Raising Jewish Children in Our Day and Age



For parents living and raising children in these times, life is more chaotic and complex than it was in previous generations. We live in an adult-centered world where family values are not given much social attention.

Because of that, it is up to parents to protect the rights of children and create a loving family unit with values.

Technology advances and separates us, and the core values we learn in childhood are tested. Your parental responsibilities are needed to reinforce the cultural and religious customs and values that you want to impart. You plant seeds and hope that the foundations you have raised your children with will stick. You guide your children in their relationship to themselves, others and to Judaism and hope that the 5,778-year-old legacy will continue. Ultimately, over time, it is your children’s decision how they want to embrace cultural, religious or spiritual guideposts as they come into their own.

In today’s society, with all of its chaos, competition and endless influences, the topic of keeping our religion alive in this day and age may not come up often, but is there a threat of Judaism phasing out?

Many Jewish families are trending toward interfaith marriage, agnosticism, atheism, spiritual practices or mysticism. If the trends continue, we may be facing a slowly distinguishing flame of remembrance for the Jewish faith.

What can we do to keep our religion alive and well? When Jews marry other Jews rather than marrying gentiles, or they agree to raise their children Jewish, therein lies a more prominent likelihood of keeping the Jewish faith alive and thriving.

You have your own definition of what it means to be Jewish — culturally, religiously and spiritually. You may have a strong belief in God and want your children to share your belief. You may follow many of the traditions of Judaism handed down from your parents or grandparents and hold them sacred. It may be that family, honesty, education and hard work are key elements for you. Passed down ideals and practices may include honoring the Ten Commandments in your relationships or daily life.

You may embody a Jewish life to varying degrees and model this life. You carry out Orthodox, Conservative or Reform observances based on your degree of connection for the Jewish religion and its customs, and how you were raised or wished you were raised.

When raising and relating to your children, present your values and traditions in a consistent, positive and meaningful way. When paired with emotional closeness, family memories and a deeper sense of connection, you instill a sustainably significant bond.

As a parent, intentionally provide love, guidance, stability and a rootedness in your child’s identity, both personal and group. You may celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays, send your children to religious school, Hebrew school, and support them becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. You may feel that this training is mandatory and not up for negotiation. Your children’s experience or perception may differ from yours — unless you open the dialogue to understand.

As children become teens and young adults, they begin to form their own thoughts and opinions about their belief systems, and who they are as individuals and within social structures. Having the freedom to choose and question authority or what may be perceived as dogma is an essential part of growing up fully into adulthood.

You can hope your children stay with or return to their birth faith of Judaism. Raise your children to hold their heads up high with grace and dignity, to be happy and healthy, and make a positive difference in this world. Hope that they embrace something bigger than themselves, are confident, build strong connections, personal vision and a deeper meaning toward life.

The bottom line is to do your part to help your children be who they are while living a socially and spiritually conscious life with joy and meaning. In addition to providing consistent unconditional love and open dialogue across time, allow your older children, teens and young adults to question. Once done, you know that they will decide for themselves how to lead their own lives. Keep your mind, heart and arms open for your children to literally and symbolically come home to.

Let us hope that our religion does not phase out or, even worse, become obsolete. Do your best to model a rich Jewish life and pass along your Jewish pride hoping that, if lost, your children will find their roots to return to. Like we learned from the Holocaust, “always remember” who we are and let us keep Judaism alive one family at a time.

Nina Sidell is a psychotherapist, life coach, speaker and the author of Parenting for Life.


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