While podcasts are not yet entirely in my comfort zone, I appreciated the invitation to talk to Lori Fein Ramirez about family life and some of challenges as well as opportunities that we’ve encountered. Lori’s hilarious summary below:
Sarah Rindner Blum, an author, literature professor, and mother to a “steps and stairs” family of seven children in twelve years, shares her insights on why having “one more kid” is worth the investment. Join us for deep reflections on how each child offers something unique and priceless, how different roles for mom and dad make it work, Israeli vs. American cultural attitudes toward children, why Shabbat is the center of her homemaking all week long, spontaneity versus planning, lots of candy, her semi-broken set of devices for her family, some favorite children’s books, making literature a part of your family lore, her trash-into-treasures child, a mouse named Bob, having a home life different than you had imagined, why there’s nothing like an American minivan, and why a Jewish mama only needs to cook once a week.
Traditional lines between the secular and religious populations are fading, particularly in the realms of music and art.
I’d like to belatedly share excerpts from an article that appeared a few months back in Mosaic Magazine. The growing popularity of religious singers among secular audiences here in Israel has been noted elsewhere. One hopes that this rising trend can serve to combat some of the tragic division we see in Israeli society right now.
“This past Sukkot, a crowd of about 500 children, parents, and grandparents gathered in the Recanati Theater in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The audience was made up of affluent and mostly secular residents of north Tel Aviv and its suburbs—stylishly dressed, sipping lattes and organic juice sold at the trendy coffee shop nearby. To an outside observer, the scene would be almost indistinguishable from a family-oriented play or concert in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The content, however, was distinctly Israeli: a jukebox musical called Aluf ha-Olam (literally, “Champion of the World”), based on the songs of the religious Zionist singer Hanan Ben-Ari, written and performed by Israel’s most prestigious children’s dramatic company, the Orna Porat Theater. Tickets for Aluf ha-Olam are in high demand and sell out quickly, so I booked seats for me and my children several months in advance. One could sense from the anticipation in the theater that many others had done the same.
Hanan Ben-Ari is one of Israel’s best-known musical performers, albeit without the international break-through appeal of peers like the religious music sensation Ishai Ribo. His strength is in his songwriting; catchy tunes, drawn from eclectic influences, and coherent, powerful lyrics that comment on personal, often spiritual, struggles…
…Ben-Ari’s penchant for infusing lyrics about universal topics with the language of the synagogue and yeshiva tends to obscure the boundaries between sacred and secular idioms. His 1980s-inspired feel-good ballad “Dream like Joseph,” for instance, argues that every story in the Bible reflects some basic human experience: “everyone leaves his father’s home/ everyone nearly sacrifices his child/ deep within is a little Sodom/ that he wishes to erase already/ and angels will rescue him…”
…Thus the prospect of translating Hanan Ben-Ari’s music into an Israeli secular vernacular, as Aluf ha-Olam seeks to do, is daunting, and perplexing. It raises the question of whether Ben-Ari’s biblicism and Jewish allusions are charming embellishments or so central to his work that they cannot be disentangled from it. But merely to ask this question is to acknowledge that Israeli society’s shared cultural touchstones appear to be growing more and more Jewish, and traditional lines between the secular and religious populations are fading, particularly in the realms of music and art…”
“In delineating the various people and parties who could conceivably be offended by a Jewish continuity agenda, Bitton leaves out the most important population of all: the future humans upon whom the entirety of civilization rests. It’s true that having children is physically and emotionally taxing, and undoubtedly the burdens are unequally distributed between genders, at least for discrete periods in a child’s life. Some of these challenges can certainly be remedied; others are on a certain level inherent. Eve is told “in pain you shall bear your children,” and Adam too, is destined to work hard for all the days of life. Yet any account of these difficulties needs to be contextualized with at least a passing mention of the vast potential that accompanies bringing forth new life into the world.”
Please see here for the full response, thank you to Sources and to Mijal Bitton for the opportunity to reflect.
“Shortly before the 1991 Gulf War, Rabbi Yaakov Smith, a father of six and an emissary of the Chabad Hasidic movement in the Old City of Jerusalem, hosted a Shabbat dinner. As the guests were leaving, one took Smith aside and said something that would reverberate with his host: “That was an amazing act you performed. Whatever is wrong, take care of yourself.” Fast forward thirty years and Yaakov has become Yiscah Smith, a transgender person who still lives and teaches in Jerusalem. Smith’s transformation is the subject of the documentary I Was Not Born a Mistake, created by the Israeli filmmakers Rachel Rusinek and Eyal Ben-Moshe. The film premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival this past Hanukkah and made its U.S. debut in January.:
“In Culture and Anarchy (1869), Matthew Arnold argues for the role of reading “the best that has been thought and said” as an antidote to the anarchy of materialism, industrialism and individualistic self-interest.”
“Ours is physically the healthiest and most affluent society that has ever existed, and, in some ways, raising children is also more convenient than it has ever been. Yet, children are increasingly perceived as a burden.”