Tuesday, August 03, 2004

“Little House on the Prairie”

The last thing I ever would have expected to find in a city with a large Jewish population was that we would be raising a Jewish child with almost no local support. Not only did the older members of the shul make us feel thoroughly unwelcome, but, worse yet, there wasn’t one single synagogue family with kids anywhere near our kid’s age that was even as observant as we are. Absolutely NO ONE ELSE’S Hebrew-School-aged child came to synagogue on a regular basis unless there was Junior Congregation, and, often, not even then. The result was that our son became convinced that shul was a place for old people, and he absolutely hated it, and still does. He also became convinced that his dear old mom and dad were a pair of religious fanatics, which would be hilariously ironic, considering our level of observance, if it weren’t so upsetting. What evidence did he have to the contrary? Weren’t we the only parents who attended shul almost every Shabbat and Yom Tov? Weren’t we the only parents who bought a lulav and etrog every Sukkot? Nobody else gave a damn.

To our fellow and sister Hebrew School parents, Hebrew School wasn’t school, and Judaism wasn’t a way of life. Hebrew School was just another extracurricular activity, no more important than piano lessons or soccer practice. And being Jewish just meant that when you went, you went to synagogue rather than to church. Who cared if that was only three days a year?

If ever I had a good reason for being sorry that I didn’t listen to my husband and move to an area with more committed Jews when our son was born, finding ourselves “solo practitioners” among the Hebrew School parents was certainly it. Right now, our son is exploring Eastern religions and philosophies. At his age, I did my own rebelling, so I’m not that worried right now. But, if he’s still calling himself a Buddhist in ten years, I suppose I’ll have myself and this whole damned neighborhood to blame.


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