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Rabbi Sharon G. Forman

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A cupped pair of hands palms facing upward that appears to be holding sparkling dots of light

Years ago, I enrolled our toddler son in a summer day camp at our synagogue. He had happily attended a 3’s nursery school program there, joining his new friends without any drama, so I was baffled when he clung to me, desperate and inconsolable, at camp drop- off.

I asked the counselor and camp director to help me figure out a non-traumatic way to help my son adjust to the camp environment without forcing him to “cry it out” when I left. They hatched a plan that had me sit in the back of the classroom reading a book or newspaper. Visible yet invisible, my son could see me whenever...

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Bowl of bright pink borscht garnished with hard-boiled egg and greens

When I had mononucleosis during rabbinical school, my classmates tended to me with thoughtfulness and care. They took copious notes in class and dropped by often to check in on me, change my linens, fold my laundry, and bring me food – chicken soup, chopped liver, challah, and pickles from New York City’s Second Avenue Deli, which was, at the time, just blocks from where I lived. I’m convinced that coupled with time and rest, those meals and the generous friends who brought them played a significant role in my recovery.

To me, those meals and my mom’s brisket, blintzes, and kugel...

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Many pairs of hands forming hearts

The chirping of the end-of-summer cicadas and the waning of the season’s long, warm days are sure signs the Hebrew month of Elul is upon us. With its arrival, I begin to contemplate the approaching Days of Awe and how I can best prepare for them.

In traditional Jewish communities, the shofar is sounded at synagogue during this month of spiritual preparation. Many Jews also recite Psalm 27 twice each day, as they shift to a mindset of repentance and forgiveness for the new year. Interestingly, pervasive anxiety – not forgiveness – is the focus of this psalm.

Initially, the...

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Random assortment of plastic Hebrew letter magnets

My siblings and I can’t remember a time when Hebrew was not folded into the routines in our home. While my dad serenaded us with secular lullabies, my mom’s go-to was a slightly operatic version of the Israeli folksong “Al Sfat Yam Kinneret” (By the Shores of the Sea of Galilee), which tells the story of a boy entranced by his Torah studies under the gentle guidance of Elijah the Prophet.

From that lullaby, I progressed to learning Hebrew from Mrs. V., a devoted Israeli teacher in my Jewish day school who instructed me and my first-grade classmates in the basics of vocabulary,...

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Italian flag/banner with Italy written underneath

On Saturday afternoons during my childhood, my mother blared the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcasts in stereo on every radio in our house. Although the Italian operas generally ended with a young, beautiful heroine succumbing to murder or a bout of tuberculosis, I particularly adored the colorful and tragic characters in these performances. To my young ears, the singers’ flowing Italian arias meshed with the formal Hebrew I knew from synagogue, creating a wonderful mash-up of cultures and languages.

Perhaps it was my family’s personal mash-up.

My dad’s olive skin and dark...

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