Guest Feature Holidays Parenting

How We Can Teach Our Kids That Being Jewish is Awesome and Awe-Filled was created and is maintained by the Union for Reform Judaism and is a treasure trove of interesting, resource materials about a wide array of topics related to progressive Jew-ish life. Of course, I’m honored when they publish my work and grateful that my work and ideas are able to reach a larger audience.

Parenting is hard. Raising Jewish kids is hard- and there are all sorts of common complications emotional, logistical, and otherwise.

I am raising kids who have a Jewish dad and two sets of Jewish grandparents- which already makes it simpler than the majority of Jewish American families. I am competent and confident in my knowledge and ability about Jewish text and tradition. I have multiple graduate degrees in education, decades of experience working in early childhood environments, and the struggle is STILL real- so I have a lot of respect (and awe) for the vast majority of folks who are doing it without the experience and expertise of this kind of background.

FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a very real phenomenon- and while it typically is connected with social media and grown-ups- it can impact our toddlers, too.

I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to work with the fine folks at the Union for Reform Judaism to write a piece for their blog that reaches Jews from diverse communities all over the world to share how I am growing as a parent and professional when I recognize, acknowledge, and accommodate to some of the parenting moments and complications encountered while raising Jewish kids that no one ever seems to talk about.

How I Teach My Kids That Being Jewish is Awesome and Awe-Filled (this is an excerpt from article published in full here)

I felt a twinge of panic when my clever child suggested, “Maybe we can order some blue lights and candy ‘cans’ (her pronunciation) so we can do a Jewish Christmas.” Perhaps worst of all, I had a visceral reaction when she matter-of-factly suggested that “maybe we shouldn’t be Jewish if Jewish people don’t celebrate Christmas.”

My articulate munchkin suggests ridiculous things all the time, so dealing with her FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is pretty simple – the tricky part is recognizing my own emotional baggage and gauging appropriate responses in real time. For example, almost every night when she was younger, we read Goodnight Sh’ma as part of her bedtime routine. The last words of the book are “The Lord is one.” Now, we recite the words to the Sh’ma before I tuck her in. Recently, during this bedtime routine, she started saying playfully, “the Lord is three!”

Initially, I had an irrational gut reaction and had to fight my urge to launch into an explanation about how the oneness of God is a foundational concept of Judaism. Of course, that would be a ridiculous diatribe to share with a toddler at bedtime. Since it would respond to neither her words nor her intention, I gave her another snuggle and asked: “Are you being silly?! That’s not how it goes!” I left it at that.

She tried it a few more times, but I calmly stuck to a response that affirmed the belief and was appropriate for a toddler’s bedtime routine. It was good practice for when my kids get old enough to reject, intentionally, much that I’m carefully trying to pass on to them.

I recognized a dynamic that has helped me participate more meaningfully in our ongoing conversation about Christmas. I will continue to empathize and acknowledge her disappointment, affirm or explain her observations, and try to make clear, thoughtful connections to whatever we’re discussing. Read more…


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