Raising children in a Jewish Family
Today’s post comes to you from Gina. A mom of two who describes herself as a procrastinator, but she sure does get a whole lot done for a procrastinator. Gina teaches her kids amazing things and makes sure that their brains are constantly being stretched. She also finds the time to write for two blogs and keep up to date on her social media platforms. I’m not sure how she does it all!
Here Gina is on how she raises her kids in a Jewish Family.
I was born and raised in South Africa to a moderately orthodox Jewish family.
My mother was raised in an orthodox kosher home while my father was raised in a traditional yet non-kosher home. When they got married they blended the two into a more orthodox yet non-kosher home at the beginning. We went to Shul Friday nights and celebrated the High Holy days. I attended a Jewish pre-primary school located at the shul. From about the age of 5 we kept a kosher house.
Fast forward about 20 years and my husband and I get married.
I grew up in that orthodox kosher home while he was raised in a more tradition yet non-kosher home. We bought a house and decided not to make our home kosher.
To keep kosher or follow the laws of kashrut means to eat and cook only kosher food. This means meat that has been butchered according to Jewish kashrut laws. We don’t mix meat and milk together, so no cheese burgers. We also keep separate cutlery, crockery and cooking paraphernalia for meat and milk. Certain animals are not considered kosher for example, pork and shell fish. You can see a more detailed description on my blog here.
Fast forward a few more years and we were blessed with our first born, Aaron.
When it was time for him to go to play school, we chose a lovely private crèche run buy a Jewish woman. While the school catered to all religions it was predominantly Jewish and the children were taught about Jewish traditions and Holy Days as well as the current holy days of other religions.
When he was old enough to move to a pre-school, we again chose a Jewish day school. Here all the children were Jewish and a lot of them were more religiously observant that we were. I mentioned to my husband that one day, our son was going to ask us why we didn’t keep kosher and his friends did.
Sure enough when he was about 5, he asked this question and after a lot of discussions, including him in them, we decided it was time to make our home kosher.
Our kids have always known they were Jewish.
We taught/teach them about religion as and when questions came/come up. For example: Going to shul on a Friday night would bring up questions about where other people go to pray. Then we would discuss churches and mosques and people who don’t feel the need to pray in a house of worship but just wherever they feel comfortable or not at all.
Because being Jewish in South Africa put us in a minority religion.
even though we sent our children to Jewish schools, they were surrounded by other religions when we were out and about. Christmas trees in malls in December, big, beautiful Mosques on our drives from place to place, fireworks and lights over Diwali. So even though we have raised Jewish children, they are aware of other religions and their beliefs and observances.
One of the things I love about Judaism is that you are constantly learning.
Not just the children, but the parents too. I remember, just before getting married, asking our rabbi’s wife if I HAD to cover my hair once I was married. She said something I will never forget. No person will ever observe the laws of Judaism (or any religion) 100%, there is always something more you can do or something more to learn. So, I don’t cover my hair, it’s just not who I am. I also wear pants and sleeveless shirts. But I keep a kosher home, light candles to welcome the Sabbath and make sure that my family are constantly learning more about who we are and what it means to be Jewish every day.
Just over two years ago, we made the decision to emigrate to Israel.
While it’s been a rather large adjustment in terms of culture (Israelis are a loud, pushy, obstinate, loyal, happy and friendly bunch) and language, it’s also been easy in that Israel is a Jewish state. This means that we are not in a minority anymore in terms of religion. But, while we are not in the minority anymore, there are still dozens of other religions represented by the citizens of Israel as well as many cultures our children have never been exposed to since there are people from all over the world that call Israel home, Russian, French, American, British, Australian just to name a few. So, we still make a point to explain the differences between people’s cultures and religions to our children.
Everyone is different but no person is above or below anyone else.
I think the biggest and most important lesson we have taught and continue to teach our children is that everyone is different and that no person is above or below anyone else. That people have different beliefs and that we need to respect them regardless of religion.
This is a concept that flows over into respecting people’s decisions to be who they are, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist, gay, straight, rich, poor, CEO, janitor, black, white or in-between. That in order for other people to respect us we need to show them the same respect.
I hope that in being open and aware of our own and other religions, we are raising open and aware children who will have compassion and respect for each other and others.
For more from Gina you can follow her blog A Bit of This A Bit of That or on Twitter or Facebook. Gina and her husband also run an awesome blog called Stuff To Teach Our Kids which I encourage you to check out if you’ve got inquisitive kids. If you’re interested in what it means to be Kosher then there are two articles up on her blog which explain being Kosher and the aspect of separating foods for such purposes in more detail.
To understand the reasons behind the series “The Religious Effect” read the Introductory Post here.
For the first post in the series have a read of how Breharne is raising her kids in accordance with Muslim principles.