Type to search


Get Inspired The Jewels of Elul


For over 20 years Craig Taubman has been creating “Jewels of Elul.” The inspirational program highlights perspectives on a theme during the twenty-nine days leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Each day a Jewel is presented from the collection of short insights from contributors, both well-known and under-the-radar personalities. JLiving caught up with Craig to tell us more about the program.

JL: Thank you for taking the time and talking with us about Jewels of Elul. How did this all get started?

Craig: A friend, Cantor Eva Robbins, she is also a Rabbi now commissioned me to write a song for Elul. She wanted it to be based on the text you read during the month of Elul – Adonai, v’neirafei. I said sure. I had no idea about this, so I read about it. Most people prepare for the holidays by buying a new dress or new shoes, and the tradition is to prepare spiritually. I said, wow, what if I could put out, every day, an idea that people could think about? And I would find wonderful people and put it online. At the same time, I had produced an album for Mount Sinai, and they asked what I was doing. When I told them about the idea they asked if they could print the books. I think we printed 5000 and Jewels was created. 

JL: You once wrote that the contributors give “insight on the greatest pain, exuberant joy, biggest hopes and thoughtful expressions of what it means to be alive today.” What direction do you give them to get such gems in response?

Craig: As I solicit people to contribute, I ask that they make it as personal and intimate as possible. Then I leave it alone. Nine times out of ten they are good, and for a few, I will ask them to consider writing more about a certain part of their piece. I think Jewels at its best is about relationships, and I think our world at its worse is the absence of relationships. We demonize anyone we don’t know and don’t agree with. It’s their fault, it’s not my fault. If you establish a relationship with somebody even if you don’t agree with them the exchange is curious and respectful.

JL: Do you have favorite Jewel from the past that sticks with you?

Craig: Without question. To this day it is my favorite from Jessica Leigh Lebos. (Craig then read the Jewel, reprinted below). It just touched me. 

JL: We appreciate keeping Jewels old school by printing the program. How can people get a copy?

Craig: Go to our website jewelsofelul.com and you can get the Jewels for free, they can go to your email box, or you can get them on Instagram or the website. We also print books up every year that are underwritten by benefactors. Then we sell them to the community and all proceeds benefit the Pico Union Project, a non-profit in downtown LA, providing social services for people who do not have access to healthy food, produce, housing and health services. We are grateful for whatever people can contribute. (For more information visit picounionproject.org

JL: Thank you for your time and for allowing us to reprint some Jewels from this year and the past.

From Jewels of Elul 2022

The Little Things by Ophira Eisenberg

Never underestimate how meaningful a small act can be. For me, it’s offering a piece of toast. 

As a child, I had trouble sleeping. I’d come crying to my mother and she’d hug me and make me a piece of toasted bread with a little bit of butter. Then she’d walk me back to my bedroom, and I’d fall asleep. 

As an adult, I’d fly across the country to see her, and no matter how late I arrived, she’d ask if I’d like a piece of toast. I never refused. 

My mother, now passed, lives in my memory. I miss her so much. I recently came home from a long night of performing at the NYC clubs and was hungry and tired. I walked in the door, and my husband handed me a plate with a slice of buttered toast and said, “I’ll always be here to give you a toast like your mother did.

” We’ve been married for 16 years, and he’s done many kind things for me, but this acknowledgment of care was one of the most meaningful. 

So, I look around and ask, who can I make a toast for? Ophira Eisenberg is a standup comic, writer, and podcast host. She hosted NPR’s “Ask Me Another” for 9 years and her new show “Parenting Is A Joke” launches in September. 


Jewels from Previous Years

It’s All in How We Read the Clock by Rabbi Ed Feinstein

When the Hasidic master, Reb Yitzchak Yakov, the Seer of Lublin, died, his disciples divided his worldly goods. One got his books, one his kiddush cup, another his tallis. There remained one humble hasid. To him was given the Rebbe’s clock. On his way home, the hasid stopped at an inn. When he discovered he had no money to pay the innkeeper, he offered the Rebbe’s clock as payment. The innkeeper installed the clock in one of the rooms. A year later, another of the Rebbe’s hasidim passed by and stayed at the inn. All night, he could not sleep. All night, the innkeeper heard the restless footsteps of the hasid pacing the floor. In the morning, the hasid confronted the innkeeper: “The clock, where did you get the clock?” The innkeeper related the story. “I knew it!” responded the hasid. “This clock belonged to the Seer. It is a holy clock. All other clocks in the world mark time from the past – they measure us from where we’ve come. This clock ticks toward the future. Every time I lay down to rest, the clock reminded me how much more there is to do before redemption can be realized. It’s all in how we read the clock.

Learning How to Dance by Jessica Leigh Lebos

My mother-in-law’s mind is full of holes. She spends most of the day in a placid fog, a place where there’s nothing left to do but walk the dog and wonder what’s for dinner. Every time it’s chicken, she rolls her eyes and kvetches, “We had this last night!” No one argues with her anymore.

The situation is undeniably tragic. She’s only in her early 60’s, has already suffered through cancer and a mastectomy, and her dementia has been diagnosed incurable. Yet, her disease has set into motion a certain regeneration: both of her sons have returned to Savannah to help care for her and to assume their roles as men alongside their father, who is finally learning to treat them like the mensches she raised. Her grandchildren — my kids — sit beside her and sing with gusto while she plunks out the same damn Disney song on the piano: “The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the appleseed…”

Whenever there’s music, she remembers exactly what to do. She snaps, she swings her arms; she’s particularly fond of jazz hands. This is endearing when “Funkytown” comes on the radio and she shimmies around the living room, less so when we’re in line at the grocery store, and she sashays off in the direction of someone’s cell phone. My husband and I have made a family pact to never let her dance alone. Often, we resemble a circus without a tent, a multi-generational band of spastic merrymakers getting down to the sound of the garbage compactor. Helping someone keep her grace doesn’t always look graceful.

We hold faith that God loves us so, and yet still, life hurts. Sometimes healing comes from accepting what is. Hope is learning how to dance with it.

Jessica Leigh Lebos is a Jewish wife, mother, writer, editor, dancer, Sunday school teacher and sidewalk social scientist. She blogs at www.yoyenta.com 


You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Up