animal world.” Only a few kosher-meat companies are sanctifying our relationship with the animal world by raising animals on green pastures, allowing them to lead healthy lives and eat what nature intended. Kol Food, and Grow & Behold, partner with family farms to provide pastureraised, organic meat to kosher consumers. Why isn’t the 12

humane method the norm? Moreover, the Torah commands us to protect the environment. So why are we eating so many ultraprocessed food items, which rely on cheap commodity crops like corn and soy that deplete the soil (and our health)? Why aren’t we eating more real food from local, organic farms that can regenerate soil (and our health)? For quite some time, the Western world has experienced a slow pandemic of diet-related diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These chronic conditions are strongly linked to COVID-19 complications, underlining the importance of fixing our diets now. Jews have been watching what we eat for thousands of years, and I believe we can pave the way to a more conscious relationship with our food. Let us serve as role models for healthy, sustainable eating that heals our bodies and the planet. Manya Goldstein is a health writer and educator living in Jacksonville, Fla. She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in journalism in 2019, and is currently pursuing her MS in Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida. Manya became fascinated by health after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom (POTS) at 18 years old. Over the next five years she reclaimed her health through a combination of nutrition, acupuncture and neurorehabilitation. To learn more about her story, visit www.


What can you do today to transform your diet and your life? 1. Eat real, whole foods instead of ultra-processed foods found in a package or box. When you pick up a food item, the first thing you should do is check the ingredients list. Does it contain added sugar? Are there ingredients you don’t recognize? If so, put it back on the shelf! 2. Whenever possible, choose local and organic produce to maximize nutrients, limit pesticides and help heal the environment. You could also start a garden to grow super local food while connecting to the earth. 3. If you eat animal products, look for organic, pastureraised, grass-fed items to ensure the health of the animal and the health of the consumer. Kol Food, and Grow & Behold, sell superb kosher, humanely raised meat. If you can’t afford high-quality meat right now, eating less conventional meat is a great place to start. 4. Lead by example. Instead of ordering pizza, cook a delicious dinner with your family—think lentil soup or rice and beans with homemade guacamole. Send your kids to school with healthy snacks like nuts and fruit. Fill your Shabbat table with beautiful whole-food dishes like quinoa, sweet potatoes, eggplant, green beans … the choices are endless! We are G-d’s partners in creation and, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l, declares, it is our job to transform “the world that is” to “the world that ought to be.” This article is the second in a series exploring the importance of health within Judaism. Manya will discuss topics ranging from diet to disease prevention, and present her vision of a 21st-century Kashrut Ethic, in which kosher food is the epitome of nutrition, regenerative agriculture and animal welfare. “I believe we should be a light unto the nations in all areas, including health and food systems,” she says.


H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

How do we gracefully weather this temporary ‘normal’? by: Blimy Konig

Hashem created the world with so much hope and possibility in it. How can we tap into that space? While we are in galus and there is no perfection, our purpose is to pursue tikkun olam. Let’s search for the good and the miraculous, especially in times of confusion and change. We know Hashem gives us free will, and we are free to choose where our attention will rest. Our world is filled with Blessing and Curse, and Hashem encourages us to choose Blessing, to choose Life.

Below are some thoughts and strategies, old and new; some interesting avenues to research and explore; and a few natural supplements that you may wish to stock in your medicine chest/health arsenal. The good news is that there are plenty of strategies for keeping safe. These are not symptom suppressants and do not have unwelcome side effects. As always, it is wise to consult with your health-care practitioner to ensure a particular avenue is appropriate for you. Blimy Konig, originally from Monsey, New York, now lives in Florida with her husband and children. She is passioante about nutrition and holistic living.

But it’s hard to ignore that in Life there is also always Risk. Every day is filled with Risk: swimming, driving, walking, eating—all of these are blessings with inherent risks. Most of the time we don’t notice the risks because they are simply our usual habits. We have not been encouraged to live in fear of those risks. We do our best hishtadlus and daven that Hashem will keep us all safe from harm.

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During this particular time, how do we honor the obligation to take very good care of ourselves without causing culturally-approved collateral damage to our souls, hearts and minds? A friend recently shared a meme that read: God is your source, everything else is just a resource. Emuna is powerful, as is joy and prayer. These are super-nourishers on all the levels! Hold tightly to them and remember Hashem is running this show.



STRATEGIES 1. Get sunshine, sleep and incorporate movement into your daily routine. 2. In the past, it was normal, and even virtuous, to pop an Advil (or other pain reliever) rather than let our bodies slow us down. Now we are learning to respect and honor what our bodies communicate to us. Taking that step back when we are unwell gives us a chance to heal and puts some physical space between ourselves and others.

food sources are best, such as zinc-rich meat, oatmeal, nuts and seeds, or try a whole food-based supplement. Glutathione: This is an antioxidant that boosts the immune system and detoxifies the body. Since Tylenol has been shown to deplete the body’s natural stores of glutathione, avoid Tylenol. FOOD SUPPORT 1. Ginger, lemon and honey tea

3. Drink plenty of fluids, such as soup, chicken broth, tea and water.

2. Garlic

4. Use Epsom salt baths to detox and soothe.

4. Avoid sugar, which compromises immune function

5. Since it is neither possible nor a good idea to sanitize the world, our microcosms are our own responsibility. This has always been true. Spare yourself the unhealthy stress of worrying what others are doing. Focus on your personal efforts and thank Hashem in advance for continuing to keep you safe. VITAMIN/HERBAL SUPPORT Vitamin C: Daily vitamin C is a powerful immunebooster. Drink hot water with lemon and eat citrus fruit daily, or seek out a whole food-based supplement. Synthetic vitamins are not ideal. At the first sign of illness, mega-dosing Vitamin C, in sodium ascorbate or lypospheric form, is excellent, especially for respiratory related illness. Research Dr. Suzanne Humphries and her research data online. Vitamin C IV treatments are being found to be very helpful in moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. Quercetin: This supplement is a natural antiinflammatory and has benefits similar to hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug found effective in treating COVID-19. Quercetin may be taken preventatively and if symptoms are felt. Zinc: It helps fend off infection and viruses. Whole


3. Chicken soup

5. Research the use of onion poultice on the chest to purify the lungs as needed OTHER Homeopathy: With guidance it is side-effect free and effective. It is helpful as an alternative to pain medication and for bringing the body back to health. Speak to a homeopath about how to best prepare yourself and for recommended remedies. Postural support: Physical therapists recommend patting the back and chest several times a day for several minutes each time to help clear congestion from lungs and keep fluids properly draining. You can find videos online demonstrating the recommended up-and-down and side-to-side movements. There is a whole world outside of the Western medical paradigm that you should avail yourself of. My hope is that when you invite the whole spectrum of healing into your life, you will find a richer and more peaceful outlook. Just as importantly, you will learn a new appreciation for the miracles Hashem created in our bodies and our world. Whatever resonates with you, may all roads lead you to your best health!





Loving-Kindness The Hebrew word, chesed, is often defined as lovingkindness According to Kabbalah, it is one of ten sefirot: emanations or qualities of G-d. In this visual expression, the word chesed is approached from a mystical perspective.

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“Peace and Love” and “Be Kind” are not new concepts. They have ancient roots. The Jewish prayer for peace is Oseh Shalom Bimromav ... “May He who makes peace on high, create peace for us and all of Israel and we say Amen.” Daily services, as well as the Kaddish prayer, end with this powerful petition. Thinking about the meaning of these words begs the question, “What peace does G-d make in the heavens?”


There is a Midrash that tells us G-d keeps peace between the angels Michael and Gabriel. Michael represents chesed while Gabriel represents gevurah (strength, discipline, judgment). Keeping the peace between these two attributes creates a balanced union. The sefirot have assigned colors and signs. Chesed is white, represented by water. Gevurah is red, represented by fire. G-d uses a third attribute, tiferet (beauty, balance) to create peace between the two. Tiferet is purple and is physically placed between them as a mediator. Look closely, and you will see a scale with chesed and gevurah, and their colors/signs evenly balanced. Tiferet forms the base of the scale. Design-wise, the flames of fire and waves of water are aesthetically similar. Color-wise, the blues from the water and the reds from the fire create the purple of tiferet.


“Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and has commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah.

Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers/mothers in those days at this season.”



Nes Gadol - A Great Miracle This powerful image is an expression of Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” celebrated for eight days. The menorah is our oldest symbol in Judaism, and is used as the inspiration for this holiday image. A variation of the seven-branched menorah is the chanukiah, with eight branches and a shamash. The light from the candles kindled each evening helps to brighten our way as we discover the true meaning of Chanukah. The central column alludes to the power of the great miracles of Chanukah. A small army of Maccabees overcame their enemy and restored the Temple. One day’s ration of oil lasted for the duration of the battle. The branches of the chanukiah emanate from that fiery core. They spread out from the source and return to it. This dramatic movement emulates the posture of our people as we celebrate and remember this moment in history.


Marlene Burns Contemporary Judaic Artist I have two passions: painting and Hebrew educaton. I have been a professional artist for 50 years but did not explore Jewish themes until 11 years ago. After receiving two art degrees, I was on a career path of being represented in galleries and building a clientele base for contemporary art for residential and commercial spaces. My Judaic series based on prayers, proverbs, psalms, festivals and dvarim, is 35 paintings strong. Each is accompanied with a text that translates and explains my perspective as an artist and educator. Many of these images have graced magazines and journals worldwide. All images are available as prints. Contact: Website:



Born to Create

by: Joni Aliza

I have been an artist all my life. In school, I was always “that kid” who got in trouble for drawing in class, or “that kid” who created all the visual aids for group presentations. I was never picked first for sports teams, but always picked first for the game of Pictionary. Thank G-d, my parents were incredibly supportive of me and encouraged me to pursue art after high school. So, armed with a full scholarship, I matriculated into the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. That’s when I realized something difficult: Everyone in all of my college classes had formerly been the best artist in their high school. And now, sitting next to each other, we were all completely average. It sort of knocks the wind out of you for a moment. And then it humbles you. And then it makes you a stronger person. I worked harder than I ever had before. I endured scathing critiques and pulled all-nighters, and finally, by senior year, I was getting A’s.

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By then, I was hooked on learning. I followed my BFA in illustrations with a BFA in ceramics, and finally topped it all off with a post-grad certification in art education. Honestly, if I could have afforded to, I would have stayed to major in everything. After college, I dove straight into teaching. For me, it was the ultimate fulfillment. When I look back at my childhood, I remember some teachers like passing shadows. And some teachers who left indelible fingerprints on my soul. I’ll share one example. My eighth-grade English teacher was named Mr. Roper. He made a deal with me. He said I could



draw in his class as much as I wanted. But only as long as I continued to get A’s on all my work ... and as long as he could keep all the drawings I did in his class. He even let me use his paper. In that delicate, middle-school moment of my development, Mr. Roper saw Me. He saw that I wasn’t ignoring him when I was drawing. And he showed me that he admired my work. I felt understood and I felt valuable. I developed confidence and self-esteem. If I can be that teacher for just one student, I think I will have completed my purpose. Now, somewhere on that journey from artist to teacher, I began another journey. I became a baalat teshuva. I married a wonderful fellow baal teshuva, and together, we began our lives and family. With the birth of my first child, my artwork started to shift. As family and Judaism became front and center in my life, it also began to feature prominently in my own artwork. And

professionally, I began to speak about Jewish-themed books to illustrate, schools to teach in and camps to teach at. I guess it’s natural, then, that we made aliyah. Today, I live in Israel with my bashert and our three amazing kids. I try to make as much art as I can, and I love every medium that I’m working with (although frankly, I’ve found that with small children around, watercolors and digital painting are the most practical). I’ve illustrated two Jewish children’s books, and it’s my dearest ambition to someday author/illustrate a Jewish children’s book of my own. I am still hooked on learning. My latest conquest is Hebrew calligraphy. I love to choose a pasuk and try to create a painting around it. As a baalat teshuva who is more fluent in art than in tefillah, creating these paintings is a little like praying. You can see Aliza’s illustrations in “The King’s Horse, a Purim Story” by Leah Sokol, and “Who Needs You” by Sara Blau. To see Aliza’s professional illustration website, visit




Let the Light Shine Again Art by Judith Fox-Goldstein

How did you come up with this d e s i g n?

Dove was a calming influence and seemed to hold out the message … “There is another miracle coming!”

When you let me know that the December issue would be celebrating Chanukah, images kept appearing in my dreams. Lights, family, celebration, appreciation and the wonder of miracles! The menorah always represented hope to me, and I wanted to recreate the occasion with a more modern-day interpretation. Research is always a part of my renderings, so I also viewed many lovely images of the holiday, but I kept coming back to what was most important to me, and that was the lighting of candles and the sacred ceremonial aspect of that beautiful tradition.

How do you feel about Chanukah and the story of miracles, and the idea of bringing more light into the world, literally and figuratively?

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Title and the Dove: “Let the Light Shine Again!” I often imagine my renderings right before I fall asleep. This time, the Dove kept flying into our Chanukah celebration. The dove appeared to be carrying a message of hope, peace and tranquility so desperately needed today. With all the social injustice, racism, illness and fear that embodies our daily life today, the


Historically, Chanukah took place during one of the most turbulent times in Jewish history. But I cannot remember a more turbulent time in my history than the physical, emotional and psychological trauma we’re all facing today. So, the story of “Miracles” is more relevant than ever for me! When the flames continued to flicker for eight nights, leaving time to find a fresh supply of oil… I always interpreted this as a message of inner strength and faith. Don’t surrender! Don’t give up! The challenge of literally preventing a civil war (no matter what the results of an election) will be a miracle! There’s such


extreme animosity in the world today, and I can’t think of a time that we need another miracle more than today. Basic humanity, kindness, respect and love must sustain us. We do need another miracle! Did you light the menorah with your family when you were a child? What about with your own c h i l d r e n? Growing up in a very reform Jewish home in New York City, Chanukah was one of the most treasured and special occasions of the year. It represented everything I loved because our home was filled with company throughout the holidays, and there was always a willing elder to share some wisdom with me. The lights, the food, the presents, the ceremonial traditions and the collaborative spirit was my miracle


then. Once I moved to Hawaii (where I have lived for the past 35-plus years), we seemed to assimilate into a very different multicultural environment, and the traditions faded. However, now my grandchildren have rekindled the interest in Judaism and the holidays, so I am “beginning again to rediscover my roots!” Van Gogh said, “You became an artist not when you sold your first piece, but when you picked up your first paintbrush!” My journey into art started just two years ago after a successful career in gerontology and academia in Hilo, Hawaii. Gratitude now fills my heart for this brandnew beginning, a reconnection with my Judaic roots and heritage, new friendships and my “Art Awakening!” My art, which I’ve dubbed “Artfully Jude,” reflects my intersection from Hawai’i with the new-found beauty of my new home in St. Augustine, Fl. For more information, about my art, email or visit



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A Bow in the Clouds

by: Heidi Barocas

Glorious is seeing A bow in the clouds Raised in Your glory Light spectrum endowed

Light so Divine, Brightens the darkness Filling the heart An unbelievable calmness

A higher vision Gets filled in this place Revealing pure harmony In time and in space

Blessed we are feeling Enriched by Your grace With mystical spirit Your rainbow was placed

Your prism reveals Miracles to all Having expressed The light that’s in all

A place that is safe For the bow to appear A view so miraculous Transforming came clear

Something that’s new In the mist of the clouds A sight of pure wonder A rainbow was found

Glorious is seeing A bow in the clouds Raised in Your glory Light spectrum endowed

The bow shows potential For conscious change With thrills of pure pleasure Discovery came

Blessed we are feelin Enriched by Your grace With mystical spirit Your rainbow was placed

Glorious is seeing A bow in the clouds Raised in Your glory Light spectrum endowed Blessed we are feeling

Prayers for our healing Reclaiming that bond Hope never ending Has us respond

Curious is man Who’s honored to see The beloved in you The beloved in me

Enriched by Your grace With mystical spirit Your rainbow was placed

Ladies Who Learn (Facebook Group) Poetry Contest Winner




Chanukah and Chinuch: What’s the Connection? by: Surie Fettman

The Source Consider the olive. It is a dull green, relatively small, somewhat bitter, oval fruit. It grows on a stubby, gnarled tree, and a process of intense pressure must be applied in order to extract a few, pure golden drops from each olive. Combine many of those drops, and you will have a small flask of shemen zayit zach, pure olive oil. Consider the flask. It is small, made of clay, and is stamped with the seal of the high priest. It contains pure olive oil. This is the oil that was used to light the menorah in the Bais Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem, when it still stood. Consider the scenario. The Maccabees entered the now reconquered temple and were confronted with a devastating situation. The holy vessels of the temple were reduced to rubble, remnants of unholy sacrifices and other spiritual atrocities were scattered throughout this once holiest of places. Everything inside the Bais Hamikdash was now destroyed and impure. Consider that, even once the rubble and defilement was removed, only the light of the menorah could return holiness back into that once sacred place, to transform darkness into light. A crude menorah was hastily erected. Yet, that menorah could only be lit with that purest of pure oil, and only from a container that was whole and




sealed. Alas! Any flasks that were located had been defiled, their seals broken.

rededicate ourselves to continue preserving and passing those forward to the next generation.

One sealed flask was finally located, and the miracle we celebrate on Chanukah is primarily due to the discovery of that flask.

This brings us right back to education, or chinuch, which, as noted above, shares the same root as Chanukah.

The Purpose Now, consider the word Chanukah. Its most basic translations are “dedication and “inauguration.” In addition, Chanukah shares the same root as the Hebrew word chinuch, which we translate as “education.” During this holiday, we celebrate the freedom to give our children a Jewish education, and we “dedicate” ourselves to that goal by practicing the ageold Chanukah rituals. The purpose of many of these traditions is to awaken

So what is effective chinuch? How can we successfully convey the truth, beauty and holiness of the Torah and our Jewish heritage to our children? Many teens, young adults and adults struggle to maintain their connection to G-d and Judaism. It takes dedication, and we begin at the beginning, with the inauguration of a child’s life.

The Vision Let’s return to the recently defiled, now restored, Holy Temple, and the absence, on the surface, of even one, small, flask of pure olive oil. It must be unbroken with the seal of the Kohen Gadol still intact. This oil was needed to light the menorah so that the Temple could be rededicated and holy once again. Only one sharp-eyed Jew was needed to notice that small and sealed flask amid the devastation. That Jew held the key to the entire miracle of Chanukah. Find the one pure little flask, light that first light, and the rest of the miracle could now unfold.

the interest of our children. We perform the rituals in the presence of our children. Symbolism is embedded in many of these traditions.

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We know that children are most likely to absorb concepts when engaged with visual and tactile experiences, such as kindling and observing the Chanukah flames. We serve latkes and jelly doughnuts, play dreidel and dole out Chanukah gelt. Whether we use actual money, nuts or chocolate coins, our goal is to help our children feel the sweetness of the mitzvah. And what is the mitzvah? To kindle Chanukah lights. These lights represent Torah and Jewish tradition, and we


Similarly, when engaged in chinuch, an adult must be able to detect the purity, goodness or potential in the child they are about to educate. Every child is a miracle waiting to unfold, even if, on the surface, it is not immediately evident. Since we know that each child is born with a piece of G-dliness, the soul, within him, we are certain that the pure oil needed to kindle the spark does exist within every child. It is our responsibility to find that positive trait, talent or tendency in every single child we encounter—to draw it forth and to help it shine. For the miracle of that child to manifest in its full glory, there must be a sharp-eyed adult (or two or three) who can see that potential.


Whether it is our own child or our student, it is up to us, the adults, to detect and ignite that spark. Once we accomplish that, the sky’s the limit; the miracle can now unfold.

The Practice I have been teaching for many years. I started my career as a teacher in Jewish preschools. Later, I became certified as a special-education teacher and worked for the New York City Department of Education. I’ve taught children from the ages of 3 to 10 years old in a variety of settings. Over the years, I taught in many early-childhood classrooms, self-contained special-education classrooms, resource rooms and general education elementaryschool classrooms. Some of my colleagues have described me as a person who wears “rose-colored glasses” because I could always find something positive to build on in every child with whom I worked. But I disagree: Those glasses are not rose-colored. I do not have the power to add a rosy veneer that does not exist. I believe that a better analogy would be that my “glasses” have X-ray vision; they see past any misbehavior or physical, language or motor difference to find that pure flask of potential in every child.

The Inauguration Throughout a child’s life, the parents, caregivers and teachers must seek to identify the qualities that will help that particular child’s shine. In Proverbs (Mishlei), King Solomon advises us, “educate the child according to his or her way.” There is no one-size-fits-all parenting style, curriculum or program that will magically help all children succeed and develop to their potential. Yet there are some core, common principles that are necessary for the healthy development of all children.


First, we must provide a safe and nurturing physical environment, and an enduring connection with a trusted adult must be established. After all, how can one ever achieve connection to, and trust in, G-d, if one has not been able to feel a deep and secure connection with human beings? The key is for caregivers and educators to be attuned and responsive to the needs and emotions of the particular child in their care, and to respond to those needs with physical and emotional nurturing with as much consistency as possible.

The Progression Each year on the first night of Chanukah, we light just one candle. We add one additional candle on each subsequent night until on the eighth night, the whole menorah is aglow. If we missed the opportunity to light that first candle on the first night, we have another chance, on the second night, to light the second and the first candle. Similarly, at each stage of a child’s life, even if that child’s potential seems lacking, it’s never lost. It might take time, but ultimately, each of us, at each stage in that child’s development, has the opportunity to detect the holy spark within—and to help unfold the miracle of that human being’s purpose on earth. Surie Fettman is a mother, grandmother, and certified special education teacher who has been working with children in a variety of settings for over 30 years. A native Brooklynite, Surie is now living in Toms River, N.J. In her private practice, she works with individual children, their parents and teachers, facilitating social emotional skills development and providing academic intervention. Over the years, Surie has written and published a number of articles, and she is the author of “My Shabbos 123s.”



Releasing Community Control and Widening the Path of Torah

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by: Miriam Racquel Feldman

I recently came across a letter from my son that was written to the Lubavitcher Rebbe (some people send these to the Ohel and some put into the Igros Kodesh—my family’s way is to use the Igros Kodesh) with a list of complaints about a yeshiva that he was in. Though the letter was not dated, I can guess from the content that it’s from a few years ago when he was about 15 years old, attending a yeshiva that he loathed.

• •

The chairs ruin your body They don’t know how to teach people to be better

There is no time to exercise

I’m always in a rush

I do not like the feeling of the yeshiva at all

The kids are bad and therefore I’m in a bad environment

I’m not learning

In the letter, he told the Rebbe that his mother (meaning me) asked him to write a list of the good and bad things about the yeshiva because he wanted to come home; he didn’t want to attend that yeshiva anymore.

Davening is bad

I can’t learn what I want to learn

Someone dumps things on the floor by a search (the hanhalla has the kid’s stuff searched, looking for phones or music or other confiscatable things and apparently after they search, they don’t respectfully return the bochur’s things back to its original place;

This was his list of the bad:



instead the bochur’s things are just left dumped on the floor) •

You can’t listen to Matisyahu

You can’t do what you want

I’m not becoming a better person

I’m wasting my time and not accomplishing anything

The two good things: • Some of the teachers who I’d like more time with • My friends

Yiddishkeit. Who would have guessed? Obviously, not the frum schools that use punishment for purpose and focus too hard to install limited cultural interpretations of the Torah—white shirts, black hats and other dress codes, yarmulkes needing to look a certain way, etc. I mentioned this in a previous article, but it can be mentioned repeatedly since this message should be the modus operandi of all Torah schools: “Today’s children,” the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “do not need to be overly criticized or lectured about their shortcomings. They are their own biggest critics. Instead, they need to hear more about their strengths and incredible potential.”

My mind is a bit fuzzy about the details of this time, but the point that remains clear was that my yiras shomayim, My point here is not to just blatantly complain about frum son was in danger of leaving the Yiddishkeit values bad yeshiva systems. What that we had, with I’m hoping to convey is that IS THERE A WAY THAT WE CAN in the present system of our the mesiros nefesh of baalei teshuva, LOOK BEYOND THE FRUMKEIT OF communities and our schools, raised him with. HOW WE AND THE COMMUNITY there is room for improvement, and in some instances, for In fact, those THINK IT “SHOULD BE” WHEN thinking outside the box. were pretty much RAISING OUR CHILDREN? his words when Of course, I’m not the only one during one of his saying it. In an article in Vos weekly calls from this yeshiva, he said, “Mom, if there Iz Neias, Avi Fishoff, “Twisted Parenting” creator, says is anywhere that I’m going to frei out, it’s here.” When that “yeshiva systems need a major overhaul” and he is he returned home for a vacation, that must have been calling for a “drastic change to the religious education when the letter was written. system.” He says “the one-size-fits-all approach taken by many yeshivos is failing a substantial number of We did return him back to the yeshiva and tried to students.” rectify things for him the best we could, but we had little control from afar. I know that I did finish his year There are Torah values to convey and pass on lovingly, out with trepidation that his faith would be shaken and and then there are the community’s expectations and committed to myself to find another yeshiva that would educational expectations that have a very narrow be better for him. perspective of Yiddishkeit. Is there a way that we can look beyond the frumkeit of how we and the community Boruch Hashem, we did find one. It was one that some think it “should be” when raising our children? people in the “system” warned us about—“that yeshiva is only for ... kids.” I’m grateful that I didn’t listen to the At schools and perhaps at home, some children are warnings and instead sent my son to a school that I had treated like criminals. Did you do your negel vasser, did heard consistently that the boys going there “loved it.” you daven, did you say your brachas, did you … ? Why I don’t exactly know what magic they do there, but my are you dressed like that, why are you doing that? son also loved it, and his Yiddishkeit remained intact. For my son, was it more important to find what was in I guess loving a place of Torah does wonders for one’s that bochur’s possessions than to treat his things with




way that it’s being handed down in many communities. The Torah is broad, it looks beyond what kind of kippa is on a kid’s head (if one at all), what kind of clothes that child is wearing, what kind of music that child is listening to. The Torah looks to the pintele yid inside the Jew, and it is always beautiful. It is beyond frumkeit and restrictions and judgements. Those judgements are sucking the life out of Torah. Our children need to breathe, they need to be looked at as whole, not broken. They need to be looked at with love and kindness. Torah looks beyond external frumkeit. Can we? In a Rosh Hashanah song by Aish Hatorah, there is a beautiful line: “Lift up your vision to what G-d can see.” G-d sees the Pintele Yid in every Jew. Halacha does matter, but judgements and expectations are crushing our youth.

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I finished a book recently called, I Love When That Happens, by Schwartzie (makes for a great Chanukah gift, by the way). It’s an inspiring read about Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, who was an unconventional pioneer in the Orthodox world in reaching thousands of Jews and non-Jews and teaching them Torah wisdom. He sometimes wore tie-dye shirts and suspenders, held out-of-the-box shiurim and brought a bit of heaven down to earth. He was completely in line with halacha at all times and a force to be reckoned with, yet if he had walked down the streets in Monsey, N.Y., or popped into most yeshivas, he likely would have been stared at, criticized and judged. Dr. Laz, who wrote Skullcaps and Switchblades about his adventures as an Orthodox Jew teaching in public schools, is also completely unconventional, yet inspires thousands of Jews in the way of Torah. He also has an incredible effect on non-Jews, makes a kiddush Hashem in his love of humanity, while doing everything in accordance with halacha. But again, if


any of our children dressed like him or acted like him in many of our shuls or schools, what would happen? We truly have the ability to expand our vision and broaden the Torah-based track for our children. We just have to go beyond what, until now, has been our frumkeit boxes. I’d like to finish with this story of the Baal Shem Tov from the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn: When I was five years old I was orphaned from both my father and mother. The last words spoken to me by my holy father before his passing were: “Yisrolik, fear nothing but G‑d alone.” Consonant with my father’s words I was drawn to walk the fields and the great, deep forest near our village. From cheder I would make my way to the fields, where I would review by heart what I had learned in cheder. Often I would sleep over the night in the field or the forest. My guardians, who looked after me and several other orphan boys and girls, did not tolerate this behavior of mine to wander in the fields and the forest, and dealt severely with me. Our kids don’t need to sleep in the forests, but they also should not need to escape from their guardians, whether these are teachers, rabbis or family, because they are being treated harshly and critically. Our generation didn’t start this behavior towards children, but we can end it. Can we look beyond the present presentation of frumkeit, widen our perspectives and views, drop community expectations and judgements, see how our children are hurting inside from biases, criticisms and unnecessary pressures, and show up more loving and kind?


Faulty systems can change when we fear G-d more than the limited viewpoints of imperfect human beings. As the Baal Shem Tov’s father made clear to his son, “Fear no one, but G-d alone.” -This amazing quote belongs in the home, the shuls and the schools: “I thought that setting limits and teaching values was the main objective of parenting, but I now know that it’s this: making your home the most safe, fun and loving place to be. I wish I could reach a long arm back through time and hug those kids and also myself. I would say, ‘Oh honey. Just breathe. It’s good enough. You’re good enough. Love. Just love.’ ” — Ruchi Koval, co-founder and director of the Jewish Family Experience in Cleveland -Practical help: “Twisted Parenting” videos by Avi Fishoff, in which he shares his wisdom and the Torah wisdom of sages Rabbi Shimon Russel Devorah Weiss and Choice Theory Miriam Racquel Feldman is a somatic healer, clarity coach and relationship expert, helping to empower women to trust themselves through the wisdom of their bodies and intuition. An avid gardener, she lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and children. She has a new eguide: “The Mindbody Wellness Dating Guide For Frum Women—Questions, Red Flags, Brakes, and the Good Stuff.” Learn more at




Living Menorahs

Let us strive during this festive season to light the spark of enthusiasm in our children by igniting a passion for their heritage. Let us dedicate ourselves to pray with greater fervor and do mitzvot with passionate zeal. Let us proudly display the menorah in our window sills with mindfulness for our call to be “living menorahs”—a light to our family, friends, our neighbors and the nations.

As we gather around the soft glow of the Chanukah candles this year, we are reminded to pay extra attention to the lessons that the flickering flames impart. The word Chanukah is derived from the same Hebrew word chinech (“educate”) or “chinuch” (“education”). The festival of Chanukah emphasizes the ideas of Jewish identity, preservation, continuity and education.

Hebrew Vocabulary Hebrew Vocabulary Hebrew Vocabulary Crossword PuzzleCrossword Puzzle





Crossword Puzzle








1 3 5


7 10










Gavriela Riette Sinclair was born in Ekurhuleni, Africa, and immigrated to the 9 8 United States in 1993. She is a licensed Occupational Therapist, and currently a full-time homeschool mom in Middlesex County, DOWN 2 Chanukah occurs in the month of ___ . New Jersey. For more 3 Great information on her free Hebrew educational tools, email 5 Location of the Temple info@Nishei 7


DOWN DOWN Dedication 2 month Chanukah occurs in the month of ___ . dication 2 Chanukah occurs in the of ___ . 4 Spinning top with four sides 3 Great nning top with four sides 3 Great


by: G.R. Sinclair


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7 Number of5 days in Chanukah 5 Location of the Temple mber of days in Chanukah Location of the Temple ACROSS 8 Special holder of candles 6 Light ecial holder of candles 6 Light 1 Dedication 10 Happened7 There 7 There ppened 4 Spinning top with four sides 9 Miracle 9 Miracle 7 Number of days in Chanukah 8

Special holder of candles

10 Happened









Making Good Use of Time Off From School by: Esther Simon

As the winter holidays approach, many mothers look forward to meaningful family time. They are happy to be relieved of the pressures of getting their children ready for school in the morning, making lunches and doing homework. Holiday time can also be a chance to teach some new skills while assessing the strengths of each child. Projects and Activities For example, a day off can be an opportunity for a child to create a menu and prepare breakfast by themselves. You could suggest they try to make things like eggs, waffles, toast or cutup fruit, and to prepare breakfast for the family. To help organize the effort, create a family chart of tasks, and keep track of the process and success. Older children can sort the laundry and carry it to the laundry area. Everyone can make their own beds and make sure the bathrooms are tidy. The older ones can wash the family car, and the younger ones can water the plants or the lawn. What would motivate such a project? For each family, it would be something different. Perhaps it would be a family vacation, a long-awaited prize or just a feeling of deep satisfaction. Teenagers can create incentives that they feel their younger siblings may appreciate and can even reward them. You could even team up with another family or a group of families. For example, each family could invite a few friends for a homemade dinner cooked by the children, organize a car wash or host a yard sale with all their old toys and books. Families could have sports night, get together with others to write a play, bake a cake or plan a charity project. Think outside the box for a unique holiday experience. Emotional Learning by Example In addition to practical life skills, this can also be a special time


to teach emotional health. We are the best example for our children on a daily basis. They are watching our every move, mood and behavior. On a regular day, we may get caught up in criticizing, complaining or judging, which can cause conflict in relationships with our children and husbands. Instead, substitute praise and compliments as often as possible. What would the atmosphere be like? While you are teaching life skills, try to also promote positive verbal connections while instilling Torah values. For example, what situation can we see in the parsha this week that will serve as a good example? What can we learn from matriarchs, ancestors and past experiences to give us more meaning in our daily routines? We know that Hashem wants us to parent with love, joy and enthusiasm. If we as parents model a positive attitude, it will shine and pour over to our children. For this to be successful, we must first take care of ourselves. Find something that makes you happy and fulfilled. This selfcare will help you not be resentful for the chores that you must do, and in return help you spread joy and positive energy to your family. I have found that when I take care of myself, I am less likely to be upset around my family because I am in a better place emotionally. Whenever I feel worn out or exhausted, I may lash out at my husband and kids. When I take time to nurture myself and take good care of my needs, however, I am much more pleasant to be around and a better role model. Take this precious time to teach your kids the importance of patience, taking care of oneself, and giving to each other with a full heart. Let’s make the most of the winter holidays and warm our homes with love, support and gratitude. Esther Simon, MSW, is a professional home organizer for the past 23 years. She is a member of NAPO and a mother of seven. Learn more at:



Turning Towards Judaism by: Elisheva Ben-Hamo

I was not raised with religious Judaism and didn’t have any familiarity with the Orthodox Jewish community until I was an adult. Family stories were filled with memories of tradition, but there wasn’t any Jewish observance in the family. Growing up, my maternal grandmother would speak in Yiddish, and she told me about her Jewish family who had to flee Russia to Poland and Germany after the Bolshevik revolution. I always asked deep spiritual questions, and she said that she would give me her baby book, which had information about the maternal line of our family. After being introduced to Torah Judaism within the Milwaukee community, I decided it was time to make a full turn towards Judaism. Being from both a paternal and maternal line, although not raised in a Jewish setting, I found help from Jews for Judaism— an international organization that provides counseling services, education and outreach programs to all Jewish denominations—and I left everything.

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I had to leave my marriage, which was to a Jewish man who was practicing Christianity. I left my job, my city, my neighbors and everything that was familiar to me for my life up to my return and teshuva. I wholeheartedly underwent an Orthodox giyur le chumra and returned home to Orthodox Judaism at the age of 34 with the help of Rabbi Aaron Parry and Rabbi Michael Skobac.


(I only underwent the giyur le chumra because my family left Judaism and raised us Christian, and the Beit Din wanted me to undergo the giyur to erase any doubt, even though they had my maternal documents.) I decided to do teshuva because I wanted to leave behind my secular life, live an Orthodox Jewish life and bring my family back to practicing Judaism. Almost two years ago, I married Rabbi Dan Ben-Hamo, a shochet, mohel and sofer who was born and raised in Eretz Yisrael. A native to the Milwaukee area and currently living in Northeastern Wisconsin, I am the mother of three sons, Baruch Hashem, as well as an artist, writer, aromatherapist and trauma-release consultant. I’m also currently pursuing my paralegal license. I help women—married, single and divorced—focus on healing, restoring and overcoming life traumas with the help of Hashem and Orthodox Jewish teachings from our sages.

Elisheva and her grandmother


Tips for Shalom Bayit (Peace at Home) 1. A great marriage is two people who intentionally choose to put their promise to Hashem and each other over their challenges. 2. You pursue that which you love. 3. A submissive heart in marriage comes from strength, never weaknesses. 4. Behind every strong and holy marriage is the One, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who ordained it. 5. A woman of valor and integrity protects her marriage and husband with modesty, love and respect. 6. Respect and love are life partners. If a man feels respect, he feels love. If a woman feels loved, she


shows more respect. 7. Every battle your spouse faces is also your battle to help him/her fight with the help of Hashem. 8. 120 isn’t too far away, be’ezrat Hashem. 9. If it feels hard sometimes, it’s worth it. Nothing good comes easy. 10. Remember that 99.9 percent of what bothers you about other people is usually something that you struggle with within yourself. 11. Shalom bayit (“peace in the home”) is more precious than any treasure found in this universe.



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Kibbutz Galuyot

by: Sarah Ansbacher

It was a quiet morning in August at the museum. Not like the usual buzz of visitors we’d usually get over the summer months.

1967 for Israel and London, where the community still continues, passing down the traditions to the next generation.

I work at a fascinating little place in Tel Aviv called the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum. It tells the history of a little-known Jewish community thatwho once lived in the port city of Aden, located where the Arabian and Red Seas converge. For more thanover 100a hundred years, Aden was a British colony and had a thriving Jewish community. Today, Aden is part of contemporary Yemen, and no Jews remain. The last members left in

Ordinarily, we’d welcome tourists from all over the world, local Israelis, and, of course, members of the community. Sometimes, I’d have fascinating conversations with the visitors and they’d tell me their stories, too, but because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we had fewer visitors, and I missed them.


So when three generations of women walked through


the door together, they brightened my day. The oldest of the three was an elegant woman in her eighties with coiffed graey hair. ‘“I was born in Frankfurt, Germany,”’ she said. ‘“We moved to Israel in 1937, when I was a year old.”’ ‘“It’s fortunate that your family left so early,”’ I said. ‘“My father didn’t want to leave, but my mother persuaded him. She could see that things were turning bad. They had a comfortable home, a successful business. He didn’t want to give all of that up. But my mother was persistent. He, like many others, had served in the German army in the First World War. They all thought they would be protected because of their service to the country. Unfortunately, it didn’t help those who remained.”’ Her family came to Israel as pioneers in those challenging early years. She was a young girl in 1947 when the Jewish Sstate was founded, and in the years that followed she lived through five wars, several conflicts and years of terror. But she also watched the country develop and blossom. She witnessed the waves of new immigrants who arrived from all four corners of the world. And she married and brought up a family. Now a widow, she told me she lived in sheltered accommodation. She pointed to the woman in her 50s and the girl in her late teens who had accompanied her to the museum.

The daughter-in-law tenderly took her mother-in-law by the arm before they continued onwards, after saying and she said goodbye. This woman whose family was the epitome of kibbutz galuyot, the “ingathering of the exiles.” Sarah Ansbacher was born in London and moved to Israel 13thirteen years ago with her husband and family. Her book, “Passage From Aden: Stories From A Little Museum in Tel Aviv,” is due out shortly. You can find out more at:

Aden Jewish Heritage Museum

‘“This is my daughter-in-law and granddaughter. They’re wonderful. They take me out somewhere else every week. Her family came from Morocco.”’ She looked at them adoringly. ‘“We had three boys. No girls. But now I have three daughters-in-law. One from Iraq, one from Yemen, and one from Morocco.”’




Life Isn’t Just Dancing by: Devora Benchimol

Translated by: Anna Freiman

Oftentimes, I look back; I look at who I was, what I did, what I didn’t do, who I wanted to become and didn’t, and who I wanted to become and did. From a young age, I thought my life was going to be about dance, movement and the music’s rhythmic beat. Our living room growing up was always full of music and movement. My mother, a ballet dancer herself, taught us all how to dance, and my father, like a good orchestra conductor, would come home, play classical music and grab his baton as the trombones played to the beat of the trumpets. Every afternoon was the same situation: music, dance, orchestra, songs. Every day of my upbringing was vibrant. And, as the years went by, nothing changed in my home, but what I didn’t think was true at the time—that everything in life, whether in seconds, minutes or decades, changes—soon proved itself ineffably bona fide.

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At 21 years old, I was studying dance therapy in college, walking through the corridors as the same beats from my house played in the background, suddenly feeling as though it wasn’t enough. The halls and the rhythm just didn’t have the same flavor. My cousin and friends had been killed in the military era in Argentina, and many other things in my life had me questioning everything. I remember walking out of class and seeing an artist painting something


very strange. Approaching her, I asked what it was, but she didn’t answer my question. She simply said, “you’re looking for something more and you have to find it.” I didn’t believe much in those types of messages nor in the people who transmitted them, so I didn’t take it into account. But it was my reality. I was looking for something beyond dance that would fill my soul. I wanted other answers. So, I started searching. My family was Jewish, and although I didn’t know anything about religion, I began to attend course after course, slowly transforming into who I am today: the Rabanit of Beit Rambam in Sunny Isles and a shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe with 35 years under my belt. My story is much longer than these paragraphs, but, as I trace back every step of my journey as a baal teshuva, I can say it’s best captured as one thing: a miracle. Miracles aren’t only flying elephants. Miracles are all of life’s occurrences that weren’t awaited, that weren’t planned, that simply happened, defying all logic. There is no reasonable explanation for my decision to stop dancing and start learning nor for replacing the ballet shoes with a wig and a skirt. Even with hindsight, as I analyze every detail of what happened during those years, there isn’t much logic. We are approaching Chanukah and the celebration of the festival of grand miracles, but what were the miracles? They were the unexpected; the few Jews who


defeated the vast might of the Greek army; the oil meant to burn for one day that lasted for eight. The Jews weren’t expecting to emerge triumphant, but they did. They weren’t expecting light, but they had it. Life is like Chanukah—like my story, like the Exodus from Egypt, like a baby being born; it is a compilation of miracles that happen every step of the way. It’s just about opening your eyes and seeing, about stopping to listen, about becoming sensitive enough to feel what is already surrounding us. A miracle is like a spiritual hug; it is a loving caress from the Heavens that gently brushes the skin. For us, it’s just about wanting to see and feel it.

Devorah Benchimol, originally from Argentina, lives in Sunny Isles, Fla., near Miami, where she serves as a rebbetzin and teacher. She and her husband lead Beit Rambam, an Orthodox Sephardic Latin Congregation, and previously served as head rabbi and rebbetzin in Argentina, Columbia and Guatemala. Devorah has more than 35 years of experience in education and dance therapy. She is the mother of four and grandmother of six.

Liluy Nishmat Sholem Dovber Ben Iosef z”l. Every day, I am thankful for being able to have had him for 17 years as a son, a miracle and a light for my family.

Chag Sameach and Happy Chanukah!




Starting with the Left People hear a Divine voice in the soft sound of a child’s laugh, in the soothing crashing of waves on the shore, in the booming of thunder at moments so precise they can only be defined as hashgacha.

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We find G-d in nature, in gratitude, in the triumphs and travails He puts in our way. Often, we connect to Him by those means: by contemplating the grandeur of the forests, the specificity of the human genome and the fact that the Creator of everything heeds our call, but there also exist those of us who feel His presence most strongly in the pages of the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishnah Berurah. We find G-d not in our miracles, but in our actions. I’m a right-brain writer: verbal yet intuitive, always creating, often synthesizing and usually random. I don’t think in numbers or patterns; I just let my fingers


by: Anna Freiman

dance at the keyboard, watching as the letters appear one by one on the screen, coalescing into something I did not plan nor premeditate. This is an essential part of who I am; time and time again I’ve found myself in my voice as a writer. And yet, when I began my baal teshuva journey after an eye-opening summer in Israel, when I redefined my identity to incorporate my Jewish self, when I changed my life to reflect my values, I couldn’t find the words to express it. I was hearing that Divine voice everywhere, everywhere except the clacking of the keyboard. It took me time, but I came to realize that the disconnect between my newfound attachment to Judaism and my continuous love for writing stemmed from the fact that my connection to G-d was not fueled by the same passion that ignites my writing. The environment that surrounded and encouraged me in my journey was incredibly warm and emphasized the cultivation of


an individual relationship with G-d. Many members of my community fostered their love for Judaism by davening, by reciting Tehillim, and by bringing G-dliness into their individual affinities for art, nature, music and even writing. It was an unusual mold, but one I felt the need to fit nonetheless. Hence my frustration as I stared at the blank screen before me. Eventually, I recognized that I simply did not fit that mold. Unlike most, I didn’t start out with emotion and face the challenge of transforming that into observance. My journey moved in the opposite direction. Part of what appealed to me most about Judaism at first was in fact halacha; it was the specificity, the nuance, the bringing meaning to the mundane. My journey began with a fascination with action, not

emotion. Logical, linear and left-brain in essence, it couldn’t manifest in my writing, but in an attempt to fit the overarching theme of the highly individualized definition of Judaism I’d been presented with, I tried to force it to work. I fought to blend in. I battled to take the path tried, tested, and true. And, if it weren’t for that alarming writer’s block, by some form of selfdeceit I would’ve emerged victorious.

But, thankfully, my inability to write shook me to my core. Warning me that something was off, it was my miracle. It pushed me to search for my personal connection to Judaism, and, surreptitiously secluded within the strict letter of the law, I found it. I fell in love with the regimen—with the notion that every moment was an opportunity, with the concept that every choice, from the way I slip on my shoes to the way I will raise my children matters on micro and macrocosmic levels. It gave me a sense of empowerment, responsibility and potential that I had only ever found in one place: my keyboard. In the same way I build up the reality on the paper before me, I can build upon my own reality as well; the precision of the thesaurus is matched by the particularity of halachah. I may be a writer, my fingertips driven by my rightbrain intuition as they type letter after letter. But, I am also a Jew, a follower of halacha, and a person fueled by left-brain logic. Where these two meet, where I reach Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” is the point where I’m finally able to use writing, my writing, as a medium to express my Jewish identity. It is where I embrace both sides of who I am, where I accept that my journey didn’t look like that of those around me, and where I recognize that we’re all still moving in the same direction, charging forwards towards the Divine, towards each other and towards the rectification of humankind and the arrival of Mashiach. Anna Freiman was born and raised in Miami, Fla.. She is a high school senior who is passionate about education, personal growth and Torah values, and is looking to utilize this zeal in the near future as a professional writer.



Glossary of Terms Aliyah - the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel

Kiddush Hashem - sanctificiation of G-d’s name

Alter Rebbe - Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi; first Chabad Rebbe

Kippah - Jewish skullcap

B’ezrat Hashem (B’ZH) - with G-d’s help

Knas system - a system of penalties

Baal Shem Tov - Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer; the founder of Chassidus (1698-1760)

Lubavitcher Rebbe - Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Baal Teshuva - returnee to Torah Judaism; penitent

Baalat Teshuva (female)

Baalei Teshuva (plural)

Baruch Hashem - Thank G-d; lit. Blessed be G-d Bashert - one’s Divinely ordained husband/wife; lit. destiny Bochur - Yeshiva student; young unmarried man Brachos - blessings Chanukiah - candelabrum used during Chanukah with room for nine candles

Mesiras Nefesh - self-sacrifice and dedication; lit. “giving one’s soul” Midrash - commentaries on Scripture Mohel - a person who performs circumcisions Negel Vasser - Yiddish for ritual hand washing Ohel - the burial place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Parshah - weekly Torah portion Pasuk - verse

Cheder - Jewish elementary school

Pintele Yid - the spark of G-dliness in each Jew

Chinuch - Jewish education/upbringing

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson

Chesed - Kindness; one of the 10 Sefirot

Rambam - Acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (maimonides)

Daven - pray

Sefirot - the 10 mystical spheres outlined in Kabbalah

Eretz Yisrael - Land of Israel

Shabbos - Sabbath

Frum - religious; pious

Shalom Bayit - demonstic harmony between husband and wife; lit. peace in the home

Frumkeit - a religious lifestyle Gemara - commentary on the Mishnah (together they form the Talmud); one volume of Talmud Gevurah - Strength; one of the 10 Sefirot Giyur le chumra - a conversion to Judaism for someone whose Jewish lineage is questionable; a conversion done to be strict. Hakadosh Baruch Hu (HKBH) - G-d; lit. The Holy One, Blessed be He Halacha - the body of Jewish law Hanhalla - administration Hashem - G-d Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

Menorah - the 7 branched candelabrum used in the Temple; lit. lamp

Igros Kodesh - a collection of correspondence and answers from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Shamash - the helper candle on a Chanukah/Menorah Shiur - Torah class Shiurim (plural) Shochet - a person who slaughters animals in accordance with Kashrus laws Sofer - a Jewish scribe Tefillah - prayer Teshuvah - repentance and a return to a Torah lifestyle; lit. returning Tiferet - compassion; one of the 10 Sefirot; blends gevurah and chessed Yarmulke - Jewish skullcap Yeshiva - an academy for Torah study

Kaddish - the mourner’s prayer; a prayer sanctifying G-d’s name

Yiddishkeit - Judaism

Kashrut - Jewish dietary laws

Yiras Shamayim - fear of Heaven

Kibbutz Galuyot - ingathering of exiles

Zichrono Livracha (Z’L) - may his memory be a blessing



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