Monday, March 06, 2017

An Only-In-Israel Purim Emergency

As many of my friends know, we’ve had a unique opportunity this year to reconnect with a student of mine from Churchill High School. It just so happens that he’s a professional basketball player for Hapoel Jerusalem. Yeah, it’s been wild.

So, of course, as Purim started to roll around, my two little guys decided that they had to be Jerome Dyson. We went to the Hapoel website with plenty of time before Purim and ordered up two jerseys.
This is what the jersey looks like. But this one is mine - hands off little people!

And then the waiting began.

As the date for them to dress up approaches, they are getting more and more nervous that those jerseys just aren’t going to make it in time. We’ve had a few meltdowns about it already, but there isn’t much that I can do except to keep calling the Hapoel office and keep begging the post guy in Neve Daniel to miraculously find those jerseys.

We aren’t known for having the best post office on the planet, and when I go back each day (during the one hour that the post office is open) the guy keeps laughing. Still looking for those jerseys, huh? And I would laugh with him, if it weren’t getting to be a dire situation and if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that those jerseys are buried beneath the 12000 boxes of Better World Books and other packages that he has in that disorganized, tiny space.

So, today, with four days left before the grand meltdown, I called the Hapoel office and sent them an email. I got a quick reply to my email, with Uri explaining that they mailed the jerseys six days ago. He gave me the tracking number and he told me that they should definitely be in our post office.

I was impressed with his quick reply, and sure that the blame now sits squarely on the shoulder of our postman.

Then, this afternoon, I received a phone call.

“Romi? It’s Uri from Hapoel. Did you check your post office?”

“Well, Hi Uri!” I said, giggling just a bit in surprise that he had called. “I can’t check until tomorrow, because, well, you see, the post office was open from 7-8 this morning and then they aren’t open again until tomorrow night at 6. So I’ll be there tomorrow to check.”

“Are these jerseys for Purim,” he asked.

“Yes. Yes, they are Uri.”

“Ok,” he said, as he became a man with a plan. “When do they want to wear them?”

“So, the kids want to wear them to school on Friday.”

“Ok Romi. Here is the plan. When you check the post office tomorrow night, if they aren’t there, then you call me Wednesday morning. I’m going to get two more jerseys in the right sizes and I’ll have them waiting for you in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Can you get here for them?”

“Uri,” I said. “I’ll go just about anywhere if you’ve got those jerseys for me.”

We both had a good laugh about that and the lengths that we will go for Purim, and our kids.

“Ok Romi. Call me either way on Wednesday morning. We will make sure those kids have Hapoel jerseys. Ok? Ok!”

I hung up smiling from ear to ear. While this was great customer service, I knew that his call wasn’t about looking good or about customer service. It was about Purim and about the absolute joy, almost zeal, with which Israelis approach this holiday. And how precious they understand that it is to the children in our tiny country.

I’ll let you know how our “Only In Israel” story ends in a few days. But I'm guessing that it's going to end with a few happy little Jerome Dysons.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Why I Had a Book Party for My 1st Grade Son

We just had a little party for my first grade son. It wasn’t a birthday party or a welcome home party or any other type of party with which you might be familiar.

It was a book party.

I’m not sure where I first heard this idea, but I assume that I didn’t just come up with it myself. When each of my early-readers finished his first real book all by himself, we threw him a party. My youngest guy started reading this year and about a month ago he picked up a 50-60 page book and declared that he was going to get through it himself. We watched him meticulously sound out word after word, and we watched as the reading became smoother and more decipherable.

Then he finished the book.

And we were so excited for him. To convey our excitement, we invited six friends from his first grade class to his book party. They came to our house, just for an hour, and made bookmarks, had lunch, and played a game about books to celebrate with my son.

There is a tradition that many Jewish schools have kept for generations: to give honey to children on the first day that they are introduced to the Aleph-Bet, the Hebrew alphabet. My boys have all experienced this tradition and have dipped their spoons (or their fingers) into that honey, mingling the sweet taste with the sweet sound of their first letters. I’ve always loved this idea.

I want to cultivate this type of love for reading, this thirst for knowledge, and this understanding of the sweet taste of literacy in my children. It’s not always easy to convey a love for reading. I’ve tried to implement ideas like the book party to try to impart this love and this feeling of the celebration of literacy to my boys.

I did find it interesting that I was hesitant this time when I called the parents of the kids we were inviting. In the back of my mind was the worry that some would see competition in the invite. Oh, they might think looking down on my son’s progress, MY son has been reading for ages. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, they might think, Well, my son hasn’t read a full book yet. They are bragging about their son’s accomplishments. But I quickly disregarded this fear, reminding myself that parenting isn’t a competitive sport. My son is reaching this milestone now, in his own time and in his own way. And that’s cause for celebration.

This is just one of the many ways that I can convey to my children that reading, literacy, and the thirst for knowledge are so important. They are important enough that they get their own party—their own celebration. In the digital age, when we are so quickly losing our footing in the face of electronic temptations, we need all the reinforcement and celebration of education that we can get.

This article first appeared on Kveller.