Living life and raising Jewish children in South Dakota has always been an incredible and enriching experience for me personally and our family as a whole. Follow along with me as I candidly share my journey of discovery and learning. I’d love your feedback, your thoughts on my writing, and what you would be interested to hear more about.
As my children grow and mature, I’ve come to a point where I can no longer dig my head in the sand.
They are starting to get it.
They are quite different from everyone else around them.
In my children’s eyes, shockingly, not everyone knows Hebrew, the Aleph Bet. To my children’s surprise, their swimming teacher (we love you, Kylee) has no idea what Chanukah or dreidels are. And to their confusion, their neighbors play with toys on Shabbat, that due to Sabbath observance, they typically leave for another day.
Isn’t the whole world Jewish? They think.
And what is Halloween? Why are children dressed up on a random Sunday evening? Why are they celebrating something that looks a bit like Purim in the fall? And wait what?! We give them candy, but they don’t give us?
I find myself attempting to delicately balance giving over a joy and pride in the Torah and our traditions, and simultaneously fostering an understanding and acceptance of others who are different. How do I instill the most important value of Chabad, total love and acceptance for every person, regardless of level of observance, belief, and practice, and yet at the same time, foster a love and passion, sense of importance, to our time tested values and mitzvahs that I hold so dear.
How to explain to very curious youngsters how something so special and important to our family is not the same way to everyone else. And oh my, how do you teach tact to five and six year olds?!?
I’m no parenting guru, (though I do avidly follow a whole lot of them!) and I can’t say I’ve figured it all out. But one thing I did learn is that it’s ok to listen to yourself. Follow your gut. Take a moment and try to pinpoint what it is you know is best for your children, and TRUST yourself.
Over time I’ve learned that it is ok to allow the words to come as they come, and realize that I, and every loving parent, truly does know what is best for their child, what they need to hear at any given time, and the best way to guide them.
And finally, when they see me live by example, treasuring my traditions and life while simultaneously respecting and unequivocally accepting others who live differently, there won’t be confusion. It will be as clear to them as it is to me.
L’chaim to all my fellow parents, grandparents, and friends in my children’s village. (It really does take a village!) Like the Rebbe said countless times to parents concerned about their child’s life choices and Jewish observance, “Be a living example.” That’s all we need to do.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog and Mussie's Musings
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.