My four year old said these words to me in the car last week. He asked to practice singing Shabbat songs, and we did. Just as I was congratulating myself for raising this child with a strong Jewish identity, my boy stopped singing and said, “We sing Shabbat songs because we’re Jewish on Fridays, right?”
Here’s the thing: I have been afraid of this all along, ever since this child was born. We are a Reform Jewish family living in a secular (or Christian, really) world. We don’t keep kosher, and my children are too small to attend religious yet.
We live in a community with a strong Jewish population, but being surrounded by Jews and living Jewishly are two different things. We are surrounded by a lot of affluent people too, but that doesn’t just rub off, either. 😉
Living a Jewish life is something we must do intentionally, especially with very small children and two parents who work full-time in secular industries. Sure, we celebrate holidays, but even with Shabbat coming every Friday evening you can still find yourself singing Ma Yafeh Hayom in the car with a preschooler who thinks he is only Jewish on Fridays.
So I used my creative talents and set out to create some things to Bring Jewish Home, everyday, into our little world. I created a lunar calendar and a perpetual Jewish calendar that shows the Gregorian month, the Jewish month, and the days of the week. I made recipe cards for the things we cook and bake regularly–challah, challah French toast, leftover challah strata–do you see a theme here? I made challah art for our kitchen.
We sing camp songs from my days at OSRUI, the URJ’s sleepover camp here in the Midwest. We read the stories that accompany every holiday, and use those to talk about Jewish values. And the PJ Library is amazing, isn’t it? Sending us free Jewish books every month.
But we still need more. I yearn for community. My intention is to become more involved with our local Jewish community, and to go from there.
How do you Bring Jewish Home? What are the ways you instill a sense of Jewish identity in your children? Please share, I would love to hear your thoughts.