Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Celebrating Holidays - by Cara

I was quite saddened during this past Jewish holiday called Rosh Hashanah. And I anticipate many sad holidays to come. At least for a while.

I am not Jewish. My husband is. Before we got married, by husband requested that we raise our children in the Jewish faith. Not comfortable at that point to consider converting to Judaism, we elected to raise our child through what is known as Reform Judaism. In Reform Judaism, at least one parent must be of the Jewish faith. In more strict areas of Judaism, the mother of a child MUST be Jewish in order for the child to be considered Jewish. This is not the case in Reform Judaism, where only one parent, mother OR father has to be Jewish.

I chose to raise my child to be Jewish for several very important reasons. My first is that although I am a spiritual person, I do not have any direct connections with any particular faith, as my parents were not very religious. My feeling is that if a child is going to experience a religion, this child should be exposed to religious family gatherings, rituals and traditions on a fairly regular basis. I felt that although my husband was not terribly religious (and is even less so now), that at least there would be my husband’s family who would introduce and carry out these important customs for my child to eventually relate to and internalize.

We have been sending our son to religious school, at the Reform Temple we belong to, for going on three years now. Our son enjoys his religious classes and we can tell is learning, and retaining a fair amount of his studies. But now that my divorce proceedings are underway, I’m in between a rock and a hard place.

Since I wasn’t raised in the Jewish faith, I am hardly equipped to truly raise my child with the customs and traditions that become assimilated into a person if the religion is practiced routinely, beginning in childhood. I did take a 7-month Introduction to Judaism class along with a 3 month Beginning Hebrew class...still, I feel lost. My husband has practically no interest in celebrating the Jewish Holidays. In fact, he blew off the second day of Rosh Hashanah to go to the Jersey Shore with his friends. He is working on Yom Kippur, the most holy of all Jewish holidays. And he is planning to be at a convention the first 5 days of Chanukah. My husband’s family wants nothing to do with me, so there goes the family support for the traditions and customs. I am at a loss. I did not choose to do this alone. Had I ever thought I would be teaching religion to my child by myself, I would have at least chosen a religion who’s customs I am much more familiar with. But it is not fair to my son to suddenly redirect him towards a different religious path at this point.

Since my husband is choosing to disregard the holidays of his own religion, I felt that the minimum he could do would be to drop our son off at religious school, pick him up, and do our son’s religious homework with him. My Rabbi, a warm, sweet, loving woman, is going to help me learn more as my son and I go along. She wrote down family get-togethers and child focused events, such as helping to build a Sukkah (an outdoor dwelling where all meals are eaten and you can choose to sleep in the Sukkah, weather permitting, for 8 days. It is actually a celebration of the harvest season and typically is celebrated in the Fall.), as well as some Chanukah family events we can attend together.

It is somewhat comforting to know that several of the children in my son’s religious class have also been in one of his classes at his elementary school, so I am at least familiar with some of the parents at our Temple. Still, I feel overwhelmed and abandoned in yet another area of my son’s and my life. I chose to do this in the best interest for my child and with the understanding that I would have family support. Now, I have none of that, and I am resentful. I guess I just have to resolve that this is yet another area in my life where my son and I are going to plod through as best we can.

And, of course, it doesn’t help matters when my son loudly asked in Temple the other day, “Mommy, when is Christmas?”

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Blogger Karen du Toit said...

Funny, the Christmas question! :D
Yes, it is difficult when you are not on the same page with regards to religion.
I think you should be open to your son, and tell him what you believe. But tell him that you want him to be comfortable in whatever religion he wants to pursue, and that you will help him the best you could. It sounds to me that you are...
I understand your frustration in that his dad's family are not involved!
Good luck!

4:19 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Tough one. I find it a little disturbing that your ex wanted so badly to raise his kids Jewish and then basically abandons his own religion. Although I wouldn't normally leave religious decisions up to a child, I think in this case you should be honest with your son and explain that you aren't Jewish but he is and let him tell you what his religious feelings are. If he is comfortable and happy at religious school and being part of the temple, then you need to let him continue to do so. Believe me, there are plenty of full-blooded Jews who know nothing about the religion, so don't feel like you are letting him down. If he wants to explore other religions, let him do that too.

Both my husband and I are Jewish and are raising our kids the same, but I do believe that religion is a very personal issue and each person (even kids) should be able to decide what they want to believe in.

3:22 PM  

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