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I just loaded my baby on a bus and sent him away for a month.
Ok, I realize it isnâ€™t exactly a month. It is 4 weeks. Ok, I realize that it is 2 days shy of 4 weeks. Yes, you are right, my baby isnâ€™t a baby reallyâ€¦ he is a big boy of almost 12. But, still, I loaded my baby on a bus and sent him a way for a month.
He is going to, what we call, Jew Camp. We laugh about Jew Camp, because we are the only family in our general area with a kid going to Jew Camp. We arenâ€™t going to Happy something camp, because we arenâ€™t Christian. All the kids in our area go to the Happy something camp. The parents talk to me endlessly about it. You would think I would be able to remember the name. I always tune them out and smile sweetly and say, we got camp covered. One parent persisted in knowing exactly what our plans were, and my daughter looked up at her and said, â€śWe go to Jew Camp. You canâ€™t come.â€ť End of conversation.
As I watch the bus pull out of the parking lot, I know that for many reasons it is the right thing. First, he loves it. He loves the activities, the kids, the counselors, everything. Second, he will come home referring to most things in Hebrew. He will sing the prayers every night. He will come home from this experience feeling entirely Jewish. He will feel like he is part, of as my daughter implied, an exclusive club and it is a pretty awesome club.
My oldest son has many things about him that arenâ€™t like the other kids. Aside from the fact that he has some special needs that separate him from the others, he is a Jew in a sea of Christianity. For a month this summer he will be just like everyone else. When he makes a joke in Hebrew the kids will get itâ€¦ well if they donâ€™t at least it wonâ€™t be because they donâ€™t understand. When he references Torah and his Bar Mitzvah it wonâ€™t be like he is speaking a foreign tongue. He will be surrounded by other kids and some will understand what it is like to be a Jew in the sea of Christianity. Many come from a family where one parent is not Jewish.
I am certain that these kids donâ€™t really talk about that sort of stuff. But, I think they know that the other kids â€śgetâ€ť them. They know that no one is going to give them a hard time because they are not going to see Santa or celebrate Easter. These kids will all embrace Shabbat and celebrate it as it was meant to be celebrated. There is a party going on right here and it is all about being Jewish. Mac comes home from camp feeling love for his Jewishness. What more could we ask for?
As I watched my somewhat socially awkward child board the bus without a care in the world, laughing with his friends, I knew in my heart I did the right thing. He was confident, happy and full of joy. I realized that I was in fact doing a good job. We will miss him.
I decided that the Shabbat table would be a good time to speak of the good things we have experienced during the week. First I asked my husband if he was grateful for anything specific (other than the nice meal he was about to eat). Then I asked my husband if anything inspired him over the week. I answered the same questions. One day, G-d willing my son will also answer these questions, and I hope he can add a few more.
What do you talk about around the Shabbat table?
After nursing my son, I would sing to him this song I learned in a play group (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Litter Star):
High up in the Shemayim (sky)
When we say the Shema today, everything will be ok
When we say the the Shema tonight, everything will be alright.
Then I sing the Shema. My son is too young to understand, but I am hoping somewhere in his soul, these words will soothe him. I say my own prayers for my son's welfare and I daven (pray) for those needing prayers of health.
As my son gets older and has a better understanding, I am hoping that bed time will become a nice time to talk to G-d.
What do you do for bed time ritual?