Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Blogger: Fast, Simple and Yummy Recipes

Submitted by Moussia Kohanbash
Moussia lives in Pittsburgh with her husband. In her spare time, she blogs at, all about her busy life cooking super fast and easy meals, traveling the world, and  gaining inspiration from all around to create fashionable, modest and affordable looks.

Fast, Simple, and Yummy
Submitted by Moussia Kohanbash

"Fast, Simple, and Yummy" is the mantra I use when I enter the kitchen. I want good food, and I want it now (the disease of instant gratification.) So for you dear reader I did my research and found the fastest, healthiest and most delicious way to cook your most basic entres that are sure to be palatable to both children and adults: pasta, salmon, chicken, and brisket/french roast. These have been tested and deemed worthy by many a Shabbos guest and so please share them and use them so they may please many taste buds in the future!

Macaroni Muffins

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil - I splurged and use truffle oil and it made SUCH a difference
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, olive oil and salt; set aside. 

  • Cook macaroni and return to the pan; stir in the butter and egg until pasta is evenly coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese and stir the remaining Cheddar cheese, milk and mozzarella cheese into the pasta. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and the bread crumb mixture over the tops. 

  • Sprinkle basil and sea/kosher salt for an extra flavor boost

  • Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is nicely browned. Allow the muffins to cool for about ten minutes before removing from the pan. This will allow the cheese to set and they will hold their muffin shape. 

Baked Salmon
Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride

1 ½ lbs of salmon
spray oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp salt
1/4  tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves of minced garlic
3 tbsp of olive oil

Place fish in sprayed pan. Rub fish with seasonings and olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes at 350
Adapted from Quick and Kosher

1 chicken
1 ½ c. honey
½ c. soy sauce
1/4  c. olive oil
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
Mix all and bake at 350 for 1.5 hrs or to your preference making sure to turn over peices to ensure even baking

    French Roast
    4 lbs of brisket or French Roast
    2 onions sliced
    1 bottle of beer (dark)
    3 tbsp of meat tenderizer 
    6 garlic cloves
    3 tbsp of Montreal steak seasoning

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Guest Blogger: Receiving the Torah...again?

    By Esther Golam
    Esther is a massage therapist and reflexologist. She lives in Gush Etzion, Israel with her husband and baby.

    "Shavuot was approaching again... Although I had gone to them previously, this year I was ambivalent. A voice kept complaining inside of me: Another all-night learning program? The truth was, I had changed."

    Receiving the Torah... Again?
    One woman’s perspective on why we need to accept the Torah anew each year

    It’s almost here. Shavuot, the Jewish festival which celebrates perhaps the most momentous occasion in Jewish history: Hashem’s giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. This set of laws would change our lives forever, by enabling us to connect to Hashem on the highest and most intimate levels possible.
    And more than this, Shavuot celebrates the Jewish people’s full acceptance of this invitation to connection with the words “Na’aseh v’nishma” – “We will do and we will hear”. We trusted Hashem so much and desired this relationship with Him so intently that we were willing to commit ourselves to 613 rules and regulations before knowing what they were. No reading of the small print, no discussion with their lawyer. Only acceptance, pure and simple.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Mimi, get real.

    By Mimi Hecht

    [These Shavuot thoughts were adapted from an article I wrote in 2008]

    Honestly, was my soul really at Mount Sinai? 

    To say that my soul was present at the giving of the Torah is a preposterous claim. It’s a really nice-sounding idea, certainly poetic. But let’s get real. Doesn’t it just sound like something said to soothe a nation that feels distant from the most pivotal and defining moment of our nation?

    It’s like saying, “Oh, don’t worry, you were there, too.”

    I guess I just don’t see the relevance. Why is this remotely important? Surely I can believe in and relate to something that occurred without having to think that my soul was there. I mean, that’s what every other story is like, no?

    Apparently, understanding that my soul experienced the giving of the Torah is supposed to have an affect on my daily life. I never allow myself to be antagonistic or skeptical for too long. So, I'm trying to look deeper. To see what this all means. To me.

    If I'm honest, I cant deny that every now and then, my body is home to a soul that experienced something grand.

    Even just acknowledging that is somewhat painful. It’s like there’s something…

    [ Sigh ]

    It’s like there’s something truer than the air I'm breathing but I just can’t grasp it.

    Yes, it’s like a …like a distant memory.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    What I Want From the "Chayas" and "Deborahs" Talking About Orthodox Judaism in the Media

    I am a Chassidic woman. And I love going to Mikva. Oh, and I also hate going to Mikva. 
    Can all the "Chayas" and "Deborahs" get together and talk about that

    What I Want From the "Chayas" and "Deborahs" Talking About Orthodox Judaism in the Media 

    Yesterday, the Orthodox Jewish community proved it was just dying for some good PR. 

    Chaya Kurtz, a not-so-well-known author, wrote an article on a not-so-well-known site about, well, the certainly not-so-well-known side of being an Orthodox Jewess. It was packed with attitude and confidence— a positive tell-all about how being a Chassidic woman is, in fact, nothing like the quiet or oppressed women that Oprah, Dr. Phil and seemingly all of mainstream media wants people to believe is real. With lines like "We have been happily shagging for a millennia" and referring to her black-hatted and black-suited husband as "hot," she struck a chord with the Orthodox community who, within the hour, turned her into a mini-celebrity for becoming a voice that is finally showing the world that we're not imprisoned, not unhappy and weird. In short, Chaya's article said simply: We have great sex. Mikva is a spa. Being orthodox is cool, man. 

    Speaking out from the other end of the spectrum is Deborah Feldman, famous for her book "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots" in which she exposes the ills and shackles of the Chassidic community from which she ultimately freed herself. Feldman has become a strong voice in the "unpious" community, sharing the details of her own marriage to a Chassidic man, and attacking the myriads of Jewish law and thought that she says caused her tremendous pain and suffering. Feldman's attack put simply: Chassidim have sex just to reproduce. Laws of Mikvah are a violation. Women are victims that don't know any better. Being Chassidic is oppressive. 

    Although much can be said about the tremendous differences in Chaya and Deborah's communities and backgrounds, the debate exploded. Deborah responded to Chaya's article via comment, with a detailed, harsh attack on Chaya personally, her choices, her community. A blood-boiling, determined vendetta against everything Chaya proudly represented, telling her in conclusion "Please refrain from making claims on behalf of Hasidic women you have never met and know nothing about."


    What is going on and will there be an end to this circular back-and-forth? 

    You see, where Chaya may be whitewashing, Feldman is also painting her own negative veneer. At the same time, where Feldman addresses real issues, Chaya comes across naive. Chaya's issue is that she's so happy with her life that she's glossing over potential issues. Deborah's issue is that she's incapable of understanding how someone wouldn't have these issues. 

    Both of these attitudes are dangerous. Being proud and happy with our Chassidic lot to the point of denial is a crime to those among us that may feel aspects of Judaism causes them discomfort or pain. And being outspoken about stories of oppression and abuse in the religious community and insisting that Jewish law itself is inhumane is a crime to those who genuinely and proudly and consciously ascribe to the lifestyle.

    There are plenty of proud Orthodox Jewish women who know that Chaya ignored the complexities and ultimate humaneness inherent in issues in our community related to marriage, sex and Mikvah.  Let's talk about me...

    I grew up religious. I am darn proud of being a Chassidic Chabad woman. I feel respected, and empowered. I love my husband, whom I chose to marry without a single dose of pressure. I have never felt disrespected or oppressed by the laws mandating our intimate life. And yet, I know that Mikvah is a pain in the you-know-what sometimes. And I know that our community puts severe and harmful pressure on girls to marry. And I know that our lifestyle doesn't honor the colorful personality types and ambitions of all my amazing girlfriends. I know that my community is living in the dark ages when it comes to understanding homosexuality. I know this...and more

    The thing is, I'm not so insecure that I worship a "Chaya" who loves her beautiful, simple Chassidic life. And I'm also not so fragile that I'll break because Deborah Feldman thinks that my underwear being checked by a Rabbi is a violation of my privacy. I represent the masses that are not being addressed—Orthodox and/or Chassidic women who can have a mature discussion on both the beauty and the ills of our lifestyle. 

    So what about me? I am proud of my Chassidic life, but am also interested in and open to discussing areas that need reform. Get this: love going to Mikva. Oh, and I also hate going to Mikva. This duality exists, probably far more than the extremes these two beautiful women feel they represent. 

    Can all the "Chayas" and "Deborahs" get together and talk about that

    The Orthodox world might feel empowered to hear a Chassidic women get all riled up in defense of her weird but beautiful life, but is our fleeting feeling of "You go girl!" really important to the conversation? What our tiny little majority is learning is that—lo and behold!—we're interesting to the outside world! People want to know what we have, and what we don't. They want to understand (and yes praise and ridicule) our ever-so-private life. Wow, look at all those laws. Does Mikvah work?  Do we have passionate sex? Is that allowed? Is it okay for us to speak our mind? Even to our husbands? Can we make choices about reproduction? THIS. IS. INTERESTING. STUFF. PEOPLE. Especially in an age where the world is finally seeing that resolving women's issues is central to a healthy and just society. 

    But how are we aiding the conversation and educating those within and without our community that want and need to hear more? As long as massive statements on both ends are blanketing the entire topic, who is benefiting? 

    It's the responsibility of both the happy/proud and the pained/disturbed Jewish woman to find a way to have this conversation with respect, a genuine desire to undersand, and most importantly, and end to whitewashing and die-hard conclusiveness. We need to speak, but not just from personal, but our collective experience. 

    Deborah, are you capable of speaking not only from pain, but from heart and mind, to for a moment consider truths in Chassidic Jewish life? That perhaps not every Chassidic woman is blindly obedient to an oppressive regime? And Chaya, do you think you can put aside your sincere pride just for a moment, to consider that the same Jewish lifestyle you adore can often feel burdensome to some? That perhaps we need to recognize cultural and community flaws?

    Now that you've spoken up, how will you both lead the camps you represent to approach these vital issues with intellectual and emotional honesty? 

    Both the "Chaya" and the 'Deborah" experience represent truths and thereby deserve to have a voice. And that is the way we need to approach this conversation. This is what I will be working towards in my own responsibility as a writer. Until we generate an honest conversation devoid of all sensationalism, we'll all just keep spinning our wheels. Either our proud-Chassidic or our anti-Chassidic, but certainly loud-and-powerful, womanly wheels.  And if we can actually get somewhere—if we can grow up and stop being either defensive and out to prove or attacking and out to prove—we might just be able to capitalize on this great conversation. 

    An Interview with Chaya Kurtz (of XOJANE fame)

    Chaya Kurtz became an instant celebrity yesterday when she published an article entitled "What Women's Media Needs to Know about Chassidic Women," a say-it-like-it-is account of all that is misunderstood and ultimately "awesome" about being a Chassidic woman. Here she responds to accusations that she whitewashed issues in the Chassidic community and also gives honest advice on what Jewish women can do to experience Judaism happily and withstand the "obnoxiousness" of the outside world.

    As a Chassidic-and-proud woman, I felt "Bravo!" when I read Chaya's article. Of course, I have more thoughts about this complex topic, which I will be posting later today.

    Thank you Chaya for heeding the responsibility of your article and taking the time to answer my questions! <3, Mimi

    (Photo provided by Chaya Kurtz. Photo credit to Shneur Menaker/David Zimmand)

    The Chassidic woman who wants you to know she is not oppressed

    If you could put it in one sentence, what was the main message you wanted to convey with your article?
    Criticizing all of Orthodox Judaism based on liberal bias is bad for the Jews; we (especially the women) are not what "the media" thinks we are.

    Were you surprised with how your piece seemed to have struck a chord? Why do you think it went so viral?
    Yes, I am surprised. I think it went viral because it is different. I work in web publishing and I know that content that is successful (meaning sharable) has to offer something new and different. It also has to be worded/presented in a way that is entertaining. I know that I am an entertaining writer. What I find really interesting is despite the anti-internet rally, so many non-Lubavitch religious Jews read this article and commented on it. That, I think, really speaks to their personal agency. These people are still sharing content and reading content on the Internet. 

    How would you respond to accusations that you whitewashed a lot of issues in the Chassidic community? 
    Why does every article about Chassidic/Orthodox Judaism need to be about the bad stuff? I think people are used to reading the bad stuff. You know what? For many people, our lives are fulfilling and not bad at all. It's about time that some positive words get spoken about the positive aspects of this lifestyle. I didn't sit down to write about the shady underbelly of Crown Heights. There are plenty of bloggers who already do that. I told the truth as I experience it, and as many women I know experience it.

    Can you think of any areas of Chassidic life that many women do experience in a "imprisoned" way?
    What does it mean to be imprisoned? When it is all rules and no joy. When you have the restrictions but none of the pleasure of learning and feeling connected to G-d. But if things are positive in your home and you are working on yourself and connecting to G-d as best you can, then this lifestyle feels great and not limiting. 

    Do you think that all Chassidic woman are attracted to beards? How do you reconcile the possibility that some don't with the fact that they don't always have a choice?
    How is it possible that there is a "shidduch (matchmaking) crisis" when you claim that women don't have a choice? I say this humorously, but I also mean it: First the buzz was that there is too much choice in shidduchim and therefore a "shidduch crisis." Now the buzz is that women are being forced into marriage. Also, not all religious guys have beards. Many trim their beards. Many shave their faces with electric razors. Beards are not ubiquitous. They are stereotypical, but there are plenty of guys who trim their beards. 

    What can/should a Chassidic woman do if she is not experiencing Judaism as beautifully as you describe? 
    The idea is joy. Without it, the yoke of heaven feels pretty heavy. Start at home. If your home is a place of kindness, happiness, Torah, singing and good food, you'll withstand the obnoxiousness of the outside world a lot better. I acknowledge that there is nastiness and harshness in some communities. Unfortunately, our communities are tainted by some nasty influences. Happiness starts at home. The home is the basis of Jewish life. Make your home a kindness-only zone; learn some Torah every day; talk to Hashem. They call it avoda ("service") because it takes effort. Nobody is going to take charge of your happiness except for you.

    There are a lot of "gross" mikvahs, some in the heart of Chassidic communities. What do we do about that? 
    Those are mostly for men. Women's mikvahs tend to be nicer. I think if the mikvahs are underfunded and not well cared for, it would behoove the communities to raise money to improve the mikvahs. The commandment of mikvah is so crucial to Jewish family life. It should be done in a beautified way. An inspiring example of this is the Chabad of Alpharetta, GA. They prioritized building a beautiful mikvah over having a beautiful shul. I mean their shul is nice and is a wonderful place, but it is a temporary building. What got the permanent building was their mikvah, which is gorgeous. I would love to see more communities follow their lead. 

    Your thoughts on Deborah Feldman? 
    She is a talented writer. She writes in a compelling way. I think she has a great career ahead of her. 

    In retrospect, is there anything else you wish you would have included in the article? 
    I think I would have identified myself as a Lubavitch Baal Teshuva (person who has "returned" to Judaism). It would have strengthened my argument. I chose this lifestyle and even though I sometimes feel pulled by the "old world," I stick with it. The idea that there are people who actually choose to become religious and are not "forced" into it by their parents could have added some juice to what I said. Also, the biggest criticism of the piece was that I did not identify myself as a Lubavitch BT. I hear that it needed to be stated, although pretty much everybody figured it out anyway.

    Why do you think there is so much recent public/media interest in Orthodox Jews? 
    When has there not been? The rest of the world finds us fascinating. Anything fascinating generates clicks and page views. People love to hate Jews. So file a sensational story about Jews, and it is going to sell. This is a very old story. 

    How do you think the world will finally come to understand Judaism?
    You want an honest answer? When Moshiach comes, they are going to understand. Until then, I think we have the same old battle we've always been fighting.  

    What do you see in your future as a voice on Jewish women's issues?
    I have an odd place of having a degree in Women's Studies, a career as an editor and I am also a Lubavitcher. I have a very critical perspective on gender. It took a lot for me to shift the way I look at things from Western feminism to a Torah perspective. I think I'd like to write longer, more in-depth articles on the subject. This piece was just a blog post. You can't fit the whole megilla into 700 words. I think at this point it would be worthwhile for me to invest some time in writing something more substantial.

    Any closing thoughts?
    I love Jews. I love Mitzvoth. I love Torah. I hope that people will see that there is freedom inside of Torah. Now the challenge is actually living Torah. But Hashem doesn't ask of us anything that we can't do.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Behold, the Power of the Chocolate Chip

    I can just hear people from the future, saying, "Ahhhh, remember Trader Joe's pareve chocolate chips? We thought the world was ending so we all stocked up. I still have one bag that I saved. Wanna see it?"


    This week, the Jewish community — and specially the Chalav Yisroel adhering community — took a hard blow with the news that Trader Joe's famous chocolate chips will no longer remain pareve, soon to be stamped "OU-D" for "Dairy." News from the top is that, in actuality, they will be DE (Dairy Equipment), still rendering the chocolate chips off-limits for the many Lubavitchers who don't eat "DE" and for everyone else, unable to be served alongside meat.

    Never before have I seen chocolate chips get so much publicity. Everyone's fainting on Facebook. Gathering the masses in uproar, signing petitions, arguing about the implications, defending the taste and flavor of these beloved chocolate morsels to anyone who dares question their superiority. 

    It's interesting how quickly people recognize what they have only when it's threatened. 

    (Okay, I know what you're thinking. Here Mimi goes, getting all intense on us. But, seriously people, this is deep stuff.)

    We get used to things. We need and desire our homes, our clothes and our cars with such liveliness, but as soon as they are "ours" for longer than six milliseconds, it's all too easy to forget the life we had prior to their purchase. The life we had when everything depended on owning them. And the same things go with "smaller" blessings that we encounter without thinking thankfully. Like that someone invented those Garden Veggie Straws we give our kids guilt-free. Or that there is something called nail polish remover. And seriously, what would we do if they discovered that Facebook was illegal and needed to be shut down? (Personally, I just got goosebumps.) 

    I wonder if anyone over the years has stopped to think, "Wow, thank goodness these chocolate chips are pareve. What would we do without them?" Probably not. Sure, we're conscious that we love them. After all, they're mostly everyone's chocolate chip of choice. But we toss them into the cookie dough with abandon, hardly stopping to think that maybe, just maybe, one day they could be a distant memory. 

    I can just hear people from the future, saying, "Ahhhh, remember Trader Joe's pareve chocolate chips? We thought the world was ending so we all stocked up. I still have one bag that I saved. Wanna see it?"

    I think its rad that women are sending around the petition. Power to the people. If there's a chance it can stay pareve, let's push for it! But let's also hear the deeper message from this unfortunate news and what it's unleashed. Let us all be grateful that not only does there exist this brilliant invention called the chocolate chip, but that its species comes in a variety of brands and packaging that, should we be forced, might actually make a fine new option. 

    We must ask ourselves: If our lives are filled with the knowledge of all we have to be thankful for, would some chocolate chips really throw us off? Are our lives really so narrow that they become disrupted this easily? Are there other, bigger, issues that should be vying for our time, our voice? What, here, is really the issue? 

    I encourage you to ponder these questions. As central to our lives as this sweet creation is, there is something very freeing about not being victim to a few morsels of chocolate.

    Makeup: Looking Good On Camera [Tips n' tricks!]

    By Vera Tov

    Vera is a certified makeup artist based in New York. A graduate of a protégées Make Up Designory school (MUD). Vera has all of the necessary skills and tools to create an unique and fresh look for any occasion. Vera’s ability to realize the client's vision, re-create a look from a photograph or film, or develop a unique look, camouflaging imperfections while enhancing the natural beauty is truly unsurpassed.
    In Vera's words: 
    My makeup had been confiscated on more than one occasion in High School. How could the teachers not understand the fact that a mirror compact was an extension of my arm, and eyeliner – a wand, without which I felt powerless. Silly, of course, I know. Well, I was a teenager then, and now…I feel the same exact way now!

    Welcome Vera by commenting on our Facebook post 
    and be included in a drawing to get your makeup
     done—for an event, for fun...for free! 

    Looking Good on Camera

    Here are some of the tips to help you look your best in photos! 

    First of all, and this is from personal experience, regardless of how the photographer tells you to pose, make sure you take photos in your most flattering pose. Practice in front of the mirror to find whether you look best facing forward, with your face slightly to the side, with chin raised…you get the idea. It’s also a good idea to have someone take multiple snap shots, because it’s sometimes difficult to judge how you’re going to come out on camera based on your reflection in the mirror. Also, as your mother has told you – Don’t slouch!

    Say “Cheese!"— NONSENSE! You don’t need to bare your teeth if you don’t feel it makes you look your best. It’s up to you. If you prefer the mysterious Mona Lisa half-smile, then that’s how you should be photographed.

     Keep your hair away from your eyes. It is not a flattering look on anyone. Enough said.

    And now – the makeup!

    • Because bright lights and flash can make you look washed out, go for shades slightly darker and more saturated than you normally would. That means foundation that’s just a bit darker (make sure it’s blended well into your neck), brighter blush, and lip color.
    • Foundation is such a broad topic that I will have to dedicate a separate post to choosing the correct match, coverage, finish, as well as proper application techniques.

    • Shiny t-zone is not pretty. Make sure to keep your face matte with a light application of powder. But if you feel that your face is getting oily or sweaty, take a plain tissue (not the soft, lotion kind), and hold it to your forehead, nose, and chin. Don’t press, because you want the tissue to absorb the moisture, not the makeup)
    • You want your eyes to look well defined in photos, so make sure to wear black eyeliner and an extra coat of mascara. And false lashes are a plus. But if you’ve never used them, don’t try to apply them for the first time before being photographed.

    • Don’t use your eyeliner on the waterline, or the inner rim of your eyes, because it will make them look smaller.

    • Stay away from shimmer as much as possible. When used incorrectly, shimmery makeup will age you. The only place you can use shimmer is just a touch of it in the inner corners of your eyes.

    Example of a shiny t-zone. It’s even more visible on camera than in person.

    I have to admit that Natalie looks perfect in any makeup and in any pose. However, few tips that we can take from this photo are that her face is neither shiny nor shimmery. Her makeup is quite natural, and yet her features appear defined. Finally, her cheeks are rosy enough to look healthy but not overpowering.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Why Chabad Won't be at the Anti-Internet Rally

    While some got caught in the dangers and fear of modernity, the Rebbe knew it was all 
    here for us to orient it towards a better, more productive, more united world.

    Why Chabad Won't be at the Anti-Internet Rally 

    When I first read about the anti-internet rally online, I thought it was a really clever spoof. Then I read online that it was real, and was spooked. I had so many questions to Google. Why would someone in the year 2012 be anti-internet? How does someone inform the masses of their anti-internet rally without the internet? Who would be Facebook-invited to this gathering? Would it be tweeted live? If I can't make it there, could I catch some sort of live telecast? 

    Alas, I kid. And you're gathering from my tone that I'm certainly not among the event-planners, nor am I supporter. In fact, despite the fact that there are thousands of people expected to attend the "Jews Against the Internet" rally at CitiFeild this Sunday, I don't personally know anyone that will be attending.

    Why? Because I am Chabad. And proud. 

    While the Lubavitch community is also Chassidic and practically just as "ultra-orthodox" as the folks arranging and attending this rally, we will have virtually no representation. Not because we can't agree with the concern, but because we can't be concerned. 

    Remember us? We're the ones that built the and began educating and inspiring millions of Jews around the world way before anyone had any time to consider any "internet dangers." You tell a Lubavitcher "The internet is scary, stay far away," and he will laugh and say "Dude, where have you been?" 

    Oh, the gifts the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave us. The power be see our strict commitment to Jewish law and principle as going hand-in-hand with modernity. To see all of the world—yes, with all its potential ills—as a means towards a powerful end. 

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe never emphasized the disease, always the cure. And in every physical, emotional and spiritual case of sickness, the solution was always about introducing an active, real and alive force of good. The Rebbe was not naive to certain modern dangers. He encouraged people (privately, not taking time in a public address) to be careful with lots of modern inventions, including contacts and ultrasounds. But when it came to technology, the Rebbe was amazed, encouraging and anxious to use it for healing, for education, for the betterment of the world. While some got caught in the dangers and fear of modernity, the Rebbe knew it was all here for us to orient it towards a better, more productive, more united world.

    In effect, where the rest of the world sees a problem, Chabad sees a resolution. Where all the other "Greats of Israel" see a stumbling block, we see an opportunity. When everyone is getting their feathers ruffled in the excitement of banning and inducing fear, Chabad always has a positive message of "Yes you can, here's how."

    How much time have the Yeshivish and Chassidic communities of New York (and indeed the world) wasted on their protests and anti-this and anti-that banners? Have they ever stopped to consider that a little light will dispel a lot of darkness? That, just imagine, there are sparks of Godliness inherent in everything? That almost anything, when used as a force of good, becomes a force of good? 

    I would never imply that the Chabad community is immune to the potential "dangers" of the internet. I'm not saying that the spiritual havens that are our homes can't use a break from the internet, or even a good internet-guard.  What I am saying is that we're certainly more sensitive to our worldly responsibility to uplift God's inventions. And we definitely don't insult Him by using our God-given time and voice to rally against them. 

    The joke is that the rally is planned for the first day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, a day considered fortuitous in regard to children's education. The idea that combatting the "evils" of the internet is a important step in the growth of our children is actually disastrous. Banishment may keep the bad away, but since when does it encourage good? What will take it's place? What we all need, and specifically our youth, is something that is given forth with strength and positivity, not another message of "don't touch this" and "be careful." The rest of the ultra-Orthodox world has a lot to learn from Chabad in this regard. For starters, giant rallies of music and floats and chants and cheering, all centered around our beloved heritage. The real kind of rally. The kind of rally that rallies were invented for. 

    Sure, the question will always linger regarding what the Rebbe would say now of the plethora of new inventions and their societal implications today. But this wondering is almost null: heed the Rebbe's voice of uplifting everything towards the divine and staying busy with the spiritual revolution and you won't need to lose your voice shouting about the dangers of something that 99% of the world sees as wonderful device of messianic proportions.

    So sorry Chabad can't make it. We're just a little too busy changing the world with our blessed internet and everything else. 

    If only religious Jews would see the internet not as a place of violence, sexuality and the spread of doubtful information, but a place of tremendous opportunity to illuminate, connect and grow. If only religious Jews would learn that "In the times of Moshiach, the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d" and realize that, hmm, that sounds like the internet! But mostly, if only religious Jews would understand what Chabad has known all along: that being "anti" will never make a pro. 

    P.S. One more thing: I will be at CitiFeild this month. On May 30th, to watch my husband Moshe perform his inspiring and soulful Jewish music, to inspire the masses and make a true Kiddush Hashem. Because that's how we roll here at Chabad.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Parents Turn to Sleep Counselors [That's my friend Rivky!]

    The above clip is from a recent Fox 5 News segment about the increasingly popular use of sleep counselors to help parents and their babies get a good's night sleep. But more than how awesome it is that parents have this unique, gentle and productive option is that it features my friend (and old roommate) Rivky! Oh and her adorable son, Simcha, who is one week older than my youngest son (with whom he needs a play-date with ASAP!)

    Kudos to Rivky for refusing to settle for the "Moms don't sleep" status quo! How admirable that she knew she could use some extra help, then pursued it, and is now outspoken and proud of it. 

    My favorite part is when Rivky says, "Everyone needs that someone to just push them...[and say] 'You can do it!'" That sort of "co-mama-radery" has been a theme on LadyMama this week, so I just had to salute Rivky as a real-life mom who recognizes the power of support and is doing her utmost to benefit from the mamasphere to raise a healthy, happy baby...and mom! 

    Rivky has no idea I am posting this...but maybe if I get an enthusiastic response from her, we'll do a LadyMama interview. I'm sure she's got some good tips for us all! ;) 

    Have you ever used a sleep counselor? Do you have any sleep tricks you swear by? What is the most important factor when encouraging good sleep habits? Comment with your thoughts and advice!

    For those of us who can use a good chuckle about the status of our sleepless nights, enjoy the cartoons below! 

    Wishing all LadyMamas the sleep of their dreams!

    GOOD night! Really :) 

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    The Gift of Loss: Talking About My Miscarriage On Mother's Day

    By Mimi Hecht 

    I've had sonograms before and know what you're supposed to see. And it is not the 
    black, empty space that me and my husband suddenly found ourselves peering into.

    The Gift of Loss
    Talking About My Miscarriage on Mother's Day

    Even though statistics show that many women reading this right now have experienced the loss of a pregnancy, most of these women have not and likely never will publicly address or even mention in private the fact of their miscarriage.

    Being that this kind of death is a fact of many women's lives, and that silence and shame only exaggerate the pain, I am opening up about my own miscarriage, which occurred a little over two months ago. 

    I was almost three months pregnant and excitedly looking forward to telling more loved ones the news when I saw a trace of spotting. While it isn't entirely uncommon in early pregnancy, thinking you're growing a healthy baby and then seeing blood is very alarming. With my husband at my side, I called my midwives. They asked me questions, said it sounded usual and gave me two things to look out for that would signal something more serious: More blood. Cramping.

    A day later, there was more blood. Then cramping. We knew what was happening. I became sad and worried and very anxious about what my body was about to go through. Getting pregnant and miscarrying is not something I ever prepared myself for. Even though experts estimate that one in every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, I still thought it was something that only happened to, well, other people.

    Although I was now showing all the signs of miscarrying, I wasn't cramping or bleeding enough to be rushed in to the emergency room. I was advised to schedule a sonogram.

    A day before my scheduled sonogram, I had a very busy and demanding day representing an organization I direct at the anual Chabad Kinnus HaShluchos. I was supposed to be on my feet for hours, dealing with people and, of course, smiling. (When I asked my midwife if this would be okay, she responded, "As long as you feel okay and there's no cramping." I wish she would have forbade it, because I truly felt like I just wanted to rest and protect my pregnancy. But she made sure to add, "Mimi, if this is a miscarriage, it's already happened. You need to know that nothing you do or don't do now is going to hurt your baby." This was exactly what I needed to hear: that there is no reason to have guilt—now or later.)

    Now let me tell you, greetings friends and customers and focusing on work is quite a feat when you're bleeding and emotionally coming to terms with what you might see—or rather, not see—on a sonogram the next day. This made me think a lot about all the demands on women these days: how we fulfill so many roles and rise to every occasion regardless of the myriad of female-specific issues we may be going through. And how the demands of life within and without the home are not as flexible and understanding as often our minds and bodies need them to be.

    Twenty hours hours later, I was in a gown being jellied up—me and my husband readied ourselves for the sonogram results. I took huge sighs, thinking "Is this really happening to me?" I cried for the first time since the spotting five days earlier. Before she placed the sensor on my belly, I silently begged G-d that we see a healthy baby, with a vibrant, beating heart—that the bleeding and cramping be some unexplainable fluke. But alas, I've had sonograms before and know what you're supposed to see.

    And it is not the black, empty space that me and my husband suddenly found ourselves peering into.

    The woman taking the sonogram was not my doctor and was not allowed to tell me anything conclusive. Even though I was pretty confident with the image we saw, I was holding on to the possibility that I just wasn't reading it right. I pleaded with her to tell me, but she just replied, "I'm just here to measure and take images." I then endured an internal sonogram as well, feeling this cold stranger poke around and photograph what I thought was sacred inside me, but more than likely something dead. I cried more, my legs shaking, taking comfort in my husbands equally pained face. It was like we knew, but couldn't really know.

    What seemed like hours later, my doctor gently told me the results of the sonogram. She was sensitive and explained what they saw—a six or seven week fetus (when it was "meant" to be 12). It was officially what's called a "Missed Miscarriage," meaning that the fetus stopped living a while ago, but the pregnancy went on. Thankfully, my husband and I had prepared for this news, so the emotional reaction was not so traumatic, but more of a relief at finally knowing.  On the ride home, we decided to stop somewhere, so we could sit face to face and process our feelings about what we just went through and were going to go through.

    My most ever present reaction was feeling like a fool. I had told my parents and sister about my pregnancy when there was nothing alive inside me! Of course, I had no way of knowing...but it still stung. Something so within me had...tricked me. Even that very day, I was still having pregnancy symptoms. My body had misled me. I went from experiencing the maternal instincts inherent in pregnancy to feeling robbed, empty and out of touch. Adding to this feeling of shattered maternal instincts was the knowledge that something had died within me. My womb, what had been a safe, nurturing haven for my two beautiful, healthy boys (thank God!) had told me I was growing a life and  then completely rejected it. It had just started beating it's tiny little heart (or did it?) when it became not a thing of life and growth but death and loss.

    Consciously aware that it was futile, irrelevant and even wrong, I couldn't help but blame myself for losing the pregnancy. I should have been more strict about taking my prenatal vitamins! I shouldn't have had coffee! Maybe had I not felt so overwhelmed about this pregnancy in the first place, G-d wouldn't have taken it away! The latter tormented me the most.

    I was told to expect my body to expel whatever was left of the pregnancy (placental matter, tissue, significant loss of blood). And if it didn't, I'd have to schedule a D&C to have it done manually. I am grateful that a few days after the sonogram, I was at home and experienced intense labor-like cramps that was the beginning of the end of my miscarriage. (I will spare the details here, but anyone who is curious or going through the same thing and wants to know, don't hesitate to e-mail me.) This episode lasted a few hours. It was painful and intense and semi-traumatic and I would not have gone through it unscathed had it not been for my mother, sister and amazing midwife Jesse.

    When I updated Jesse (who had delivered my second child and whom my husband and I adore), she let me know that my body was doing the right thing, and what to expect. She spent time patiently with me on the phone and said the most compassionate and remarkable words: "You know, this is your body and the universe's kindness. I know it doesn't feel like it, but it's a good thing." Obviously, one doesn't naturally view miscarriage as any sort of kindness—especially for those women who experience them repeatedly and/or have yet to have healthy children. But what I took from what she was saying was something I needed to hear: The fetus was unhealthy. And instead of G-d willing it into the world to experience pain or even death and inflict me with an even greater physical and emotional agony, he retracted its existence—effectually gifting me with its loss.

    When Jesse said this, I remember feeling the "power of women." It sounds like a cliche, but really we are an invincible, powerful species. Just think how the same midwife that encouraged me through a labor and birth was now comforting me through a loss—with the same sensitivity, strength and faith that, only a year before guided my contractions to birth a healthy child.

    Though I wish I never had a miscarriage, I am thankful to G-d for the way it happened, for my good health and for surrounding me with a sound medical system, a loving family and a supportive husband. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes quite a few sensitive yet strong and totally massive hearts to support a woman who is losing a pregnancy.

    I chose to write about my miscarriage because I believe strongly that there should be no shame or guilt about the choices our bodies and G-d make for us. There is nothing wrong with you or your "womanliness" if you have a miscarriage. Perhaps if we spoke about these realities more, so many women wouldn't feel insecure, silenced, afraid and broken.

    I live in a community where most women seem to always be either pregnant or with a newborn. Those suffering from infertility or who have experienced a miscarriage get lost in the shuffle, forced to deal with their pain in a silent way—whether they want to or not.

    Should we not be able to band together in reasonable and healthy ways not only in our joys and triumphs, but in the reality of our pains and losses? We all have them. A woman who experiences a loss should feel allowed to discuss her miscarriage with equal freedom as her friend with a burgeoning belly.

    She shouldn't fear being viewed as weak. We cannot allow her to fear being pitied.

    Strong, healthy and fertile women all over the world have miscarriages. Some happily choose to keep their experiences to themselves. There is virtue in that, too. But a woman who feels she would find healing in discussing her experience openly should never feel the burden of potential shame that may come with "exposing" herself. Especially if the good that candor brings and the conversation it creates can only enlighten other women to be more sensitive, prepared and empowered.

    This Mother's Day, may we all find the strength to love 
    ourselves and each other wholeheartedly, without 
    reservation, simply for being G-d's beautiful 
    female creatures, endowed with the gift not 
    only to birth but to give and grow in all 
    the powerful ways only we know how.