Author Archives: Lauri Exley

Lauri Exley

About Lauri Exley

When not working as a chauffeur, chef, maid, or referee to her two adorable children, Lauri Exley enjoys photography and crochet. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.

Being Jewish is FUN

Last weekend, my husband and I toured the religious school my daughter will be attending in the fall for her Kindergarten year. She currently attends their preschool, so the tour was simply to get questions answered and for my husband to understand what religious school is all about.

0514_110811-FJC_x46My husband isn’t Jewish. He grew up as a non-practicing Catholic and has had a hard time understanding that we don’t pass a plate around, but rather, have to pay to be members of our synagogue. I grew up with membership dues as the norm (as have most of my Jewish friends). A lot of my friends are also in interfaith marriages and have had to explain the same thing to their spouses. It was also difficult for my husband to understand that kids have to go to religious school years in advance to prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. For the longest time, he assumed it was just a big celebration, like a Sweet 16 party. Last month, he attended his first Bat Mitzvah and was amazed that she was able to stand up in front of so many people and sing/recite a language that was foreign to her. Of course, attending the reception was another story. Apparently my explanation didn’t do it justice. He didn’t quite realize that these parties were comparable to wedding receptions.

Before kids, being in an interfaith marriage didn’t mean much other than having the privilege of celebrating more holidays and not worrying about our parents fighting over us for Rosh Hashanah, Passover, or Christmas. Once we had kids, that all changed. We decided to raise our children Jewish (with the understanding that “Daddy’s parents celebrate Christmas, so we celebrate with them”). We agreed they would attend a Jewish preschool, religious school, and be Bar & Bat Mitzvah’d. Of course, being the Jewish parent, this all fell on me. Preschool has proven to be a HUGE help in educating my children on our religion. My daughter comes home singing Hebrew songs and is excited about all the holidays. Without any family nearby, teaching Jewish traditions to my family can be tough. And, to be honest, I haven’t been doing a great job. This is why it’s so important to me that my children attend a preschool and now religious school. While they will attend public school for their secular education, I want them to have an identity, and sense of belonging, and make friends with others like them.

A few of my friends have decided not to send their children to religious school for a few years, thinking they can catch up in third or fourth grade. For me, it’s not as much about learning Hebrew as it is learning about our culture, heritage, and beliefs. This is also why I send them to Jewish summer day camp and, when they get older, Jewish overnight camp. I never connected with people the way I did with friends I made at camp and through Judaism.

My childhood rabbi used to come into our religious school class every Sunday to visit and before he’d leave, he would remind us of his motto: “Being Jewish is FUN.” Being Jewish IS fun! Summer camp shows us how we can surround ourselves with fellow Jews and make long-lasting friendships, all while learning more about our Jewish culture. Religious school teaches us about our religion and prepares us for our rite of passage and celebration that is our Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I want my children to understand that; even if it means they have to go to school on Sundays! My husband has decided to start saving his shekels for our kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in eight and eleven years. So, maybe that part isn’t so fun…

Posted on May 17, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Chocolate Makes Everything Taste Better

Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.

Charoset, fried matzo, wine, matzo meal bagels, matzo pizza, marshmallows and family. All of these things, and more, are why Passover is and has always been my favorite holiday. Sure, people moan and groan about the dry, tasteless food, but I love it! My favorite memories are of my mother and me using matzo meal to make virtually everything and I have always enjoyed finding new ways to use it (even if bagels and donuts end up having the same taste). In recent years, it has become much easier to keep Kosher for Passover, with more variety and flavor in the food, but I am always searching for something new.

My mother-in-law loves to cook and bake. She has a treasure trove of recipes; each one tops the next. I discovered a recipe she had for something called “Saltine Chocolate Pieces” and after we made them together, and of course ate them, I knew this was a recipe I had to have. The end result is something similar to toffee brittle using saltine crackers. Having spent so many years suffering through store-bought Passover treats, I immediately thought about how great this would taste if I replaced the saltines with matzo.

Photo courtesy of tastytouring

Photo courtesy of tastytouring

Chocolate-covered matzo is one of the first items to fly off grocery shelves during the Passover season. So, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, I decided to make a variation of my own. (Upon writing this blog entry, I have discovered that other people have discovered this wonderful creation as well, so I cannot claim it as my own original idea).

Sure, I will continue to make matzo meal bagels and fried matzo every year (can’t forget the classics), but it’s nice to be able to add new, tastier foods to the mix – creating new memories and traditions with my kids.

Matzo Chocolate Pieces (aka Matzo Crunch)

- 4-6 unsalted matzo
– 1 c brown sugar
– 1 c butter
– 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 3/4 c chopped nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 10×15-inch cookie sheet with foil; place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil (very important).
  2. Cover the cookie sheet with a layer of matzo.
  3. Boil sugar and butter in saucepan for 4 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture over matzo and spread evenly.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven.
  7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  8. Let set and cool for 1 minute, then spread the melted chips over the matzo with a spatula.
  9. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top, then press down lightly.
  10. Cool until firm and cut into diagonal pieces. Pieces can be frozen.

Yields approximately 30 pieces.

Looking for a camp-y Passover dessert to serve alongside this delicious treat?  Try these yummy Matzo S’mores from!

Posted on March 13, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Summer on My Mind

Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.

lauriIt’s February! For some, that means goodbye to failed New Year’s Resolutions, yearning for warmer weather, and seeing hearts, chocolate, and roses everywhere you look. For parents, it means it’s time to start planning for summer. Do we send her to a day camp all summer? Do we enroll him in sports camp? Do we send them away to sleep-away camp? What are their best friends doing? Do we plan a family vacation, and if so, do we schedule it around camp, or schedule camp around the vacation? While the kids are counting down the days until summer, the parents are already stressing out. I’m starting to understand why some people enjoy year-round school.

I am a mom of two: Miss B is four years old, and Mr. Awesome (yes, he is) is 18 months. We’re in a weird transition year. Miss B is off to Kindergarten next year, which is a whole other bag of stress, and Mr. Awesome is starting preschool in the fall. While he is too young for most camps, his preschool provides a weekly camp to prepare them for the Fall. Easy enough. However, Miss B is an entirely different story. She will graduate from Pre-K in May and while I will probably enroll her in the preschool camp for a few weeks, she is involved in so many different activities, that I feel I need to keep her involved in those throughout the summer.

I don’t remember there being so many options when I was a kid. As a young kid, I went to my synagogue’s camp every year. As I got older, I just spent the summer hanging out with friends. I think it was the summer going into seventh grade when all my friends were at camp or on family vacations and I was stuck at home, bored out of my mind. One of my best friends broke the news to me one day that she was going to be gone all summer. She was DREADING it! Her mom took a job as the nurse for a sleep-away camp and she had to go with. She promised she’d write every day and couldn’t wait to come back. She kept her word, maybe not every day, but I received at least five letters from her that summer. However, from the first letter I could tell, she definitely did NOT dread it. She already had crushes on boys (who were teaching her how to play guitar) and she was meeting some amazing people. She came home after that summer and could not stop talking about camp. She had changed – like something had turned on inside her – she was more adventurous and outgoing. It was a good change.

My friend insisted I join her the following year, and after much cajoling, my parents agreed. Off I went that following summer, to the happiest place on earth. No, not Disneyland, this was better. This was Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. I was so nervous. Although several of my friends (and my three cousins) were all there, it was new to me. I was away from my parents and in a new place. Writing about my experience, and subsequent summers thereafter, will take too long for this specific blog entry, so I will sum it up with this: my summers at camp provided me with a greater sense of Judaism and helped me establish friendships with my closest friends to date. In fact, it was one of my oldest camp friends who asked me to write this blog!

I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to go to sleep-away camp, where they can hopefully have similar experiences to mine. Until then, I will continue to spend my February trying to figure out what to do with them all summer!


Posted on February 10, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy