January 5, 2024
As a Jewish educator, I get a lot of questions from parents. Sometimes it’s little things, like whether their student can leave early from our weekly religious school class at ARS. Sometimes it’s bigger things, like if I have advice on how to help them find a therapist for their child. I love being able to help – helping is one of the reasons that I went into education. My personal mission statement is all about helping families find their own path to a meaningful Jewish life, in whatever way works best for them.
One of the questions that I’m often asked is, “How do I make my child want to be Jewish?” It’s a complicated question with many layers to it, especially because sometimes the more a parent wants something, the more a child pushes back against that exact thing – but I have a pretty simple answer. Bring Jewish to your kids. Show your kids the magic of Judaism and help them to find Jewish joy. It can be as simple as taking your kids for bagels on Saturday mornings or making challah together (after an extended study of challah-baking during the pandemic, this is my most favorite recipe). Here at TOS, bringing your kids to our annual Shul-Ins (synagogue sleepovers) is a huge way to find Jewish joy.
My most valuable suggestion after over twenty years in the Jewish educational sphere – is to teach your kids about Shabbat by doing Shabbat together. Ahad Haam, a famous Jewish writer and poet, wrote: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” What he meant was that the work of recognizing Shabbat and marking a weekly time to rest, rejuvenate, find joy, and connect with the Divine – that is one of the core components that keeps us alive as a Jewish people. Doing Shabbat helps families feel connected to their Judaism.
How do you do Shabbat?
You come to TOS. Join us for services (almost always at 6 pm on Fridays, unless it’s a Shabbat B’yachad). Bring a snack or a drink to share and stay to shmooze afterward with our weekly Shmooze Sip Snack and Share.
Even more incredibly, we’re introducing Shabbat Club – a weekly drop off childcare program (children ages 15 months to grade 3) for adults attending Shabbat Services.
Childcare will begin at 5:45 with age-appropriate activities, like games and crafts. Pizza will be served weekly! Free, but RSVP required by 1 p.m. on Friday to email@example.com.
(And to be clear – even if your child isn’t in services with you because you want a moment for your own spirituality – your child is building community and feeling comfortable in a Jewish space – and that’s a crucial component of Jewish life! Plus your child will have been fed by the time you get home. Winning all around!)
But – if by Friday afternoons your family flops onto the couch and cannot be moved – then bring Shabbat to them. Light candles and say the blessing. Bless your children/tell them one reason why you’re proud of them this week. (Even if that’s a weekly text message to your adult children – what a gift that would be to send your love every Friday evening!) Buy mini challahs at the grocery store and keep them in the freezer so you can pop one out on Friday and give it to your kids with a grape-flavored juice box. Enjoy a glass of wine and share with your loved ones what you’re grateful for this week. Take a nap on Saturday afternoon. At the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening, look up into the sky to find three stars to mark the end of Shabbat and the start of the new week (this is part of the ritual of Havdalah, separating Shabbat from the week).
Judaism isn’t about all or nothing. It’s about finding the ways that Jewish wisdom, Jewish values, and Jewish traditions can add meaning to your life. As we start this new calendar year, make your resolution about adding some Shabbat to your week. I’m sure it will add meaning, value, and depth to your lives.