I’m a Jew.
I was raised in an observant, conservative Jewish home. I attended a Jewish day school. My grandfather was a Rabbi. I made Aliyah to Israel twice as a teenager. Our family kept kosher; we had two separate sets of dishes. We celebrated Shabbat every Friday night and went to synagogue every Saturday morning.
I’m a Jew, but I didn’t like to admit that when I was younger.
As an adolescent and young adult, I was embarrassed to be Jewish. The reasons why, I’ll save for another article, but for now I’ll sum it up with this:
One day at summer camp, there was a barbecue. My mom sent kosher hot dogs with me, so I would feel like I fit in, but that only made me feel like I stuck out even more.
Who’s the freak with the Hebrew Nationals and kosher buns?!
I was not going to be that kid, so I conveniently left them in my lunch bag and got in line with the other kids, breaking kashrut and guiltily stuffing a 100% non-kosher pork dog down my throat.
I married a man who was not Jewish and hid behind his Scandinavian last name.
When I had my first child, I felt a tug to honor my roots; we decided to raise her in a Jewish household, yet it was up to me to take the lead. I dropped the ball, hard.
I claimed I was too tired to make Shabbat dinner and high-holiday tickets were out of our price range. Then, I got divorced and became distracted trying to pick up the pieces and find my identity.
When the girls graduated from Jewish preschool, I left the community behind. It was too painful, seeing all of the families and being reminded of the traditions, sans family unit.
Even though I rejected my religion as a kid, it was what I yearned for and missed the most as an adult; Judaism was the source of grounding, security and comfort in my life.
Over the years, I’ve found myself dabbling here and there. Studying and promising myself I’d go back to synagogue with the kids, but I always found another excuse not to participate.
Last year, the girls started asking questions about my childhood and about our religion. It was a wake up call. It is my obligation to teach them about their roots, their heritage, their culture and their faith. I am the strongest link between my daughters and their ancestors; I was failing them, all of them, past and present.
As a parent, it is my responsibility to offer them a framework, a guidebook, an opportunity to interact with the world in a soulful, spiritual way, which Judaism provides for me, even when I neglect it.
This past year, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it alone. A visionary once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
My eldest daughter will be eleven this fall. She’s only a couple of years away from her Bat Mitzvah.
It was time to act…
I turned to my parents, I turned to the community and I asked: I asked for help and they answered.
In reflection, I recognize I am who I am because of the way I was raised. I’ve made it through the immature embarrassment, to this stage—appreciation.
I’m proud to be a Jew.
My philosophical conundrums, empathy, sensitivity, love for humanity and precocious spiritual inquisitions are inspired by my Jewish upbringing.
Yesterday, the girls attended their first day of school at their new school—a Jewish day school.
I changed the trajectory of their lives with that decision: moving them to a different school. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true.
I, as their mother, make decisions every day that can and will change the course of my daughters’ future, for the better, I trust.
They don’t get a say in the big decisions, and that’s what makes decision-making excruciating at times, however, that’s what being a parent is all about: seeing the landscape as my children step foot on the trailhead, blind to what’s ahead.
It’s my job to gently nudge them onto a path, equipped with the tools to help them reach the other side.
Tonight, I sat and stared at the picture I took of them yesterday, standing at the gates of their new beginning, joy pouring from their faces. Although, when I asked them to stand for their picture, they both got a little embarrassed—just like their mother did. ~Rebecca
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-noi E-loi-hei-nu
Me-lech ha-o-lam she-he-chee-ya-nu v’ki-yi-ma-nu
vi-hi-gi-ya-nu liz-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the
Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and
Enabled us to reach this occasion