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September 18, 1992 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-09-18

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Teaching Our Children
By Improving Ourselves



In presenting
talks to several
synagogue and
fraternal groups
recently, I notic-
ed a curious re-
sponse to a point
I tried to make.
Whether the topic was Jewish
identity, survival or educa-
1 1-1- i--- , .-1" whenever I talked about
L the need for us to take these
sues seriously in our own
lives, inevitably the audience
,,vould focus their questions
''and comments on how to in-
(Still these values in their
I children.
Which is fine, up to a
point. But it seemed that
\ they were so focused on try-
ng to make their children
' _good and caring Jews that
They didn't consider the need
to make changes in their
own lives.
i My point was, and is, that
I our children follow our ex-
ample. They tend to practice
what we do more than what
, 4- e preach. So if we want our
_children to lead meaningful
(Jewish lives, it's not enough
'--- us to carpool our kids to
`school or religious
,school and feel we've done
ur share. We have to be in-
)olved — not so much in
their Jewish education and
growth, but in our own.
-Pit the recent B'nai B'rith
International convention in
Washington, at a session on
Jewish identity, a man from
_1 southern city with
relatively few Jews asked
'low he could help his
idaughter maintain a strong
Jewish identity in a school
where she was a distinct
minority. There were the
usual suggestions that he
I encourage her to join a na-
,‘=.,ional Jewish youth group,
1 but
_ he probably would not
want to hear that if Jewish
identity was a top priority he
?would not place his child in
I -uch a predicament.
Then there are the parents
who want their children to
attend synagogue services
more often, though they
themselves don't go because
they find the experience
'mpty and boring. Why
wouldn't their sons and
aughters feel the same
way? Yet the solution — find
Liother synagogue or help
make the service more
meaningful — may seem too

Perhaps most poignant are
those parents who have tried
their best to provide a
positive Jewish environment
for their children and feel
they've failed when their
child has strayed from
Judaism or married out of
the faith.
I've met parents who sent
a daughter to Israel, only to
learn that she had fallen in
love with and married an
Arab man. They felt
cheated, but does that mean
other parents should not
send their sons and
daughters to Israel in the

Our job is to lead
the best Jewish
lives we can and to
teach through word
and deed.



hopes of providing them
with a positive, powerful
Jewish experience?
Similarly, I've met parents
who worked hard to be able
to afford to send their chil-
dren to a Jewish day school
or a Jewish university only
to find that their child had,
despite the odds, opted out
and married out. Does that
mean it's not worth the
effort to try to place our chil-
dren in an optimal Jewish
setting if our goal is for them
to live active Jewish lives?
One sad lesson is that
there are no guarantees in
life. We, as parents, simply
do the best that we can for
our children, and then hope
and pray for the best. It's our
job to to teach our children,
through words and the ex-
ample of our own lives. The
rest, at some point, is up to
An illustration can be
found in the central prayer
in Jewish life, the Sh'ma,
which not only affirms the
Oneness of God but teaches
us how to transmit Jewish
education and values from
one generation to the next.
Each day we say, " . . . and
these words shall be on your
heart, and you shall teach
them diligently to your chil-
dren, and you shall speak of
them when you sit in your
house, and when you walk
on the way, and when you lie
down and when you rise."
The most obvious instruc-
tion here is that it is our
duty to continually instruct
our children, speaking the
words day and night, at
home and at all times. But

Rabbi David Wolpe, in his
new book, In Speech and In
Silence: The Jewish Quest
for God, offers a lovely in-
sight by examining the text
more closely.
Why does the text say that
the words should be "on"
your heart? Wouldn't it
make more sense to say that
the words should be "in"
your heart?
The rabbi notes that it
would indeed be ideal if the
words taught were held in-
side the heart, but that does
not always happen. We are
not always receptive.
Sometimes the heart is
callous. But if the words are
on the heart, there is the
chance that in time the
heart will soften, become
more open, and allow the
words to sink in. Even
"words which do not touch
us today may change our
lives tomorrow," writes
Rabbi Wolpe.
The message is there, for

Artwork from toe Los Angeles Tans by Oaths

our children and for
ourselves. Our job is to lead
the best Jewish lives we can,
and to teach through word
and deed, and hope that the
Word — Jewish values,
ethics and history — sinks

nor Oast/1,mA by Los Angeles Tatbes SyntLeate

Sometimes we parents
focus so much of our energies
on doing what is best for our
children that we do not take
into account the fact that the
best we can do for them, and
for us, is to lead authentic
Jewish lives ourselves. ❑

My Jewish Heritage Will Be Lost


Special to The Jewish News


y first great-grand-
child was born two
weeks ago. Born into
the Jewish faith he would
have been named for either of
his two great-grandfathers, or
some other ancestor who was
no longer of this world.
We name for the dead to
keep their spirits alive.
Neither my husband, who
died 15 months ago, nor I
shall have continued life in a
child named sometime in the
Both my sons married out of
our faith. The elder was mar-
ried in the Methodist Church,
the younger in a civil
We were living in a small
town, where we could afford
to purchase property, and
both boys were isolated from
the Jewish community. They
grew up with the girls they
married, good wives and
We practiced our religion
primarily at home, attended
the local synagogue, open on-
ly for holidays or for special
occasions, community affairs,
bar mitzvahs or weddings.
The membership was too
small to afford a rabbi full

Naomi Cherkofsky writes
from Bradford, Mass.

It was easier for me to ac-
cept their marriage to Chris-
tians than it was for my hus-
band because our family was
an island in a non-Jewish
Acceptance of intermar-
riage was more difficult for
my husband, the only son in
a family of four daughters.
We had brought our child-
ren up to make decisions from
their early days and respected
their right to make that very
important decision.
Perhaps because there were
fine Christians in my life —
neighbors, teachers, friends —
I was not as hurt as many of
my friends, who lived in ghet-
tos of their own making,
would have been.
What troubles me about our
children leaving the fold is

My grandchildren
know nothing of
Jewishness, only
that I am Jewish.

that my grandchildren know
nothing of Jewishness, only
that I am Jewish. Their lives
are totally Christian.
As a mother of gentile
grandchildren, I am not com-
fortable with other Jewish
grandmothers. Their relation-
ships with families are
warmer, easy, natural; they
take their grandchildren to
synagogue or temple; they

celebrate holidays with their
grandchildren in their own
homes. Even they are not
aware that when they speak
in a bigoted manner they
hurt me.
Nor are my non-Jewish
friends aware that they hurt
me when they repeat stories
that are passed along from
person to person, untruths
that have come down through
the ages, about Jewish man-
nerisms, wealth, or the spoil-
ed Jewish American Princess;
in my 76 years I have known
only one such J.A.P. I still
hear and read in newspapers
stories of Jewish "control" of
the United States
My heritage, the small
celebrations of my religion,
are lost; there is nobody to
whom I may leave my
Chanukah menorah; the pla-
que my husband made in
brass on wood of the Ten Com-
mandments in Hebrew; the
mezuzah on the doorjamb of
my apartment; all the other
tokens of my faith.
Many years ago I gave my
Sabbath candelabra and my
set of silver candlesticks to an
older sister who had married
into a pious family.
My heritage will be lost
forever. Some day my own
great-great grandchildren
may join the other bigots who
blame Jews for their troubles.
That is my greatest fear. ❑



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