Four short years ago my entry into the back-to-school game began. I was sending my oldest to preschool, and I was excited for him, while enjoying this great milestone for both of us. Two and a half weeks ago my youngest, A. (2.5) had her 1st day of preschool just like her two older brothers. I spent all day walking around the school saying, “this is my last first day of preschool ever.”
Let me back up just a little. Although my husband R. was raised as a Reform Jew, he proclaimed to me from the day I met him that he is agnostic. Religion just isn’t anything he wants to be a part of. He did say that he had no problem with his children identifying themselves as Jewish and practicing Judaism, it just wasn’t imperative to his life. I wanted my kids to feel and identify themselves as Jewish. Given his feelings, and respecting his point of view, I took it upon myself to expose my kids to Judaism.
When it came time to look for a preschool for J., I immediately began looking at Jewish preschools. I went to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) for preschool, and I went to Yeshiva for 6 more years after that. I wasn’t intending to send my kids to Yeshiva, but I loved the idea of a Jewish preschool. My husband, however, not so much…
When it came time to find a preschool, he suddenly felt hesitant in putting our child (and future children) into a religious school of any kind. I would not let it go, though. I wanted my little man to learn Shabbat songs and have a Hanukkah performance. After we toured one amazing Jewish preschool, R. was still not swayed. I was even more determined. Once he saw our local JCC and their facilities, he thought we had found the right place for our child(ren).
The first day for J. was a real eye opener to us because the student body was a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish kids alike. Different ethnicities and different religions were represented by a good number of the children in the school. Without knowing it, our preschool choice was the best thing we could have done for our young children. They were getting a Jewish preschool education and meeting children from so many different walks of life.
My mother became good friends with my boys’ former teacher, and now when she picks up A., she goes to her classroom just to say hi. Every Passover my mom makes her haroset. This place not only taught and continues to teach my kids the fundamentals of Judaism–the faculty has become a part of our family.
On A.’s 1st day of preschool, we had teachers and faculty fawning over her, saying to me, “We remember when you were pregnant with her.” I had her when the boys were both students there. The best part of her first day is when R. was filling out what day A. would be Ima*, he turned to me and said excitedly, “It’s our first time having an Ima.” I was so happy to see him excited for his sister’s exposure to Judaism.
I almost forgot to tell you that singing Zoom Gali Gali with the boys for the first time is something I’ll never forget. They couldn’t believe I knew the words. I can’t wait to sing it with A.
*Each Friday for Shabbat one child was Ima (Hebrew for mother) or Abba (Hebrew for father). They get to do all of the blessings and we as the parents are responsible for bringing a kosher, healthy snack for all of the kids. It’s a fun way for each kid to get a turn to be the center of attention on Shabbat.