Kvelling (or boasting) about their children — “She aced her nursery school entrance interview, my little genius!” — is one of the things Jewish moms and dads do very well. So it’s fitting that a new website for parents of young Jewish children went with the title Kveller. The site is part service, with information on why Jews frown on baby showers and a guide to Jewish baby names. And it’s part lifestyle magazine, with lively essays on adventures in parenting and a Jewish celebrity parent gossip column. I recently interviewed the site’s editor Deborah Kolben — full disclosure: she was my colleague at the late, great New York Sun — about her vision for Kveller, the site’s focus on Lower Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn, and why she thinks it will appeal to parents like her.
Let’s begin at the beginning. How did you come up with the name Kveller?
I threatened to quit if we named the site Jfamily or Jparenting. So, we hosted a contest to name the site and received thousands of suggestions. Some were great; some were not. But our overall favorite was Kveller. We have the writer Sam Apple to thank for that one. You should buy his book “American Parent.” And Annie Karni, a New York Post writer, came up with the name of our blog: Raising Kvell.
What’s the scope of what Kveller plans to cover?
We’re about the early years, so pre-conception through preschool. Our tag line is “A Jewish Twist on Parenting.” For a lot of us, it’s a struggle to figure out how we want to be Jewish. And then throw into the mix deciding how you want your children to be Jewish, and you’re dealing with a lot of big questions. We cover everything from baby ceremonies to borscht recipes to decorating tips for nurseries.
I see that the site has special content for parents living in Downtown Manhattan and in Brownstone Brooklyn. What’s that about?
We got a nice bit of funding from the kind folks at UJA-Federation of New York. So, we’re starting with these New York areas and hope to eventually expand across the country.
Tell me about some of the articles and blog posts currently up on the site.
Hmm … a few of my faves? Gay dad David Shneer writes about going through a birthing class with his partner and their lesbian friend who birthed their daughter. Former “Blossom” star Mayim Bialik writes about pumping milk [for her 2-year-old son] on the set of “The Big Bang Theory.” And food writer Zoe Singer talks about how she decided to start celebrating Shabbat after her son was born because she likes roasting chickens and, let’s face it, she was stuck at home anyway.
And tell me about some of the standing features of the site.
We have a great Jewish baby name finder. We’re in the process of tweaking it a bit, but I think it will be pretty terrific. We have our blog, Raising Kvell. We have a regular feature there called Kid-dish (get it?) that stalks Jewish celebrity parents.
Who’s your target audience? Do the readers need to be knowledgeable about Judaism, or affiliated with Jewish organizations to find the site useful?
Our target audience is parents of Jewish kids. And we define that pretty darn loosely. Our readers don’t need to be knowledgeable about Judaism or be affiliated with Jewish organizations. In fact, I imagine most won’t be.
Why does the Jewish community need a site like this?
Good question. I don’t know about “need,” but I know that as a new parent myself, I could use all the help I can get. As somebody who is not affiliated with a Jewish institution — I just can’t find one that feels right — but still wants to instill my daughter with a Jewish identity, it can be tricky. There are also some pretty solid core Jewish values that people might want to pass on to their kids even if they don’t want to send them to Hebrew school, etc. Basically, there are a lot of ways to be Jewish, and a lot of ways to raise Jewish kids.
Who’s behind Kveller?