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In early May, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the JCC‚Äės of North America Biennial Conference in New Orleans. Most of the conference sessions I attended were about leadership, community and the future of the JCC movement ‚Äď all very interesting and meaningful to me as a JCC professional. However, the best workshop I attended was the one presented by David Ackerman of the JCC Association and Karina Zilberman, creator of Shababa at the 92nd Street Y in New York City focused on celebrating Shabbat at JCCs. If you live in Manhattan and you have small children, my advice is to RUN, not walk, to the 92nd Street Y for Shababa Fridays and Saturdays. If your kids like music and you like to feel inspired, this is the place. In a room full of 40 adults, Karina was able to create an atmosphere of joy that I haven‚Äôt experienced really since summer camp many moons ago. Her spirit, creativity and unique enthusiasm had a way of making everyone feel good, and in essence, make everyone feel good about being Jewish. That‚Äôs a pretty big and important task.
This experience really got me thinking about joy and Judaism ‚Äď are my husband and I making Judaism joyful for our boys? We try to make it fun by bringing them to the JCC and synagogue Purim carnivals, by taking them to see Mama Doni concerts and by celebrating Passover with their cousins. We try to make it part of our lives by going to religious school on Sundays and participating in the family service each week. We try to make it social by setting up playdates with Jewish friends. But do we make it joyful? How do we really do that?
I think I can see and hear joy when our boys are singing Jewish songs in the car and reading books from the PJ library ‚Äď but how can we take it to the next level? Overnight camp is one way for sure ‚Äď Friday night services outside with all of your friends, singing the Birkat Hamazon (blessing after the meal) with all of the ‚Äúcampy‚ÄĚ traditions ‚Äď but until they (and we) are ready for that, what can we do now? How can we ensure that they feel great about being Jewish and that they feel joy when they are doing Jewish things?
Our schedule is crazy lately. I know, I know, whose isn‚Äôt? My two big boys are both playing baseball this spring, and will soon be starting up select basketball. Both sports run concurrently (so, 2 boys playing 2 sports = NO free time, really) through early July. This schedule, plus a 30-minute drive to synagogue means we don‚Äôt get to services nearly as often as I‚Äôd like. And while there are nights I could go on my own, or just the baby and I could go, it just doesn‚Äôt happen. Much as I love our congregation and rabbi, I‚Äôm not sure I‚Äôm brave enough to go (and wrestle my munchkin into some form of quiet-ness for an hour) on my own.
Lately, with some stuff that‚Äôs been going on, I‚Äôve NEEDED a reconnection with something bigger than myself. I‚Äôve needed something to remind me that some of the pettiness and general sometimes-it-stinks-to-be-a-grown-up crud I‚Äôve been dealing with is, really and truly, small potatoes. I don‚Äôt really have a church home anymore, and, honestly, Sunday mornings are one of our FEW quiet times as a family, so I enjoy them at home. So, what‚Äôs a (gentile) girl to do?
I‚Äôve found great comfort in us lighting the Shabbat candles lately. It‚Äôs not always right at sundown, and I don‚Äôt always get to rest or study or simply enjoy their gentle glow. But I do get the reminder that there‚Äôs something bigger out there than me and my daily struggles and joys. I get to share the blessing with my boys. Most times, Daddy lights the candles and says the blessing. One week, I did it. I loved doing it. Bubba found one of the baby‚Äôs books that has the transliteration of several Shabbat prayers (I‚Äôve mentioned it here, before, My Shabbat) and pulled it out on his own to try to sound through some of the other simple blessings. Bear got in on that, too. It‚Äôs still all ‚Äúfun‚ÄĚ for them, but I like that they‚Äôre curious enough to try, and to ask.
More recently, I‚Äôve lit the candles on my own, when Daddy and the big boys were out, and it was just Baby Boy and me. I even braved last week‚Äôs Tot Shabbat (once a month at our synagogue) ‚Äď just Baby and me. (He loved it, by the way, danced and sang and wanted to go ‚Äúup dere‚ÄĚ on the bimah, and cried and cried when it was time to go home.)
So, while I continue to work on my own spiritual journey, I hope to continue at least lighting the candles on Friday nights to bring me back out of myself and the myopic view of life I tend to develop during our hectic weekdays. And even if my journey doesn‚Äôt lead me to any kind of conversion, I think I probably will always need Shabbat.
I once heard that time does not exist. It is only a concept that we, the people of the world, agree to for organization. I was thinking about this as I moved Shabbat up a night this week. My mother, who lives out of town, came in on Monday to spend the week with us. When my daughter, Sarah (age 6), heard Gramoo was leaving on Friday afternoon, she told Gramoo she couldn‚Äôt leave before Shabbat. Shabbat is the most special time of the week and she can‚Äôt miss it.
When I heard that, it took about two seconds for me to move Shabbat to Thursday evening. Our Friday observance is to have family night at home. We go to services at our synagogue on Saturdays. On Thursday, I set the table with our Shabbat dressings, the silver flatware, crystal glasses, the good china. We opened a bottle of wine (and grape juice for the younger set). I made matzo ball soup and challah. My husband roasted chicken. I made chocolate chip cookies for dessert. We enjoyed them warm from the oven. We picked up my husband‚Äôs mother and brought her over for dinner, too, so we had both grandmothers with us, a special night indeed!
We blessed the candles, the food, and the kids, and spent the evening together. It was a wonderful evening and one we will remember forever, I hope. My mother (Catholic) asked why we light two candles. Great question! They represent two forms of the fourth commandment Zachor (Remember) the Sabbath and keep it holy and Shamor (Observe) the Sabbath and keep it holy. And that is just what we did. We remembered and observed the Sabbath. So what that it was Thursday. Time is a concept open for interpretation after all. This week we welcomed the Sabbath bride twice. On Friday it was sans grandmothers, though the memory of the night before was still with us burning as bright as a third candle.
Shabbat Shalom, friends!
Tonight was the first time my family ‚Äď my husband, me and my two boys ‚Äď said the Hamotzi (blessing over the bread) at home ‚Äď outside a Jewish holiday. It’s not that I am opposed to giving thanks before my meals ‚Äď I know how many blessings I have and am thankful for them daily ‚Äď I just don’t express my thanks to G-d on a daily basis. But maybe I should.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, my father-in-law, who’s Episcopalian, always leads the Grace before dinner. This year our very chatty two-year-old thought that Grace was the greatest thing ever ‚Äď getting to hold everyone’s hands before dinner. And his way of saying Grace was by saying “I love my family” ‚Äď what could be better than that. My father-in-law’s version of Grace is also very universal ‚Äď thanking G-d for our many blessings, for the meal we are about to enjoy, thankful to the family we are gathered with and also thankful for those who are not able to be with there. Then it’s chow time.
Tonight however, my in-laws were not having dinner with us, it wasn’t a special meal or holiday. It was just a regular Monday night. Just after we all sat down, our seven-year-old asks, “Can we say the blessing?” And I respond that there are different ways ‚Äď Grace is what Christian people say, the Hamotzi is what Jewish people say and then our younger son’s version ‚Äď I love my family. He immediately picked the Hamotzi, as if that was what he was trying to think of on his own, which we then all sang together. Even his little brother joined in ‚Äď he has lots of practice from weekly Shabbat celebrations at the JCC pre-school.
Just a little story about how a regular Monday night turned into a really sweet moment for our family who might consider saying some form of thanks on a nightly basis.
Hamotzi lechem min haaretz,
Shabbat meals are ready. The house is far from clean. I have pretty much given up on preparing the whole house for Shabbat now that we have a baby. Once a month, we have budgeted in for a cleaning lady. I will have to wait one more week until the entire house will feel sparking and beautiful for the Shabbat Queen.
My husband has learned to enjoy the holiness of Shabbat. He comes home from work, and the Shabbat candles are lit, there is a beautiful meal ready to be served, and his wife seems a bit more relaxed than other days.
In recent years I have increased my level of Shabbat observance. I don’t drive, I don’t answer the phone or use electricity. I want the same thing for my son. My husband, who is not Jewish, isn’t required to keep the laws of Shabbat. I know he isn’t really interested in fully observing anyway. I worry sometimes, though, how that will affect my son.
Before I go on, I want to say my husband is 100% supportive of my Jewish spirituality. There are just certain things he can’t or won’t do himself though. I get it.
I know my husband likes his Saturdays for his man-cave time. He tinkers on whatever needs to be worked on. For him, Saturday is catch up day. Or a day to run off with the boys for a mountain bike ride or a ski.
I have discussed with him on many occasions that right now, while our son is still young and mostly unaware, he can do what he wants. But soon, probably way too soon, our son will be more in tune with what is going on in his house. No doubt, he will want to be with Daddy, do what Daddy does. Why would he want to stay home with Mommy and go to shul if Daddy is running off doing something fun like biking?
I think about these kinds of things a lot. I want my son to appreciate and enjoy his Jewish spirituality. I wonder how to balance all of this. Let my husband keep his cave time while educating our son.
What do you think?
Baby‚Äôs bedtime routine is pretty typical: bath every other night, pjs, possibly a little playtime (depending on how organized we are that night), some cuddle/wind-down time with Mommy and/or Daddy on the couch, then upstairs. If Mommy‚Äôs putting to bed that night (Mommy‚Äôs and Daddy‚Äôs put-down routines differ slightly), we go upstairs, read one or two books, sing songs, and then it‚Äôs night-night.
Lately, I‚Äôve been letting him pick out what books we‚Äôre going to read. (He‚Äôs got a veritable library to choose from ‚Äď that‚Äôs what happens with an English-major-nerd-type of a Mommy and Grandma.) For quite some time it was Dr. Seuss‚Äô The Foot Book or a Mother Goose compilation followed by Goodnight Moon. For Christmas, my Aunt Lyn (or, as Baby learned to call her, ‚ÄúGate At Leee‚ÄĚ) gave him On the Night You Were Born and Llama Llama Red Pajama, which quickly became favorites, even ousting Goodnight Moon. (Truthfully, Mommy was a little sad at that, because I love Goodnight Moon.)
But you know what he‚Äôs picked, almost exclusively, for the last week (which, let‚Äôs face it, in toddler-time is basically a lifetime)? My Shabbat, a soft shapes book by David Brooks. At first I thought Baby just liked it because the shapes come out, so it‚Äôs like getting to do a puzzle during bedtime stories. And I‚Äôm sure that‚Äôs one of the reasons he likes it. But I‚Äôve noticed the last couple of nights that once he gets the removable shape out (or in, depending on whether we started with the pieces in or out of the book), he sits very still as I
What do your children‚Äôs nighttime routines look like? Do you try to incorporate Jewish prayers/thoughts/traditions into those routines, or at other times of the day?
My son, thank G-d, was born September 13, 2011. Eight days later was his
The Mohel included my husband in the ceremony. We recited a beautiful prayer, asking G-d for help in parenting, for helping our son live a wonderful life and of course thanking G-d for our son.
My husband gave a beautiful speech after the ceremony. He explained how he had asked his mom, on her death bed, that she ask
I am so grateful for my son, and for my husband.
Shabbos candelighting is in a few hours (so early!) and now I continue to pray for guidance in parenting. For patience. That my son have a beautiful, long, healthy and safe life. And I thank G-d for my son. I really should also be thanking G-d for my husband a bit more. My husband, even though he isn’t Jewish, has taught me a lot about what it means to have Emunah and Bitachon in Hashem – Faith and Trust in G-d.
It‚Äôs the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ‚Äď no ‚Äď not Christmas and not back to school ‚Äď but back to Hebrew School. Remember that amazing Staples commercial from a few years back with the dad dancing through the store while tossing school supplies into the cart with the song playing in the background? Well that‚Äôs how I feel now that it‚Äôs back to Hebrew School for my almost 7-year-old first grader. My family joined a wonderful Reform synagogue in our area last year, just before my son started Kindergarten. He had been at the JCC for daycare and preschool since he was 10 months old, so on a weekly and daily basis he got all of the loveliness of being at a Jewish school ‚Äď Shabbat, challah, Jewish holidays, songs, crafts, PJ library books, Shabbat box, etc. I also work at that JCC so we got plenty of opportunities to participate in Jewish activities. So when he wasn‚Äôt going to be getting that from school we felt we needed to step up to the plate and choose a synagogue and choose to send him to Hebrew School on Sunday mornings.
I don‚Äôt have particularly strong or happy feelings about my own Hebrew school days and my husband is Episcopalian so his Sunday school was completely different ‚Äď although probably similar in many ways ‚Äď holidays, bible stories, music, prayers. We both wanted our son to enjoy his time at Hebrew School but wasn‚Äôt sure that was going to happen based on our own experiences. Many people I know have said, ‚ÄúWell, I went to Hebrew School, so now my son/daughter is going to go ‚Äď whether they like it or not‚ÄĚ. In our case, I think the ‚Äúliking it‚ÄĚ factor has definitely gone beyond my son ‚Äď I actually like it.
I like it because he gets to spend time with other Jewish kids on a weekly basis ‚Äď solely for the purpose that they are all Jewish and that their families think it‚Äôs important to have a Jewish education. I like it because he gets to learn more about the holidays, prayers and Hebrew than I am able teach him. I like it because it gives my husband and me another Jewish community to belong to. I like it because the families there are all Jewish, yet all different in their own way ‚Äď whether the parents are both Jewish, intermarried, gay, single parents or adoptive parents. I also like it because our temple invites the parents to join the service every Sunday at 11 am. I am able to see my son listening to the rabbi, going up on the bimah to lead songs and see his Jewish education in action.
The best part for me is that I really enjoy the service myself ‚Äď and I am not one to go to temple on a weekly basis on my own ‚Äď no regular temple go-er here. I love the songs and the sign language that the rabbi and cantor teach the kids. I love connecting to Judaism through music and the absolute best part is the last song of the service. It’s Tefilat Haderech by Debbie Friedman z‚ÄĚl and the rabbi asks everyone to ‚Äúhold someone close to you‚ÄĚ – and simultaneously all the kids put their arms around their friend‚Äôs shoulders and join in singing. It brings me to tears ‚Äď almost every time – to see this and to see my son grab his friends swaying in song. It brings me back to my days at Jewish sleep away camp ‚Äď which hold a special place in my heart. It also brings to mind my dad, who passed away 2 years ago, and how proud he would be of me and my husband for choosing this kind of education and Jewish path for our family.
I also have to be honest and say that I also like having two hours to clean the house, go to Trader Joe‚Äôs and Target, go to the gym or spend quality time with our 2-year-old son. I‚Äôm not going to lie ‚Äď its pretty great. But I mostly look forward to the 11:00 hour when I can be in the sanctuary and be an active participant in the Hebrew school service.