CRAFTS AND GAMES
Monthly Guide To Jewish Activities, Food And Crafts
A guide to bringing Judaism into your home
By Maayan Jaffe
It’s almost the New Year and people are starting to think about what 2011 will bring. While the Jewish New Year passed us by a couple of months ago, families are thinking celebration, having just completed Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. How can we keep Judaism in our lives throughout the year? Do one activity a month with a Jewish message. Start next month.
The Hebrew month of Shevat
Shevat means Tu B’Shevat, the festival of the trees. Juliya Sheynman of Pikesville likes to create unique houseplants with toddler Miri. She takes a carrot and cuts off its thicker end. Then she sets it in water until it begins to sprout. When the first sprigs appear, she transfers it to a pot and watches it grow.
“It makes a great activity for a young child and adds décor to the home,” says Sheynman, who notes there are numerous iterations of these homemade plants.
Other options include poking a potato with toothpicks and setting it in water. The vegetable eventually sprouts green leaves. You can also put a bean in a wet paper towel. In about one week, the bean will germinate.
“Children find the experience fascinating,” says Sheynman. “It is incredible to watch each new sprig and leaf come out, and to enjoy the miracles of nature.”
The Hebrew month of Adar Aleph
There is no actual holiday in Adar Aleph. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with your Jewish roots. Ashley Pressman of Reservoir Hill says she recommends taking some time during the month of Adar Aleph to experience “The Live Kotel [Western Wall] Cam,” a project of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Israeli Embassy.
“For 2,000 years, Jews could only imagine what it would be like to be at the Kotel,” says Pressman. “Now, you can go online and see the Kotel every day, and make a connection every day, even if you can’t travel to Israel.”
You can also join the Facebook group “Connect with Israel.” According to its description, this group “will give you ways to ‘connect with Israel.’” Wall posts include ideas about raising funds for poor Israelis, enjoying Israeli dishes and understanding Israeli news.
The Hebrew month of Adar Bet
(It is a leap year!)
Purim is in Adar and children love to dress up and make a ruckus at the synagogue. A “glittery mask” from Rivky Koenig’s “Crafting Jewish” (Mesorah Publications, 2008) is a lot of fun.
What you will need:
Plastic eye mask
White glue or glitter glue
Place the mask onto a paper plate. Coat the mask with a thick layer of glue. Sprinkle glitter all over the mask and shake off the excess. Let dry.
The Hebrew month of Nissan
Nissan is all about Passover. Getting the kids involved in the seder preparation is great for the whole family. Your children can make a unique Sephardic charoset with this recipe from Jill Colella Bloomfields’ “Jewish Holidays Cookbook” ( DK Children, 2008).
1 cup dried figs
1 cup dried dates, pitted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook for 5-7 minutes until marmalade melts and fruits are warmed through.
The Hebrew month of Iyar
Iyar is packed with modern commemorations, like Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Israel’s Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day. Sheynman says on Yom HaShoah she recommends a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum building focuses on a combination of education and remembrance. The permanent exhibition is quite extensive, and could take several hours. Smaller special exhibitions take less time to view and provide microcosmic stories within the greater history. “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story” is a permanent exhibit geared towards elementary-age students. Passes are required to enter the permanent exhibition. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is near the Smithsonian Metro, open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Hebrew month of Sivan
Sivan means Shavuot, a celebration of the day the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai. It’s traditional to eat dairy meals and desserts on Shavuot. Jennifer Kaplan of Pikesville says she bakes a killer chocolate caramel pecan cheesecake. Sheynman, however, recommends a cake in the form of Mount Sinai — something children go crazy over.
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
2 cups vanilla wafers
6 Tbsp margarine
1. Melt margarine. Combine with wafers.
2. Press into spring form pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350-degrees.
14 oz caramels
15 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup chopped pecans
2 8 o. packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
2. In one pot, melt caramel and milk together and stir until creamy.
3. Pour over crust. Sprinkle pecans over that.
4. Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Pour chocolate chips into mixture. Pour over the pecans.
5. Bake for four minutes. The middle should jiggle.
6. Cool. Garnish whipped cream and pecans (optional).
Mount Zion Cake — Julie Sheynman
2 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cocoa
6 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 3/4 cup hot water
2 3/4 cups flour
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
2. Cream sugar and oil.
3. Add eggs one at a time. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and mix well. Add cocoa and coffee; mix well. Add flour and mix well.
4. Grease an oven-safe bowl and fill it three-quarters full with batter. Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes, then lower the temperature and bake at 300-degrees for 20-40 minutes, until a skewer can be put in the center and come out completely clean. Cool, invert onto plate.
5. To decorate, cut cake in half in the center and smear with cream. Replace the top half of the cake. Decorate the cake with green icing at the bottom (to resemble grass) and chocolate flowers up and down the sides. Cut a replica of the Ten Commandments out of paper and tape onto a popsicle stick. Place the stick in the top of the cake.
The Hebrew month of Tammuz
The 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of Three Weeks of Mourning, which lead up to the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, the day the Temple in Israel was destroyed. Pressman says during Tammuz, she and her husband have a tradition of making sure they say 10 nice things about others each day.
“I think in the beginning, it is good to write down the 10 nice things you think about people. Eventually, it becomes inherent. You learn to take time to compliment people and tell them you appreciate them,” says Pressman.
It’s also the heart of summer, so you may want to celebrate with an Israeli-style picnic, making use of fresh vegetables and fruits so abundant this time of year. Try this simple Israeli salad from “Jewish Holidays Cookbook.”
2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
2 cups tomatoes, seeded, diced
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp za’taar, a Middle Eastern spice (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve cold.
The Hebrew month of Av
We recall the destruction of the Temple in Av, something which can be difficult for modern children to understand. On the Ninth of Av, parents can show their children pictures of the Temple and ask the children to create a model of it out of building blocks. Once the replica is complete, the children will be asked to break it down. Parents and children then dialogue about what it is to have something special to you taken away or ruined. The Temple was a jewel of the Jewish people; when it was destroyed, it left a void.
The Hebrew month of Elul and the start of Tishrei
September begins with Elul, the month of reflection and repentance, and concludes this year with Rosh Hashanah. Kaplan says she uses the month to work on herself as a mother and wife.
“We are all trying to be super moms and dads and do so much outside the house.
Sometimes, we need to step back and focus more on the emotional health of our children and families,” Kaplan says.
Kaplan recommends the book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children” by Wendy Mogel (Scribner, reprint 2008). She says this is a great time to think about what we can change about our habits and mindsets.
“Sometimes we have to think about raising ourselves before we raise our children,” she says.
The Hebrew month of Tishrei
The holiday of Sukkot falls in Tishrei. For this harvest holiday, people build temporary huts and eat outside. Dayna Leder of Owings Mills says she takes a group of young parents and their children to decorate the sukkah at Weinberg Park Assisted Living through Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Mitzvah Makers program. “We’ve done this for the past four years at Weinberg Park, and we always get calls from other senior facilities asking if families could come and decorate their sukkot, too” Leder says. “It’s a great thing to do for the seniors. For the family, it’s just really fun!”
The Hebrew month of Cheshvan
There are no holidays in Cheshvan. Shira Gryll of Pikesville says she uses the month to begin implementing her New Year’s resolutions — those set the month before, in Tishrei. This year, for example, Gryll launched a workout routine, trying to lose the weight she put on from having her last child. She made a list, found a workout buddy and bought Shaun T’s “Insanity Workout” DVD in Cheshvan.
“There’s something optimistic about Cheshvan,” says Gryll.
The Hebrew month of Kislev
Kislev is Chanukah. Kaplan says she gets creative with Chanukah, trying to keep her children from focusing too much on gifts, but still making all eight nights special. She says she takes her older children, ages 5 and 8, to the train displays at Kenilworth and Glen Avenue fire station. She lets them each invite friends over one night for a special Chanukah meal — with latkes and doughnuts. One night, they play a family game of dreidel. On another night, they snuggle on the couch with popcorn and watch a family movie.
“My kids are not waiting by the menorah for a package,” says Kaplan. “We give gifts, but Chanukah is the family activities.”