The Trick

This post has gone through more iteration than I can count.  I can’t imagine why it’s taken so long.  In my head it’s all logical, but that’s not saying much. – ImmahLady

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I have been wondering for a long time about the special spark, the trick, the secret to raising a Jewish family.  Not just raising Jewish children, but ensuring Jewish grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Long before the boys were born, My Guy and I had decided that Shabbat was important to us.   The day I knew we would get married was the day he told me that he wanted to walk into his house on a Friday and know Shabbat was on its way.  I knew that this was a guy I could grow with.

When it was time for us to move to a house, we limited ourselves to houses within walking distance of an USCJ-affiliated shul.   At the time, we would still drive, cook, and use lights.

When the boys were born, I thought long and hard about lighting that Jewish spark.  What is it that I can do today, that will ensure that my message gets through to the generation I won’t live to see?

To me, the things that Jews can really claim as their own are Shabbat and Kashrut.  Kashrut makes a Jewish home.  Shabbat makes for an observant life.  You can wear shorts or dark pants, a cap or kippah, jeans or skirts and still be actively living an observant life as long as you have Shabbat and Kashrut.

Kashrut is, at least for me, a no-brainer.  I grew up in a kosher home, and while there are things that I am stricter about now than before, the rules are the same.  It’s really not a hugely defining for me.

Shabbat is another story.  There are a lot of don’ts to Shabbat – a daunting amount for someone who didn’t grow up with it.   But if you can make Shabbat fun and enjoyable and such an ingrained part of your children’s lives, then that is how they are going to want to raise their kids.  (At least, I hope, ‘cause I really don’t have any experience with this one.)

I think we’re doing an OK job for now.  Clearly the lessons are sinking in.  But now we’re working on a different issue.  The kids are making assumptions that I need to correct, but I’m not totally sure the best way to proceed.

Right now, they are under the impression that all Jews do what we do.   They don’t understand that there are Jews who do drive on Shabbat and who do eat cheeseburgers.  In fact, some of the extended family falls into this category.

So here’s my question:  How do you explain to your young children that other families practice Judaism differently without appearing condescending/ narrow-mind/ accepting of a path that you clearly didn’t choose? And how do you do it without sounding hypocritical where there is still room for improvement?

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