The High Holidays have come and gone, which reminded me that it was another year of not celebrating with my extended family. Not only did I not travel, sitting in temple wasn’t in the cards for me either. My first excuse was that I’m well into my third trimester; my second excuse was that my 17-month-old son wouldn’t have sat still even if I had bribed him with freshly baked rugelach from Kupel’s Bakery. And yet I was comforted by a conversation with several other Jewish moms in similar situations at the Brewer Street tot lot in Jamaica Plain—as we discussed free tot services for the holidays, I was reminded that these women, these other mothers of young children, have become my tribe.
But I didn’t just meet these women at the playground; I first met most of them online. When I was pregnant with my son, I was directed by veteran moms to “JPMoms” and “GardenMoms,” BigTent.com groups for parents in Boston neighborhoods. There I not only used the classifieds to acquire umpteen baby items, I also found our night nurse and pediatrician through forum recommendations and archives, plus I shared my fears with other expectant moms and was comforted by their shared experiences. These resources made my first year as a mom much easier. There’s something comforting about having a 2 a.m. feeding and knowing you aren’t the only one awake who needs a new series recommendation on Netflix! Eventually I met these women in person through new mom support groups, classes and play dates.
On many occasions I have spoken to moms who ask me, “Where are all the Jewish moms?” Maybe it’s my Hebrew name or the fact that as a rabbi’s kid I’ve been involved in Jewish organizing since I could talk. But ironically, after meeting my husband on JDate, I wouldn’t consider myself anything more than “just Jewish,” and I’ve only been marginally involved in the Boston Jewish community. Yet when I was pregnant for the first time, that small connection was enough to get me in the door for an expectant mother’s brunch at Temple Israel of Boston. I felt like it was my way back to the Jewish community. After that my husband and I even took a parenting class with a Jewish twist; we did a nine-month program at Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center and signed up for all the available Jewish resources—Welcome Baby!, Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) Visiting Moms program and PJ Library.
When my son was born, I took him to a few Shabbat services, Jewish-centric meet-ups and a JF&CS new mom group. But my son learned to walk, nap times changed and I found I was no longer making the effort. With my daughter’s birth around the corner, I find myself gravitating toward the same resources, and the same hope lingers—maybe this is my way back to the Jewish community. I have spoken with friends about checking out various tot Shabbat services and other city-based programs, but it seems as if resources for Jewish parents are harder to find. So I decided to take a step I think will help—along with Julie Unger, Temple Israel’s families with young children coordinator, I created a BigTent.com group for Jewish families with young children in Boston. It’s my hope that other local Jewish parents of kids 5 and under will gather online to post events, reviews, questions, answers and classifieds. And next time someone asks me where all the Jewish moms are, I can point them to this virtual group that will, over time, foster personal relationships as well. I invite you to join us at bigtent.com/groups/jfambos!
Yael Halpern has lived in the Boston area for 10 years and currently resides in Jamaica Plain with her husband and son. She’s a full-time mom, part-time massage therapist and small-business marketer.