Jewish Camp is a valuable way for interfaith families to learn and share in the joy of Judaism in a comfortable, fun and meaningful environment. See which camps identify as welcoming to interfaith families.
Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
This is an interactive, fun, and low-key workshop for couples who are dating, engaged or recently married. The sessions will give you a chance to ask questions about faith, to think about where you are as an adult with your own spirituality and to talk through what's important to you and your partner.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
This post originally appeared on PJ LibraryÂ and is reprinted with permission.
Chances are, your preschooler isnâ€™t an expert onÂ Rosh HashanahÂ celebrations (theyâ€™ve only been alive for a few of them so far). You may not be an expert on Rosh Hashanah either, and if the holiday is new to you, youâ€™re likely learning alongside your little one. Thereâ€™s no time like the present for you both to learn about the traditions that make Rosh Hashanah so special!
Between learning the colors and practicing how to write their own names, preschoolersâ€™ days are filled with learning â€“ and that learning wonâ€™t stop during Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year itself has a lot of traditions for you to learn about together, such as why you dip apples in honey, blow theÂ shofar and bake round challah.
Get acquainted with Rosh Hashanah as a family using these amazing books, all of which are perfect for the preschool age!
With simple text, this book explains symbols and customs of Rosh Hashanah by comparing a child’s birthday celebration with the rituals of the Jewish New Year. A birthday cake or honey-dipped apples and a shofar or party horns are just two of the comparisons.
Beni loves getting together with family on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year — if only it werenâ€™t for his mischievous cousin, Max. Max is making trouble for everyone! But Grandpa has a few words of wisdom about starting off the New Year right.
With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just around the corner, Little Red Rosie wants to make a round challah to celebrate the holiday. Who will help her make the challahâ€”and then eat it? You might be surprised!
Hearing the shofar is an exciting experience for children. After beginning with this important holiday tradition, the author then introduces dipping apples in honey, making greeting cards and baking round challah.
I grew up in the same town where I currently reside. I remember going to high school with only a handful of other students who called themselves Jewish. I knew that raising my family in my hometown meant we would have to go to the very small synagogue in the next town over or if we wanted to be part of a larger community, we would need to drive 20 to 30 minutes north or south to more Jewish areas to find that.
It never crossed my mind that we would run into the issue of being the minority in what I thought would be a simple search for a preschool. Admittedly, I was a bit late in my search, thinking that with a baby due at the end of August and the school year starting in early September, I might want to hold off on sending my daughter to preschool to avoid her having too many changes at once. It turned out that she really wanted to go to school, so who was I to keep that from her?
With the limited openings available to those of us who started our search late, I found that there were very few secular schools with openings. There was one within walking distance, but it only had openings for the afternoon session, which I thought may not be ideal for a still-napping toddler. My daughter toured the school with my stepmother and they both absolutely loved it. But I was unable to make it to the tour and was still apprehensive about sending her to school during prime nap time.
My search had to broaden. The Jewish preschools, like the Jewish communities, were quite a drive from my house, so it seemed unlikely for that to work out as we readjust to life with a newborn again. A highly recommended preschool in our area with morning openings just happened to be a Christian preschool. I scheduled a tour and reached out to the InterfaithFamily Facebook group, â€śRaising a Child with Judaism Participants and Alumni,â€ť to ask whether other parents would send their children to a preschool of a faith other than Judaism and what kinds of questions they would ask on a tour.
The post had some lively discussion and I found that resource very helpful in gathering my thoughts, both before and after the tour. I went into the tour thinking I would be OK with the education if the religious component was strictly value-teaching. When speaking with the director, I asked whether theyâ€™d had students of other faith backgrounds in their school before. The comforting answer was a â€śYes, weâ€™ve had Hindu and Jewish students in our school before.â€ť
We started moving through the motions of a typical day, and while my daughter happily played and worked on a craft with the other children, I asked about prayer time and the Bible stories that they read. It turned out that the Bible stories were sometimes familiar ones like Noahâ€™s ark, but at other times, they pull from specifically Christian liturgy. They also do an annual Christmas pageant and talk about the story of Easter. I left the tour thankful to have had the opportunity to ask those questions, but feeling unsure about the school.
I went home, talked to my husband about it, and thought it over. Yes, even if we chose a secular school, she would be exposed to Christian holidays. We are an interfaith family, so she will be exposed in our own familyâ€™s celebrations as well. However, teachings of Jesus would not be a part of a secular schoolâ€™s curriculum. With that in mind, I scheduled a second tour of the neighborhood school with afternoon openings. My daughter jumped right into all of the activities again, already feeling like this was a familiar place. My husband and I asked lots of questions and they were all answered the way we hoped. It felt right, despite the fact that it would mean missing naps two days a week. We took home the registration paperwork and I got started on it right away, so we would not miss out on the few remaining openings.
In the registration packet, I was thrilled to find a questionnaire on celebrations and holidays. The questions were excellent, with sensitive wording and dug much deeper than I would have expected. The questions included the following:
What special days do you celebrate in your family? How would you like our program to be involved in your celebration? What are some of the myths/stereotypes about your culture that you would like us to understand so as not to perpetuate them? How do you feel about celebrations at the center that are not part of your familyâ€™s tradition? What kinds of things can we do to celebrate our center as an inclusive human community?
This put my mind at ease. I answered each question thoroughly, probably with more detail than the school is used to, but this was of utmost importance in my preschool search. I want my daughter to understand and appreciate that other families may have different celebrations and beliefs than we do and I want her to be able to share some of our traditions with her new friends. This school will allow for both, and to me, that is the perfect setting for her first few years of schooling.
The other day my daughter said to me, â€śMommy, youâ€™re not the most special person in this family.â€ť It was a pointed remark, out of nowhere.
I raised an eyebrow and said, â€śIs that so? Then who is?â€ť Of course, I already knew the answer.
â€śWell, I am. You see, none of the rest of you daven [pray].â€ť Without even a hint of humor she continued, â€śNone of you know Hashem the way I do. I daven every day.â€ť I tried very hard not to laugh because I could see she was being very serious and knew my laughter might hurt her feelings.
I was raised in a Reform Jewish family, going to synagogue twice a year on the High Holidays. We observed Passover with a seder at home. Initially, we celebrated Hanukkah until one day, when I was about 5 or 6, my mom asked me if I would rather get eight gifts once a year or gifts all year-round. Since that was a no brainer, Hanukkah morphed into just lighting the candles to observe and maybe making latkes. As an adult, I didnâ€™t do anything to celebrate the holiday. That is, until we started having children.
My husband was raised Catholic, and I mean very Catholic. Mass was mandatory seven days a week in his household. Nowadays he observes nothing. Catholicism overload soured him on it, and he hasnâ€™t expressed much interest in religion of any other kind. When we decided to get married, we talked about how we would raise our kids. My husband seemed skittish about flat-out raising our kids as Jews, but he admitted that â€śsince they come out of you, doesnâ€™t that make them Jewish by default?â€ť We agreed that thatâ€™s Jewish law, but I have felt as though â€śby defaultâ€ť is what weâ€™ve deferred to.
That is, until we decided to send our daughter to a Jewish preschool and kindergarten. Itâ€™s Chabad-affiliated, so Judaic studies are part of their everyday teaching. Now that my daughterâ€™s in kindergarten, they study the Torah for an hour a day. The result? She has become a bit of a super Jew.
I have gotten used to conversations such as the following:
My daughter: â€śMommy, whoâ€™s Elvis Presley?â€ť
Me: â€śOh, just the King of Rock and Roll.â€ť
My daughter (with an admonishing tone): â€śMommy. Thereâ€™s only one King: Hashem.â€ť
Once in a while, my husband seems nervous that heâ€™s the odd man out. But I assure him that a lot of the knowledge she possesses far surpasses mine as well. I consider her a refresher course for me since she comes home from school on a regular basis and lectures me about the meaning of Purim or the true reason we celebrate Hanukkah, things Iâ€™d long forgotten about.
Lately, she lives by some sort of code of ethics that she believes will ensure her a place â€śin the new world.â€ť I find it a bit worrying that she gives death any thought, but she tells me that as long as Hashem is happy with her, sheâ€™ll be able to advance to the new world. What is this new world? No idea. I think sheâ€™s referring to when the Messiah comes and carts us all off to Eden or something like that. See? Iâ€™m not the one with the vast knowledge of Hashemâ€™s wheeling and dealing. When my beloved dog passed away recently, my daughter patted me on the back and said, â€śI know youâ€™re sad, Mommy. But donâ€™t worry. Iâ€™m sure Hashem will bring Zooey to the new world. Youâ€™ll see her again.â€ť
Admittedly, Iâ€™ve used my daughterâ€™s relationship with Hashem to my advantage a time or two. If she misbehaves or whines, I have asked her if she thinks Hashem would approve of her behavior. Maybe not the best parenting tactic, but she will stop and think about it, so maybe not all bad?
The other day my husband asked me, â€śDo you think Lilah is taking this Hashem thing too far?â€ť And the answer is that her devotion makes me proud. I like hearing her identify herself as a Jew. At the very least, she will have some sort of a foundation of Judaism going forward that I may not have been able to provide for her due to my lack of Jewish knowledge. And I also think sheâ€™s 5 and deeply impressionable. I related an anecdote to my husband to give him some context for her obsession with Hashem.
When I was slightly older than Lilah, I was obsessed with Adam Ant. He was my Hashem. I told everyone Iâ€™d marry him when I grew up. I listened to his music every day on cassette tapes, wore t-shirts with his image emblazoned across, and hung posters of him on my walls. My brother made me a 20- dollar bet that my feelings for Mr. Ant would change in time. By the following year the posters of Adam Ant were replaced with posters of Patrick Swayze. And I was 20 dollars poorer.
And though I love the fact that right now, my daughter is in love with her Jewishness, I donâ€™t know what her future holds. For now, I am tickled by the fact that when she thought I wasnâ€™t listening, she was consoling her sobbing 1-year-old brother with the following utterance: â€śYou donâ€™t have to cry. Donâ€™t worry. Youâ€™re a Jew, too.
MyÂ daughter Sophie will be 3 this November. My husband Philippe and I have decided to let her start half-day preschool (sheâ€™s begged). Still, weâ€™re late starting to look at options. I canâ€™t settle on anything, and as a doctoral student in education, I fear my knowledge of the researchâ€”my vise-grip on â€śhow things should beâ€ťâ€” has gotten in the way.
Ironically, in the world of parenting and education, it seems as though you can really know too much, or at least can be tooÂ critical.Â Then, I see an ad for a Jewish preschool not far from our home.
My own religious past is complicated. I was raised Protestant because of my father, but my motherâ€™s entire family was Jewish. My maternal grandfather and his brother were the only ones who survived the Holocaust, traveling from Hungary to Ellis Island in the hold of a ship. As both my grandparents died when I was a child, I was never able to ask any more. If I had a story to tell about my past, it would be one of absence and loss, of lacking knowledgeâ€”hardly the only story I want to pass down.
â€śLetâ€™s check it out,â€ť I tell my Catholic-raised husband, who was actually taught by nuns in his early years. Weâ€™d decided not to push Sophie towards any faith, but the school looks like a good option, emphasizing respectful interactions, strong routines and a balance of strictness and care. At least thatâ€™s what the website says.
In my work, I know the importance of high-quality early education. As decades-long studies have shown, such as the Perry Preschool Study, children who were placed in a â€śhigh-qualityâ€ť program were found to commit less crime, have higher educational attainment and income and need less welfare assistance than a control group.
And yet, I know that a childâ€™s experiences include far more than a single classroom. Developmental psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner, in his â€śecological systems theoryâ€ť developed in 1979, describes how everything in a childâ€™s environment affects her development, ranging from the microsystem, or her immediate surroundings, through the macrosystem, or remote issues such as the national economy, which affect a childâ€™s experiences in surprising ways. Choosing a preschool means choosing a microsystem, where Sophie will have thousands of interactions with teachers and peers over the course of the day.
No pressure, I tell myself.
When I visit the school, I stand in the temple while the children sit in a semicircle singing Shabbat songs. Their voices mix together, high and low, and bring me to tears. The narrative I had about myself, about my past as a source of loss, didnâ€™t have to be the one I passed down. My pastâ€”and the culture surrounding itâ€”could be a source of joy, of learning and of life.
Even more, seeing the school in action helps me change my narrative about what Sophie needs, and what I need as well. Itâ€™s not about what should work for a child, I concede, but what actually does work, for the child as well as the family. Itâ€™s about the values we want to move toward, the history we want to honor and the past we want to bring to light. What resonates for one family might mean nothing to another. In the ecological model, context is everything.
We decide to send Sophie to that school in the fall. My own life comes full circle, in a twist that I couldnâ€™t have predicted. In attending a JewishÂ preschool, Sophieâ€”blonde and blue-eyed like her fatherâ€”will have a chance to touch her past through her present, to eat apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, smell sweet spices for HavdalahÂ and play in a sukkah for Sukkot. I never went to temple until college. In helping Sophie know her past, Iâ€™m returning to a system of traditions that I, in my own life, have ignored.
The Jewish part of my history has been buried until now, and with it, my story about myself. Without searching for a preschoolâ€”and without finding this oneâ€”we probably never would have made this decision at all. Not only that: as we light candles for Shabbat, and as we tear into a loaf of challah bread, Iâ€™m helping change my story of the past into something sweeter. History can be a chance for celebration, not simply mourning. Those traditions are coming alive for us once again.