December 15, 2018

Jewish Holidays: Tools That Will Make the Holidays a Little Easier

The holidays are approaching. This can mean different things for families, such as spending time with each other, shopping, or observing Jewish traditions.

Still, no matter how much one prepares, the holidays can be a little stressful. The following are interesting tools Jewish families have at their disposal to make things a little easier during the holidays.

Calendar Days

One of the most useful tools available today is the Jewish Days app. This application can be downloaded on most smart devices and helps people track special Jewish holidays.

It is okay to admit that some of these days are hard to keep track of, and the app tracks these days for you so you are never caught off guard. The app also allows you to add additional notes should there be something worth noting this year.

Proper Storytelling Tool

Getting the days right is just one thing to worry about. Others worry about telling the Haggadah Passover story. The story is normally condensed, but telling it in front of family and friends can still be intimidating.

This is why the Haggadah for Passover application can be useful. It outlines the story to ensure that it is told correctly, and it also tells the user when to drink from the cup of wine.

It makes the moment easier and makes you feel more confident, which is ultimately what everyone wants. All you have to do is type in the name of the app on your app store.

Gifting Help

You have a lot to worry about, from entertaining guests to updating family with all the information they might be interested in. On top of this, you still have to purchase the right gifts.

Another tool worth adding to your list is BestAdvisor, which allows you to browse through hundreds of gifts. This might not seem too useful at first, but what makes this tool unique is that it aggregates reviews from real people so that you get exactly what you were looking for.

You can also check on the present you are considering seeing how others have rated it before deciding on it.

The Cleanup

Preparing the house for the holidays can be a little overwhelming, but it can be a family affair if you want it to.

Getting rid of all Chametz can be challenging, but there are a number of tools out there that you can use to make this a little easier. For example, there is the No Chametz tool, which is an easy app to install and use.

The tool helps you find out what is Chametz, which can be confusing in this day and age. You should also receive a link that shares information. You will be able to sell things while still observing traditions.

Kosher Eating App

You got rid of all the Chametz, but that does not mean your work is done. Now, you have to make sure your food is acceptable for the holidays. It used to be quite difficult to ensure all food was Kosher, but that is becoming easier.

One tool that is making things easier for families across the country is the cRc Kosher application. The tool lists a number of foods that are considered Kosher. Another effective tool to consider is the OU Kosher application that helps you shop at the grocery store since it tells you if a product is Kosher or not.

Technology is making things easier for people, including Jewish families. Granted, these are just some of the tools out there, so do not be afraid to search your app store to look for other tools worth exploring.

Illuminating Tales of Modern Maccabees

In Myra Goldberg’s short story, “Who Can Retell,” reprinted in the National Public Radio anthology, “Hanukkah Lights, Stories of the Season” (Melcher Media, 2005), a young girl is concerned that her school’s holiday glee club is singling out all the Jewish students to sing Chanukah songs.

The story, about the trauma of having an identity that cannot assimilate completely into the dominant culture, perhaps embodies the American Chanukah experience, which more than any other holiday in the calendar, reminds Jews that they are different.

Although it is not a biblical holiday, unlike say, Passover, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, Chanukah has managed to carve its own place in the American cultural pantheon. It is the one holiday in the Jewish calendar that even the most assimilated Jews tend to acknowledge. It is also a holiday that the more affiliated Jews commemorate as a ritual-laden eight days, replete with olive oil lights, prayers, latkes, and discussions and songs of a tiny army hell-bent on defending their God’s and nation’s holiness.

In “Hanukkah Lights,” the stories not only exemplify the dichotomous nature of the holiday for American Jews, but also the way in which Chanukah has, to some degree, become synonymous with so many facets of their Jewish identity.

The book was borne out of the popular NPR broadcast of the same name, an hour-long show of Chanukah stories read aloud, created in 1990 by Susan Stamberg and Murray Horowitz. Initially, the stories read on the program had been previously published. But as the program became more popular, the producers started commissioning their own choice of writers.

“Hanukkah Lights” has broadcast 40 original stories, of which 12 are included in this anthology, with an additional four on the accompanying CD featuring original NPR readings by Stamberg and Horowitz. Printed on high-quality paper, the book has beautiful full-color, collage-like illustrations by Sandra Dionisi.

The stories include modern takes on the Maccabean legacy of die-hard nationalism. In “Nona Maccabeus,” by Gloria Davidas, Kirchheimer, a grandmother in a Sephardic old-age home, holds firm to her Ladino roots, thwarting “the Ashkenazim who controlled her daily activities,” by dressing up and singing a Ladino Chanukah song instead of listening to the hip-hop Chanukah act that the home’s manager thrust upon them. In “Stabbing an Elephant,” by Max Apple, a young rabbi defiantly decides to not modify a pictorial detail of an elephant being stabbed in a Chanukah story book, despite intense pressure from the heavyweights in his community.

Other stories deal with the Chanukah miracle itself. The oil, which burned for eight days instead of just one, was the result of modern technology placed in the Temple through time travel, recounts Harlan Ellison in “Go Toward the Light.” In Eli Weisel’s “A Hanukkah Story,” the miracle is one where a mysterious, anonymous laborer who helps a boy up after he has been beaten by thugs, turns out to be a holy man who studies privately with a mystical rabbi.

Like the little girl in the Myra Goldberg story, other stories deal with the prominence of Chanukah as an element of Jewish American identity. In “The Demon Foiled,” by Anne Roiphe, a Jewish mayor, newly elected to a fractious city, invites the TV cameras into his house when he is lighting the menorah. But the candles do not behave, and they self-extinguish before the mayor has a chance to give his prepared speech. Instead, the mayor says, “This is a promising sign, a menorah in rebellion against taking things for granted … a positive miracle….”

“I believe that we might have caught a sweet spot,” said Charlie Melcher, founder and publisher of Melcher Media, who helped put together the book. “Often a lot of Judaica publishing is not that great looking in terms of its design and artwork [so we wanted to create] something that is attractive and interesting and contemporary but clearly for the Chanukah Jewish market — [which] might be underserved. I hope this book will serve it well.”