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June 09, 1995 - Image 70

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-06-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Junk Mail Won't
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YOSEF I. ABRAMOWITZ SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

T

here are times I find my-
self listening to tapes in
the car, hoping to hear the
sweet voice in the car seat
behind me trying to sing words
that are still mostly incompre-
hensible to her. And almost
every time my 2-year-old daugh-
ter Aliza manages to get it even
close, I feel, but usually sup-
press, the urge to let a tear or
two well up in my eyes.
I find that I am most moved
when she tries to sing a Hebrew
song or one of those Jewish kid
songs with some Hebrew words.
Somehow, and it sounds corny
even to this 31-year-old, Aliza's
efforts make me feel that I have
already secured my daughter's
Jewish commitment for life.
Even so, I recently responded
to a direct mail appeal from a
Jewish organization by sending
a donation in Aliza's name. Part
of me did it because I thought it
would be cute. The other part
was responding to the vulnera-
bility I feel as a parent who can't
possibly protect his daughter
from everything bad in the uni-
verse. By sending money in her
name, I felt I was creating a fact,
mystically bolstering the exis-
tence of a creature who still
doesn't know to stop at the curb.
Aliza now gets Jewish junk
mail about trees, Israel, De-
mocrats, magazines and chari-
ties. My reaction, I'm surprised
to find, is extreme. I wish they
would all go away and leave her
alone. The appeals that warn
about the threat to Jewish con-
tinuity really annoy me.
Give us money so we can
make sure kids grow up with a
sense of Jewish identity. Send
us $18 to prevent a spiritual
Holocaust.
I find myself asking: "What
are these Jewish organizations
doing to help Aliza form a Jew-
ish identity?" My car rides with
my musical daughter make me
doubt that ordering another sub-
scription to Moment or Tikkun
or supporting another outreach
organization's Hebrew class or
lobbying for foreign aid to Israel,
fighting neo-Nazis or sustaining
the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum will make me a better
parent and ensure a brighter fu-
ture for the Jewish people.
Some years ago, I was in-
volved with the effort to reunite
the remaining Jewish families
in Yemen with their relatives in
Israel and the United States. I
discovered that even though

they numbered close to a thou-
sand souls, they did not function
communally. Somehow, their
distinct culture and religion con-
tinued from one generation to
the next. How? Each family took
its heritage seriously, passing
down the traditions, foods, val-
ues, and, of course, songs.

Ordering another
subscription to
Tikkun won't make
me a better Jewish
parent.

Numerous Jewish organiza-
tions successfully address many
of the concerns of the larger com-
munity. But, frankly, I feel less
invested in their success now
that I have a family to nurture
and support. And I don't feel the
community is sincerely inter-
ested in reaching out to me.
Sure, I belong to the local JCC,
which runs an excellent day-care
program. The problem is that we
can't afford it.
We give to the federation but
none of that money goes to low-
ering the cost of Jewish day care,
or producing creative Jewish
children's television shows, or
encouraging new Jewish per-
forming artists who can make
tapes for us to play between our
moderately priced non-Jewish
day care and our Jewish home.
And with Hallel, our second
daughter, just born, the only real
source of advice and support
we're getting comes from friends
and family — not from any Jew-
ish organization that would love
to have our support without lis-
tening to our concerns.
We don't need another politi-
cal speaker or a social event or
a mission to Israel. For starters,
we need good Jewish music
tapes. We need a little more
sleep. And we need you to un-
derstand that the future of the
Jewish community is not with
any organization with a great
direct mail appeal. It's with Al-
iza in the back seat trying to
sing a silly Hebrew song. ❑

Yosef I. Abramowitz dreams of
starting a bimonthly Jewish
family magazine. This article
originally appeared in Jewish
Parenting Today.

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