My daughter, 7, just started a new year of religious school. Although she doesn’t enjoy every moment — I mean, does any kid?! — she is genuinely excited about it, especially since she bonded with her Hebrew School friends at camp this summer.
This is her third year of formal Jewish education, and she can now do things such as sing the Shema and read and write most of her alef bet. She knows our important holidays and loves talking about what nugget of Jewish history or tradition she’s learned each week. But she’s not the only one who has benefitted: As we’ve been extra-busy with the High Holidays and adjusting to back-to-school schedules, it’s dawned on me that my own relationship with Judaism has changed for the better since she began Hebrew School. Here are 6 ways my daughter’s religious school has changed my relationship with Judaism:
1. We are a (slightly) more observant family now. We used to go to services just during the High Holidays, but now we also go to family services a couple times a year. My Catholic husband joins, and he has gained a deeper appreciation of Judaism. That’s particularly true when he gets to watch his daughter get up on the bima and sing prayers that he doesn’t understand but knows are special.
2. The High Holidays are extra meaningful. Now that my daughter is learning about these holidays in school, she understands why adults fast or why we dip apples in honey. I also love that she knows certain prayers and can actively participate in services.
3. Tikkun Olam for everyone! My daughter has learned the meaning of tikkun olam and she’s always thinking about ways to help “heal the world.” It’s gotten me thinking about ways we give back as a family, be it through donating clothes and toys, or picking out a present for a child in need — and what more we can still do. She knows I volunteer in our community throughout the year, and I’m looking forward to her turning 8, when she’s considered old enough by some of these nonprofits to join me.
4. New Jewish traditions have been fun to embrace. She is doing fun Jewish things like decorating the sukkah and making hamentashen — traditions we wouldn’t necessarily do at home, but are invited to participate in as part of the religious school family.
5. It’s forcing me to brush up on my Hebrew. Although I was taught to read Hebrew by the the most wonderful of rabbis, I fully admit to simply memorizing most of the important Jewish prayers — a skill that’s proven useless when my daughter has a question about a Hebrew letter or word she’s trying to read or write. So I’ve found myself looking at her alef bet workbooks for guidance and — hopefully — a memory jog.
6. I’ve gotten more involved in our synagogue. My formal Jewish education ended after my bat mitzvah. Though I continued to attend services on the High Holidays in college and beyond, I didn’t officially join a synagogue until it was time to enroll our daughter in religious school. But now, I’ve found myself becoming a more active congregant — I lend a hand when parents to help organize religious school activities and I’m planning our temple’s Mitzvah Day in October. None of that would have even been a remote possibility three years ago.
Those are just a couple of the ways my child’s formal Jewish education has made me a better, more active Jew. Can you relate to any of these since becoming a parent, or do you have your own to share? Let me know!