It’s My Life

I just wanna live while I’m alive….  Bon Jovi again.

Following last Friday’s blog post, a close friend, who happens to be the former Rabbi of the shul that we belonged to in London, said he felt that I painted a rather idyllic picture of my childhood education in Ireland. Perhaps he’s right. So I’m going to de-glorify and de-perfect it now.

Trust me, growing up frum in Dublin wasn’t fun. Being one of only a couple of frum kids in a community where most people were not, was not easy. Having only two or three friends at whose houses I could eat, was annoying. Being unable to go out with my friends on Saturday nights in the summer because Shabbat ended after 11pm, and my friends had gone out at 8pm was enough to drive any teenager to rebellion.

My point, in last week’s post, was that Yiddishkeit has to start in the home, not at school. With a strong Jewish home, parents who embrace their Judaism and practice it in their daily lives, every Jewish child in any school situation, has equal opportunity to remain on the derech. Day school is not a protective film on our children’s frumkeit. With all the talk about “half-Shabbos“,  and the stories I hear about kids from our local Yeshiva High School eating out at treif restaurants (and not being at all choosy in what they eat), what more proof do we need, that keeping kids within the Jewish Day School educational system is no guarantee of keeping kids observant? It takes more than $20,000 per year per child to keep someone from assimilating. It takes more than immersion within a Jewish Day School to protect the yiddeshkeit of future generations.

Children whose parents are willing to step up to the plate and teach by example, have the best possible chance of remaining observant. If Jewish continuity is truly important, then parents need to start showing their kids what it means to them to be orthodox. Let children see their father davening with tefillin daily (or know that he goes to shul every morning  to daven), see their parents check fruit & vegetables for bugs carefully, or make a bracha on hafrashat challah. Let them see their parents schedule trips and appointments around the Jewish calendar, skip concerts and movies during the Omer and the 3 weeks  – put their Judaism above their personal enjoyment – then they will see the importance of our Jewish existence, as compared to our secular one.

The guarantee of Jewish continuity doesn’t lie in keeping all kids in Jewish Day Schools. It lies in this generation of parents taking some responsibility for their children’s neshamot, and leading by example.

My childhood in Ireland was far from idyllic, and my childhood/adolescence was far from perfect. But my parents made it very clear what was expected of me and my siblings when it came down to our religion. Here in Boca Raton, we are blessed to live in the midst of a vibrant, orthodox Jewish community. Regardless of the schools our children attend, they are surrounded by other Jewish kids every day. Regardless of the institutional education they receive, they are living in a place that allows them to be frum without being different. It is up to us, the parents, to see that our children are part of Jewish continuity no matter which school they attend.

Oh, and for the record, our house is not for sale, it’s just another rumor circulating. I’m sure there are more, keep me informed!

Shabbat Shalom!

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