AntiSemitism and Judaism

I’ll be honest- I’m really conflicted about writing this blog post. I feel like this is something that I NEED to talk about because it is RAMPANT right now in our world, but I also…don’t want to oversaturate or focus too much on it for a variety of reasons- some of which I’ll touch on in this blog post. I’m going to try and edit this blog post, but it is also going to be a bit freeform, going from point to point and just a bit stream of consciousness as I work through my thoughts and feelings. 

I feel like there are incidents that occur with regular frequency against the Jewish community (anything from physical assaults to vocal microaggressions) that don’t get talked about. I’ve come to expect this, but when there is a large news making incident against and involving the Jewish community that quickly gets deflected away from the Jewish community, that is, by and large, swept aside by the non-Jewish world, then we need to talk about it. 

By the time this will actually be posted the Synagogue Hostage situation in Colleyville, TX will have probably been completely “resolved” – and by that, I mean the news cycle has moved on and everyone has forgotten about it…except the Jews. There have also been several additional instances of Jew Hatred ranging from a woman yelling slurs and spitting on children, to rhetoric and swastikas being written on subway signs in NYC to name just TWO of the things that I’ve seen. So, let’s bring everything back up. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the bigger issue at hand…antisemitism. 

But first, let’s talk about the word antisemitism. 

Antisemisism was first used in the late 1870’s by a German to describe the anti-Jewish campaigns that were occurring. It really and truly gained traction during Nazi Germany as a way to…placate those who may have questioned the anti jewish state the country was heading toward. The definition and examples have been expanded as the years go (and the ADL has some great resources in regard to this), but at its core it’s hostility or discriminations to the Jews, whether its towards them in a religious or racial way.  There are a couple things to note about the word…

  1. Jew Hatred stems further back than the introduction of “antisemitism”. It is the oldest hatred that we know, dating back to before Christ. This is a known and documented fact. 
  2. The word Antisemitism is actually not “correct” as it refers to “Semites” which, in some instances, can also include Arabs and other groups, not just the Jews. However, “anti-Semitism” was created to specifical relate to the Jews. Often times this fact gets shoved in when talking about “antisemitism” as a way to discredit or minimize actions.

So, in all honesty, I hate the word antisemitism. I hate it for a couple reasons; the first being that it was really brought to popularity by people who wanted to put a “stomach-able” label to the true horrors they were inflicting on others. While the Jewish community has really kind of taken over ownership of the word and have used it as a way to light upon certain hatred and hostility, we CANNOT ignore the origins of the word and who brought it in to regular use. It has by and large been used as a label to “hide behind” instead of blatantly stating what’s happening. The second reason that I hate the word is that, to be honest, it’s just becoming overused and watered down as a tool. While words have power, if a word is used to often (even if it’s justified) it becomes less powerful. I’ve long felt like “antisemitic” or “antisemitism” has lost its “effect” on the non jewish world and this has just become more obvious to me over the past year. I’ve, by and large, tried to cut that word out of my vernacular. I really want to start giving a bit more power to my words, choose them a bit more carefully, and really call things as they are. So, let’s start calling it what it is- Jewish Hatred. 

There is no actual place in Judaism for or that refers to Antisemitism. Let me kind of explain what I mean. Jewish holidays celebrate a few different things, some are in regard to the earth and what we are given by Hashem (such as Tu B’shevat which just passed- this is a celebration of the trees), some are in regard to Jewish triumph (such as Hanukkah), and some are a celebration of Jewish freedom (such as Passover). Our highest holidays of the year (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are days of atonement and judgement. While holidays like Passover and Hanukkah reference hatred, control, slavery, a desire from outside forces for Jews to submit/change, there isn’t a direct reference. It’s more of a celebration of the Jews moving forward and continuing to survive. In fact, a lot of Judaism is a celebration of tradition, survival, justice, and the beauty of our world (and thus taking care of those things). While the hatred of Jews or othering of them is implied, it’s almost just an after statement in a way. 

There is no place in our celebration for hatred from others (or towards others- in fact you can argue that we just want acceptance for who we are and anything that has been done has been not done from a place of hatred, but that’s a whole separate post for a separate day). It’s a celebration of our traditions, our very people, surviving, moving forward, continuing on. It’s a celebration of our world, of the beauty that is in life. And so, most of the time, for most Jews, that’s what we want to share, that’s what we want to focus on, that’s what we want others to SEE when they see US. We don’t want to see, on our end or on others, the sheer amount of hatred there is. Judaism is so beautiful in so many ways and that’s what we want to focus on, share about, and just live. 

So, why can’t we? Please refer to my previous post for more thoughts and words HERE

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – January 2022

Ah the first month of 2022! I’ve always loved the first reading month of the year. The fresh start, everything looks bright, and I always seem to have good luck with books at the beginning of the year. This month was…no different. I had almost all wins, aka I didn’t give less than 3 stars to any book I read, and I overall enjoyed everything that I read. I read a total of 6 books and gave an average rating of 3.6. 

So, let’s talk about those books…

Jade City by Fonda Lee 4 Stars – I LOVED this book. Thinking back, I don’t know why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, but I usually go with my first gut rating on most books. This is an Asian inspired Urban fantasy that has the perfect mix of politics, fighting, and a hinting of romance here and there. It really checks so many boxes and I can’t wait to continue with the series. 

People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn NR – This was another great read, though a difficult one at times. This book not only covers the fascination of dead Jews, but also gives insight into so many stories that we don’t normally hear or talk about in relation to the Jewish Community. It’s such an important read for both Jews and Non-Jews and I highly recommend it. 

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey 3 Stars – I have mixed feelings about this book. This is a space melodrama that involves both political and interpersonal battles. For me, about half of the book I was really intrigued, really into what was happening, and then half of the book I was questioning why I was bothering to read it/wasting my time. I get the appeal, but there were moments that I was just bored. There was also some initial confusion about the different “sects” of space and trying to work that out in my head. 

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday 4 Stars – This is actually the second book in a series which I didn’t realize, but I don’t think you need to read the first to get on with the second (and I probably won’t go back and read the first). A fun, lighthearted, aristocratic romance, we follow two characters who have sworn off love only to find that maybe they just needed the right person to fall in love with. My only “negative” was towards the end I felt like the “conflict” was a little…over engineered. But this was the perfect read for a weekend.

Reprieve by James Han Mattson 3 Stars – I’m not really sure how I feel about this one. This is a murder mystery that takes place in a “famous” full contact escape house. I found this to be a really good character study that pushed a variety of characters from different backgrounds past their limits to see what would happen. It was good, but unsettling. 

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire 4 Stars – This book reminded me how much I loved this series in the first place. The 6th book in the Wayward Children Series, we get to see a second school that isn’t quite like Eleanor Wests’. We follow some of our previous characters, meet some new ones, and expand the “human” world a bit more. I really enjoyed this one, which was nice after feeling meh from the past couple. 

I’m currently reading The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, but I don’t know if I’ll finish it before the end of the month, definitely not before this blog post needs to be scheduled to go up on Wednesday. So far, I’m enjoying it and looking forward to seeing where the story goes (I’m about 75 pages in). And that’s my first reading wrap up of 2022! How has your reading started off this year?

They Saved Themselves…

I’m going to preface this post (rather this series of posts), with a bit of a disclaimer. I never thought that I would be here talking about this level of Jew Hatred. This is something that I’ve shared about on social media and maybe briefly mentioned on the blog, outside of talking about Holocaust sites that we’ve visited, but never something I’ve outrightly discussed. There are several reasons for this that we will get into in another post, but I feel like I’ve reached a point that I can no longer NOT talk about it. I’ve been feeling this pressure within to talk about it more for the past year or two, but it’s really starting to reach a crescendo. 

I want to start this off by saying that almost every single Jew has experienced some form of “othering”, of hatred, SOMETHING. Every. Single. Jew. It’s actually not hard to believe when you realize that Jews make up 0.19% of the world population. I’m not going to spit facts at you this entire post, but that’s an important one to know. Ask any Jew that you know, and they’ll talk to you about some incident. In fact, a recent number has come to light that in 2021 an average of 10 antisemitic incidents were REPORTED a day. 10 A DAY. And that’s just a) what’s reported (often they go unreported) and b) what can actually be reported. In just the weeks following the hostage situation at the Synagogue in Colleyville- which we will be getting into in this post- I’ve seen numerous incidences both in a micro aggression commentary sense, but also in physical attacks. In NYC a woman yelled holocaust and Hitler slurs at two young Jewish children and spat on them. An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal talked about how the only Jews that had to fear antisemitism are those that are “outwardly Jewish” or “frequent Jewish institutions”. This is beyond false and actually very dangerous rhetoric. Two instances right there in two weeks; examples of both physical (though mild as most are truly physical assault rather than just spitting on someone which is still bad and disgusting) and micro verbal nonsense spewed in a “reputable” news source. 

For me? The first time I experienced it was when my family moved from TX to CO, and I started a new school. I was the “weird girl who talked funny and didn’t celebrate Christmas”. Oh, and I also was the girl “who had that weird birthday celebration at the school” aka a Bat Mitzvah. This othering is not unusual by any means (and nowhere near close to some of the other things I’ve experienced), but at 11/12 in a new community and a new school it had an impact. Later in life I’ve experienced some micro aggressions and truly horrifying things said to me that I will not repeat (because they are truly horrifying). I’ve always kind of written them off as people coming from a place of ignorance or not understanding. But honestly that’s a lie and it’s a dangerous mindset to have. I see so many comments, words of ignorance, and statements becoming commonplace that are actually scary to hear as a Jewish person. 

The reality is that people are quick to write off the Jewish community. In terms of social justice, they are considered “white”, but in terms of white supremacy they are the antithesis of “white” (and in reality- Jews are NOT “white”, but at most white passing). The history of the Jews is long and storied and since it involves SO MUCH it must have been exaggerated or falsified- even though there is documented proof. There are always “bigger issues” to contend with OR “not enough information” to comment on what is happening. And, as a Jewish person, it is hard to watch my very people, my community, my home be wiped to the side as quick as dirt being swept on the floor. 

Sometimes it’s easy to see, like in the most recent incident that made international news- a gunmen entered a synagogue, took 4 hostages for 12 hours before finally being killed by the FBI without any other casualties. 

First off, this is an annual occurrence. There is some form of massive violence against the Jewish community every year. We see it in Synagogue shootings, hostage situations, stabbings in Kosher supermarkets. And these are the “major” events, the news making stories, this is not counting “minor” physical assaults and verbal attacks that Jews face EVERY SINGLE DAY. But we’ll focus on these major ones for the sake of conversation (just remember- Jew Hatred is not limited to these annual major occurrences, but rather happens every day). 

Now, let’s get into the specifics of this most recent hostage situation because I feel like they paint a pretty accurate picture of the state of Jewish Hatred. 

First, I personally saw the news break from an Israeli News Organization. I then saw the Jewish community rally and share details before lastly seeing our standard news outlets sharing information. I don’t have cable so I can’t say what the coverage was in that sense, but I will say I first heard and saw the hostage situation NOT from our American Mainstream Media. 

Second, the ONLY people I saw sharing it, talking about it, updating others was the Jewish community. This is going to sound a bit like a call out, and maybe it is in a way, but I didn’t see ONE person who was NOT a member of the Jewish community share. It was like crickets outside the Jewish community. The sad fact, is that a lot of the folks that were talking about it, sharing it (again- within the Jewish community) were sharing it and the fact that they KNEW that they would get no support from outside the community. That’s SAD. When there were finally comments being made from outside the community, they were…stilted to say the least. I saw everything from a “praying for the hostages” to “please don’t let this lead to a rise in Islamophobia” to the White House not even stating (in their initial comment- I know Biden later released a full statement condemning Antisemitism and what not) what was going on- just that the president had been “briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area”. Let me make something absolutely clear here- this is one of the things that HURTS the Jewish community when it comes to Jewish Hatred. Not immediately saying exactly what it is is a detriment, ESPECIALLY when it is BLATANTLY clear. 

When the hostages escaped (and we’ll get to that next), the FBI’s initial statement from the Dallas Special Agent in Charge was that this was “not specifically related to the Jewish Community”. Yes, read that again. We’ve learned a lot in the days following this hostage situation and there were some rumors, but we’ll put that aside for the purposes of this (and we’ll get to them- I promise). If we look at what we knew when this statement was made what we KNEW was that this man had taken these hostages in a Synagogue with the intent on getting someone (who also hated Jews and wanted the jurors at her federal trial genetically tested to determine if they were or were not Jews) freed from Federal Prison. He had the Rabbi call another Rabbi in another state to continue pushing his case for freeing this person. And the FBI made a public statement that this was “not related to the Jewish community”. Let that sink in. This is a government organization. A federal government organization saying something directly opposite of what we all saw. And, while most of us can see the flaw in that statement, there are people who, because this is the FBI, will believe it. 

Now the FBI has come out and corrected that initial statement and most people are talking about how outrageous and false that statement is, it’s still a damning heartbreaking statement to make literally on the heels of the entire Jewish community praying, daring to hope, and sitting on edge for the entirety of a Sabbath day. 

In the days following the Hostage situation we started to get a clearer picture of the events, which makes the entire situation clearer, more heartbreaking, and more damning. 

First, we hear confirmation that the hostage taker had the Rabbi call a Rabbi in New York to push his agenda forward. Not every rabbi knows every rabbi, and they are most definitely not connected in this sense to the justice system. The entire concept of “Jews control the Justice System” connects to an antisemitic trope of “Jews control the world”, which is…quite obviously false. False as it is, this is a narrative that is pushed forward quite regularly.

Second, we hear that 3 out of the 4 hostages escaped through their own self-defense tactics, knowledge, and training, rather than being “freed” or “rescued”. This is one of the most important factors to look at, after we look at the fact that this is obviously an attack on the Jewish Community, and we need to recognize what led to that. When the 3 hostages noticed that the attacker was getting more agitated, they used the training that they had received not long before this attack to escape. The Rabbi threw a chair at the attacker and the Vice President of the congregation had lined both himself and the other hostage up with the exit. These were tactics they had learned through a self-defense that they took in response to a rise in Jew Hatred and Jewish attacks. They saved themselves. 

They saved themselves. 

This is what Jews have been doing for thousands of years. 

Now, I’m not going to comment on what/how the FBI operates. I am sure they have trained tactics and five million different options, and they just try different things to do what they need to do. I’m not going to comment because I am just not aware and have not done any training for those situations. 

What I will comment on is the lack of awareness/sharing/” justice”, as well as what the commentary WAS when it happened. 

I saw a lot of the Jewish Community, once the hostage situation had ended with the hostages escaping, saying that they didn’t even think to look outside the Jewish community for anything. Where previously we would look to those outside our community to share information, bring situations to light, stand in solidarity, speak up…in this situation none of that happened. It wasn’t even expected. A lot of the community didn’t even hope for it. In fact, a lot of posts that I saw were “we know we have to do this ourselves”. What a dark place to be in. When you are trying so hard to say, “look here we are, we’re under attack, please just say something, anything” and to be rebuked, to be met with crickets. It’s heartbreaking. We don’t exist outside our own community. 

Think about this, your community is under attack, your family is under attack, you’re shouting to the world that this is happening, and you’re met with silence. Or, maybe more frustratingly, you’re met with “well let’s not turn this into this” or “well how did this one part of the issue happen”. Because that’s what happened. Outside our community it was a cry of “don’t let this lead to hatred in the other direction”, or “how did he get in the country?”, and “obviously something in gun control is flawed here”. All of these are things that need to be looked at, obviously. All of these are valid points. All of these are important questions. But there weren’t a lot of questions or headlines about the obvious…he attacked Jews. He thought that these Jews, this small community of people, had the power to accomplish his goal. So much so that he not only attacked them but had them call another separate Jewish community to push the agenda further. And yet, somehow, this is not really being talked about beyond our community. In fact, I’m not really seeing any real headlines at all at this point (we’re a few days out when I’m writing this). 

As I said the day after the attack, I don’t want false platitudes, I don’t want just a share and move on (though even that would be nice in some ways- show you care, ya know?), the Jews know how to fight and take care of themselves and their community…obviously. We’ve had to learn. We’ve had to learn the hard way. Because it was SILENT. It was silent during the attack, it was silent after, and it seems like it will continue to be silent. 

And that’s heartbreaking and enraging. It’s not ok. I am not ok.  

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – Best & Worst 2021

It is FINALLY time (almost too late, but we’ll roll with it) to talk about what I thought were my best and worst reads of 2021. 2021 was a really good reading year for me, a solid pack of books to choose from. I read a total of 97 books with an average rating of 3.7, which I think is pretty good. I had initially set a reading goal of 50 books, knowing that I would read closer to 100, and while I was a little bummed, I didn’t hit that 100, the second half of the year presented a slight change to my mindset and reading goals. 

For 2022 I’m not setting a reading goal, because I just want to read what I want to read, when I want to read it. I’ll track what I read and note it, but I don’t want to do much more than that. Even if it’s supposed to be a fun thing (or a tracking thing), I find that without realizing it, there is a pressure on your reading. So, we’re just taking all that pressure away. I still plan on doing monthly reading recaps because I think that’s just the best/easiest way to share my reads with you, but there may not be too many stats in those anymore. Ok, brief interlude re: 2022 aside, let’s look back at 2021. 

So, how do I determine what is “best” and what is “worst”. It’s simple, just what I think were some of my reading highlights of the year and some of my reading lows. I find that if we get too much into the semantics of it all at the outset it gets too complicated. I’ll give a brief explanation of what worked or didn’t work for me with each book that I mention, but you won’t find me splitting out disappointing OR overhyped from bad OR enjoyed for pleasure vs well written. Basically, I’m scrolling through all the books I read in 2021 and noting what stands out. Trying to simplify things across the board moving forward for everyone’s sake 

Best Books of 2021

The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker – I LOVED this book. I really truly do, and I feel like this is one of those books that I would recommend to those who love Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Erin Morgenstern, any author who loves flowery language, describing little moments and day to day, and using words in a manner befitting a writer. This also just placed Jewish life at the forefront, in a day to day setting that I hadn’t read before. 

The Troop by Nick Cutter – This book solidified that the way to well and truly freak me out is through body horror…and I loved that feeling.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson – I’ve been putting this off for a while, thinking of how much I’ve loved his stuff, but this was different than that and I didn’t want to mess with the good thing I had going with Sanderson. Boy did I not need to have that fear. This is Sci-fi, but it holds the excellent storytelling and world building that Sanderson does so you don’t feel like you’re out in the middle of space with no clues.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller – I mean, I think this has topped everyone’s list who has ever read it. I would highly recommend reading it, would almost say it should be required reading, but please note the themes and content as it could be triggering for some. Truly incredible, angering, and heartbreaking, but also a show of strength, of courage, of standing strong in the face of those who would brush you aside. 

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle – This was just a fun one that solidified exactly what I like in “romance” stories. Looking forward to seeing not only what this author publishes next, but also what else this “royal/royal adjacent” genre can offer. 

Worst Books of 2021

Luxe by Anna Godberson- To be quite honest, I debated on whether to actually include this in my list because I am quite clearly not the intended audience, BUT even if I was…it’s still not great. Like there are so many other “societal melodramas” that could be read instead of this that would accomplish the same thing and do it better. This was just not it. 

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – This was a disappointment more so than a bad book. I just had really high hopes for this to sweep me off my feet, into a different time and place, but instead it felt clunky and flat the entire way through. Definitely a debut, definitely lacking some editor insight in terms of 3 dimensional characters and storytelling. 

Answered Prayers by Truman Capote – I mean, this was just garbage that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on. That’s all I need to say. 

HM- As Good as Dead by Holly Jackson – I’m including this as an honorable mention as I didn’t actually finish this (with good reason), but it was just incredibly off putting and disappointing. I felt like our main character was acting so beyond out of character that it wasn’t even off character for her (where an author can have a character be out of character due to circumstances). It just…wasn’t even worth the 100 pages I attempted to read.

And that’s it for 2021! I could have probably talked about so many other books, but I really just wanted to showcase some of the ones that stood out to me upon review. Tell me, what were some of your favorite reads of 2021? Any least favorites?

New Year, New Nothing – 2022

Listen, it’s 2022. I think that this year is not THE year (which is OK). But, even if it’s not THE year, that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep our heads up, our shoulders light (maybe), and carry forward doing our best (whatever that means for YOU). 

For me, what does 2022 look like? Well, I don’t really know to be honest. Right now, the world feels like it’s in a fragile place and I don’t just mean in terms of the Pandemic. There’s a lot of scary things happening from {what feels like} all around and I feel like we are going to have to weather quite a bit over this year and the next. I know what I hope for, and I know what I’m going to be doing, but beyond that is really out of my control. 

With that being said, I’m not really making any resolutions or intentions this year. This is partly because of how I want to approach the year, but also because I feel like this year is going to throw us for loop after loop after loop to be honest. And my almost type a personality needs to be able to plan to be flexible (the laughs to be had there). I have things that I would LIKE to accomplish this year- a book, growing both the blog and the podcast, a new podcast, some big traveling, seeing some family that I haven’t in far too long, volunteering more, seeing both kids starting school, etc.- but I also want to recognize that if this year goes any way like the couple past, I need to also have some grace in those goals. I will still be able to accomplish them, but maybe not in the timeline or way that I had planned. 

I do have a word of the year, and some basic changes that I’d like to initiate just for my overall mindset, but nothing super major. This is also stuff that I’ve touched on before at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), so you can read that post HERE to see…or just continue below haha. 

Ok, so we’ll start with the hard part, the word of the year. Back when I was working on Rosh Hashanah, I struggled to find a word that fit with what I wanted the new year to look like. The world right now is a bit of a scary place in so many ways and we’re in a dark spot, again, in so many ways. I’ve always felt like I wanted to be that light, that cheery spot in someone’s day, that person that can be the safe spot. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day).

That seems lofty, or like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, BUT I’m trying to think of it as more of an overall thought process, not like I am that exact word. 

Now, I already mentioned that I didn’t want to set full resolutions or intentions. I’ve mentioned some of the things that I would like to accomplish this year, but I’ve found that this year might be better to also focus on the little things in the day to day that can help me accomplish those bigger things. So, one of those things (something I’ve already been working on” is getting out of bed when my alarm goes off. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

And that’s really it. That’s my one full resolution for 2022. I’m hoping that doing that will help me accomplish those other bigger goals. This may seem like a “cop out” in so many ways, but if the past two years have taught me anything at all, it’s that the littlest of things make the biggest difference. 

What else do I want to note about 2022? Nothing really. I know we are all a bit wary going into this new year, and with just cause. It feels like such a dark and draining time for so many, but it’s also full of so much light and joy. We just need to find our balance between advocating change for the dark/painful parts and recognizing the joy of our life and world. 

2021 Wrap Up

Well…2021…the year that was. I don’t know if it’s my frame of my mind while I’m writing this or if it’s just the general…meh ness of this past year, but I’m just not feeling a wrap up. We had a lot of good, some not so good, and a whole bunch lumped in together to end the year out (which if I’m honest, is probably what’s making this wrap up feel meh). However, this end of year reflection is kind of becoming a tradition and it’s one that I want to keep going. I feel like reflecting on a time allows us to learn lessons and continue to grow as long as it’s done from a place of honesty (as in- recognize if you are viewing it through rose colored glasses – which is fine but should be noted- and don’t change the bad stuff around to suit your current status or feelings). 

So, 2021…

Our year started with a big move, from Germany to the US. We said a very sad, very fond, very long (seriously- our flight was delayed for two days) farewell to our German adventure. It was a kicking and screaming moment as we really loved our home, our neighborhood, and the friends we made there. There was a bit of culture shock once we got back to the States, namely a) you can get anything, anytime, b) the cost of…well everything, and c) the general “busy, busy, busy” lifestyle read about it: LEAVING GERMANY, ADJUSTING TO AMERICA, DIFFERENCES). 

We ended the first quarter of 2021 making a new home, a new community in upstate New York. We’ve settled in really nicely into our new house, creating a imperfectly perfect space with what we’ve got and I’m really in love with how it all has come together. I’ve still got some décor bits and bobs I’m working to find, but I’m trying to be slow and mindful with those purchases. We’ve settled into a new community, jumping into a new school, some new volunteer opportunities, and new friends all around. It’s been a real blessing how everything here has seemingly clicked into place. 

We spent spring exploring some of our area (ALEXANDRIA BAY, LAKE ONTARIO/WELLESLY ISLAND), and summer exploring a part of the East Coast we hadn’t gotten to see (PLYMOUTH, BOSTON, BOSTON PT 2, SALEM, PORTLAND). Then Summer started to turn to Autumn, and we went a final couple of places on our list (ALBANY, FINGER LAKES, LAKE PLACID). I feel grateful for the amount of traveling that we have been able to do this year and for the truly incredible places we’ve seen. We fell in love with a couple new places, solidified what’s important to us when traveling, and maybe how we want to do a couple trips differently in the future. 

The boys have settled in remarkably well, reminding me just how resilient our children truly are. They’ve fallen right into the swing of things with Colton properly starting Kindergarten this year and Andrew…well, being Andrew. We’ve had a couple of struggles that come with the changing years as they grow, and we’ve had a couple of trips to the hospital (remember when I said everything bad seemed to come at the end of the year all at once?), but throughout it all, the boys weathered with a smile on their face and excitement in their eyes. Well, the excitement might have been a troublemaker’s gleam, but we’ll go with excitement. 

As a family, I think we are in the strongest shape we’ve ever been in. We just continue to grow individually and as a unit and I’m just so happy and at peace with life. That feels so good to say. Robert and I celebrated 10 years together and hit 7 years married. Safe to say, we’ve come so far and have so far to go. 

Finally, have I changed? Grown? Experienced something new this past year? Yes and no. I feel like I’ve really started to learn how to use my voice, what I want to use my voice for, solidified some boundaries, and learned how to “manage” certain things. I don’t think that we’re meant to learn something every year or grow massively or experience great things. Some years we are just meant to carry on and I feel like that has really been my sole focus of 2021. Carry on, move forward, and see the light. That I feel like I accomplished. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – December 2021

How is it the last month of the year??? I don’t get how this year has literally flown by. In this final reading wrap up we’re just covering my December reads. I will have a post in January talking about my best/worst reads of 2021 and we’ll talk about my reading year as a whole. In December I read a total of 7 books with an average rating of 3.4. So, I don’t have too much to say beyond that, so we’ll just dive straight into the books. 

The Chosen by Chaim Potok NR This classic was an incredible read both enlightening and heart breaking. A true story of fathers and sons, of differing religious viewpoints, and of being able to open your eyes in the face of those differences. I think the real importance of this story is in the understanding and willingness to look beyond our initial thoughts and judgements, to see and understand those who are different than us (and maybe in the end not so different). 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine 3 Stars I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t really remember much of this book at all. Similar to the first book in this duology, it’s dense, but again we deal with trying to understand those who are different from us. There’s first contact with aliens, which I was meh about, and the ending left things concluded, but also open for more books in the future. I honestly just think part of this was a “too much time has passed” and my excitement about the first and the world had faded.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean 3 Stars I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This story where one girl’s feeling of not fitting quite in…anywhere leads to a remarkable discovery about herself and how to change her own world. It’s very much a coming-of-age story, with royal stakes, and one that was just nice and fun to read. 

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk 3 Stars I gave this a 3 star, but I will say it probably ranks lowest on my list of books from this month. I just…didn’t care about it. At all. It, too, is a coming-of-age story, but I found it to by typical of not like other girls’ girl asserting her independence and defying societal expectations. It’s something I love, but in this case, it felt like a robotic regurgitation of some previous thing that I’d read. I fully recognize that this was a “me” thing, which is why I gave it 3 stars (as I didn’t hate it, just didn’t get on well with it). Just very bland for me. 

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson 4.5 Stars A tricky read for me as I LOVE this, now, series, but I think this would probably not be my favorite of the set. We see Spensa go through a lot of character growth, which I loved, we see her struggle with what she wants vs what is best vs what she needs, all with outside sources messing with her very person, BUT I missed the camaraderie of some of the other characters we’ve grown to love. With that being said, the last 20 pages had me visibly crying and very much heart broken. And now I have to wait for who knows how long for the next one…grrrr.

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan 3 Stars Another conflicting read for me (seems to be a trend for the month). I LOVED the setting, the concept of saving this bookshop and the stakes that come with that. I even liked the mystery aspect of the shop owner and his history. BUT, but, but, but, I did not care for our main character at all. I didn’t care for the weird jumping around to different character viewpoints and I didn’t care for how the story…presented itself. It felt jumbled and almost like Jenny Colgan wanted to have a bit of mystery, but didn’t quite know how to insert it? Not sure, but while the setting was cute, the execution wasn’t incredible. I’ve loved her previous two books so I’m not sure what this one had that didn’t really work for me. 

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead 4 Stars Man did I really love this. I found it to be captivating, twisting and turning every other page, with the perfect pacing to truly unfold a story for you. I could have done without the very last twist (the one that literally comes on the last two pages), BUT this is a really great thriller to read if you’re looking for an “in one sitting” kind of book. 

And that was it for December! I think at least, there are still a few days left in the month and we’re not doing much of anything so I may just finish another book or two in these last few days. 

Christmas Eve Boxes 2021

It’s one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season…our Christmas Eve boxes. We’ve done this every year since having the kids and it’s always a big hit. Our Christmas Eve usually encompasses an easy meal, some cozy pajamas, all the Christmas lights on, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to see us to bedtime. Honestly, I might love Christmas Eve more than Christmas itself. It’s just the epitome of the spirit of the holiday (to me at least).

So, Christmas Eve boxes. 

Every year I follow the same pattern of sorts, pajamas, a new Christmas themed book, and then a little trinket of sorts. We’ve done mugs, plushies, and other little things. It’s usually something small that I’ve noticed they’ve developed an interest in throughout the year but doesn’t fit in with anything else that we are doing. It also tends to be the same for both boys (for now- that may change when they grow older and aren’t in the fight over everything phase). You can see our 2019 and 2020 options in those blog posts (just click the year) and this year was really no different. 

First up, the pajamas. I’ve gone away from the Christmas central pajamas and more towards a “winter” theme. Something they can wear throughout the winter season (I know, it’s ridiculous, but whatever). This year we chose this really cute pattern from the Wonder Shop at Target – you can find them HERE. I loved these so much. I didn’t get the same pattern for myself, but rather a “gnome for the holidays” set. 

Second, the books. This one was a bit more exciting this year as Colton is starting to get into “older” books and is starting to get better at reading. He’s recently really gotten heavily into Pete the Cat, so he got a Pete the Cat saves Christmas book. Andrew, as he has been for the past few years, is super into construction vehicles, so he got a Construction Site on Christmas Night book. The books on Christmas Eve have always been a big hit for my little readers. I too participate in this tradition, usually opting for a “Christmas Cozy Mystery” and this year got Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott. I don’t look for anything super intense, but rather some light and quick for a little 24 hr. cozy reading moment. 

Third, the trinkets. This year was difficult for trinkets. We’re quickly fading away from the little plushies, little “things”, and even quicker, moving into the full-sized Lego sets, action figures, and the like. Which, I wouldn’t be opposed to put a little action figure or such in the boxes, but it didn’t feel “special” since most of their Christmas gifts consist of that stuff. However, I had noticed that they’ve been showing a real interest in one of the bus stop kids rubix cubes. And when I say interest, I mean they’ve been obsessed. It’s reached popper level (which we were going to include, but then one kid got wind of that/saw it when it arrived, so there it went) and I thought it would be a good fun little thing to include for them! They are also going to be getting their first little watches in the Christmas eve box this year, a Grogu one for Colton and Sonic for Andrew. 

This year we are also changing the “box” for a bag as our last pair of boxes was destroyed in the move and I figured a bag would be a bit easier to store and re use for longer. 

And that’s it for the Christmas Eve boxes for 2021. Do you have any fun family traditions? How do you spend your Christmas Eve?

A Cuppa Cosy – November 2021

I’ll be honest with you; I don’t really know how great this month’s reading recap is going to be. It’s not that I didn’t do a lot of reading (6 books) or that it was that I didn’t like the books that I read (average rating of 3.6), rather the fact that over the last week of the month and into the first week of this month that my mind kind of went to mush. We had some personal things going on and so, basically everything has left my mind. I’m going to try and do my best to share my thoughts (some of which are strong worded), but it also might be a little bare compared to previous months. We shall see how it goes…

Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins 3 Stars: This was fine, exactly as it should be. Not groundbreaking, but a fun little pick me up. I really love this royal/royal adjacent romance trope, and this fell really well into that, though I wouldn’t say it was a memorable one. 

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire 4 Stars: I read this toward the beginning of November, when I had a reading plan for the month (that fell apart), and I still don’t quite know how to talk about it. It’s a weird one…almost like if you ever wanted to read a sci-fi fantasy set in our modern-day world. 

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson 4 Stars This is not my favorite Sanderson novel by any stretch. I still enjoyed it, BUT I felt like a lot of the book (like at the very least 2/3) was a set up for possibly a duology or trilogy, only for the last 1/3 to ¼ to conclude everything. Almost like he wanted to turn it into a duology at the least but wasn’t given clearance from editor/publisher. I still really enjoyed it, but it is definitely towards the bottom of the list of Sanderson novels I’ve read. 

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong 4 Stars This book was such a good, epic conclusion to this Romeo & Juliet meets fantasy (maybe a bit steam punk too???) meets Shanghai duology. While there were a couple parts that I…thought could have been edited down a bit more, on the whole it was a great book. 

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 3 Stars A book that I don’t know what really stuck with me. I enjoyed it, will probably pick up the second book, but I don’t know that there was anything truly “stand out” about it. It was a fine read. 

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer NR This book…this book I feel passionate about. For starters, you’ll note that I didn’t give it a rating; that’s because I don’t really know HOW to rate this book. I’m conflicted because while I enjoyed seeing a “Jewish” themed holiday romance (a la hallmark in a novel), I had some very direct notable issues. For starters the fact that this is book is marketed to both Jews and Non-Jews, BUT it doesn’t handle writing for both well. It seemed to waffle back and forth, rather than sticking with one and then adding an appendix or some description section. I also don’t really like how the concept of “liking Christmas” is akin to abandoning Judaism is handled in the book and a couple of other specific religious issues were handled. But then I DO appreciate that this is hitting the market, that it is being done, and that we can see some Jewish books. So, conflicted. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. 

And that was it! I know some had a lot, others had little, but I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts anyways. Let me know, what was one book you read in November that you enjoyed.

Hanukkah 2021

Last night at sundown started the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This is a minor holiday that was added to our holiday list after the Tanach was established. However, this holiday has a mighty, important story that we should all learn and know. To be honest, Hanukkah is my absolute favorite Jewish Holiday, with Rosh Hashanah being a very (almost tied to be honest) second. It has nothing to do with the gift part of it (which many people would assume), but with the story of the miracle of light. The miracle, the holding out of hope, the celebration of this one little miracle (as opposed to some of our other miracle celebrations). The entire holiday just gives me the warm fuzzies and makes me feel just…hopeful, grateful, and good. 

So, at its basic level, Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the rededication of the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem. 

In the 2nd Century Antiochus IV and the Seleucids ruled over the territory and attempted to force the Jews to assimilate. They took over the temple of Jerusalem, sacrificed pigs and welcomed prostitution within the walls, built an alter to Zeus on a holy spot of Hashem, and outlawed several Jewish laws and practices. The Maccabees, Jewish warriors, refused to assimilate. They not only revolted against the Seleucids and drove them out, but they also revolted against those Jews who had assimilated. They waged a Civil War within the Jews and fought hard to bring back the Jewish beliefs and practices. Now, when the war was done and they went to rebuild and rededicate the temple, there was only one bottle of oil for the menorah (a 7-branch menorah- different from the hanukkiah we light during Hanukkah that has 9 branches). A miracle upon miracles, that oil lasted for 8 days, giving the Jews time to make fresh new oil to continue lighting the menorah every day. 

So, the story of Hanukkah is twofold, one is the miracle of the oil; the small pot of oil lasting for 8 days. The second is the fight against the assimilation of our people, the fight to keep our beliefs and traditions despite those who would destroy it and us. And for both of those reasons, I hold the holiday very close to my heart and it’s one of my favorites. 

Ok, so now that we know the history and such, let’s talk about the…” Christmas-ization” of Hanukkah. This is something that I’m a bit…well I have complicated feelings over. I’ll start by saying that as a family we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, which most definitely plays a role in some of my opinions, but also as a child who experienced being “othered” for not celebrating Christmas/being Jewish, AND someone who is re defining what being “Jewish” and using my voice means/looks like, I feel like how I approach this is…notable. 

First off, by now you should know/realize that Christmas and Hanukkah are not the same. At all. And I’m not even saying in a commercial/capitalistic sense, but also just in a basic story of each. Christmas is the story of the birth of Jesus, who would go on to become the savior. Hanukkah is the story of a revolt against those who would have us change our ways, change our beliefs, change who we are, who would crush us into the ground. So, not really the same story at its most basic level. 

Second, these two holidays are not celebrated in the same manor. Hanukkah is celebrated over 8 nights, with fried foods, dreidel games, gelt and gift giving, and song and dance. When the Jews immigrated to the US they included gift giving as a way to offer something to Jewish children who go to school and hear about gifts/Santa (however some could argue that this is just an extended version of the tradition of gifting gelt that dates back to the early 1900’s). Hanukkah is also celebrated on a bit of a simpler “stage” than Christmas. At its basic-ness, we simply need a hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah- 9 candles instead of 7), some candles, and the prayers. Now, some families go beyond that, and set up larger displays in their homes, which is fine, but it is a far stretch from some of the Christmas decorations and idealizations of the holiday. 

With that being said, I appreciate stores trying to be inclusive and offer a wide variety of products to cater to every holiday in the winter. But, as we previously come to understand, these holidays are not the same. They are different both in basic story and in how they are celebrated. So, with respect to capitalism and big stores attempts, I do not want a “Hanukkah Bush”, nor do I want a “Mencsh on a Bench”, or “Hanukkah Charlie”. I don’t want to go into a store and see an attempt to take the holiday of Hanukkah and give it a Christmas rip off product. I don’t think that is wrong to feel AND while I was going to say that I appreciate the stores trying to include a wider variety of holidays, I really actually don’t. Hanukkah is not Christmas and when we understand a bit more of what the story of Hanukkah is (beyond the festival of light and the miracle of the oil), this becomes a bit more upsetting. The idea that The Maccabees were fighting against the idea of assimilating and changing our core, who we are, and our belief system, makes it so much more important to see the reflection of that in what is offered. And while we can argue that some…adapting is necessary in our survival and that the Jewish people have become experts at adapting our beliefs and rituals to fit just about anywhere (hello that is something we are very good at), that doesn’t mean that we need to be marketed to in this way.

I should say- I think each family should handle holidays in ways that work with their family and their beliefs. I would never judge a family on how they want to celebrate or practice. What I would like to see is stores doing a bit more research and understanding in the holidays themselves, rather than just shilling whatever out to consumers (a good example being making “Hanukkah Stockings”). It doesn’t take a lot for a business to do just a bit of research. 

I don’t know if I’ve worded my feelings above in a way that makes sense (and I did do a podcast on this, which may be a little cringeworthy, but there we are: HERE), but that’s my Hanukkah post for this year. I hope you’ve learned a little bit of the history of Hanukkah and my opinions on where we stand now.