No two families are the same. Race, single parent homes, families grown through adoption and religion are just some of the things that make our families different yet none the less special. In this posting, I am sharing about how religion makes our family different, special yet with a bunch of issues that we need to tackle. We live in a town with a very small Jewish population. The twins are the only Jewish kids in their grade while JJ has 2 Jewish kids in his grade. I would guess, although not sure, that the feelings that this may bring to a family transcend to race, as well.
Both my husband and I grew up in towns that had a significant Jewish populations, but my kids do not have the same. We go out of our way to expose them to our religion….we send them to Hebrew School, the twins attended a Jewish pre-school and next summer, all three, will attend Jewish summer camp. We are very fortunate that these exposures, in addition to our family life and traditions, are enjoyed and cherished by all three kids. But I always wonder, how do they feel to be the “token” Jews in their schools? Of course, throughout the years, we have run into the tantrums surrounding not having a Xmas tree, or not celebrating Christmas, and the tip-toeing around the question “how come Santa doesn’t come to our house?”
This past year, all three kids missed the third day of school to celebrate Rosh Hashana but all three chose to attend school the 2nd day of the holiday. It is a tough decision; do I leave the choice up to them? Do I just explain that in respect of their religion, they should not attend school? Our final decision was to leave it up to them….provide no input beyond laying out the choice. Had it not been the first week of school, we may have chosen a different tactic. Chanukah will be here soon enough—but this year it coincides with Thanksgiving rather than Christmas. Here I foresee a magnified issue as every one of their friends will be celebrating in December and our holiday will have “in their minds” been a blur with the secular Thanksgiving holiday.
With many of our relatives marrying outside of the Jewish religion, we have the added question “how come my cousins are Jewish and they get to celebrate Christmas and Easter?” Often, especially in the 6 year olds minds, no answer is good enough unless it involves a second set of presents and an egg hunt with a ton of candy as a prize.
Intellectually, I know the best way to address this issue of “growing up Jewish in a non-Jewish town and living in a time where marrying within one’s religion is less likely than years before.” Intellectually addressing the issue and emotionally addressing the issue are two completely different beasts.