Alumni YJ Alum Sparks Jewish Family Magic at Home
By Ariel Stein
I have always loved social media and blogs as a place of inspiration. Around the time my older daughter was born, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, looking for Jewish parenting and lifestyle ideas and I realized that I was hardly following any Jewish mom accounts on social media. Then I realized that there really weren’t many Jewish moms on social media putting out that kind of content and it inspired me to start sharing my own Jewish motherhood journey. It began with posts about my daily life with kids, Shabbat, and Jewish holiday celebrations. Now it’s been almost 5 years since I started my blog, and it has evolved into an amazing place where I have connected with thousands of people. It has been so nice to have this online space where we can share each other’s homes and family traditions to get inspiration and a sense of community, especially during the last year and a half.
Shortly after the pandemic began, my older daughter’s preschool closed and my husband began working from home. I found myself taking care of a 1-year-old and homeschooling a 3-year-old full-time from our modest 2-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, while my husband worked remotely out of our bedroom. This time forced me to get more creative with practicing Judaism at home. Without the regular programming of our local synagogues or typical family gatherings, I realized it was up to me to make the Jewish holidays and Shabbat feel meaningful for my family. Despite the fact that we had a virtual seder over Zoom for Passover 2020, I made sure to cook special recipes and teach my daughters about the holiday through fun crafts and activities. The same was true for the high holidays and Hanukkah later that year. For the first time in my adult life, the responsibility of making the Jewish holidays “happen” for my kids fell on me and not my parents or the greater community.
I was inspired to share my experiences of raising kids with a strong love for Jewish traditions more on social media and I got an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. And thus, Jewish Family Magic was born! It is an online platform that supports parents with resources to bring Judaism to life in their homes and a community where parents raising Jewish children can come connect and collaborate.
My experiences growing up in Young Judaea have influenced me as a person and in the way that I parent. I was a camper and staff member at Sprout Lake and Tel Yehudah for 7 years and was an active member of my local YJ club and region throughout high school. My time serving on my club, regional, and national Young Judaea mazkirut taught me invaluable leadership skills that I still use today. My experiences on Machon and Year Course also played a huge role in fostering my love of Israel. I majored in Judaic Studies as an undergraduate at The George Washington University, staffed a YJ Israel summer program in college and went on to earn my MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Later on, I served as the Director of Israel Programs at Northeastern University Hillel in Boston, MA for three years and got to work with hundreds of students to help strengthen their Jewish identities and their connection to Israel.
To this day, I still use the pillars I learned in Young Judaea to guide me in life – Jewish identity, Israel, pluralism, leadership and social action. One of Judaism’s principal beliefs is that all humans are created “B’tzelem Elohim” – in the image of God, and therefore of inherent dignity and value. Every person on this earth – regardless of race, gender, religion, orientation, age, or anything else – contains Godliness within them. Now more than ever, I am thinking about what actions I can take to uphold the value of B’tzelem Elohim and being an example and teacher to my daughters. I’m committed to practicing empathy, compassion, and set a personal example for my children everyday. The Jewish value of “Tikun Olam” is the idea that the world is broken and it’s up to each of us to repair it. Our world is hurting and my prayer is that we all continue to do our part to heal it together.
“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” -Pirkei Avot 2:21
The pillar of social justice is always at the top of my mind and heart. At times, I have felt overwhelmed with the amount of work I still need to do personally and how far we still have to go as a global community. But I’m reminded from my upbringing in Young Judaea that big, systemic change doesn’t happen overnight and we can all make small changes in our own lives everyday.
Today as a mother, online content creator and Jewish activist, I often think about my time in YJ in the work I do. I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I learned and skills I developed in YJ, which still impact me today. I hope to raise my daughters with a love of Israel, Jewish values, and to be proud of their Jewish identities and to inspire other Jewish millennials to do the same.
Named one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 Jewish change makers in 2021, Ariel Stein is the founder of Jewish Family Magic, an online platform designed to make Jewish living fun and accessible for the whole family. Ariel is the founder of the motherhood blog ‘Ariel Loves,’ where she shares Jewish living inspiration. Ariel is a former Camp Sprout Lake (2001-2003) and Tel Yehudah (2002-2004) camper and attended Machon (2005) and Year Course (2006-2007). She served on the Tel Yehudah Board of Directors from 2012-2016. Keep up with Ariel on instagram @Ariel.Loves, @JewishFamilyMagic, and visit JewishFamilyMagic.com.