Friday, March 27, 2020

#blogExodus day 2: exalt


those are tough words
in the face of
a global pandemic

how can we find
when we are

and yet...
the sun rises
and sets
the clouds make
beautiful formations
the lake sends
waves over the shore

we breathe

and then realize
that the

is worthy
of praise.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

#blogExodus Day 1: Launch

Today we launch the strangest Nisan ever.

With two weeks to go until the Seder, my house is full of chametz and not a box of matzah in sight.

My Facebook feed is not full of carmelizing onions or jokes about covering the whole kitchen in foil. Instead, it's full of posts about whether it's safe to bring in the mail and how to snag the last instacart time slot available for the week.

This year is different. Using the word "different" feels so small and insignificant. It's beyond different. It's monumentally, fundamentally, outrageously different.

And yet, we launch Nisan. Because the calendar doesn't slow down or stop. Because Passover is, at its very core, a celebration that we always need, even in the midst of darkness. Even when we are scared and worried and anxious and afraid, even when our focus is elswhere, the calendar launches us into Nisan.

So just for today, take a breath. Organize a thought. Consider the next step.

Launch into Nisan.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

#BlogExodus and #ExodusGram 5780

Rosh Chodesh Nisan is on Thursdsay, March 26, 2020.
I know we're all in lockdown mode. I know it means that Passover is going to be VERY different this year.

And I also know that many people are out there, looking for ways to be creative, engaged, and focused on the real meaning and messages in our lives today.

So...with Passover around the corner, you might not be making brisket or matzah balls. You might have cancelled your big Passover plans and are planning a small seder (perhaps online!). And it's all so different. Which makes this a great time to have something to focus on, something to think about that is a little bit outside of our four walls.

Enter: BlogExodus and Exodusgram.

So what is this really about? #BlogExodus is really what you want to make of it. I've provided topics for the first 14 days of the month of Nisan. What you do with it is up to you -- write a blog post, tweet, Facebook, tumblr, or something that I haven't even thought of yet! Use the hashtag to share your post (I put it into the title of each post). It's a great way to kickstart a blog or rejuvenate your languishing blog or just get yourself ready for the holiday of Passover! I will be posting my #blogExodus posts here on this blog and I will tweet them out at @imabima.

Maybe you don't have a blog? I'll post an "open thread #blogExodus" each day on my Facebook page as well, so you could just post your thoughts, photos, comments, or haikus there. Maybe you're a yogi? What about a photo of a different yoga post each day related to the theme of the day?

There aren't any rules, so maybe you don't like the order of the topics? Maybe you want to write on only a few of them? It doesn't matter. It is what you make of it.

 #Exodusgram is a even more interpretive. While I love Instagram (I'm imabima, of course), I know some people don't. So maybe you want to share Exodus-themed photos via Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest or....whatever! My #Exodusgram posts will go up on Instagram and then be shared to my tumblr, Whatever you do, don't forget to tag with #Exodusgram so we can all share. (Note for some of my colleagues: this might make a fun teen project...who's up for #SnapTheExodus?)

The themes are really up for your own interpretation. I was thinking broadly and openly about what makes Passover special and interesting to me. I hope it will translate into creative and inspirational posts from all of us!

Are you going to join in? Leave me a comment here or send me a tweet or just...jump in! I will try to retweet all the #BlogExodus and #Exodusgram posts through Twitter via @imabima. If I miss your posts, let me know so I can go back and be inspired by what YOU have to say!

#BlogExodus #Exodusgram topics for 5780
1 Nisan - Launch
2 Nisan - Exalt
3 Nisan - Cleanse
4 Nisan - Rise
5 Nisan - Seek
6 Nisan - Retell
7 Nisan - Read
8 Nisan - Expand
9 Nisan - Perplex
10 Nisan - Join
11 Nisan - Celebrate
12 Nisan - Reveal
13 Nisan - Welcome
14 Nisan - Thank

 *Yes, I know that I put the Shabbat dates there. I don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat but I will post on Fridays before Shabbat and on Saturdays after Shabbat is over. You can, of course, do it any way you like!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks

This month's reading...I'm trying to keep up with short reviews this year. So far, 2 months in a row seems like it might be a trend....

Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism (after Finally Choosing to Look There) by Sarah Hurwitz - I really like her voice. Of course, she's a speechwriter! But I really liked the way she put things, and my favorite parts were when she was sharing her own stories. It's also a very accessible basic-Judaism-text, which is always nice to have. Looking forward to meeting her next month. by Nathan Englander - Leading a book discussion on this one soon. I didn't expect to enjoy it at all - but it was a quick read and good food for thought. There were parts of this book that seemed a little far-fetched and I'm not sure I "bought" the main character. Looking forward to a group discussion on this one.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly - a sweet middle-grade novel about a Deaf girl and her yearning for connection. I just handed this one to Solly so I am looking forward to hearing what he thinks! Loved the main character....

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali - I really enjoyed this one. It was an interesting look at Iran in the 1950s and I'm always fascinated by the changing roles of women in general. It's a little hard to believe in the ending, but at the same time, it felt satisfying and good.

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz - This is a middle-grade novel that's gotten a bit of press. It's about banned books (I bet you guessed that from the title) and a group of kids who love to read! It made me want to re-read some of my favorites from my childhood too. Well done!

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo - I am still thinking about this book long after I've put it down. What an interesting, fascinating, troubling (in a good way) read. I read How to Be an AntiRacist at the end of last year and this was such a remarkable complement. I'm looking forward to hearing the author speak next month and I am still processing. I think everyone should read this one, and I look forward to hearing what people have to say to me about it. Here's the quote that I think stuck with me the most (although there were several): "When I start from the premise that of course I have been thoroughly socialized into the racist culture in which I was born, I no longer need to expend energy denying that fact." And her use of some really interesting terms like "interrupting racism" - this has my mind spinning in so many directions.

The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr - I needed a little bit of lighter fare after White Fragility and this was a good one. Not too fluffy but a good story about a woman finding herself after her marriage implodes.

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum - I picked this YA novel up because last month, I read a book by this author at Yael's suggestion. This author writes beautifully about grief. The main character in this book is on the autism spectrum and it seems like a really interesting portrayal (I am reluctant to say accurate) of insight into that person's character. Is it all wrapped up a little too neatly? Maybe. But I liked it anyway.

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day - a middle grade novel that I can't quite tell you how it got on my shelf but I'm pretty sure it was from an article highlighting diverse voices in literature. A story about a girl trying to find her "home" and learning more about her own family's history. Heartbreaking look at the way that the Native population was torn apart by US policy...a good introduction for younger readers.

The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen - like her first book, Waking Lions, this book explores the meaning of truth and how lies multiply and escalate. I loved the slightly dreamy quality of the storytelling and the way that lies create circles that ensnare everyone in them.....highly recommend this one!

American Dirt by Jeannine Cummins - okay, so this one has sat for me for a little while due to all of the controversy. So many people have derided this book for a myriad of reasons but I have also heard that it was readable, compelling, and powerful. So what's a reader to do? I decided to go for it, and I did find the story painful and interesting, well-told, and I very much appreciated the author's insight at the end of the book as to her own misgivings about writing a story that some might feel she doesn't "have the right to tell." All that being said, I think any book shedding light on important topics is useful and I'd be curious to examine it with a group of people who could really tell me about its accuracy. Also, I've added a few Latinx authors to my to-read list to maybe balance out the controversial nature of this choice. What do you think???

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater - Again, a recommendation from Yael, who is reading this book for her English class. Just this week, someone "misgendered" her (thanks to her newly shaved head) and it opened the door for us to have a really interesting conversation about gender and identity, all wrapped up in this story as well. This is non-fiction, but uses some really nice storytelling conventions like poetry, blog posts, news reports, etc, and multiple perspectives, to tell two really important stories of injustice that intersect in this one incident. I'm really really really looking forward to discussing with Yael and also to hearing/seeing how this is integrated into her 7th grade English class!

Here's January's list

What are you reading?

Follow me on Goodreads

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

January 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks

I thought I'd give it a try to write short reviews as I go this year....let's see how well I can keep up!

The First Mrs. Rothschild - I enjoyed this look at a very interesting part of history, even if I thought the book itself was a little dry. I am always a fan of a book that takes the perspective of a woman that history may have overlooked.

Shouting at the Rain - a sweet middle-grade novel about friendship and loss. I preferred One for the Murphys but I thought this was a nice read from this author.

Finding Dorothy - I really liked this one - I am a big Oz fan, and while I'm pretty sure it's all entirely made up, it really just made me want to re-read Oz and re-watch the movie.

One of Us is Lying - A recommendation of a young friend, I really enjoyed this twisty Breakfast Club-inspired story. I'm less certain I need to read the sequel, but we'll see.

Mrs. Everything - Do we change for the world or does the world change us? I don't have a sister, and I find that I often gravitate toward sister stories - maybe I'm wondering what it's really like. I really enjoyed the exploration of female relationships and roles....

Allegedly - A recommendation of a former Confirmation student, WOW. This one kept me up late and I am still not sure how I feel about that ending...a dark, emotional, and pretty disturbing novel that really kept me on the edge of my seat!

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know - I really like this sort of popular writing about science-y ideas, I think Malcolm Gladwell writes interesting and thought-provoking stuff. I'm still wondering how to apply some of these ideas.

American Royals - After those previous books, I wanted something light and fluffy and I loved this one. It was so fun to imagine a different USA and to imagine royal life. (PS if you like this one, make sure you also read Red, White, and Royal Blue) I can't wait for the sequel!

The Forgotten Room - As I was reading this one, I kept saying, "I know how it will end" and then claiming that I wanted to see if I was right. I was only partially right, so I think I enjoyed the whole thing!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo - A hard look at the trek of one Syrian family as they leave war-torn Aleppo to seek asylum in the UK. Powerful and hard to read, it felt like a realistic portrayal of the horrible stories that cause people to set off into the unknown, hoping it is better than whatever they are leaving behind.

Tell Me Three Things - Yael is reading this one so I thought I'd jump on her bandwagon. It was a sweet story about a girl working through grief, which is always interesting to me. I'm fascinated by the number of YA novels that have anonymous texts/emails in them....what's that about?

What are you reading?
Follow me on Goodreads

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books Read in 2019 #MyYearInBooks

So....about this time last year, I received a challenge from an unexpected source. A now-fifth grader, who really likes to read, announced that she was going to out-read me in 2019. (Her family are our dear friends, so this seemed like a pretty normal thing. Oh, and her parents are also rabbis...we do hang out in packs.)

Challenge accepted. After all, I can read 80 books in a year. I can beat a fifth grader, right?

It has actually turned out to be harder than you think! My young friend was very determined (and she might have a little more time on her hands than I do). A few weeks ago, we were neck-and-neck at 80ish books. I've been texting with her mom, and I'm excited to see her list for this year. It's been a lot of fun knowing that I was in competition with someone else, considering that I mostly just read for the fun of it! Also, I've been trying to decide how badly I want to win....Last night, we had a FaceTime call in which I conceded....and she continues to read on, hoping to hit her goal of 100 books (when we spoke, she was at 96). Since I have only hit 100 one year, I am totally impressed.

Winter Break was a great time to ignore everyone read all the books...but I didn't beat my young friend. I'm sure you're wondering what was on her list, and since she handwrote it, it will take us a little longer to share it. But hopefully it's coming!

Okay, so onto MY book list. I've had a great time with the reading thing this year, and perhaps inspired by my fifth grade friend, I read a lot of wonderful young adult and middle-grade fiction. There's some great stuff out there. I'm particularly intrigued by the diversity of relationships portrayed in these novels, and the gravity of the issues in these "kid" books.
  1. Dear Evan Hansen by Emmich, Val  
  2. The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker by Woods, Matilda  
  3. Small Spaces (Small Spaces, #1) by Arden, Katherine  
  4. I Have Lost My Way by Forman, Gayle  
  5. The Alice Network by Quinn, Kate  
  6. Girl Made of Stars by Blake, Ashley Herring  
  7. The Button War by Avi
  8. Refugee by Gratz, Alan
  9. There There by Orange, Tommy  
  10. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Auxier, Jonathan  
  11. All Three Stooges by Perl, Erica
  12. We Were the Lucky Ones by Hunter, Georgia  
  13. The Lost Girls of Paris by Jenoff, Pam  
  14. The Library Book by Orlean, Susan  
  15. Red, White, Blue by Carpenter, Lea
  16. The Girl They Left Behind by Veletzos, Roxanne  
  17. The Heart's Invisible Furies by Boyne, John
  18. Before We Were Yours by Wingate, Lisa  
  19. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth by Krimstein, Ken  
  20. Two By Two by Sparks, Nicholas  
  21. Night of Miracles (Mason, #2) by Berg, Elizabeth
  22. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by Grann, David
  23. The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs, #15) by Winspear, Jacqueline  
  24. Marilla of Green Gables by McCoy, Sarah  
  25. All American Boys by Reynolds, Jason
  26. The Huntress by Quinn, Kate  
  27. The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) by Albert, Melissa  
  28. What the Wind Knows by Harmon, Amy  
  29. The War I Finally Won by Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker  
  30. The Bookshop by Fitzgerald, Penelope
  31. The Latte Factor: Why You Don't Have to Be Rich to Live Rich by Bach, David
  32. Lost For Words by Butland, Stephanie  
  33. The Scent Keeper by Bauermeister, Erica  
  34. Wishtree by Applegate, Katherine
  35. Not Our Kind by Zeldis, Kitty
  36. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Shapiro, Dani  
  37. The Farm by Ramos, Joanne  
  38. Red, White & Royal Blue by McQuiston, Casey  
  39. The Peacock Emporium by Moyes, Jojo  
  40. Holy Lands by Sthers, Amanda
  41. Antisemitism: Here and Now by Lipstadt, Deborah E.
  42. Love & Gelato by Welch, Jenna Evans
  43. The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Hillman, Robert
  44. The Waiting Room by Kaminsky, Leah  
  45. Jerusalem Maiden by Carner, Talia  
  46. The New Girl (Gabriel Allon #19) by Silva, Daniel
  47. The Tobacconist by Seethaler, Robert
  48. The Guest Book by Blake, Sarah  
  49. Five Feet Apart by Lippincott, Rachael  
  50. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Holmes, Linda  
  51. Ask Again, Yes by Keane, Mary Beth  
  52. The Girl He Used to Know by Garvis-Graves, Tracey  
  53. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Morris, Heather  
  54. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Grames, Juliet  
  55. The Testaments by Atwood, Margaret  
  56. The Third Daughter by Carner, Talia
  57. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Evans, Rachel Held
  58. Scythe by Shusterman, Neal  
  59. Graveyard Shakes by Terry, Laura  
  60. Everything is Figureoutable by Forleo, Marie  
  61. Resistance Women by Chiaverini, Jennifer  
  62. Viva, Rose! by Krawitz, Susan  
  63. Kindred by Butler, Octavia E.
  64. The Truth About Leaving by Blitt, Natalie  
  65. Red at the Bone by Woodson, Jacqueline  
  66. The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1) by Hoang, Helen  
  67. The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Hoang, Helen  
  68. One Day in December by Silver, Josie  
  69. The Deserter by DeMille, Nelson  
  70. The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl by Gad, Marra B.
  71. I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Jones, Kimberly
  72. White Bird by Palacio, R.J.
  73. How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.  
  74. The Gifted School by Holsinger, Bruce  
  75. Pet by Emezi, Akwaeke  
  76. The Downstairs Girl by Lee, Stacey  
  77. The Dutch House by Patchett, Ann
  78. The World That We Knew by Hoffman, Alice  
  79. Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Albom, Mitch  
  80. The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Robson, Jennifer  
  81. The Starless Sea by Morgenstern, Erin  
  82. Someday We Will Fly by DeWoskin, Rachel
  83. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2) by Shusterman, Neal  
  84. The Toll (Arc of a Scythe, #3) by Shusterman, Neal  
  85. Foolish Hearts by Mills, Emma
  86. This Adventure Ends by Mills, Emma
  87. Dry by Shusterman, Neal
  88. On the Come Up by Thomas, Angie  
  89. Things You Save in a Fire by Center, Katherine
  90. The Giver of Stars by Moyes, JoJo
  91. White Rose by Wilson, Kip
It's always so hard for me to choose favorites but a few that I would recommend....

Fiction recommendations:
The Heart's Invisible Furies
The Farm
The Gifted School
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding
Evvie Drake Starts Over
Red, White, and Royal Blue

YA/Middle Grade Recommendations:
The Scythe Trilogy
On the Come Up (same author as The Hate U Give)
All Three Stooges
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Dry (but it might freak you out and also make you very thirsty)

Non-fiction/memoir recommendations:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Antisemitism: Here and Now
The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl
How to Be an Antiracist
The Latte Factor: Why You Don't Have to Be Rich to Live Rich (totally biased on this one - it's by my cousin David!)

I've tried to diversify my authors/topics this year, and I'm open to suggestions! I have a natural bias toward books with a Jewish theme, obviously, but I really like opening my mind to new ideas, new stories, new cultural worlds. 

I'm looking forward to starting new lists for 2020...I keep track of my books on Goodreads - follow me there. What do you think I should read in 2020? What are you going to read? What was the best book you read in 2019?

Previous years' book lists are here (can you believe I've been doing this book-post thing for this long?)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

#blogelul #elulgram 4: choose

or so we are told.

Take what you have
and make

what you can.
what you

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at and on Instagram @imabima. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.