From the time we were married, my husband and I committed to raising a Jewish family. Life intervened, however, and in the chaos of having three children and two careers, the implementation of this became a challenge. I fully intended to bring my babies to shul for their naming ceremonies, yet in the blink of an eye I now have 3-, 6- and 9-year-old daughters, none of whom received that special ritual because of life’s intervention.
When our middle daughter was a toddler, we finally had a little breathing room and joined a synagogue before diving back into the sleep deprivation that only parents of a newborn can understand. So when the opportunity arose to participate in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens during the girls’ Sunday morning Hebrew school classes, we jumped because of our desire to further cultivate a Jewish orientation to our parenting.
We recently completed our six-week session at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, led by the phenomenal Orit Kent. I wish I could say there was an excerpt of the Torah or the Talmud that we read that provided a eureka moment, or that we now leap into prayer instead of yelling when our children refuse to put their shoes on for the hundredth time. What did happen, though, was that we built space to have thoughtful, meaningful conversations with other Jewish parents as guided by Orit. These were mostly geared toward how we can incorporate Judaism into our parenting. We shared, among other things, best practices about tzedakah, getting involved in social action, giving allowances and including our children in Jewish rituals at home. What I liked the most was being able to spend time with some very funny, smart, thoughtful parents and feel camaraderie in knowing that we all constantly wish we could do better. On a deeper level, we explored many ancient Jewish texts, which clarified for me the extent to which my Jewish upbringing has informed my worldview, something I hadn’t fully realized before, and stimulated some really interesting conversations about a variety of topics.
Since completing the session, we have definitely made some changes at home. We have put more effort into performing Shabbat rituals as a family, and we talk about important themes like shalom bayit (peace in the home) and trying to show chesed (kindness) within our family and to the outside world. Most important, we as parents try not to be so hard on ourselves, given the recognition that parenting is universally hard and a work in progress for all of us.
At the end of our last class, Orit reminded us that our children are lucky to have us as parents, “even if it doesn’t always feel that way.” I got a little choked up when she said it, realizing how true the statement is, and, at the same time, how easy it is to overly focus on one’s shortcomings as a parent instead of all the things we are doing right. I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested, and I am looking forward to taking the next set of sessions…when life permits!
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