Let’s Think About Our Children

Let’s think about babies and toddlers
The first three years of life are rarely remembered by the child. But by four or five years of age memories are beginning to “stick”. You really get a long neutral period to figure out what you want to incorporate into your home life. What will you teach your child about their Jewish identity or their parent’s Jewish identity? I know that the Jewish partner is often at a loss to articulate exactly what “raising a Jewish child” or even “some Jewish aspects” means to them. Here’s a great way to help your Jewish partner have hands-on exploration of Jewish life and holidays. Join a group of other parents to participate in Jewish activities and share about your questions and feelings, options below.

By the time your child is old enough to form patterns of behavior, memories and meaning, it is good to have a plan. When my son was four we moved and I switched him from a Jewish preschool to a secular preschool. He had learned to delay gratification in the Jewish preschool because they didn’t start eating lunch until after they said the blessing. I didn’t realize that until he pointed it out to me! At the age of four he was already creating personal behaviors and expectations.

There’s no time like the PRESENT to begin drawing up your plan for how you want your child to perceive and interact with the world around them. Get some help figuring out the Jewish elements.

Do you have a newborn?
Get expert guidance and warm support with Baby and Me.

Baby and Me
Are you a new parent? Was your baby born between September 1, 2023 and March 1, 2024?
You and your baby are invited to come meet other Jewish and Interfaith families who want to:

Celebrate the discovery of parenting
Explore what it means to be a new parent and hear other’s experiences
Ask questions in a safe environment
Seek support and develop new friends

This informal group will be led by Karen Tanner, M.A., Infant Development Specialist, California Transdisciplinary Reflective Facilitator, and Credentialed Early Childhood Special Education teacher.

Baby and Me is an in-person group which requires that all participants be vaccinated against COVID.

There is no fee for Baby and Me. You do not have to be a Temple Sinai member to attend.
Please register February 24, 2024. Please register as soon as possible.
For more information contact wellnesscenter@oaklandsinai.org

Dates:  Saturdays, March 2 to Saturday, April 2, 2024
Time:   9:00 – 10:00am
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street, Oakland
Register here.

Do you have a baby 0 to 3 years old?
Looking for Jewish baby resources in the Bay Area? I’ll share some that I know of. You send me ones I’ve missed. Connect with one of these groups and you’ll meet parents who know even more!

Connect with Jewish Baby Network Today!
We would love for you and your family to become part of the Jewish Baby Network community. Please let us know a little bit about you so we can help you connect to other families and resources near you.
Our programs are designed for families with children aged 0 – 36 months. We welcome everyone, including non-affiliated, interfaith, multi-ethnic, single parent, and LGBTQ families.
Find your region here

Jewish Baby Network Tu B’Shvat activities:

Tu B’Shvat ‘Birthday of the Trees’
Meet us and The Kitchen families for a morning celebration of all that grows at the historic San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Connect with community and learn about Tu B’shvat!

Date:   Sun, Jan 28
Time:   10:00am – 11:30am
Place:   Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco
Host:   San Francisco Jewish BabyNetwork
FREE, please sign up here
Questions? Email alyssa@jewishbabynetwork.org

Tu B’Shevat: Becoming Shomrei Adamah
Join us along with friends from Beth El for a Tu B’Shvat celebration! We will have nature exploration, songs, crafts and fun for the whole family.

Date:   Sun, Jan 21
Time:   10:30am – 12:00pm
Place:   Tilden Little Farm, Berkeley
Host:   East Bay Jewish Baby Network
Register here

Tu B’Shvat Nature Party
Join us and friends from PJCC, to celebrate the Jewish “birthday of the trees.” We’ll have fun with snacks, songs, outdoor play, and a toddler-friendly hike around the beautiful park.
Date:   Sun, Jan 21
Time:   3:00 – 4:30pm
Place:   Little People’s Park, Portolla Valley
Host:   Jewish Baby Network Peninsula
Register here

What about older children?
Your child’s identity, their Jewish knowledge level, and their sense of belonging are up to you, the parent.  I’m not saying you have permanent control over their choices, but you do have control over what they learn and experience growing up in your home.

I’m offering a discussion on what and how you will choose to introduce them to regarding Jewish traditions. (Jewish) Life with Children is an opportunity to sort out what you both WANT, and are able to SUPPORT in your child’s life. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. As we talk together, other parents will be making decisions different from your own. That’s OK. The only “wrong” choices here are ones that demean or hurt other family members and I’m confident you don’t want to do that. So let’s find YOUR way forward.

You may be well into child rearing – your children may be hitting their teens, and you find that you are faced with new quandaries. Great! Time to adjust your plan. This is totally normal; it’s called Growth.

(Jewish) Life with Children
A common question posed to interfaith couples is, “How will you raise the kids”? When the reply is “Jewish”, what does that mean?  So many engaged non-Jews lovingly say, sure, we can raise the kids Jewish. But I find that it is rare that the Jew has explained what that means to them.

What are the options? Which lifecycle events will be practiced? There’s bris and baby naming at birth. There’s picking a name – English and Hebrew.
What will be practiced at home? What will we tell the children about their identity and that of each parent?
Will it mean joining a synagogue, sending the children to a Jewish preschool and later to Hebrew school? What about sleep away camp, b’mitzvah – and the list goes on.
Whether you’re just engaged, married, already parents, gay/straight, multiracial, frustrated or just curious, please join me for a dynamic and informative discussion.

Date:   Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024
Time:   7 to 8pm
Place:   On Zoom
Free, but you must email me for the link at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

Every child’s heritage is half of each of their parents
Your child is whole and that whole is made up of both their parents – maybe even more, if they are adopted. It is your child’s right to know their roots. Just as you would not deny them knowledge of medical traits, you must share with them religious and cultural traits. This doesn’t mean a confusing mishmash of sometimes conflicting “truths”. It means giving age appropriate information about who you, their parents, are and what your roots are. If you are a father of a daughter, that doesn’t make your daughter suddenly male in order to be like you. It means educating her about your own parents and upbringing. In my case, my father in his teen years worked as a cowboy; I didn’t think that I needed to become a cowboy, but I was delighted by his stories and proud of his past.

Join me March 21 online to discuss your child’s multiple roots and how to be sure they know their own inheritance.

Honoring Your Jewish Child’s Non-Jewish Heritage

Every child needs to understand where they come from. If you are raising your child as a Jew, but one parent is not Jewish it is essential that you teach your child about that side of their family. This is half of them! They need to be comfortable with how they put these parts together to make a whole person: themselves.

Jews may be concerned that learning about the non-Jewish parent means learning about another religion that will compete with Judaism. Not at all. There are hundreds of elements to another tradition or culture that are important and utterly without religious content:

There are cultural traditions which may include language, food, and music.
There are family traditions that include stories, memories, trips, games.
There are the traditions you create in your own nuclear family.

What if one parent has a religion? How can that be taught in a way that feels right to all members of the family – especially your child?
Let’s discuss how to teach your child about BOTH sides of the family and how to integrate both parents into your child’s identity.

Date:   March 21, 2024
Time:   7 to 8pm
Place:   Online
Free, email me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org to receive the Zoom link.

Teens on Campuses are Facing Anti-Semitism
Many of the synagogues in the Bay Area are offering special gatherings for their teen members and parents to address the anti-Semitism in their school environment. You may have read that more than 30 Jewish families pulled their children out of Oakland Public Schools after the school system condemned Israel and supported the Palestinians/Hamas.

(NOTE: I say “supported the Palestinians/Hamas” because unless you distinguish between these groups, you are supporting both. Personally, I long for the Gazan people to be free from the oppression of Hamas, and for the supplies sent to them to be given to them, not taken from them by the terrorists.)

However, these synagogue teen programs are open only to the members of the shul in order to establish a safe environment.
This week I came across a program for teens and their parents that is open to the community. It is offered by the JCC of the East Bay.  It is Let’s Talk About It: Navigating Conversations on Antisemitism.

It is a three session program, meeting 6 to 8pm on Sundays. It is IN PERSON. Read about the entire series here. You can attend one, two or all three.

January 28, 2024 – Navigating Conversations on Antisemitism

March 3, 2024 – Understanding Jewish Life on Campus

May 5, 2024 – Remembering the Holocaust | Zikaron B’Salon

The cost is:
3-session series: $36
2-session: $25
Single-session: $18
*No cost for existing Midrasha teens/families
I encourage you to take anti-Semitism seriously; the anti-Semites do.

Last, but far from least: LOVE
Tonight, January 19, has been designated Shabbat of Love by Jewish Federations of North America and many, many partners. Let’s all join in. Light extra candles, say extra blessings, make a challah, invite a friend. Join together in the priestly blessing.

The LORD bless you and protect you!
The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!
The LORD bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!

You can use gender neutral language if you prefer.