Melissa is a writer and happily married mother of three (ages 12, 8, and 5) living in central Massachusetts. Her husband also has two daughters from his first marriage, 16 and 14. Melissa is currently working on a book about her experiences converting to Judaism, and blogs at www.melissaannecohen.com. Her work has been published in CJVoices, InterfaithFamily, Mothering, and BlogHer.
My youngest went to preschool at the local JCC. She didn't like preschool, at least not the first year. She cried and spent most of her time up in the loft playhouse, watching the kids playing…below. Her teachers assured me that she was fine after I left—that she was an observer, paid attention to everything, and seemed perfectly content. I'd walk her in, two mornings a week, pick out a book for her to read, and make sure that she had the little stuffed koala bear that was her constant… >> Read More
I’m a veteran of the December Dilemma wars.
I’ve written about it for years, with exhaustive, ruminative blog posts. Every December, my holiday tradition has involved putting up a Christmas…tree, finding enough Hanukkah candles for all of the menorahs (seriously, does everyone light 15 menorahs or is that just me?), and fighting with my husband, my poor mother, and myself. Everyone has an opinion about my holiday celebration: was I celebrating too much Christmas? Not enough? Was I sending mixed messages to my Jewish… >> Read More
It was a sunny afternoon, the first nice one of the year. I made my kids go outside. My 5-year-old was game, as she usually is. Hand her a bucket of chalk and she’s good to go. My 9-year-old was a…little more reluctant, as the lure of Minecraft was strong. “It’s too nice of a day to be inside.” It was my mother’s voice I heard coming out of my mouth, but it worked. He got up, put on his helmet, and took his bike outside. I started cleaning out my minivan. After a long… >> Read More
This year on Mother's Day, I'm grateful for my non-Jewish mother.
I'm a Jewish convert, raising a Jewish family. It's not an easy decision to raise your family within a tradition that is very…different from your own. It's hard not to take the choice personally, as a parent. To not feel as though you are being rejected, that the choices you made for your own family were somehow lacking or not good enough to be continued into the next generation. My journey through conversion wasn't easy or without… >> Read More
I want to raise my children with a strong sense of spirituality and connection to their Jewish heritage. But I'm struggling with the reality that my children do not like going to religious school,…and have only a passing interest in attending services with me. They love going to the synagogue, just not so much actually participating. There is a lot of arguing about going to Hebrew school, and why it's a good idea to occasionally step into services, as opposed to just wrestling with your friends in the… >> Read More
Most synagogues offer some sort of kid-friendly service once a month or so. It's called "Tot Shabbat" and it's aimed at kids that are too little for religious school but too old to doze in their…parents arms during services. >> Read More
The question of whether or not to raise our children Jewish wasn't one that my husband and I ever clearly articulated--but it's what's happening.
I came late to the party, as far as Judaism is…concerned. I didn't convert formally until I was in my mid-30s, and by then I had already had my first child. It’s not that we didn’t talk before we had children--we did, endlessly. Neither one of us wanted to give up our traditions, and we both wanted to raise our kids to honor and celebrate… >> Read More
I'm scared, and I have no idea how, or if, I should be sharing this fear with my children. With my daughter, specifically. She's seven months away from her bat mitzvah. Luckily, it's…summer vacation and she's not watching the news all that much. She's not on Facebook like I am, with a newsfeed filled with reports of violence in Paris and endless updates about what's happening in Israel. See, I'm new to being Jewish. I wonder sometimes, five years after converting, if I'll always feel somewhat new to being Jewish.… >> Read More
My husband Marc was Jewish, I was not. We hadn't decided, not entirely, what that would mean for our kids. We already had a 3-year-old daughter, and she was happily celebrating Christian and Jewish…holidays with both sides of our extended family. But having a son made any theoretical discussion suddenly incredibly real. For Marc, the idea that we wouldn't circumcise our infant son wasn't an option. It was an absolute. This wasn't a topic for discussion, not like whether or not we'd have a Christmas tree or should… >> Read More
It's sort of accepted lore by everyone that you must choose one religion to raise your children. Kids will be confused, it's a watering down of both traditions, and in the end, by not choosing one…tradition, you're in essence choosing no tradition that your child will be fully comfortable in. Don't do both--do just one. If you're Jewish, BE Jewish. Do it all the way. And if you are going to do it halfway, at least acknowledge that you are going to have hopeless, confused, and bewildered kids, with no… >> Read More
To gear up for the High Holidays this year, we’re asking our writers and readers for their Rosh Hashanah Resolution. Here’s one from our writer Melissa Cohen.
I've got three children, and for…the first time this fall, all three of them will be in school. Granted, my 3-year-old will be at preschool only two mornings a week, but it's more than just the time. I'm suddenly at a point where I don't have a baby anymore. I'm not pregnant, I'm still nursing a nominal amount, but my… >> Read More
Shabbat was what sold me on Judaism in the first place. As a convert, it's always been my favorite part of being Jewish. It was the first thing about Judaism that felt like it was mine, the first…thing that made me feel like I wasn't just doing it for someone else, this was what I wanted. For me, for my husband, and for my kids. It's the foundation for me, it's what keeps me grounded in Judaism. I don't speak Hebrew or Yiddish, the emphasis on the Torah is sometimes confusing to… >> Read More
My daughter is in fourth grade, and believe it or not, it's actually time to start thinking about her bat mitzvah.
When I was pregnant with her, I couldn't fathom how she'd be able to have any kind…of clear religious identity. Wouldn't she feel torn between her Jewish father and my own hard-to-describe-but-still-incredibly-important-to-me spiritual beliefs? She was the springboard for me to learn about Judaism in the first place. And it feels like it was just the other day that I realized she thought of herself as Jewish the way she considered… >> Read More