Being part of the Jewish community has always been important to me. I was president of my NFTY youth group in high school, participated in Hillel in college, worked at Brandeis for about eight years and even met my husband at a CJP/Keshet-sponsored mixer for LGBT singles almost 15 years ago. Although not particularly observant, culturally I feel incredibly connected to my Jewish heritage. When our boys were born, we gave them modern Hebrew names, joined a temple, sent them to a Jewish preschool and thought that would be “enough.” But as the boys got older, we started to grapple with questions about how we wanted to incorporate Judaism into our parenting. When I saw that Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) was available at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham with babysitting, I was thrilled.
Before we had children, my husband and I regularly had Shabbat dinners together at home with candles, challah and a bottle of wine. When our boys were born, we didn’t think much about incorporating them into our weekly ritual, and we enjoyed sharing our Shabbat practice with them. However, after our conversation about Jewish rituals during one PJTL session, we decided to change things up a little bit. At the suggestion of others in the class, we moved our Shabbat meal to the dining room, started using my in-laws’ wedding china that they gave us and began blessing our children each Friday night. The change has made Shabbat feel more special and connects us further to the traditions of our ancestors. It has become something we look forward to each week because it is so different from our other family meals.
Our Shabbat ritual is just one of many things that our PTJL experience has encouraged us to think more intentionally about when it comes to incorporating Jewish values into our parenting. Each week the discussions that inherently arise from the curriculum have asked us to examine important topics that prepare us for when the boys ask those big questions about God and assimilation, and also how we might encourage tikkun olam and kindness.
We’ve now completed both Series A and Series B of PTJL and I am excited that many in our group have decided to continue learning together for an additional four sessions this spring. I think this speaks to the kind of discussions the class engendered, but also the type of people who choose to take the class. The community of parents we have encountered at PJTL has proven to be our own chavurah of sorts. We’ve gotten together for Shabbat dinners and have even done some community service together.
It’s hard as adults with young kids to make new friendships, and PJTL has allowed us to feel part of our larger community and make some connections that we hope will blossom into long-lasting family friendships.
Find more information about Hebrew College’s PTJL, sponsored by CJP, here.
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