Holidays 2022

Dear family, friends, and 13-year-olds everywhere,

We hope this winter update finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying a restful and restorative holiday season with loved ones. We’re on our way to the airport within the hour — 13-year-olds, here we come! — but we didn’t want to leave without sharing a year-in-review holiday note with you.

This year brought a welcome return to normalcy. The boys enjoyed our local day camp this summer, plus sports camp for Max and art camp for Zach. Family traveled to Chicago in April, for Passover and to celebrate our niece Mattie’s bat mitzvah, to Jacksonville, Florida in December, to celebrate our nephew Nate’s bar mitzvah, and to Elkton, Maryland, to visit John’s parents plus his brother and his family. Tomorrow, we travel to Israel to celebrate the three kids who turned 13 this year — Max, Mattie, and Nate. We’ll be joined by Ayelet’s parents and siblings and their families. We’ll do some touring, visit Ayelet’s extended family, and have a b’nai mitzvah celebration and party in Jerusalem!

Max delivering a research presentation. Not shown: The audience.

The biggest family event was that in January, Max had his bar mitzvah! With the guidance of his wonderful bar mitzvah mentor, Judy, Max spent nearly a year doing research on mythical creatures in Judaism. Along the way, he grappled with fundamental questions about what stories can teach us, human agency and choice, ethical behavior, the misuse of power, and the tension between supernatural and scientific explanations. Max gave a half-hour presentation to the Folkshul community and to special guests who traveled from all over the country to share this milestone with him. There were also heartfelt remarks from Max’s grandparents on both sides, from Max’s proud parents, and from Max’s bar mitzvah mentor; readings and candle lighting by Max’s aunts, uncles, and cousins; and songs sung enthusiastically by the many members of the Folkshul community who attended. It was a deeply meaningful and memorable occasion!

Max is now in 8th grade and has grown significantly this year — in height (he is now 5’5”, only an inch shorter than Ayelet), strength (he has put himself on an exercise regimen and takes pride in the number of push-ups he can do and the amount of weight he can lift), and speed (his parents no longer even try to keep up with him). He enjoys sports of all kinds and plans to try out for the school basketball team this winter. He also enjoys playing video games online and started a You Tube channel this year to showcase his best video game moments, with over 200 subscribers! He continues to enjoy reading fiction, creating new games, and playing with Zach. He now keeps in touch with friends on his own phone, making him a full-fledged teenager! Fortunately for us, he is a sensible, mature, well-rounded kid who cares about others and wants to succeed. Max continues to excel in school. He is in the gifted program and doing well in his honors classes. He was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society last spring. He was also selected as Student of the Month this fall (that makes two years in a row!). This award is given to only a handful of students each year based on teacher vote, “in recognition of outstanding performance in school.”

Zach appears to be meditating, on what I assume is a meditation swing, at what must therefore be our local meditation park.

Zach is now 10 years old, in 5th grade. He is a smart, sweet, earnest kid with a hilarious sense of humor. Zach enjoys reading, watching funny You Tube videos, doing puzzles, building with Legos, watching sports with Dad (especially football — he’s a devoted Eagles fan). He maintains his own fish tank and enjoys visiting pet stores with Dad to see cool new fish. Zach is continuing guitar lessons and will soon be shifting from acoustic to electric guitar. In school, Zach is in the same Upper Elementary classroom as last year, with the same wonderful teacher who provides him with lots of enrichment opportunities. He has begun the curriculum for Algebra I, which is the 9th grade Math class in our district. The goal is for him to complete the curriculum and take the state-wide exam at the end of 6th grade.

Front row (left to right): Max, Zach. Middle row (left to right): John, Ayelet. Back row (left to right): Lovely fence, colorful tree.

In July, Ayelet became Director of Clinical Training for Penn’s clinical psychology doctoral program. As the head of the clinical program, she oversees the program’s administration and accreditation, ensures that students have access to essential academic and clinical training experiences, and works to grow and strengthen the program. Penn’s clinical program is among the top in the nation, and leading it is an exciting challenge. This new role is layered onto Ayelet’s full-time faculty position, so she has been very busy juggling these various responsibilities. Ayelet continues to carry out research in collaboration with her very talented graduate students. Two of her students defended their dissertations this year, with a third student scheduled to defend her dissertation in February. Ayelet also continues to teach courses, to serve on faculty committees, and to advise and mentor students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She hopes to take a new graduate student during the coming year.

John spent his summer preparing for a new course he offered this fall. He and his students reviewed the literature on a type of polygraph, or “lie detector”, test used to assist in criminal investigations. After pooling the results from nearly 40 published studies, data analysis revealed that the “guilty knowledge test” is a highly accurate way to tell guilty from innocent suspects. At home, John continues to enjoy guitars (his #1 is in the website banner), his aquariums (his two named fish are shown below), NFL football (go Pats!), and — new this year — Formula 1 racing (go Red Bull and Max Verstappen!). As he did last year, John ran around town with a new audiobook to complete a marathon on his birthday.

Joining our home in January, this is Diablo the flowerhorn cichlid. The name reflects his attitude.

Joining our home in October, this is Lucifer the lemon oscar. The name reflects his attitude.

Thanks for sharing a few moments with our website this holiday season! We hope you’re well and look forward to seeing you again sometime soon. In the meantime, Ayelet, Max, Zach, Diablo, Lucifer, and I wish you a very…