Black Ice

I don my trusty backpack for my early morning walk to the supermarket, stocking up for Shabbos cooking and tonight’s dinner before the sun even rises. This is how I start my day, while my husband is davening in morning minyan, while my teenage children catch the last moments of slumber. The calendar says that it is winter, but we’ve hardly had any snow except for that weird storm in October no one expected. Still, it is bitter cold this morning, and I walk slowly, navigating the icy, slippery sidewalks of Highland Park, NJ.

The weatherman warns of black ice, the hidden danger of a pavement that looks dry and safe, but it is really an ice skating rink in disguise. My morning walk is not enjoyable, nor at any pace one could consider it exercise. Having endured two serious sprained ankles and four different foot surgeries in my adult life, I am not eager to take an ill-fated step on black ice and find myself looking up at the sky. I find myself planting each step with care, never looking up from the ground, and for the entire walk, I keep thinking about black ice.

Black ice. Danger that looks harmless. Danger that can catch you by surprise in a moment’s notice, rendering you injured, or at least embarrassed, before you even have a chance to intelligently respond. Black ice, an oxymoron of sorts, as ice is supposed to be clear, crystal, colorless, yet this is not. Black ice, a winter nemesis.

Black ice. My teenage daughter who is learning how to drive is ready to take on the highways, the famous New Jersey mergers, even, be still my heart, drive one of my other children some place they need to go. She’s a good driver. It looks safe. Black ice. Be careful.

Black ice. My other teenage daughter wants to take the bus to Brooklyn to shop. She’s old enough, she says, to travel with her teenage friends into the city, to enjoy shopping with Mommy’s credit card, and without Mommy. It’s time, she says. It would be soooo much fun. She can handle it. But can I? Black ice. Who will be on that bus, in the city, how can I trust?

Black ice. My husband of eighteen years and I are two very busy professionals, and working day and night to care for children and household. We joke that we’ve probably been on five dates in the past five or even ten years. It’s not something we do, and as the children get old enough that we can see their imminent departure from the house, I can’t help but worry. Our marriage is solid, committed; we are kind to one another, always on one another’s team. We need to find our way back to each other again, to set aside the responsibilities that overwhelm us, and to reconnect. Black ice. I don’t want to be one of those women who marries off the last child, looks at her beloved husband, and doesn’t know him anymore.

Black ice. Two close relatives have entered cancer treatment in the last two months. You wouldn’t know it from looking at them. They visit the outpatient clinic every day for their daily radiation treatments. The doctors tell them their prognosis is good for a complete refuah. The radiation should do its job to shrink the tumors, and B’ezras Hashem, they will grow older with no return of the cancer. Except for the daily outing to the cancer treatment center, one wouldn’t even know that inside of their body, a battle rages on. It all looks so normal. Two old people still enjoying their life, and looking forward to the next simcha. Black ice. When will they fall? When will Hashem decide to take them, to allow the tumors to take control, to end a life still very much being lived?

Black ice. The secular family now consists of several secular teenagers. When we get together – infrequently, but it does happen – my teenage daughter is intrigued by the conversations she has with her secular cousins who have boyfriends, and a social life nothing like she’s ever experienced. How harmless are these conversations, as infrequent as they are?

Black ice. It looks like nothing, until in just a few seconds, you find yourself on your toucas, wondering what happened.

Originally posted on Jan 17, 2012

Azriela Jaffe is the author of 26 published books including, “What do you mean, you can’t eat in my home?” and “After the Diet, Delicious Kosher Recipes with less Fat, Calories and Carbs”, both of which are available directly from her at She is also a holocaust memoir writer, privately commissioned by families who wish to write up the life story of the survivor matriarch or patriarch of their family. Visit for more information about her work, and visit for more information about the worldwide movement she founded to bring more kavod into erev Shabbos.

My Uterus is None of Your Business

By Aliza Hausman

There is too much pressure on our women to get pregnant.

‘So, are you pregnant?” a friend asked, bouncing over to me enthusiastically.

I rolled my eyes and exhaled.

“What? What did I say?”

Motherhood is hard. And I don’t just mean raising the babies. I mean having them. I mean trying to have them. There is just so much pressure in the Jewish community to have children.

The first year we were married, people – men and women – would ask constantly whether or not I was trying to get pregnant or was already pregnant. And if the answer was “no” and “no”, people hummed around me with sympathy and wished me luck having a baby.

I have startled more than one Shabbat guest by telling them that my husband and I were putting off having children.

“But, of course, you want to have a baby!” the guests would insist.

No one bothered to ask why we were putting it off. And I worried that if I told them that it was because I was recovering from an illness, they would walk away thinking that it had been OK to bring up the subject.

When I ask other Jewish women if they feel pressured, it all pours out. They are under constant interrogation from the community. They talk about money trouble, finishing their master’s degrees (sometimes, bachelor’s degrees) or establishing their careers, and the constant fear that they won’t be able to manage if they have to juggle anything more.

And everywhere – at least in my Orthodox world – someone is lurking, ready to pounce and apply pressure.

The husbands live in a bubble. No one except for his father, Jacob, had asked my husband if we were trying to get pregnant. And my father-in-law didn’t really ask, he hollered: “Get pregnant already!”

So Yehuda was sure that only I was obsessed with the state of my reproductive system.

Without his sympathy, I began to seethe. It struck me as impolite that people would ask about such a personal subject.

And then I was blindsided by an angel of hope.

At another Shabbat meal, a married woman whispered conspiratorially in my ear that people would stop asking about my womb once my husband and I survived our first anniversary.

“They’ll think you’re having problems,” she whispered.

“Problems?” I murmured, mystified.

“Getting pregnant.”

And she was right.

After our first anniversary, the questions stopped abruptly – only to be replaced by questioning glances. If I gained a little weight or wore an unflattering dress, people would stare at my stomach and cock their heads to the side inquisitively.

With an exasperated shake of the head, I would mutter: “No. I’m not pregnant!”

Now and then, a sad look would overtake my interrogators and they would sigh sympathetically about how hard it was to “get pregnant”. Without any signals from me, people started to believe we were “having trouble”. And though I wasn’t, I was suddenly aware that I was surrounded by a world of women who were.

When my best friend Esther told me that someone asked if she had “a bun in the oven”, I cringed. My beautiful friend has had three consecutive miscarriages. She tells me that she hates the assumptions people make.

“After one year of marriage, you must be pregnant. But no one assumes that there are miscarriages. That there are those of us struggling to afford to eat, much less bring children in the world to struggle with us,” Esther said, her voice shaky with emotion.

I tell her that people associate pregnancy with happiness. She replies, “I associate pregnancy with fear. I am scared to death of it.” I tell her that I feel the same way.

I cannot think of pregnancy without imagining myself suffering from the chronic pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia and depression. I would be forced to forgo medications that ward off mental and physical agony as the baby’s needs would come before my own. But really – are my fears, my status, anybody’s business at the Shabbos table?

One out of four women miscarries, I learned, after another whisper told me that a woman in the community had delivered a stillborn baby. Behind closed doors, women began sharing stories about “trying for months” and falling into deep depressive episodes. I had never imagined that so many women could be suffering silently.

The horrific idea that any of them could be asked “Are you pregnant?” overwhelmed me. Somewhere along the line, asking someone who is married about impending pregnancy became no more socially incongruous than asking what someone does for a living (a subject now surely imperilled by the economy).

But it is not a safe subject. Not when more and more couples everywhere are struggling to conceive. Not when we realise that often questions born out of natural curiosity can be hurtful and even traumatic.

So I’m waving a “Private” sign around my uterus for myself and for anyone who is with me. It is time we made asking about pregnancy and talking about having children inappropriate for polite conversation. We should not make people share any more about the subject than they would feel comfortable doing. We should tiptoe around it like we would any other loaded topic.

I guess I’m saying that it’s time to start asking again about the weather.

Aliza Hausman is a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert living in New York and working on a memoir. She blogs at
Originally posted here.

A Touchy Subject

Sexuality is a very touchy subject within the religious world, and understandably so. As I’ve tried to explain to my teenagers, this drive, right after the basic need for food and water (and those needs are met for most people most of the time) sexuality is the strongest natural (aka animal oriented) desire that humans have.

Though this subject is very touchy and must be discussed with the utmost discretion and care, still the religious world does a good job of educating those less knowledgable about kosher relationships, the mitzvot related to close contact between men and women, the obligations of family purity (those mitzvot regarding use of the mikvah for women and appropriate times and boundries for a kosher marital relationship).

However, there is a touchy subject within this touchy subject that is rarely dealt with, sexuality for men, especially the single man. Given that this is a more appropriate topic for a private discussion, it’s going to be tricky to get across some important concepts and still maintain the absolute G rating of this forum. But, I’m going to give it my best as I feel this is critical information that is, unfortunately, rarely shared.
Read more A Touchy Subject

Who Destroys a Single Jewish Life…

Dr Marvin Schick wrote a very thoughtful article in this week’s Jewish Press and he was kind enough to allow us to publish it here.

The November 1999 issue of The Jewish Observer, Agudath Israel’s magazine, was devoted entirely to children at risk, the spreading phenomenon of youngsters from religious homes who stray from Judaism, at times by indulging in anti-social behavior, including drug abuse.

The discussion was meaningful and moving, touching on a subject that many of us sensed Read more Who Destroys a Single Jewish Life…

Jewish Impact Films

We’ve been conversing recently here about topics such as the Internet and Women’s Issues. So we thought we’d share this link to Jewish Impact Films, whose mission is to empower the next generation of young Jewish thinkers to use creative media, specifically short internet-based films, to effectively communicate new messaging about Judaism and Israel.

It looks like the Judaism they are communicating is Torah Observance and some of their material has been featured on Aish. The material on beauty stresses inner beauty over external appearance.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Understanding the Internet Ban

Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this site you’re probably not a proponent of the Internet Ban. You might be believe in cautious usage and place heavy restrictions on what your children do on the ‘Net, but a ban fan you’re not.

Let’s take a second and give the other side the benefit of the doubt. I know it’s hard, but I think it is consistent with Torah principals. Let’s assume that the people who think a ban makes sense are intelligent, well meaning people, who dedicate a great part of their lives to getting closer to Hashem and helping others do the same. If we can accept that, then we would probably could assume that there are probably some good Torah-true reasons that a ban makes sense.
Read more Understanding the Internet Ban