When I was younger my parents always took my sister and I to shul. I have such fond memories of attending religious school and then joining my local NFTY youth group. I went to conventions and went to Jewish summer camp. While my world was filled with Hebrew music, amazing Jewish friends, and my first kiss, I didn’t have to deal with the adult realities of enrolling your child in all of these activities. I never knew how expensive they were.
Recently I read an article entitled, “Expensive Dues Aren’t the Only Reason People Don’t Go To Synagogues” written on Kveller.com (one of my absolute favorite websites!). It was very enlightening and as a Jewish parent I could relate to much of what was written. Dues alone put a tough financial challenge to any Jewish family. But the article focused on what is lacking in many of today’s synagogues: the joy and value of living a Jewish life. Being Jewish is so much more than memorizing Hebrew prayers and lighting the candles every Friday night. It is a way of thought. It is how we live our lives. It is what we teach our children about the world.
Just as we teach our children, “look both ways before we cross the street”, so too should we be saying, “put a coin in the tzedakah box for those in need”. In my local hometown there is one small Reform synagogue. The number of Jewish families is so small that the Rabbi travels from a nearby larger city to host Shabbos services twice a month. Children’s religious school is only once a month, and yet, the dues are still just as expensive as the impressive “all-inclusive” synagogues in the major cities. So what is a Jewish mum to do in this type of predicament? We choose to raise our child outside of the traditional norms of a Jewish childhood.
No, we aren’t official members to the local synagogue, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take our child to Shabbos services. Our religious education consists of colorful, Hebrew place mats to learn the alef bet and a home library filled to the brim with the best Jewish childrens books. (More on that to come in future posts!).
We use a hybrid of Yiddish, Hebrew, and English words in the home and smile as our child quickly picks up on them and uses them on her own. We celebrate the holidays whether in home or traveling to major cities to participate with other Jewish families. We cook Jewish food regularly so that our child will know in heart, soul, and palate what a latke, matzo ball, and gefilte fish is. We choose to do things differently while still adhering to a Jewish lifestyle.
This blog is about the “road less traveled by” and all of the wonderful mitzvahs we do in between. Thank you for reading.