I want to raise a good Jewish child. By that I mean I want to provide my son with plenty of opportunity to positively engage with his Jewish religion and culture in a variety of communal settings. I want him to be swathed in idealism without becoming an idealist, and I want him to have a firm foundation of faith to stand on when he approaches the problems intrinsic to human nature in a critical manner.
Unfortunately for me, I am forced to raise my son in an era of extremes wherein centrists like myself are silenced by a cacophony of virulent condemnations from both the Left and the Right. By virtue of the medium, the Internet has normalized extremism in all forms and, as usual, Israel and the Jewish people are the number one target.
While I cannot control the opinions of others (however non-factual they may be) I can request the following of my Jewish brothers and sisters, many of whom are mothers and fathers in arms. For the sake of our children’s connection to our people and our State, I kindly request the following:
Stop Boycotting Israel. There are many Jews with whom I disagree. But I refuse to “take vengeance” or “bear a grudge” against my fellow Jewish citizen, let alone my State. It is ineffective to treat one another with hatred in any form. My son is going to engage with many Jews over the course of his lifetime. Should he stop playing with every one of them with whom he disagrees? He’ll never make it through year one of Hebrew school!
Spare me your academic BS about the evils of Zionism. We are the “people of the Book” in more ways than one. Stop discrediting higher education with theoretical idiocy. Whatever you think of the internal functioning of the government, the reality is that the State of Israel is the fulfillment of Jewish peoplehood. The threat of destruction has plagued us since our inception: Israel is the answer to that threat, and when it thrives we are safe. Just as we teach our children to take care of themselves so that they may be their best, so too we must teach our children to take care of the State, so it may best serve us and be the best reflection of who we are as a people.
Host a Tot Shabbat on a Saturday morning. No one wants to force their cranky, tired kid to light candles and focus on a lesson on a Friday night. God made Shabbat on Saturday mornings for a reason: So exhausted parents of early birds could hand their kids off to a trusted group of lovely bubbes and zaydes for a few hours, say a few prayers, mellow out during some Torah and (if it’s a really good shul) eat at least one kid-free meal. What better way to establish the communal sense of Judaism than through the one institution where you pray, talk, eat, study and play together?
Create community programs for new mothers. Women are having children later and couples are living further away from their extended families than ever before, making new parenting all the more challenging. What better way to encourage new young families into the Jewish fold than by offering a Jewish forum for new moms to connect and support one another through that first turbulent year of new motherhood?
Work to establish mommy and daddy groups through the Federation, JFCS and local synagogues. Yes, many Jewish women work at least part time, leaving very few hours during the week for socialization. But, can you imagine how many of us would flock to coffee and bagels on a Sunday morning for an hour or two while our kids play? Invite the dads to come along and make an event out of it! What a great marketing tool to build a young community looking to reconnect with the Jewish world. Because, despite all the media angst we really are out there. We’re just tired, overwhelmed, and in desperate need of someone to counter all the BS with a positive, helpful outlet that meets our needs and allows us to give back.