“But mommy, I need to believe in Jesus. It helps me feel calm during play rehearsals!”
C’s words froze me in my tracks. I scrambled through what we’d just been discussing and wondered how things had come to this.
If you’ve never meandered over to my About Me page, you might not know that I used to work in a synagogue. You might not even know that I’ve been Jewish since 2002. Fact is, while Judaism was a huge part of my life for years – Sunday school teacher, synagogue staff member for 6 years – ever since I left the synagogue, I’ve considered myself as being “on a break” from religion.
I needed the break. No doubt about it. I needed to find myself again, rediscover who I was, away from everything else.
When I left the synagogue C was still in preschool there and I dutifully brought her back three times a week for a whole school year. At the end of that year, for many various reasons, we decided to switch schools, and that last day I drove away, fully intending to not go back for as long as I possibly could.
I forgot along the way that my break was having an effect on my kids. I forgot that 3-year-olds forget quickly and that everything she learned at her Jewish preschool would fade. I forgot that we might need to actually do something to foster her Jewish identity beyond holiday celebrations with the grandparents and a Shabbat evening here and there.
Whoops! Major Jewish parenting FAIL.
I salvaged the moment in the car by launching into an animated recounting of the story of Moses and then an even more energetic retelling of the story of Samson- desperate to relate some strong Jewish role models that she could pull from when she needed moral support.
Then I went home, tucked her and her sister in, and threw myself on the mercy of the Amazon gods. Some $44 later I had The Prince of Egypt headed my way as well as a number of books covering the range from What makes someone a Jew to a couple children’s bibles as well as a sweet goodnight book called the Bedtime Sh’ma.
We’re starting small. For the last two nights we’ve read the goodnight book and M and I have sung the Sh’ma to the girls just before turning out the lights. It’s a tiny step, but that, coupled with some more story telling, and maybe, just maybe, venturing to a synagogue once in a while to celebrate Shabbat with a larger group of people, might just help.
I have no issues with my daughter learning about other cultures and religions. I just want her to know that she comes from a long line of strong, moral, wonderful people. And if she needs good role models to help her feel strong and confident, we have them by the bucketload.