Tweens And Torahs
10/11/2012 - 09:30

Yes, I am the world's worst blogger. Or, at least, the world’s least attentive blogger.

I also am not scoring high on the Jewish parent scale these days: my older daughter, who turned 9 in August, recently decided she hates all worship services and doesn’t want to go to Hebrew school. Even though she likes her teachers. My response, for now at least, is that she doesn’t have a choice about Hebrew school, so she might as well try to enjoy it. (Yes, I know, that sounds like the horrifically insensitive comment some clueless people make about rape.[PLEASE SEE MY NOTE BELOW, IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.)

From toddler-hood until now was like a Jewish identity honeymoon; Ellie loved Hebrew school and her only complaint about services — they are a regular part of Hebrew school each week — was that she didn’t always get called up to the bima to read.

In fact, the first year we belonged to the temple it was my younger one — then 4 — who put up a fuss about Hebrew school, wanting instead to hang out with me on Sunday mornings. But after a few months of conflict, Sophie decided she adored her teacher and the teenage assistant teachers. Two years later, she has nary an objection (although I fear I’ll jinx that now), but Ellie complains constantly.

Is it just an age thing, the advent of the tweens? Is it my failure to adequately address The God Problem? Is it her frustration over the difficulties of learning Hebrew, particularly as her show-off little sister currently displays more aptitude for the subject? Or, I worry, is it because her dad is currently her favorite parent and, even though he’s fully supportive of our Jewish involvement, she associates Jewish with me and not-Jewish with him? After all, during one recent mini-tantrum, she declared that she’d rather learn French than Hebrew, since part of her heritage is French Canadian.

The good thing is, for now at least, she’s still a little open. For Simchat Torah, I dragged the whole family to services, because I remembered how much fun it had been two years earlier (we had to miss it last year), and both girls love dancing. When I was invited to carry one of the Torah scrolls around the sanctuary, I asked Ellie if she wanted to join me, assuming she’d roll her eyes and say absolutely not. To my surprise, she not only came along (eagerly trailed, of course, by Sophie) but then, when offered a small Torah scroll of her own to carry, proudly took it. To her delight, someone took a picture of her marching around the temple with the Torah. (Yes, it’s a Reform temple, we take pictures on Jewish holidays. Go ahead and judge, judgmental reader.) And she danced with gusto for the rest of the night.

So, while she’s hardly gone back to her days of wanting to be a rabbi and to discuss Bible stories night and day, perhaps there’s hope for her yet. We’ll see on Sunday when it’s time to get ready for Hebrew school.

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Julie, for all your best intentions, being "reform" the odds are that your daughter will intermarry as part of her assimilation. "Hebrew schools" are a known failure in developing strong Jewish identity. Being reform - she will not keep Shabbat, Kashrut, or the Chagim. At college she will share her sense of social justice (reform's tikun olam) with the non Jews around her. As she won't be observant there won't be the slightest reason for her not to date or marry non Jews. If any of this bothers you - you have two solutions: become baalei tshuva (observant) and/or move to Israel. I wish you luck - with love of Israel...

In my opinion, your preemptive strike against the imagined "judgmental reader" weakened what was an otherwise poignant and sensitive piece.

I certainly did not mean to offend anyone -- I would never want to trivialize rape, and I would never want to exaggerate the unpleasantness (for some people) of Hebrew school. Particularly since, in much of my reporting on education, I have seen a great deal of fabulous Hebrew school programs. And I am overall quite pleased with the program my children attend. So, I apologize to anyone who was offended.

Sorry, Julie, you're just going to have to accept the fact that the comment was inappropriate. It was a mistake; these things happen. In the grand scheme of things, is this where you want to make your stand?

You used "rape" in an offhand analogy to Sunday school?????? How is that appropriate in any manner? It's not even clever, it's gross.

Samin, I'm not comparing Sunday school to rape. I'm comparing my language to the language some people very inappropriately use when they are talking about rape. It wasn't intended to be clever -- was intended to be self-critical for not articulating a more compelling argument for my child.

Sorry, Julie, I think you're just going to have to accept that your rape language was inappropriate. These things happen. Everyone will forgive you, if you don't spend too much energy justifying it. I mean, is this the hill you want to die on?