New Year, New You?

We hear this phrase so often in January, that we unquestionably embrace it and its underlying assumptions. And what are those assumptions? That we need to be reinvented in some way every single year. That we are not good enough as is. That resolutions must be made and adhered to in order for us to become our best selves, without any thought or reflection as to who we are right now. This is why the Jewish High Holiday cycle makes so much more sense to me: we celebrate who we are, we take time to reflect, and then we resolve to be better. Rosh Hashanah and then Yom Kippur (although I could do without the fasting). And after some thought, I’d like to resolve to reflect more in general. I call this “bringing more Shabbat into my life.” We spend a lot of club sessions focusing on Shabbat, from challah braiding to making Havdallah candles to yoga, and you’ll notice that each of these things touches on some common resolutions as is. We exercise more when we do yoga, but we also focus more. We use less technology when our hands are covered with dough and flour (hopefully). But more than that, I want to spend time embracing all of the elements that made up my Shabbats as a child, and bring them into my every day. We got together with family, we spent time together around the dinner table, we laughed more and worried less, we celebrated the specialness of the occasion. What if we did this every day? What if we sat around the table and just appreciated all of the things that were on it and the people who were around it? What if we took on an attitude of gratitude for the little things? Let us bring more Shabbat into our lives and move a little slower. And in this way we don’t need to make resolutions to change, but rather to accept who we are, maybe even to appreciate it.

We resolve…to try.

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Hanukkah 2018

SO MANY JELLY DONUTS! I think I dreamed about jelly donuts for weeks after Hanukkah this year. Every single club wanted to do a Hanukkah party, and we took everything a step further and threw a party for the 7th graders at Casey Middle School, and a Chopped Hanukkah Challenge. This means that Hanukkah lasted for at least two weeks here at BJTI, which made us wonder why everyone was so invested in a holiday that really isn’t that big of a deal to the Jews. So let’s take a minute to think about why. First, there’s the holiday season itself: as Jews, we don’t get to participate in what feels like the biggest holiday in America (Christmas), even though it’s a religious holiday in a secular country. If you’re looking for proof, grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving, but not on Christmas. On Christmas, even if we do celebrate in our homes, a lot of Jews (and non-Christians) feel invisible. So maybe our Hanukkah celebrations are a plea for visibility in a season that often makes us feel overlooked, which makes me wonder, how can we participate in the season without having to over-glorify Hanukkah?

On a day that might just be another day for us, we could be the invisible workforce that so many people really need. Already Jewish nurses, firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers volunteer to work on Christmas to give their Christian counterparts the day off, but the rest of us, and teens, can do more. We can volunteer at soup kitchens, pet shelters, bring cheer to local hospitals and nursing homes, etc. We can bring Hanukkah to our schools, but also remind them of our other holidays; we can teach about our similarities (Hanukkah and Christmas) and our differences (different sabbaths, foods, cultures, etc), and remind each other to embrace both. And we should do the same: ask your friends what their holiday traditions are and share your own. Come up with some new traditions for your friend group: a holiday food exchange (more jelly donuts), watch movies together, exchange homemade gifts, volunteer together, make New Year’s resolutions, etc.

Whatever you do, and whatever your family celebrates, please have a happy holiday season, and a happy New Year! We look forward to seeing you at club in 2019 and hearing about how you spent break!

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