Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving. A new book is celebrating that idea.
Author Karen Cinnamon’s “Jewish Joy Journal” provides a space for gratitude and goals with a Jewish twist. She believes there’s a real need for everyday Jewish goods that are not just Judaica.
“I wanted to create something really beautiful,” Cinnamon told the Journal. “The journals I bought in the past didn’t have Jewish quotes. If they were faith-based at all, it was Christian, but generally there was nothing.”
In addition to inspirational Jewish quotes, the “Jewish Joy Journal” also has coloring pages at the beginning of each (not dated) month, places to kvell and kvetch, Shabbat prompts, recipes — including her husband’s roast chicken and her mother’s “Iraqi Jeweled Rice” — and many more surprises.
Cinnamon was born in London to a traditional, culturally Jewish family. Her father is British Jewish Ashkenazi. Her mother was Israeli Sephardic, so she spent summers as a child visiting family in Israel.
“I’d say the biggest influence on my Jewish identity has been Israel,” she said. “When I’m in Israel I feel spiritually connected, and that comes from my mom’s side: the food, that overwhelming warmth and love that you find in Israel is just everything to me.”
This is not the first time Cinnamon filled a need no one knew existed. The host of the “Your Jewish Life Your Way” podcast got her start in the Jewish lifestyle space about 10 years ago.
In 2012 Cinnamon, a modern Jewish career woman, working in digital design and branding, was planning her wedding, when she realized there were no resources — online or offline — that appealed to her to help plan her Jewish wedding. Not long after when she was on maternity leave, she had a light bulb moment.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to start that wedding blog-wedding platform-Instagram account that I wish I had access to when I was planning my wedding’” Cinnamon said. “I called it ‘Smashing the Glass.’”
Through this resource, she shared real Jewish weddings, and advice and guidance on things like Chuppot and Ketubot, as well as how to personalize the ceremony, rather than copy what your friends are doing.
“It really took off well beyond a sort of maternity-leave project, and within a year it was my full-time business,” she said. This was in 2013.
Fast forward to 2018. “Smashing the Glass” had tens of thousands of readers, but she wanted to help people plan their wedding on a more personal level, so she started a paid membership community for Jewish brides, called “Bride’s Club,” which is still thriving.
Whereas Cinnamon thought this community would be about helping brides have the Jewish wedding they want, their way, it became clear that these women really craved community. They were thrilled to meet other like-minded Jewish women having a similar experience.
“It became much more about identity and belonging,” she said. “So much so that when these brides-to-be were getting married, they were saying to me, ‘Karen, I kind of don’t want to get married because I don’t want to leave the ‘Bride’s Club.’ Can you possibly create something for life after the wedding?”
So she did. Cinnamon created a small follow-up community for newlyweds, called “Smashing Life.” This small community started in 2019. Then, the pandemic hit in 2020. “Everyone was stuck at home, and everybody needed online community — or community of some sort — so I opened ‘Smashing Life’ to all Jewish women,” Cinnamon said.
While her core audience is millennials, all Jewish women — and a few men — are part of her community. And although Cinnamon is based in the UK, most of her community is in the United States.
Cinnamon believes Jewish joy and gratitude go hand in hand.
Although she started with a focus on Jewish wedding planning, it wasn’t until she found her niche in Jewish lifestyle that she realized she has been focusing on Jewish joy all along. After all, Jewish weddings are a major expression of Jewish joy.
“I am a very naturally positive person,” she said. “Since I’ve gone into this micro-niche of Jewish joy, it’s endless. Obviously in today’s world I try to shine that light even brighter. It’s so needed.”
“It’s easy to keep a gratitude and goals journal in happy times. But where it is really needed is during difficult times.”
– Karen Cinnamon
And with the ”Jewish Joy Journal” people can discover how to shine that light on themselves. “It’s easy to keep a gratitude and goals journal in happy times,” Cinnamon said. “But where it is really needed is during difficult times.”
“This [journal] is something to keep on your bedside table to reflect and capture what is bringing you joy and how you’re going to turn around things that are causing you pain or anxiety. When you think about the positive, and realize what you’ve got and what you are grateful for, it helps you live a more fulfilling, joy-filled life.“