Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Jewish Child in Me

Communal Jewish tradition thrives best in an environment of families with kids. 

It has taken me many years to overcome the resentment I felt as a single person (without children), that feeling of being side-lined, left out, and not in on the private joke.  The exception to that experience being Barnard College, where Rabbi Chuck Sheer and the Columbia-Barnard Jewish community embraced students from all levels of Judaism;  and where my daily observance and the holidays were based upon joy (and great parties), rather than fear of the lightning bolt, or fear of being judged by others.

I understand this even more today, when I have a two and a half year old child.  I eagerly await Purim, which arrives next week, because I can picture Raphaela in her costume, singing songs and collecting candy and celebrating with family and her Gan friends.  I have developed a modern Purim tradition of my own, as a parent living in Israel:  the day after Halloween in the United States, I cruise online and buy Raphaela an amazing quality costume for 75% off the regular prices.  This year we will sport matching outfits, Supergirl and SuperMommy.

Pessach, the problematic food holiday at the beginning of April, has taken on much more significance for me, as it now represents an opportunity to sit with friends and extended family, tell the story of our slavery and redemption, and give my daughter the foundations of belonging to a people with a history.  In the past, I never enjoyed the academic competition, and the gloating afterwards of "Our family stayed awake reciting the Hagaddah until 3 am..."  The seder should be geared toward the wonderfully curious children in the group.

Raphaela still plays with the dreidel from Chanukah, and will occasionally sing the songs she has memorized from Gan, and from her Chanukah CD.

Through Raphaela's eyes, I re-experience the gift of wonderment of the world in which we live, and the Israeli-Jewish community which I chose 15 years ago as my home.

(As a child, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday of the year, because we all gathered at my grandparents, the entire extended family.  We ate straight through Thursday to Sunday, in between the Macy's Day Parade, the football games, the grandchildren poker games, and the annual argument of "What movie will we see at the mall this year".  It combines the best of thankful-ness in the American tradition, with a Shabbat family weekend.)

1 comment:

tesyaa said...

Jewish life at Barnard was pretty great, the best social life I've ever had (from one who was never much of a social butterfly) - Barnard '88