This fall, I participated in Parenting Your Tween Through a Jewish Lens at the Dorshei Tzedek religious school while my kids were in their classes. The course was led by Judy Elkin, and took place over 5 Sunday mornings.
Our class of 18 parents explored a wonderful variety of texts together, everything from “Maimonides on Anger Management” (Is there anything this prolific Jewish medieval philosopher didn’t cover?) to “How to Hug a Porcupine” (the title speaks for itself). It was fascinating to delve into ancient and modern texts with a group of parents who are dealing with the same joys and challenges of raising a tween. Some of the texts we studied had profound depth, and looking at them with other parents helped me see layers that I would not have found on my own. For example, a text from the book of Proverbs seemed on the surface like harsh disciplinary wisdom, but in talking together, our group of parents found a wealth of additional meaning – and we inspired by the idea that we should never give up on our children. It was also fun to simply hang out with other parents and talk.
At the start of the first class, Judy asked each of us to think of a metaphor for parenting. My daughter loves to rock climb, so the metaphor I came up with was that of parents as belayers: we want to give our kids enough “slack in the rope” to move around and maybe even make mistakes, but we also need to teach them and keep them safe. I now find that when a parenting challenge comes up, I think about belaying a climber. Our class also talked about bringing Judaism into everyday life: one way I do that now is to quote from the morning blessing “Who makes our steps firm” before my daughter and I start a climb. PJTL helped me think about ways to bring Judaism into kids’ lives without it feeling like something that’s imposed on them.
I am very grateful to Hebrew College and CJP for helping us have this program at our school! It was a pleasure to pursue Jewish learning in the same setting and time as my kids, and I got to know people in my congregation even better. I encourage anyone with an interest in Judaism and parenting to take this class!