18 Non-Toxic Cleaning Products That Are Proven Effective and Healthy

Non-toxic cleaning products are healthier for our homes and our environment. Today most of us want to find products:

  • That are created using healthy ingredients for our bodies
  • That respect and do not harm our environment.
  • That are produced by green businesses

Unfortunately, most people do not buy non-toxic organic cleaning products because

  • they feel less important than healthy food (I doubt this is true)
  • the price point is too high

With non-toxic organic cleaning products, one strategy to save time and bring down the cost per unit is to buy at wholesale prices.

Here are 18 non-toxic organic home products that I sourced from Live Green, a new affordable organic wholesale online market that runs on a Costco membership model.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

Clothes: Non-toxic laundry liquids and clothes maintenance products

Biokleen Laundry Liquid

  • Special enzymes neutralize odors caused by perspiration
  • Extracts of Lavender and Eucalyptus.
  • No artificial fragrance or colors

Ecover 2x Laundry Detergent – Lavender Field

  • Works in cold water, which means you can use less energy for every load.
  • Made with plant-based ingredients; biodegradable formula is gentle on your skin and the environment.
  • 100% natural lavender fragrance

Ecover Delicate Wash

  • Ideal for fine fabrics, silks, and wool
  • Biodegradable, plant-based ingredients, formula that is safe for your skin, as well as the environment.

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover

  • Blend of live enzyme-producing cultures, citrus extracts and plant-based surfactants
  • Removes the toughest stains: pets, kids and everyday disasters.
  • CONTAINS NO chlorine, ammonia, butyl, glycol ether, SLS or SLES, DEA or EPA priority pollutants.

Grab Green Bleach Alternative – Fragrance Free

  • Eco-responsible pods: pre-measured concentrated pods are simple to use and worry free.
  • Laundry booster for brightening whites and removing stains.

Home: Non-toxic All Purpose Sponge

Scrub Sponge from TWIST

  • Effective for your kitchen, furniture, bath and outdoor purposes.
  • Dye-free, and also doesn’t use any plastics or toxic adhesives.

Home: Non-toxic All Purpose Cleaner

Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner

  • Environmentally safe home cleaner for our families and planet.
  • Good for any washable non-porous surface, including countertops, appliances, sinks, toilets, walls, baseboards, floors, tables, chairs, showers, and tubs.
  • For daily cleaning, spills and messes.

 

Dishes: Non-Toxic Dish Products

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid – Free And Clear

  • Dishwashing liquid with no dyes or synthetic fragrances.
  • Non-toxic, biodegradable liquid dish soap formula.
  • 100% recycled plastic bottle (excluding colorant).

Seventh Generation Auto Dish Packs – Free And Clear

  • Convenient Single-Use Packs.
  • Cleans without chlorine, phosphates or synthetic fragrances.

Kitchen: Cleaning Cloth and Trash Bags

E-cloth Kitchen Cleaning Cloth

  • Multi-purpose kitchen cleaning cloth.
  • Offers perfect, chemical-free cleaning for all hard kitchen surfaces using just water.
  • True Chemical Free Cleaning – Kitchen cloth fibers attract moisture and oil and trapping dirt/grease/grime and proven to remove over 99% of bacteria from hard surfaces with just water.
  • Guaranteed for 300 machine washings.

Kitchen Trash Bags

If You Care Tall Kitchen Trash Bags – Certified Compostable

  • Made from potato starch from non-GMO starch potatoes blended with a certified, fully compostable polymer.
  • No plasticizers are added.

 

Glass: Non-toxic Glass Cleaner

Better Life See Clearly Glass Cleaner

  • Free of harmful solvents and Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • makes a clean, streak-free shine on any glass surface.
  • Safe for you, your family, and the planet.

Bathroom: Non-Toxic Bathroom Products

Better Life Cleaner – Tub & Tile

  • Naturally powered by plant surfactants, organic citrus acids and essential oils.
  • Dissolves soap scum, hard water stains and mineral deposits. Removes mold, mildew stains & rust.
  • Non Toxic and safe – FREE OF: bleaches, ammonia, petro-chemical solvents, sulfates (SLS/SLES), phosphates, synthetic fragrances, dyes.

Ecover Toilet-Bowl Cleaner- Mild Pine Scent

  • Angled spout makes it easy to use.
  • Removes tough stains, decalcifies and freshens.
  • Quick and complete biodegradability minimum impact on aquatic life.
  • Not tested on animals.
  • Safe for septic tank.

Candles: Non-toxic Scent

Mrs. Meyer’s Soy Candle – Lavender

  • Jar is reusable.
  • 35 hours burn time.
  • Made with essential oils and plant-derived ingredients.
  • Free of animal-derived ingredients and not tested on animals.

 

Produce Wash

Biokleen Produce Wash

  • Safely removes chemical sprays, waxes and soils leaving no residue or taste behind.
  • No negative effects on rivers, streams, plants or wildlife.
  • No artificial fragrances, colors, or preservatives.

 

Hands: Soap and Cream

Kiss My Face Bar Soap Pure Olive Oil Fragrance Free

  • Perfect kitchen soap to wash hands before meals.
  • Leaves skin clean and soft.
  • Vegan, meaning it doesn’t contain rendered animal fat.

Weleda Hand Creme – Evening Primrose Age Revitalizing

  • Perfect to use after cooking, washing dishes or kitchen cleaning.
  • 91% organic, vegan and gluten-free.
  • Light, floral fragrance inspired by evening primrose flowers.
  • Created with sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil and olive oil, shea butter and wheat germ oil.

 

I am in hopes that this resource supports your best intentions to create a non-toxic home.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.  

When you click on the special offer, you will be directed to the Live Green Friends of Jewish Food Hero page.  Place your email in the white box that says “email address” and start saving on non-toxic organic products.

Your turn:  Name 1 non-toxic household cleaning product you would add to this list.

7 Of the Most Hydrating Teas For Your Health

Drinking tea is delicious and a healthy habit.   After having morning coffee, I switch to tea and enjoy 1-3 cups during  the day.

There are 4 types of tea:

  • black,
  • green,
  • white,
  • oolong.   

Tea-ish:

Herbal tea is not technically tea, it is a mixture of plants and herbs.

There are lots of proven health benefits from drinking tea and I focus on two of them.

Hydration:  Drinking tea throughout the day is another way to ensure that we drink enough during the day.   

Emotionally Calming:  In addition to hydration, making and drinking tea (hot and cold) is satisfying and emotionally calming.

Here are 7 organic non-toxic organic teas  that I sourced from Live Green, a new affordable organic wholesale online market that runs on a Costco membership model.  

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

When you click on the special offer, you will be directed to the Live Green Friends of Jewish Food Hero page.  Place your email in the white box that says “email address” and start saving on non-toxic organic products. 

Claim Your Special Offer Here

 

Numi Green Rooibos Sweet Healing South African Herbs

  • Premium Organic Teas and Herbs Real Fruits, Flowers and Spices
  • No “Natural” Flavors or Fragrances
  • light, woody taste is accented by sweet Honeybush.
  • Caffeine-Free

Traditional Medicinals Organic Herbal Tea – Nighty Night Valerian

  • Non-GMO verified; All Ingredients Certified Organic; Kosher
  • Herbal Supplement. The highest quality, pharmacopoeial grade herbs
  • Taste: Mildly bittersweet and minty, earthy and pleasant

Love Organic Rose Chamomile And Lavender Tea by Pukka Herbal Teas

  • Rose and lavender warm; Elderflower and chamomile relax and soothe
  • USDA Organic
  • Caffeine Free
  • Kosher-Parve
  • Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Yeast Free, Wheat Free, Vegan

Cleanse Herbal Tea by Pukka Herbal Teas

  • FairWild nettle leaf, dandelion root and fennel seed, cooled with peppermint and aloe vera
  • USDA Organic
  • Caffeine Free
  • Kosher-Parve
  • Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Yeast Free, Wheat Free, Vegan

 

Organic Weightless Cranberry Herbal Tea by Traditional Medicinals

  • Pleasantly tart, with a mild sweetness
  • Non-GMO verified
  • All Ingredients Certified Organic; 46% Fair Trade Certified ingredients
  • Kosher
  • Herbal Supplement. The highest quality, pharmacopoeial grade herbs

Raspberry Ginger Digestive Vitality by Yogi Tea

  • 95% organic
  • Tea blend: Ginger, anise, spearmint and Assam and Pu-erh Black Tea Leaves.
  • Real Raspberry and Hibiscus add sweet tarte taste
  • Afternoon tea

 

Oolong Tea by Prince of Peace

  • semi-fermented, combining the best qualities of black and green teas
  • 100% organic
  • Oolong Tea is completely hand pick,
  • delightly aromatic with a mild flavor and bright golden color.
  • Antioxidant rich

 

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

When you click on the special offer, you will be directed to the Live Green Friends of Jewish Food Hero page.  Place your email in the white box that says “email address” and start saving on non-toxic organic products. 

Claim Your Special Offer Here

From the Jewish Food Hero Kitchen: Creamy Vegan Potato Salad (Mayo and Oil Free)

Potato salad can be a perfect side dish and it can also be a disaster!  Potato salad that is filled with mayo and mayonnaise tastes too rich and feels like heavy mess in our gut.  

I wanted a healthy and delicious version so I’ve adapted a traditional potato recipe recipe with healthy ingredients that are all plant based.

This vegan version kosher pareve and is also mayo and oil free!  I use tahini and mustard in the dressing to create the perfect tangy and creamy dressing.  After you try this creamy dressing, mayo and oil will become distant memories in your food history.  

This salad tastes delicious and is loved by children and adults alike.  It is a perfect side salad to add to your table.

From the Jewish Food Hero Kitchen: Creamy Vegan Potato Salad (Mayo and Oil Free)
From the Jewish Food Hero Kitchen: Creamy Vegan Potato Salad (Mayo and Oil Free)
Jewish Food Hero
Rate this recipe
Average: 0/5

  • Salad:
  • 6 medium potatoes (or 1-2 per person)
  • 1-2 shallot, to taste
  • ½ cup of green onion tops, sliced thin
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp rice milk
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove (or more)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp natural sugar (optional)

  1. Prep:
  2. Peel the potatoes
  3. Put the potatoes in a large pot of salted water
  4. Bring the water to a boil and cook for around 10 min and then turn down to a simmer and cook until almost done. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes as not many people like mushy potato salad
  5. Remove the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet to cool for 30 minutes. When you add the dressing, the potatoes should be warm rather than hot. Adding dressing to warm potatoes allows the dressing to absorb better.
  6. Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in blender and blending until smooth - if you want a lot of dressing, make a double batch.
  7. Slice the shallot, celery and green onion tops and set aside
  8. Cut the potatoes into a small-medium diced size and place into large salad bowl
  9. Add the shallot and green onion tops to the salad bowl
  10. Pour dressing over potatoes and gently combine (read do not mush!)
  11. This can be eaten cold or at room temperature
  12. If chilling, place in refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour
  13. Before serving garnish with sliced green onion tops

If you like this recipe, you’ll love The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Simple Plant Based Recipes For Your Holiday Meals

18 Non-Toxic Organic Cleaning Products That Are Proven Effective and Healthy

Non-toxic cleaning products are healthier for our homes and our environment.  Today most of us want to find products:

  • That are created using healthy ingredients for our bodies,
  • That respect and do not harm our environment,
  • That are produced by green businesses.

Unfortunately, most people do not buy non-toxic organic cleaning products because:

  • they feel less important than healthy food (I doubt this is true),
  • The price point is too high.

With non-toxic organic cleaning products, one strategy to save time and bring down the cost per unit is to buy at wholesale prices.

Here are 18 non-toxic organic home products that I sourced from Live Green, a new affordable organic wholesale online market that runs on a Costco membership model.  

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

Claim Your Special Offer Here

Biokleen Laundry Liquid

  • Special Enzymes Neutralize Odors Caused by Perspiration
  • Extracts of Lavender and Eucalyptus.
  • No Artificial Fragrance or Colors

Ecover 2x Laundry Detergent – Lavender Field

  • Works in cold water, which means you can use less energy for every load.
  • Made with plant based ingredients; biodegradable formula is gentle on your skin and the environment.
  • 100% natural lavender fragrance

Ecover Delicate Wash

  • Ideal for fine fabrics, silks, and wool
  • Biodegradable, plant-based ingredients formula that safe for your skin, as well as the environment.

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover

  • Blend of live enzyme-producing cultures, citrus extracts and plant-based surfactants
  • Remove the toughest stains:  pets, kids and everyday disasters,
  • CONTAINS NO  Chlorine, ammonia, butyl, glycol ether, SLS or SLES, DEA or EPA priority pollutants.

Grab Green Bleach Alternative – Fragrance Free

  • Eco responsible pods: premeasured concentrated pods are simple to use and worry free.
  • Laundry booster for brightening whites and removing stains,

Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner

  • Environmentally safe home cleaner for our families and planet.
  • Good for any washable non-porous surface, including countertops, appliances, sinks, toilets, walls, baseboards, floors, tables, chairs, showers, and tubs.
  • For daily cleaning, spills and messes

Scrub Sponge from TWIST

  • Effective for your kitchen, furniture, bath and outdoor purposes.
  • Dye-free, and also doesn’t use any plastics or toxic adhesives.

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid – Free And Clear

  • Dishwashing liquid with no dyes or synthetic fragrances.
  • Non-toxic, biodegradable liquid dish soap formula.
  • 100% recycled plastic bottle (excluding colorant)

Seventh Generation Auto Dish Packs – Free And Clear

  • Convenient Single-Use Packs.
  • Cleans without chlorine, phosphates or synthetic fragrances.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

Claim Your Special Offer Here

E-cloth Kitchen Cleaning Cloth

  • Multi-purpose kitchen cleaning cloth
  • Offers perfect, chemical-free cleaning for all hard kitchen surfaces using just water.
  • True Chemical Free Cleaning – Kitchen cloth fibers attract moisture and oil and trapping dirt/grease/grime and proven to remove over 99% of bacteria from hard surfaces with just water.
  • Guaranteed for 300 machine washings.

If You Care Tall Kitchen Trash Bags – Certified Compostable

  • Made from potato starch from non GMO starch potatoes blended with a certified, fully compostable polymer.
  • No plasticizers are added.

Better Life See Clearly Glass Cleaner

  • Free of harmful solvents and Volatile Organic Compounds
  • makes a clean, streak-free shine on any glass surface.
  • Safe for you, your family, and the planet.

Better Life Cleaner – Tub & Tile

  • Naturally powered by plant surfactants, organic citrus acids and essential oils.
  • Dissolves soap scum, hard water stains and mineral deposits. Removes mold, mildew stains & rust.
  • Non Toxic and safe – FREE OF: bleaches, ammonia, petro-chemical solvents, sulfates (SLS/SLES), phosphates, synthetic fragrances, dyes

Ecover Toilet-Bowl Cleaner- Mild Pine Scent

  • Angled Spout Makes It Easy
  • Removes Tough Stains, Decalcifies And Freshens
  • Quick And Complete Biodegradability Minimum Impact On Aquatic Life Not Tested On Animals Safe For Septic Tank

Mrs. Meyer’s Soy Candle – Lavender

  • Jar is reusable
  • 35 hours burn time
  • Made with essential oils and plant-derived ingredients
  • Free of animal-derived ingredients and not tested on animals

Biokleen Produce Wash

  • Safely Removes Chemical Sprays, Waxes And Soils Leaving No Residue or Taste Behind
  • No Negative Effects on Rivers, Streams, Plants or Wildlife
  • No Artificial Fragrances, Colors, or Preservatives

Kiss My Face Bar Soap Pure Olive Oil Fragrance Free

  • Perfect kitchen soap to wash hands before meals
  • Leaves skin clean and soft
  • Vegan, meaning it doesn’t contain rendered animal fat

Weleda Hand Creme – Evening Primrose Age Revitalizing

  • Perfect to use after cooking, washing dishes or kitchen cleaning.
  • 91% organic, vegan and gluten-free.
  • Light, floral fragrance inspired by evening primrose flowers
  • Created with sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil and olive oil, shea butter and wheat germ oil

I am in hopes that this resource supports your best intentions to create a non-toxic home.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

Claim Your Special Offer Here

 

28 Yiddish Phrases About Children That Will Make You Raise Your Eyebrows, Especially The One That Is An Insult.

Yiddish is a truthful language and it captures the depth of emotional experience.

Earlier, I wrote about common Yiddish words that every woman should memorize. Here are 22 Yiddish phrases about children that I found here. I made the phrases into beautiful Pinterest pins to help us put more Yiddish phrases onto Pinterest. Enjoy and pin away!

 

 

Your turn: Which phrase resonates with you the most and why?

6 Simple Whole Foods Your Child Can Learn To Love

As parents, we influence what our child eats and how they feel about food. Food culture deeply impacts how we feed our children.

There are many problems with the modern diet today, including that we eat:

  • Too much added sugars
  • Too much salt
  • Too many refined grains products
  • Too much fat and oil
  • To0 much overly processed foods,
  • Too many animal foods (meat, fish and dairy)

Sadly, the impact of this diet on children is heartbreaking. Eating this way puts children at risk for obesity and this has long-term effects on their physical, social, and emotional health. The social forces encouraging parents and children to eat an unhealthy diet are enormous.

Healthy food and childhood can feel hopeless and like a losing battle:

It is possible for us to give our children healthy food everyday and here is how.

We can start do something that is simple and easy; give them more minimally processed foods every day. Minimally processed refers to food that is as close as possible to how it appears in nature. Foods that are minimally processed maintain their nutritional value and do not have additional harmful ingredients.

6 Simple Foods Your Child Can Learn To Love

Fruits: apples, banana, oranges, mangoes, berries, grapes, pears and cherries, etc. There are tons of fruit products out there: fruit leather, fruit at the bottom of yogurt, fruit juices, fruit smoothies, popsicles, fruit cups, etc. None of these processed fruit products are as good for our children as whole raw fruit. Whole fruit is filed with fiber and vitamins. Read here why fiber is so important for us.

Vegetables: cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, lettuces, cabbage, kale, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers. Vegetables are a must in any diet and especially for children. Your child might not like all vegetables but they can learn to love a few. Vegetables are filled vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Starchy vegetables: beets, carrots, corn, green peas, parsnip, plantain, pumpkin, winter squash or butternut squash, cassava. Starchy vegetables are high quality carbohydrates that children normally love. They are filed with fiber and when eaten lead to feelings of satiation. If you are afraid of giving your child carbs then please read this: Carbs: The best ones and healthiest Way to Eat Them.

Intact whole grains: brown rice, kamut, barley,whole oats, quinoa, bulgur wheat, wild rice. Children cannot live on fruits and vegetables alone (here is why). Most children can enjoy whole grains and there are many benefits for including them on your child’s plate. Whole grains contain zero cholesterol and are low in fat and high in fiber. They are best eaten with vegetables and fruit. Here is a twice baked sweet potato tzimmes recipe that children love.

Tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams are naturally sweet and universally loved by children. Sadly children are given chips, french fries or tubers loaded with butter and cheese.

Enjoying tubers grilled, baked, boiled, mashed and as soup without butter and oil is the best way to serve them. Instead try serving baked tubers with with salsa or fat free salad dressing. Try this delicious coconut milk sweet potato soup.

Beans: soybeans, lentils, white beans, split peas, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, navy beans. Beans are filled with fiber and protein and are so versatile. You can buy organic beans in cans, make them from scratch using a instant pot or crockpot. Here are two bean recipes your child might love:

Oil free hummus

Yummy and Simple Red Lentil Soup

Minimally processed foods should make up most—if not all—of our child’s daily calories (and ours too). Adding more minimally processed foods to your child’s (and yours too) daily routine is simple. An added plus is that the more you serve these foods, the less room there will be for the less healthy foods.

Here are 17 more plant based recipes your child will love.

Your turn: Which of these healthy food does your child already love?

Jewish Storyteller Lifts Up The Voice Of Women And Engages The Spiritual Imagination

I first met Rabbi Sandy Sasso through her children’s books: In God’s Name and Noah’s Wife: The Story of Naamah. At that time (and still today) I was looking for books that would help me explore spirituality and G-d with our young daughter. Reading her books gave me the goosebumps because they were at once simple, beautiful and spiritual. Also, it feels so healing and vital to read midrash about the women from the Bible.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rabbi Sandy Sasso:

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is the Rabbi Emerita at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indiana and the Director of Religion, Spirituality and the Arts, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute.  She is the author of several nationally acclaimed children’s books including: God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset , In God’s Name, But God Remembered and Noah’s Wife; The Story of Na’amah,  

It’s with great honor (and excitement!) that I share this interview with her.

Tell us about yourself.

From the time I was a young teenager, I was deeply interested in Judaism. When I was 16 years old, I told my closest friends that I wanted to be a rabbi. It was 1963. Because of an incredible rabbinic mentor (Rabbi Bertram Korn) and a supportive family, what was simply an unlikely dream became a reality.  

In 1974, I was the first woman ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. After serving three years in a congregation in Manhattan, in 1977 my husband, Dennis, and I became spiritual leaders of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis. We were the first rabbinical couple in world Jewish history. After 36 years, in 2013, I retired from the congregation to pursue my interest in writing and the intersection of the arts and religion.

I created the Religion, Spirituality and Arts Initiative at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), which brings together artists from diverse artistic disciplines and religions for sustained study and reflection on a select biblical text. By studying with faculty in the fields of music, literature, visual art and religious interpretation, the participants find inspiration to create new work that is later shared in a community exhibition.

After retirement, I have devoted more time to the writing of children’s books and co-founded Women4Change Indiana, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization whose mission is to mobilize women to engage effectively in political and civic affairs to strengthen democracy and advocate for the leadership and dignity of all women in Indiana.

I regard myself as a storyteller, a gather of ancient narratives and a creator of new ones. Lifting up the voices of women, providing children a language for their spirituality and fashioning new midrash are part of my life’s work.  

How did you start writing children’s books?

When my son and daughter were young, I couldn’t find anything in children’s books about faith that I wanted to read to them. There was great children’s literature, but when it came to talking about God and faith, the stories were preachy, narrow and not very engaging. I began writing stories for children because I found that in most religious institutions God was missing, at least the kind of God I could believe in. I wanted to write books that engaged the spiritual imagination of children.

When my daughter was 5 years old, she came home from a Jewish day camp and showed me a picture she had drawn of a kind looking grandfather. I asked her to tell me more about her creation. She explained that all the campers had been asked to draw a picture of God. She looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I know God is not a man. But when I handed the counselors a blank piece of paper, they said that I had to draw something. A grandfather was all I could think of.”

At that moment, I knew that I wanted to write something about God that honored the rich imagination of children and help them see the divine in images that went beyond the graying grandfather.

I never thought what I wrote at the time would ever became a children’s book. It took six years and many rejections to finally find a publisher.

What are children’s main questions?  

Children have big questions! Why is life sometimes unfair? What happens when you die? What is real; what is true? They want to talk about loneliness, difference, and about God. Sometimes we dismiss these questions or try to avoid them. On the one hand, we do not think children are ready for that kind of discussion. On the other hand, we are not really sure what we believe, so we don’t know what to tell our children. The truth is that children aren’t as interested in the answers as they are in the conversation. They love mystery. They aren’t afraid of questions without answers; we are.

Is God an idea children can understand?

Children have a deep spiritual life. What children don’t have is the language to express it. People often think that they need to tell young people what to believe. But what is most important is to help them have a conversation about their own faith journey. That is what story does.

It is hard to use simple language to convey a complex and difficult topic. God is one of those topics. It is easy to hide behind philosophical and abstract language. But God is more than idea. God is an experience, a process at work in our lives, the hope and courage to do what we might not otherwise be able to accomplish. We should never underestimate the capacity of children to understand this.

One of my favorite philosophers, Martin Buber, wrote about the philosophy of dialogue. He spoke about the importance of relationships and connections, which he described in I and Thou. This book has had a powerful influence on me. I decided that I wanted to write a children’s book about I and Thou. I really wasn’t sure that it was possible. After God in Between was published, a Butler University professor told me ‘I read your book in class today’ I said, “You did!? Why?” and he said ‘It’s I and Thou, isn’t it?” You can have these big conversations with children. The question is the language you use. E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Webb reminded us “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.” It is a great responsibility and honor to try to do just that.

Are your books interfaith?

My books are meant for people of all faiths and those who profess no particular religious identity. There are many good books about specific religious traditions. I did not need to do that. I wanted stories that were open enough to speak to all children. To be able to engage children from different communities of faith has been an extraordinary experience. Children view the stories through their own lens. They help you see the story through their eyes of wonder.

Favorite woman from the Bible and what have you learned.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Miriam.  She teaches what it means to be a sustainer despite rejection from the very group you serve. During the long desert journey after the crossing of the sea, it was Miriam’s well that sustained the people through the wilderness. Even when she was shut out of the camp for complaining against Moses, her well continued to sustain the life of her people. She teaches us to find ways to keep our anger from destroying community.

As powerful as Miriam’s well, was her tambourine. The tambourine seems like a strange choice to carry with you when you are leaving Egypt and facing the prospect of raging sea and arid desert. The seemingly frivolous musical instrument did something that nothing else could have accomplished. It made the sound of hope. She teaches us never to underestimate the power of music, poetry and story. She had no map, but she knew what was needed at the moment.

Why is it important to give women in the Bible a voice?

When we only listen to the ways men have understood what is holy, we miss half the story, what it means to live in the fullness of the sacred. Biblical pilgrimages are always up some mountain, on a ladder, alone. It is so easy to slip with no one to catch your fall.

Allowing women to speak their stories, gives us a glimpse of other forms of sacred journeys. What would it mean to imagine what those missing voices might have said? What did the women hear at Sinai? Who was Noah’s wife, Lot’s wife? If we could hear their side of the narrative, we would learn more about ourselves and about God.

If all the voices in the Bible are male and the Bible is our sacred text, it says something about what  and who is of most value.

My work with reinterpreting biblical text about women also translates into building a contemporary community where women’s voices are heard.  

How has your relationship with God and spirituality changed over the course of writing these books?

The best way to answer this question is with a story. I was doing a workshop with a group of women. I read my book, In God’s Name, in which people name God from their experiences. Then I asked each person to choose a name for God. One woman said, “I would like to call God, an Old Warm Bathrobe.” I’ll admit that I thought that was a strange choice. But one year later that woman thanked me for the exercise. She said, “My mother died this past year, and I took her old warm bathrobe and wrapped it around me and felt the presence of God.”

Something similar happened with a young man who had just returned from the Iraq War. He called to tell me how he remembered how I had read that book to him when he was younger. Then he added, “I know my name for God now. I want to call God, a Trampoline. It was what enables me to bounce back after I have fallen down.”

God is not an idea that I need to understand but an experience I seek to name. I often tell the story of how my father used to carry me over the waves in the ocean when I was afraid of the water. His arms were like God’s arms that carry me over my fears until I am able to stand up again on my own. The question is no longer what is God or where is God but when is God.  

What about stories that make them so powerful?

Stories are the first language of religion. You cannot replicate the religious experience but you can tell its story. Story is then enacted in ritual and liturgy and later reflected upon in theology. The closest we come to the original experience is through story. Narrative is the way we make sense of our world, how we cement communal bonds. We learn facts, we remember stories.

Jerome Bruner, the noted educator, suggests that it is not just the content of stories that is important, but the very structure of narrative. It is how we frame our experiences. He reminds us of how Peter Pan pleads with Wendy to return to Never Never Land to teach the Lost Boys how to tell stories. “If they knew how to tell them, the Lost Boys might have been able to grow up.”

Franz Kafka said, ‘Books are the ax for the frozen sea with us.” Stories touch the deep places in our souls and open us up in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Did you envision the success of your books? Why do you think they resonate with so many?

I am continually grateful for and surprised by the large readership of my books. When I could not find a publisher for my first manuscript, God’s Paintbrush, I almost trashed the folder in which I stored it, but my husband encouraged me.

The time was ripe for spiritual books for children that did not give a sermon or presume to know everything about what you should believe. There were so many spiritual books for adults but few thought that children had the capacity to understand that kind of writing. I believed otherwise and took a chance. Telling stories to children, talking with them about the big questions has been a great gift that I continue to unwrap every time I have the privilege of telling a story.

Have you thought about writing about God for adults? Why? Why not?

I have written and edited for adults. My two adult books are Midrash-Reading the Bible with Question Marks and Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage (co-authored with Peninnah Schram).

The Midrash book includes theological reflection for adults. I have also authored a number of chapters in other anthologies and edited collections on the spirituality of children.

There are many wonderful books for adults about God. There are far fewer for children. I think I can make my greatest contribution in children’s literature. But children’s books are not for children only! They can help adults discover a new way of thinking about God!

What are your favorite books?

One of my favorite books is Dara Horn’s, The World to Come. It is a celebration of power of the imagination. It is an extraordinary piece of storytelling. I love the poetry of Alice Ostricker, especially the books: The Nakedness of the Fathers and For the Love of God- The Bible as an Open Book in the ways it transforms biblical tradition to gives women a voice. Judith Plaskow’s Standing at Sinai: Judaism From A Feminist Perspective has been foundational in forming a feminist theology.

Your turn:  Which part of Rabbi Sasso’s interview is the most meaningful to you?

A New Amazing Alternative to Amazon For Organic Products that Will Delight You

I am a Amazon Prime shopper and I often order organic products online. 

Lately, I have started to feel less than good about my amazon habit because it seems like I am contributing to a monopoly and to be honest it feels a little spooky how much artificial intelligence is following me around the Amazon shop.  

The other day, I was looking for some organic cleaning supplies (I love seventh Generation products) and I stumbled on this online wholesale organic market that runs on a Costco membership model.  

After doing my due diligence, I want to tell you about it.

The site is Called Live Green and here a screenshot of their homepage.

I became a member of Live Green and have been on their site loading up my shopping cart for when I come to the US this summer.  

Here is what I like about Live Green so far:

I also love that you can shop based on your dietary preferences in two ways.  First you can use the “standard” refine function and see food by dietary category like: organic, free trade, kosher, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc.  See screenshot.

Second you can search by brand (manufacturer) to find your favorite go-to organic products .  This is really useful when you want to find the specific product that you love and want to buy in bulk for your home.  

And get this, the Live Green donates money every time we shop to plant trees!  

All this to say that I found a positive way to find to buy wholesale organic products.   

I am in hopes that this resource supports your best intentions for health.

SPECIAL OFFER: Jewish Food Hero readers get a 14-day free-trial and exclusive discount off their first purchase.

When you click on the special offer, you will be directed to the Live Green Friends of Jewish Food Hero page.  Place your email in the white box that says “email address” and start saving on non-toxic organic products. 

Claim Your Special Offer Here

Your turn: In the comments, tell us what you think of Live Green!

 

Blessings For Children (+ Beautiful Printable Children’s Blessing)

 

It is a custom in many Jewish homes that parents bless their children on Friday night during the Shabbat ritual. Most use the “Children’s Blessing”* that is written in a Shabbat prayer book. Following the blessing, some parents whisper loving words into their child’s ear. This moment is one of the most heartfelt during the Shabbat ritual. Beyond Shabbat some parents recite this blessing to mark important moments in their child’s life.   

This blessing is an emotional experience for many of us. Here are 3 short emotional stories about the Children’s blessing that have impacted me.

During my early 20’s, I lived in Colorado and was invited to Shabbat by an orthodox family. This was the first time I saw Jewish parents bless their children and it was emotional for me to watch. It brought tears to my eyes and that crying taste into my mouth. Maybe it was reading the English translation of the blessing that felt like a earnest entreaty for the child’s wellbeing (in the largest sense of the word).

May G-d bless you and protect you.

May the light of G-d shine upon you, and may G-d be gracious to you.

May G-d’s presence be with you  and bless you with peace.

Maybe it was seeing the parents so physically close to their children. The parents touching their child’s head and then leaning in to whisper private words into their child’s ear. Maybe it was seeing the children accept this public act of love and connection without embarrassment.

When my daughter was around 5 years old, we hosted a Shabbat dinner at my parents house and invited my mother’s good friend who is in her late 60’s. When she saw my husband and I bless our daughter, she got water in her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand. Following the completion of the Shabbat ritual, she opened up and told us that her grandfather used to bless her and her siblings every Shabbat when she was young girl living in Iran (before the revolution). She had not thought about the Children’s blessing since her childhood and seeing the blessing in action made her feel nostalgic and emotional.

A few years ago, I was in another Jewish woman’s house and I saw that she had framed a copy of the blessing beside the kitchen sink. I imagined her and her husband glancing at this framed Children’s blessing prayer while washing dishes every day.

The children’s blessing is one of the reasons I “do” Shabbat dinner every week. It allows me to practice important skills every Friday night.

  • Speaking out loud meaningful words to my daughter
  • Joining my partner and turning towards our child together in a spirit of unconditional love
  • Being physically close to our daughter in this ritualized way

Ritual and ceremony have been a part of the human experience for as long as communities of people have existed. However, this is something that many of us have lost a connection to and feel awkward about enacting. Ritual really means different things to different people; maybe you have preconceived idea that ritual must in some part be full of grandeur, maybe you find it embarrassing or feel like a fraud performing rituals because you are not always so clear about how you feel about G-d, faith and religion.

The children’s blessing is a simple ritual. You have the power to make it intimate, improvisational, and personal. Intimacy and closeness are easy in theory and harder to practice on a consistent basis, even in families. The children’s blessing is a way to enact intimacy every week.  

I wanted to make a beautiful printable Children’s Blessing that parents could print out and use for Shabbat, frame for their house, use as a bookmark, or simply keep on their bedside table.

I made this printable children’s blessing to warm our hearts and our homes.

This Children’s Blessing* is available for immediate download and comes in a high quality (300 dpi) PDF file for ease of printing. When you download the file you will receive one PDF that contains two children’s blessing prints. Both children’s blessings are 5″ x 7″. This way, you can keep one for yourself and give one away as a gift.

This Children’s blessing print is simple to make.

 

Download Now

You need:

  • A4 paper (I like to use a heavier cardstock paper)
  • Printer (a home printer works fine for these and going to your local print shop is also a good option)
  • Scissors
  • Frame (if you want to display it in your home). Here is a white frame and here is a black frame.

Download Now

Your turn:  Do you have a Children’s blessing memory to share with us?

*Please note that this product contains the name of G-d.  If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.

What is Kosher-for-Passover in a Processed Food Society?

kosher for passover header

Kosher-for-Passover processed foods are increasingly available. From cake mixes, candies, and snacks, a lot of these foods are junk food and playing off our vulnerability. Most of us relate Passover with food restriction and deprivation rather than food freedom.  

“Junk food” refers to low quality, low nutritional value processed foods. Junk foods contain detrimental ingredients including, but not limited to, sugars, saturated fats and sodium. More and more, we are understanding that eating processed food is an addictive experience. It is not a matter of willpower; sadly, junk food is scientifically engineered to get us hooked. Eating junk foods is a main cause of the global obesity epidemic.

This Kosher-for-Passover-processed-junk-foods phenomenon has more to do with the American food industry than with the Jewish holiday of Passover. It feels especially ironic that Kosher-for-Passover processed foods are marketed to us during this holiday of liberation where we are asked to reflect on freedom from slavery, oppression, and confinement.

It is a bit perplexing that Jewish people driven to uphold Kosher-for-Passover standards and being very diligent about avoiding whole food chametz are at the same time consuming, unconsciously, Kosher-for-Passover processed junk foods.

Here are 2 compelling reasons to Avoid Kosher-for-Passover Junk food this year:

Break Free of Our Addiction to Junk Foods

Aligned with the spirit of Passover, it is an excellent time to break free of our addiction to junk foods. As such it is a perfect time to make ethical food choices that are also healthier for our bodies. With more and more Kosher-for-Passover “junk” food available, we have to be more disciplined about our eating habits during the holidays and say “no” to foods that are not serving our bodies and our environment. Just because we can eat Kosher-for-Passover processed food, does not mean we should. Passover has the potential to be a healthy physical experience. Eating junk foods during the holiday is really a wasted opportunity to feel “free” in our own body.

Our Children

Many adults use children as an excuse to buy and serve processed junk foods. Yes, junk foods are highly attractive to children and it is our job to protect them from these types of foods. When we give our children processed junk foods we are basically promoting more diet-based health problems for our children. Obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem, and depression can all be linked to poor diet.

kosher for passover pin 1

Kosher-for-Passover-processed-junk-foods are not “Kosher” as they are neither fit or proper for the human body.

As a positive alternative to Kosher-for-Passover junk foods, we can:

Cook For Ourselves

We can make our own sweet treats for Passover. Even if these foods are not as healthy as they could be, they will be healthier than store bought processed foods and since it takes time and effort to prepare them, we will eat them less.

kosher for passover quote pin

Here are two of my Kosher-for-Passover treats

3 ingredient date-almond balls that taste like a snickers bar

Nutty chocolate chip cookies

Enjoy Plant Foods

The modern Passover side story that we tell ourselves about food deprivation is not serving us (pun intended) in these times. Whether you follow Sephardic or Ashkenazi tradition, we can center our plates and our diet predominately around plant foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables from the squash family and roots tubers like potato and sweet potato during Passover. If we eat Kitniyot (I do and here is why) we can eat legumes and rice too.

Here are 17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Your Eyes, Mouth, and Gut Will Love This Passover

kosher for passover pin 2

These are just a few ways that we can break the Kosher-for-Passover mindset that we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. You’ll feel much more connected to your body and the intentions of Passover when you focus on health-conscious meals for you and your family.

Do you have any more ideas for how we can break this Kosher-for-Passover processed food mentality?

If you are looking for healthy whole food plant based recipes for the Jewish holidays, you’ll love the Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Plant-Based Recipes

Jewish Food Hero Cookbook // jewishfoodhero.com