Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book
by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg
©2010 Chronicle Books
What is most notable about Eight Winter Nights is the atmosphere of Chanuka that it evokes — the illustrations are simultaneously soft and vibrant, creating a safe, happy visual environment that my two younger children (3 and 5) were happy to be drawn into.
Eight Winter Nights is not a storybook, it is a series of little rhymes strung together loosely like beads where the string is the procession from the first to the eighth night of Chanuka.
On a first level, the book reviews the most common holiday customs and activities a child can expect to experience in a Chanuka week — dreidels, menorahs, cousins coming over, music, gifts, traditional holiday foods. As a way of gently preparing the littlest ones for a holiday they are too young to remember from years past, this works well.
On a second level, the rhyming couplets and friendly illustrations depict a comfortable, secure, even nostalgic Chanuka spent with family. What I liked best was the focus on time together reading, singing, playing and cleaning up the house, rather than on getting presents. (”Opening Presents” appears only on the seventh night, paired with “Tzedakah” [Charity] — a subtle expression of non-materialistic values which I appreciate.)
Eight Winter Nights won’t win any awards for its poetry, and the occasional burst of whimsy shoots right over the heads of my in-house preschool audience. That said, the kids found the rhymes a relaxing accompaniment to the delightful illustrations, and wanted to hear the book again — a sure sign of success.
The publisher is recommending this book for ages 4-8; in my judgement, the book works well as a Chanuka experience for children 1-4 years old (older children will be underwhelmed by the text).
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book makes a good choice as a gift for a family with small children, especially as it is written without preference to any stream of Judaism.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of Eight Winter Nights from the publisher, Chronicle Books.
Menticulation: the chemical reaction generated by the interaction between Diet Coke and Mentos.
Menticulator: an experimental environment designed to promote menticulation.
If you like the word, you’ll love the context: Robert Woodhead’s Zero-G menticulation tests. I really believe his claim that his kids get better than A+ on their “What I Did in the Summer” essays.
And absolutely don’t miss the video.
It’s good to be back to the blog…
I was just watching a camp video; the background music is of the “modern hasidic” style. The main melody line is nice but bland; the bridges between stanzas are the theme music from Beverly Hills Cop — a very popular Eddie Murphy movie when I was a teenager, notable for being one of the first of the wildly popular comedy movies that was rated R. It’s fairly safe to assume that the arranger of this more recent music has no idea where the theme comes from; it’s been copied, re-copied and re-recorded since the day it came out. Still, the association is funny.
I got a letter today. In an envelope. With three nice stamps (not all the same). Enclosing an article cut out of a newspaper. And a post-it note with a handwritten message.
When was the last time that happened to you? It made me feel good.
This week I was invited to join a Facebook group called Six Degrees of Separation. (I didn’t.) Presumably, the idea is to see how many people will join if the invitations spread “virally”, where the underlying premise is that every human being on the planet can connect to every other one through a maximum of six degrees of connection (a fallacy… but that’s another story).
The Jewish Daily Forward?
I don’t see why you need a Facebook group, though. In the last six days, I have received the names and email address of 200+ complete strangers. Also the email addresses of about 50 distant acquaintances. Oblivious friends and family forward on a joke or a news item to 20 (or 30 or 40…) of their dearly beloved, putting all the addresses in the CC field instead of the BCC field.
Most of these tidbits have been forwarded five or six times without being pruned, expanding their populations in proportion. It’s lucky for my friends (and their friends, and theirs…) that I’m not a direct marketer trolling for contact information. It’s creepy for me to think that all those people now have my name and number.
Six degrees of email separation from everyone on the planet? Can you imagine the spam?
One of my interests is medical ethics. I’ve gone through much of the contemporary Orthodox bioethical literature, subscribed for many years to Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine, and am a voracious reader of
all most things medical (well, dermatology’s just not my thing).
There are some advantages to reading what the professionals read: I’ve been able to help a number of family members and friends to research diagnoses and treatments, as well as benefiting from a realistic, unvarnished image of the biases and conflicts within the profession. (In the December 2000 issue of Jewish Observer I published a small piece entitled Ethics, Ethics, Everywhere, describing the efforts of my grandfather’s doctor to “let him go” after he suffered a stroke.)
I have great respect for doctors and the knowledge they carry. But they’re only people, with all the opinions, biases, and weaknesses that implies.
This week Jerusalem Post health reporter Judy Siegel reported that Samuel Golubchuk, the 84-year-old frum Jew from Winnepeg, whose doctors seek to remove him from his ventilator and feeding tube, had awakened. Mr. Golubchuk is now described as “awake, alert, has returned back to his baseline, sitting up in a chair at times, more interactive, and shaking hands purposively.”
Nevertheless his doctors still seek to kill him, and are contesting the matter in court, including moving to exclude the affidavits of experts on the grounds that they arrived too late. Apparently winning to them is more important than Mr. Golubchuk’s life. Indeed in a similar case recently in Calgary, involving an elderly Chinese man, whose family contested the doctors’ decision to cut off life support, and won, the patient eventually improved so much that he was able to walk out of the hospital and return home. Nevertheless the doctors continued to pursue an appeal. Presumably they wanted to bring him back to the hospital and kill him. [via CrossCurrents]
Jonathan Rosenblum is writing a little sarcastically here, but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that this is a really, really important case, and one which the religious Jewish community has been following closely for a week or so now. (The Golubchuk family asserts, without contradiction, that their father would want lifesaving measures taken, were he able to express himself.) I am not Canadian, and don’t know where one would begin making one’s voice heard on this issue, but I do know that we must not watch silently.
Why? Because this is not just “somebody else’s” problem. Because unless you hold deeply Galtonian Social Darwinist beliefs, it should matter to you that your own personal wishes for your care be respected. If you are, G-d forbid, ever unable to speak for yourself, you do want your Living Will to be consulted, don’t you? And you would like to have the person to whom you’ve granted power of attorney for healthcare matters consulted and their decisions followed, don’t you?
There’s a tricky side to this: vulnerability.
A GUI (graphical user interface) that offers too many options is just plain overwhelming. Keeping the interface simple and straightforward reduces stress, encourages uptake, and is conducive to a more positive user experience. It is not easy to create an interface that is simple and straightforward, and at the same time offers powerful user control over details (Apple is remarkable for their ability to successfully design software this way).
Now think about a person whose “task function” is to make life-and-death decisions on behalf of someone they love very deeply. Even a well-prepared child will not find it easy to decide whether it is kinder to “stop the suffering” or to “do everything possible” or something in between. Under stressful conditions, the burden is almost unbearable. Following the advice of a knowledgeable doctor is the equivalent of simplifying the GUI. It makes the decisions straightforward and far simpler, while reducing the burden of responsibility. And the doctor should know, right?
Well… there’s the rub.
The whole question of using a married name versus retaining one’s “maiden” name is really interesting. There are so many levels of practical and political and emotional and interpretational meaning to a name that there may be no way to disentangle them from one another. The classic “practical” reason for retaining a maiden name would be career recognition: making yourself easy to find, and building on previous reputation, rather than starting over with a new name.
I’ve noticed that the “practical” reason has widened its net… if you want to be found by old friends on Facebook or any other social networking site (or via a Google search, for that matter), you can’t be found if the searcher doesn’t even know your name. Which provides a new incentive for retaining your maiden name, even if only for your online identity.
Identity, indeed. Quite literally.
It will be interesting to watch and to see if this apolitical influence has greater ramifications or impact than simply seeing two last names in social network profiles. Will there be a change in how women perceive their identities as conjoined or distinct from their husbands’? Will there be an increase or decrease in feminist affiliations? In respect for women and their identities as such?
Or will it be another meaningless blip in electronic evolution, made insignificant by progress in tracking and maintaining contacts and relationships online?
In the past 48 hours I have:
- participated in a gathering where poverty was over-represented;
- participated in a gathering where wealth was over-represented;
- participated in a gathering where political activists were over-represented;
- visited a mourner;
- baked cookies for a new mother;
- attended an engagement party;
- made an old man very happy.
Life is full of so many people in so many places… life is very blessed and very full.
One of the storage challenges for a large family is where to keep the off-use clothing — where to store boxes and boxes of clothes that are off-season, or not-quite-the-right-size but we still plan to hand them down. My kids very neatly alternate girl-boy-girl…, so we rarely hand clothing down immediately; there is usually a gap of a couple of years between uses.
This week we did a major cleanup of our storage room, and the kids helped to bring all the clothing boxes up (four flights of stairs!) for processing. Here they are, ready to go back down:
The victimised Muslim woman is the lens through which Islam and Muslim society are seen. In medieval times she was cast as an intimidating powerful queen or termagant (like Bramimonde in the Chanson de Roland, or Belacane in Parzival) reflecting an intimidating powerful Muslim civilisation. And when the power balance began to shift in Europe’s favour in the 17th and 18th centuries, she was made to mirror her society’s fallen fortunes. She turned into a harem slave, leading little more than a dumb animal existence, subjugated, inert, abject, powerless, and invisible. She is the quintessential embodiment of a despotic, deformed, and backward Islam. [from Damsels in Distress?, Soumaya Ghannoushi]
A fascinating assertion. I won’t comment on the overall theme of the blog posting; the issue is complex. Worth reading, though. It will make you think.
From the comments (which are well-worth reading, too):
There are other aspects to this complex, too. Thus there’s the tendency for societies to use female symbolic figures to represent themselves (Athena, Britannia, Lady Liberty etc). There’s the sentimentalisation embodied in the phrase “motherhood and apple pie”. Among many other things. Religions, of all varieties, being concerned with the regulation of social groups, are particularly interested in women, because of womens’ status as social vectors.
So if a society is reacting against “the west”, that reaction will inevitably take the form of suppressing the freedoms of women, for the simple reason that those freedoms have become associated with westernisation. And this reaction will be justified in religious terms. But equally, western and other interests seeking moral justification for intervention will highlight the situation of women.
This argument is OK as far as it goes but may I add a couple of points:
1) Human rights can and do exist outside of an imperialist narrative. In the European context they arose in the struggle against ruling elites that were also involved in colonialism. Hence they are better framed in an anti-imperialist narrative.
2) My first point would of course preclude blowing the **** out of someone in order to liberate them, but not of being concerned with their state of being, or of engaging with them to improve their situation. (R.A.W.A. springs to mind). Your point about ‘the oppressed Muslim woman’ being an imperialist construction, is quite possibly true. However, if you then conceive of a Muslim world that is self-contained and separate from the ‘West’, (or wherever), you are reproducing the same fallacy; namely that Muslim human beings have an essential difference that requires special treatment. […]
…and also this…
What would you say to people like me who abhor Islams treatment of women yet opposed the Iraq war? I’m sorry but tarring everyone who recognises that Islam oppresses women as some kind of racist imperialist is simply false. I’m not impressed at all with the OP, she seems to be trying to brush the abuses of women under Islam under the carpet by pointing out how western governments exploit this abuse as propoganda for their imperialist wars. […]