Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pesach Playlist

Because any good journey needs a soundtrack. Put it on shuffle and shake off your shackles.

Freedom! '90, George Michael

Now We Are Free, Jenny Jordan Frogley

To Zion, Lauryn Hill

Think (Freedom), Aretha Franklin

Free Your Mind, En Vogue

Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine

A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

Freedom Train, Lenny Kravitz

Time To Move On, Tom Petty

Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd

xo cbg

Friday, April 11, 2014


Thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy; Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too;
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy;
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

The above admonishment is given by Friar Laurence to Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo in Shakespeare's most well-known tragedy. We really could have used the wise Friar when the Israelites were grumbling about melons and leeks: Thy Lord hast brought thee out of slavery; there art thou happy. Fortunately for us, when we revisit the story of the Exodus each year, we know we're in for a happier ending than Romeo and the object of his affections. And to be fair to our ancestors in the desert, it's always easier to be grateful in retrospect. Knowing everything that came after the journey out of Egypt, we have a perspective found in Dayenu: Each blessing, each miracle, would have been enough for us.

The truth is, we all have our melons and leeks: Things we are so preoccupied with that we lose sight of the bigger and more important blessings we already have. Jewish tradition tells us that G-d creates the world anew in every moment, meaning, every blessing a person has is not given just once; it is given again and again and again. What better time than the month of rebirth to take inventory of all we have received--as individuals and as a people--and see that it is enough.

Chag Kosher V'Sameach!

xo cbg

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the Charedi Draft

I have never wished I'd found Judaism earlier for reasons of dating or marriage. But one occasion did make me regret converting at the ripe old age of 32: When rockets were raining down on Israel in late 2012, I contacted an organization that coordinates volunteer IDF service for American Jews. I was years past the cut-off age for women, but I was convinced I could make my case to be the exception to the rule, especially at such a dire time. Trust me, I know this is somewhat laughable. I pretty much left the womb in heels and makeup. Staying in a cabin with my family in the fall and showering with well water is my version of roughing it. But I am strong. A big part of this is thanks to my mom, from whom I learned a very "can-do" approach after my parents divorced. I also believe that every person has a deep "in case of emergency" reservoir of strength they can draw from when they need to.

So while I knew I was an unlikely candidate, I had to try. I couldn't stand to do nothing, not after everything Judaism had given me. I'm aware that I will probably (and unfortunately) see many more such conflicts in my beloved Holy Land in my lifetime, but since this particular one was the first I'd experienced since deciding to convert--and just months after my JDay--the pain, guilt, and helplessness I was feeling was brand new.

This isn't Charedi-bashing. I know and know of far too many amazing Ultra-Orthodox Jews to make any sweeping negative generalizations. Rather, it is very difficult for me to understand just why they would refuse to defend our beautiful country, as so many righteous Jews have done before. Beyond these feelings, though, I have to admit I'm a bit out of my depth on the topic, so I leave it to a knowledgeable Rabbi to make a very compelling argument (as shared by my Rabbi on his blog).

Shalom al Yisrael.


Monday, March 17, 2014

On Banning Bossy

It was my sister who first brought the "Ban Bossy" campaign to my attention, when we were discussing our niece and her, uh, leadership tendencies, if a two-year-old shouting, "No! You do it!" can be described as a leader.

Since then, I've watched the video and read various posts on it, and I've been mulling over why it doesn't sit quite right with me. Initially I thought my knee-jerk eye roll was due to yet another "Treat girls like boys" sentiment. But the truth is that I don't have my own children and I haven't observed enough children of both genders to know if their respective bossiness is indeed handled differently. Sheryl Sandberg, who is spearheading the movement, has apparently been keeping up her data analysis at the playground while I'm racing my niece to the slide. And that, I suppose, is why Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and I am a person who wastes time on Facebook. I thought it only fair to dig deeper and ask myself if she was on to something.

Here is what I know: The same sister I mentioned above has many childhood memories of being shoved into a costume and made to play a supporting role of my choosing. When my parents told me I was being too bossy, they weren't trying to stifle my ambitions. In fact, they got me involved in theatre programs at a young age and always encouraged my talents. But they also placed great emphasis on being kind and fair to others; what they wanted to discourage was my propensity for treating my friends like props and disregarding their ideas. If I was emulating a leader, it was of the dictator variety. (I never saw them treat my brother differently, mostly because he is the youngest and never stood a chance at being bossy.)

I've realized that what ultimately bothers me about "Ban Bossy" is its oversimplification of the issue. True leaders create other leaders. They accept feedback, trade ideas, and seek out talent to enhance the team. So perhaps some parents are quicker to notice unkind behavior in their daughters than in their sons. And yes, some men have built their careers on getting others to do their bidding. Rather than want girls to grow up to do the same, don't we owe it to all children to teach them a bigger lesson? I don't have an alliterative catchphrase, but I think we can do better than boycotting a word. By all means, intervene when you witness bossiness in your sons and daughters, and instead teach them real leadership values that will not only be good for their career, but also for the world.

xo cbg

Monday, March 10, 2014

Step Up Your Mishloach Manot Game

Let's be honest: A person's tastebuds and intestines can only take so much apricot. Aish has some great recipes for unconventional hamantaschen, including a candy-lover's dream come true. While we know the mitzvah is performed by sending at least two different food or drink items, that doesn't mean you can't include other fun things to make a memorable gift.

Beauty Booty If you're a beauty junkie like me, you're sitting on a ton of free samples collected over several trips to Sephora. (Fun Fact: Sephora gets part of its name from Moses' wife Zipporah, who is reputed to have been quite the looker.) I don't know why women love getting a tiny packet of moisturizer, but we just do. Throw a few of these in a female friend's basket and make her day. This is also very fitting for Purim, since Esther's beauty won over the King and placed her in a position to save her people.

Modern Mixtape Growing up, my friends and I used to love making each other mixtapes. And if your crush made you one? SWOON. (I'm really dating myself here.) For the digital age, put together a playlist of songs for the gift recipient and pair it with an iTunes gift card.

The Babysitters Club Make up an IOU or two for a complimentary night of babysitting. For the parents who need a break (AKA every parent you know), this will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Flower Power After this winter, we could all use a pick-me-up from a few of Hashem's creations. Most florists have the little vases that look like test tubes that will make it easy to include beautiful blooms in your baskets.

Gluten-Free It seems that nearly everyone knows at least one person who can't/doesn't eat gluten. They may have to abstain from most traditional treats, but there are gluten-free candy options galore. Find a comprehensive list here. Most wines are also naturally gluten-free.

On that note, give wine or liquor a personal touch with a customized label.

Finally, I think it's worth reiterating that we give each other gifts on Purim to disprove Haman's assertion that there is discord and disunity among Jews. Perhaps this holiday is the perfect opportunity to make amends with someone? Take that, Haman.

Wishing you a joyous and beautiful Purim,
xo cbg

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

G-d and Gravity

I finally got around to watching Gravity last week, the last one on my list before the Oscars. I knew I was in for a stressful two hours, but I also warily anticipated an evolution-enthusiastic theme after reading this review with snippets from the director.

*Spoilers ahead*

As the credits rolled, however, I wondered if Alfonso Cuaron had been talking about the same movie I'd just seen. It was possibly the most religious film I've experienced since Tree of Life. Sandra Bullock's Dr. Ryan Stone is quite literally the atheist in the foxhole. After a debris storm destroys her ship and kills off her comrades, she is left to either die alone in space, or to attempt reentry with equipment she is unfamiliar with. As she resigns herself to her bleak fate after yet another thing goes wrong, she confesses to a stranger that she has never prayed; no one ever taught her how to.

I suppose people will process a movie through the filter with which they view the world. I for one did not see Dr. Stone's triumph over adversity as symbolic of the creatures who emerged from the "primordial soup" to become beings that walked on two limbs. I witnessed a woman who was able to stand because she believed she had G-d behind her. And once she was relieved from fighting for her life, when she realized that she was grasping earth in her hand, she uttered aloud the prayer that should come most easily to any of our lips: Thank you.

Now, bring on Noah!

xo cbg

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Favorite Things about Being a Jew

In no particular order:

-Knowing that miracles happen

-Shabbos naps


-The comfort food

-The parsha each week and all the layers of meaning

-Living life with purpose

-Getting inside jokes

-Kol Nidre

-Stories about great Rabbis

-Saying blessings over tree blossoms and thunderstorms

-Feeling quite small and quite significant at the same time

-Counting three stars in summer

-Jewish blogs


-Caring about where my food comes from

-Everything that pushes me to be a better person than I am

-A sense of community wherever I go

-Knowing that I chose this

xo cbg