J Online: Kveller

More kvelling. All the parents out there have to check this one out. Kveller is like a one-stop shop of parenting blog posts from a mix of Jewish parents. You can find an array of useful nuggets, from witty anecdotes on parenting, to recipes for chocolate challah. The site offers some great ideas (for non-Jewish parents as well) without looking like a newsletter from your local shul. While the site is exceptionally helpful for those in the New York area (with communities for Brooklyn and Manhattan) it’s a great resource for those (like me) who are nowhere near a Jewish community of that size. Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Progressive, whatever, you should be able to find something you like about this site. If I find something on the site to kvetch about it, I will, but I’m still searching.

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Ashkenaz vs Sephard

This week, while reading more siddurim reviews (see siddurim shuffle), I came across countless complaints about the Ashkenaz versions of a couple texts, including Artscroll’s siddur. Words like “hickish”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, and “completely wrong” were used to describe the Ashkenaz copies that commonly replace the ‘t’ sound with that of an ‘s’. Is this really worth arguing and complaining over? Different copies are written so Jews of different backgrounds can use something that they grew up with, something that fits the dialect of their parents, grandparents, and so on. Maybe I’m a bit bias, being that my entire ancestry comes from the Rhine (debatably the central hub of Ashkenazi heritage) but I think the argument, itself, is stupid. It’s a regional dialect, like saying soda, pop, or cola. It’s not surprising that we have problems accepting all movements of Judaism in Israel, when, internationally, we can’t even accept two forms of Hebrew as valid or intelligent. I say Shabbat (not Shabbos) and selichot (not selichos) but I don’t really care if someone else greets me with Gut Shabbos (I use this once in a while as I come from a very German background and it feels natural) or hands me a text written in something I’m less comfortable or familiar with. Really, both forms are slightly skewed from the ancient Hebrew, anyway, so can’t we just get along? Pick up Ashkenaz and Sephard copies of a siddur (if available), read ’em both, pick out the one that feels most natural to you and then refrain from criticizing someone who chose the other copy. To anyone reading this, Gut Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom, and whatever else you want to hear or say this Shabbat/Shabbos.

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J Online: One Shul

I’m going to start doing occasional posts about Jewish sites, online, that I think are interesting and helpful, as well as ones that I think are a waste of time. To start, I’m writing about One Shul. First off, I’m classifying this one as helpful; of course, I have a few reasons for this. Let me begin by stating that I do NOT advise replacing a “brick and mortar” shul with one that is online. Nothing can replace good old face-to-face interaction and community involvement; Judaism has thrived for thousands of years on it. If, however, you’re looking for a entry point into learning about Judaism, returning to Judaism, an additional place to pray and meet new people, or you simply don’t have a shul near you, you should definitely go for it! One Shul is a fairly progressive, egalitarian, online shul that does daily services (most days) for Shacharit, Mincha, and Ma’ariv, depending on the day. They’re friendly, non-judgmental, and have a growing community. If you check out their sister site, Punk Torah, you’ll find D’vrei Torah for each week (sometimes done as a video) as well as a forum to discuss Judaism, Torah, or anything else. The services are hosted by Michael (your friendly Punk Torah rebbe), Patrick, and Rivka. Discussions are always welcomed and the services are informal. If you’re extremely traditional, this may not be the shul for you, but for others, it’s worth checking out (kippot are optional). With all that said, it’s a good site, worth looking into, that I expect to progress greatly in the future.

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Doing The Siddur Shuffle

I’m in the middle of a search for the right siddur. For the past few months I’ve primarily used the Mishkan T’filah, with an occasional prayer from One Shul’s siddur or Sim Shalom. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fine siddurim but they just aren’t quite doing it for me (not to mention I don’t actually own a full physical copy of any of them). I want something compact, easy to read, translated and traditional (in structure). Transliterations are nice (since I still can’t read much Hebrew) and an egalitarian perspective would be good but not necessary. Of course, I checked out ArtScroll’s siddurim just to give them a choice…and then remembered why I’m not a fan. Right now I’m at a crossroads, though. To my right, I have the beautifully structured and traditional Koren Sacks Siddur, which is fairly inexpensive, comes in a hardcover (or paperback) compact version, and has Hebrew and English; but there’s no transliterated copy. To my left, I have Eit Ratzon, an egalitarian, transliterated siddur, with a fairly traditional structure and meditational notes; not available in a compact version and costs a little more due to the way it’s produced. How important is the price? How important are transliterations (which could help me learn liturgical Hebrew)? There’s probably another siddur out there that I should check out, but I have yet to see it. Gotta decide my priorities…

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