How to Be a Jewish Role Model for Your Children

The following article was written by Tammy Fetter, a participant of our Westchester iEngage class, and active local community mom. 

What Do Latkes and Matzo Ball Soup Have to Do with It?

My son, who is a college sophomore, called to get a list of ingredients and supplies he would need to make homemade latkes.  Since he was still living in the dorms and using the hall kitchen, I thought it would be a challenge.   The phone kept ringing for questions, such as did he need a vegetable peeler or could he try to peel a potato with a knife?  My grandmother was a pro with using a knife to peel a potato in one piece, but I urged him to get a peeler.

Me: Were you able to buy two bowls?

Son: I don’t have any bowls.

Me: Okay, you have a pot, right? You can use that.

There were more instructions, including which side of the grater to use and caution about keeping his knuckles from getting scraped.  He joked that these would be the “Apollo 13 of Latkes,” referencing “Houston we have a problem” and the constant communication.

Last Passover, I was on the telephone with my daughter, who wanted to make homemade chicken matzo ball soup instead of from a mix as she had in past years for the annual pot luck Seder she hosts.

Me: You got a whole chicken for the soup? Can you get poultry shears and cut it?

Daughter: I would rather go back to the market and get another chicken already cut up.  I’ll roast the whole chicken for dinner.

Me: You are serving one chicken for fifteen people?  Why don’t you pick up some more chicken pieces?

Daughter: Mom!  It’s fine.  Not everyone eats like our family!

My other son, who is a college graduate, is not a big cook and celebrated his Jewish holidays at the Hillel as an undergraduate.  Particularly memorable was him describing a custom, unfamiliar to him, commemorating the ten plagues.

Son: There was this lady sitting next to me smacking me with a scallion!

Cooking and celebrating the Jewish holidays away from home, participating in the campus Hillel, taking Judaic Studies classes, and attending lectures and events about Israel, is part of what helped my children stay connected to Judaism.  Their knowledge, values, and beliefs enabled them to advocate on behalf of Israel in the classroom and on campus.

The challenge we have is how to make room in our life, with the competing demands, to help our children develop a Jewish identity and attachment to Israel. 

In this spirit, by exchanging ideas with other parents, I believe we can learn and help each other. As a start, I would like to offer examples of what worked for our family.

Educate Your Children About Jewish History

Having a grasp of the facts will enable them to speak intelligently about Israel and identify misinformation. In addition to attendance at Hebrew School, encourage them to read books about Jewish history (both nonfiction and fiction books) and stay up-to-date with the news.

My friend and I started a mother/daughter book club that included Jewish-themed fiction books when our girls were in elementary and middle school.

Watch movies, including those that are educational, such as Making the Case for Israel ,by Alan Dershowitz and The Forgotten Refugees, The David Project.

Check out the websites Stand with Us for facts and The AMCHA Initiative for information and news about anti-Israel activity on campuses.

Support Their Unique Gifts So They Will Be Able to Use Them

This will help your child find his/her own personal way to speak out for Israel.

Be Selective About What You Demonstrate is Important

They will get the message that Judaism and Israel is important because it is not lost in a slew of other priorities.  This can also enable your child to have the courage to stand up for Israel.

Encourage Participation at the Hillel

My children have made close friends who became their roommates and travel companions on Birthright.  In addition to the usual holiday and Shabbat services and meals offered, they have baked Hamentaschen and gone ice-skating.

Be firm, but don’t nag.  Stick to a “try it one time” request.

Be a Role Model

Live your life showing what values are important.  Observe Jewish rituals and holidays, attend services, do good deeds, and continue your own Jewish learning.  Have fun with your celebrations, and the good memories associated with Jewish holidays will last.

Visit Israel

The experience brings to life the history and culture.

My parents did not go to Israel until they were in their seventies.  When I grew up, our family could not afford to go on any vacations. However, if you are able to spend your time and money in Israel, it sends a strong message to your children that Israel is a priority.

Cook Recipes for Jewish Holidays with Your Children

Cooking with your children is a great way to establish a good relationship with them, as well as teach them independent living skills.  The rituals of preparing and eating Jewish holiday foods help keep family traditions alive.

Every child is unique and families have their own values, traditions, and personal circumstances.  Let us support one another with the understanding that we are all trying our best to raise Jewish children.

I heard the latkes came out okay, but were not as good as mine. My daughter sent pictures of a delicious-looking soup and of smiling guests with piles of vegetables on their plates.

Tammy Fetter

 Views and opinions are independently represented and do not officially represented the Shlichut initiative. 

Do you have an article to post? Contact me today and send it in!   

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One response to “How to Be a Jewish Role Model for Your Children

  1. Nice article. I love the constant communication from afar cooking together experience. I hope I have that to look forward to with my guys. You did well raising your Jewish mensches.

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