BALABOOSTA OF THE MONTH – ARIEL STEIN

We recently launched our Balaboosta of The Month Series, honoring impactful women who demonstrate power and strength and who embody the values that Apeloig Collection chooses to uphold.

For the Month of January we chose to interview Ariel Stein, who you may recognize from @ariel.loves. We enjoy following her Jewish motherhood journey on Instagram, and feel as though we have many things in common with Ariel. So much so that if she wasn’t in Brooklyn, New York we would be already planning our next playdate with her and her adorable girls!

Follow her when you want to relate to a fellow mother on parenting or even for major inspiration on how to raise your kids in a fun, educative way. Read along for some of her honest and grounded answers!

AC: What Jewish values do you find most important in passing down to your children?

AS: I use many Jewish values to guide me in life. 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.

AC: Can you tell us a little about your upbringing and how has your Jewish background influenced the way you raise your daughters?

AS: I had many different Jewish experiences when I was growing up, which have influenced me as a person and in the way that I parent. I attended a community Jewish day school from preschool through 8th grade and I loved learning about Jewish holidays, values, and traditions.

My family was a member of both a modern Orthodox shul and a Conservative synagogue so I was exposed to various expressions of Jewish practice. I went to a pluralist Jewish summer camp for most of my life and in high school I was a member of Young Judaea (a pluralist youth movement) and USY (a Conservative Jewish youth group). In college I learned with an Orthodox rabbi every week and studied at an Orthodox seminary in Israel for a time. I also loved going to Hillel and Chabad for Shabbat and holidays in college. Later on, I earned my MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. After experiencing so many types of Jewish life over the years, I hope to raise my daughters with a love of Yiddishkeit, Jewish values, and to be proud of their Jewish identities.

AC: What Jewish customs do you most enjoy practicing with your family? Can you share any fun activities, traditions or recipes?

AS: I truly look forward to having Shabbat dinner with my family every week. Reciting the blessings with my daughters and eating a special meal with each other is so grounding! We also love celebrating the holidays by decorating our home, cooking festive recipes, and practicing rituals together. I try to give my daughters a new book and toy before each Jewish holiday to get them excited about it!

AC: What made you want to create a Jewish Living account? How did it start?

AS: I have always loved Instagram 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 4 years since I started, and there is a growing group of Jewish living accounts on Instagram. 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.

AC: What Jewish values do you find most relevant to raising your daughters in a secular world?

AS: 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

 This verse from Jewish Ethical teachings of our Rabbis is always the top of my mind and heart. Like many, I’m exhausted mentally and emotionally from the news cycle and the constant flow of new information and resources. 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 that big, systemic change doesn’t happen overnight and we can all make small changes in our own lives everyday.

AC: We love how you have a strong stance against AntiSemitism and how you are always informed and take the duty to inform your followers of current events. Are you afraid of the increase of antisemitic events? What are your recommendations to our followers for fighting against Antisemitism?

AS: I did not originally intend to share about antisemtisim on my Instagram or blog. But with the recent rise in anstisemtic incidents, as someone with a public platform, I felt a responsibility to speak out about it. The number of hate crimes against Jews has been increasing and it's up to each of us to use our voices to educate ourselves and others, to promote equality, and to fight injustice.

Growing up, I learned a lot about the Shoah (Holocaust) in school, I visited the concentration camps in Poland, and even had the privilege of hearing first hand from many survivors. It breaks my heart that my daughters will grow up without ever meeting a Holocaust survivor. Although there are only a few remaining survivors still living, the Holocaust was not that long ago and sadly antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, hatred, and bigotry is still very much alive. Remembering the Shoah (the Holocaust) and actively fighting anti-Semitism is important to me because it is my responsibility to share my people’s stories, even after they’re gone.

Since becoming a mother, I have often put myself in the shoes of the mothers who lived through this unimaginably horrific period of our history. The only difference between them and me is the time and place I was born. Had I been in Europe in the 1940s, my family would have likely been murdered too. Today we honor their memory by continuing to live with purpose, to have gratitude for our blessings, and to celebrate each day as a gift! The Holocaust did not happen that long ago. We must not let history repeat itself.

It’s no secret that I am proud to be Jewish and I’m very fortunate that for most of my life, I’ve felt safe living a Jewish life openly and sharing my beliefs and traditions without fear. I want to continue to feel this way and ensure my children can also live free of fear. My advice for fighting antisemitism is to start by educating yourself.  Here are some Instagram accounts I like to follow to keep up with the fight against antisemitism: @ajc.global @adl_national @benmfreeman @antisemitismstories @jtilch @evebarlow @jewishoncampus @henmazzig @blackjewishunity @yasmine.dreamz @adameli @_tikol @progressivejews @jewishperspective @jfrejnyc @bendthearc @hiasrefugees

 If you care about and have spoken out against racism, homophobia, sexism, or any other form of bigotry in the past year, I implore you not to stay silent now in the face of rising antisemitism. My hope is that we can lift each other up and fight hate together - in all its forms

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