Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jewish parenting and Day Schools

I don't normally talk about Jewish parenting here, in part because there are those who do a better job of discussing the subject (Rabbi Phyllis Sommer's imaonthebima blog--look in my blogroll--is a good example). But Marisa and have regular conversations about day schools, which are becoming more and more relevant as Elishai gets older (he'll be in pre-K next year). So when Phyllis posted this blog post from the Frugal Ima and her family's debate of day-school vs. summer camp, I was intrigued and thought it was worth reposting here. Even if you aren't interested in Day Schools (or even if you do), I think there are arguments here about living a meaningful Jewish life and imparting Jewish tradition to your kids that are relevant. This list in particular of what you can do without a day school education (and should do regardless):
I truly believe that any family can impart a sense of love for being Jewish and tidbits of Jewish and Hebrew learning in their home if they are even a little bit determined. It takes hard work, yes:
  • You have to to celebrate Shabbat - every week.
  • You have to read Jewish books and listen to Jewish music - all the time.
  • You have to take your kids to shul, and not just for their friends' bnei mitzvah.
  • If you keep kosher, you have to pack lunch for them - every day.
  • Jewish values language has to become part of your everyday vocabulary.
  • You have to make a big deal about preparing for and celebrating the holidays - every holiday.
  • You have to prepare yourself to answer your kids' questions about Judaism and God, or at least know how to find the answers with them.
  • When you send your children to Hebrew school, you have to make it a priority, take it seriously, review/reinforce at home, and make sure they attend - every class.
I think we in the organizational world think that day schools are some kind of magic bullet, but the reality is that families who send their kids to day schools are also more likely to make shabbat, engage in Jewish art and cultural activities, keep kosher, use Jewish language, celebrate holidays in the home and go to shul. And just about any educational or parenting expert will tell you, kids learn by having their experiences reinforced at home. That's as true for helping with Math homework as it is with Jewish identity. This isn't to discourage from us as parents sending our kids to day schools--far from it! Rather it's a good reminder that we can't simply entrust outside 'experts'--synagogues, day schools, camp, etc.--to make our kids Jewish. That's something that only we as parents can do. And as one congregant reminded me this past week when I did some God Talk (and thanks Jeff for the reminder): parents have as much responsibility--if not more--than any rabbi or synagogue to teach their kids to value their Jewishness and maintain it.

Anyway, check out the whole posting as it's quite relevant.

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