Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Holidays’

Casting Our Sins In To The e-Wilderness

August 29, 2013

This article was first published in Haaretz.


SAN FRANCISCO – If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice a goat wandering around the Internet.

This being the Jewish season of repentance, it isn’t just any goat. It’s an electronic scapegoat onto which computer and smart phone users are unloading their sins in a virtual reenactment of the ancient Yom Kippur ritual described in Chapter 16 of Leviticus.

“I’m too often grateful to get to work and away from my spouse and kid,” confesses one person. “I sexted my ex,” admits someone else. Another individual divulges that they “once ate bacon before the rabbi came over.” One parent apparently only “go[es] cycling with my kids just to get a tan.”

While we may be reluctant to own up to our misdoings, it seems that eScapegoat, a new web app from G-dcast, a fast-growing San Francisco-based Jewish educational media production company, is helping some of us overcome our sheepishness. G-dcast makes self-reflection easy. If you can tweet, then you can atone.

All you need to do is go to and read short texts on the biblical scapegoat story and how it relates to today’s observance of Yom Kippur. Then you enter your maximum 120 character-long confession and post it anonymously. You just type and click your way through the initial stage of atonement. “It’s just like the bible, only nerdier,” the on-screen text tells us.

There is, however, one major difference between then and now. In biblical times, the sins cast onto the scapegoat only went as far as the animal made it in the desert before dying. With this cyberspace-dwelling cartoon goat, our sins could live on forever, having been broadcast out to the world through eScapegoat’s (lightly moderated)@SinfulGoat Twitter feed.

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@ 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Menorah + Thanksgiving = Menurkey

August 24, 2013

This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.

Manhattan fourth-grader Asher Weintraub alongside his Menurkey prototype. (Kickstarter screenshot)

Manhattan fourth-grader Asher Weintraub alongside his Menurkey prototype. (Kickstarter screenshot)

The hot holiday trend this winter? Our Hanukkah gelt’s on the Menurkey.

If you’re not familiar with the Menurkey, don’t worry: no one was until a 9-year-old Manhattan boy recently invented it (and trademarked it, too).

With Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapping for the first time ever this year, Asher Weintraub wasn’t going to let the occasion pass without comment. To commemorate the concurrence, the creative, entrepreneurial fourth-grader designed a special ceremonial object — a menorah shaped like a turkey — that American Jews can use to celebrate.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s A Gay, Jewish ‘Superhero’

February 5, 2013

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

The Purim Superhero

Nate doesn’t know what type of costume to choose for Purim. His friends are all dressing up as superheroes, but Nate loves aliens and wants to go as one to the Megillah reading and holiday carnival. Like most young children, he decides to discuss his dilemma with his parents. But unlike most kids, Nate doesn’t bring the problem to his mother and father. Instead, he talks it over with his Daddy and Abba.

Nate is the protagonist of “The Purim Superhero,” the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book written in English. The little boy, his sister and their two dads represent many American Jewish families who — until now — have not seen themselves reflected in the picture books their children read in Hebrew school or bring home from the Jewish community library.

Kar-Ben Publishing, a Minneapolis-based distributor of Jewish content for kids between preschool and middle school, decided it was time to bring Nate and his gay fathers into Jewish homes and educational settings.

“We had been interested for a long time in this subject. We’d done focus groups with parents and educators, and most were interested in seeing a book like this,” said Joni Sussman, Kar-Ben‘s publisher.

“What we wanted was a story with a gay family setting, but not specifically about being a gay family. We were looking for something non-didactic about the gay issue,” Sussman explained. “What we loved about ‘The Purim Superhero’ is that it is about a boy looking for his own identity and standing up for who he is. It’s really a story about Purim and Queen Esther.”

As a married lesbian with a 12-year-old daughter, the book’s author, Elisabeth Kushner, found being a same-sex family to be a non-issue.

“I wanted to write out of my own experience and that of other gay and lesbian families we know,” the 46-year-old told The Times of Israel by phone from her home in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s really not an issue for kids or for most people in larger cities. And for kids in LGBT families, their parents’ being gay is not necessarily the main issue in their lives, and I hadn’t seen any books reflecting this reality.”

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.