Monday, May 11, 2009

Raising a Jewish Family

Talk about life-cycle events... just after writing about the Jewish Wedding Network, I had the opportunity to spend a Shabbat with cousins in Denver. Their 2-year-old, Micah, is beyond adorable. He is also learning, from a very young age, what it means to be Jewish.

While walking to the park, my cousin and Micah’s mother, Kareen, was telling me about a book they read to him at night entitled, “Let’s Go to Israel.”

The book is short and sweet, and describes a few of the things you can do in each city. It is hard to describe, but when Kareen asked Micah where he could go sailing, and he said, “Eilat” (well it sounded more like, A-wot, but we knew what he meant), I was struck by what I was witnessing. Combine this with Micah getting excited for Challah time as we sat down for Shabbat, and him repeating the Sh’mah along with us as we tucked him in, and I realized that I was getting to witness the birth of a Jewish identity.

Its not just that it is unbelievably cute to hear him grapple with Hebrew, or jump in while a book is being read to him and say the word, “Matzah,” at the end of a sentence, it is that I was granted the opportunity to play voyeur into a piece of my cousin’s identity formation.

Jews seem to spend a lot of time discussing the woes of assimilation, unaffiliation, and inter-marriage, but rarely do we seem to focus on what is probably the strongest protection against all three; a strong and positive Jewish identity that is reinforced within the family environment from an early age.

For Micah, Judaism is filled with positive experiences, sweet grape-juice, tasty Challah, and most importantly, time spent with family.

It is often said that Jewish parents can measure their success by whether their grandchildren proudly consider themselves to be Jewish. This outcome seems very likely in Micah’s case.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Yoni for sharing your experience with my Grandson Micah. It is true that making Judaism an important part of the formative years with your children, will lead to the growth and not shrinking of our community. I am happy that Patti and I were able to impart our spirit into our children.

Anonymous said...

The desire to imprint a Jewish identity on my children - just as you describe - is the main argument I have always used against dating non-Jews. How can a non-Jew pass on that strong Jewish identity? Yet I think the secret to creating a love of Judaism is to practice Judaism in a loving family environment. An environment, I increasingly believe, which can grow out of a wide variety of home situations. The child's Jewish identity is reinforced by MY Jewish identity,

Just something to think about.