After a few gentle nudges from my sister, my husband Alan and I decided to register for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens last fall. We had moved to the suburbs only a month earlier and though we wanted our then 5 year-old to begin Hebrew school, choosing a synagogue felt overwhelming. The PTJL class seemed like the perfect opportunity to take time to think about how we wanted to incorporate Judaism into our family. We were accustomed to randomly picking and choosing when Jewish ritual entered our routine: attending High Holy services with relatives, celebrating Shabbat most Friday nights, and singing along to the OyBaby! CD when it came on. Alan and I agreed that the PTJL class would be a wonderful starting point for bringing Judaism to the forefront of our family life.
There are many components of the PTJL class that have been meaningful; I hope to look back on the discussions, thoughts and readings during the phases of parenting that lay ahead. Some of the more simple elements of the class have already been incorporated into our family routine. In our last class we received a colorful card with the prayers for Blessing the Children in both English and Hebrew: one side for a boy and the other for a girl. I was familiar with the blessing from Shabbat dinners at my sister’s house – her husband would say the prayer as he and my sister placed their hands on their boys’ heads and we placed our own hands on the head of our girls. I had always felt it was one of the most beautiful Shabbat traditions but we did not say the prayer in our own household for the simple reason that we did not know it by heart or have it written down in front of us. Now the blessing card rests in our kitchen cabinet alongside our Shabbat candles and Tzedakah (charity) box, waiting to be taken down on Friday nights and read aloud with all of the other prayers we’ve always said.
Though our class ended several months ago, we recently gathered together to meet one last time, children included, to discuss the history and meaning of the Havdalah service (the conclusion of the Sabbath). I had not grown up with this ritual and therefore did not have the tools at hand to bring it into our home – both figuratively, since I did not know the prayers, as well as literally, since we did not own a Havdalah candle or a spice box. The kids were entertained by the craft projects, making and decorating their very own Havdalah candles, Kiddush cups and spice boxes. And as we sat together in a circle, reading and singing the prayers, I looked at the prayer sheet that Rabbi Julie Zupan had passed out for us to take home. Once again, I thought about how the PTJL experience furnished me with yet another simple tool, guiding us one more step toward becoming the Jewish family that we want to be.
Abigail Posner is a women’s health nurse practitioner. She lives in Needham with her husband Alan and their two daughters.