Early in the season, I received an email from my daughter’s preschool inviting parents to join her class and share what holiday we celebrate and why it is meaningful to us. By the end of that same day, I had already talked to her teacher and planned my visit.
I did not grow up in a very Jewish area, and I have clear memories of my mom bringing in dreidels and other Jewish trinkets to my schools throughout the years. The chance to repeat history in such a positive way was too good for me to pass up.
The night before, I prepped and planned and packed a huge bag to bring in with me. Even though my daughter is only four and a half, I wanted to make her proud.
I think I did.
There were nine children in her Pre K class that day. I brought in a toy menorah, dreidels for each kid and gelt for all. I read a few books, did a brief question and answer session and had as much fun (if not more) than the kids! My husband said when he went to school to pick our daughter up later that day, half of the kids ran up to him to show off their dreidels and exclaim how much fun they had that morning. One girl even commented that she wished I could come in every day!
I always knew I was different because I was Jewish, but it was a good different. I hope I am instilling that same sense of pride in my daughter.
My daughter is the only Jewish kid in her class. However, because of her, eight other children now know the story of Hanukkah and that not everyone celebrates what they might celebrate. Without even trying, I taught a lesson about diversity that day, too.
My husband is not Jewish. When things started to get serious for us, I informed him that Judaism was more than a religion to me. It was a part of the fabric of who I am. He was accepting of that fact and agreed that we could have a Jewish home, and if we were ever lucky enough to have a family, we could raise our family in my faith.
So while we are Jewish in every sense of the word, on Christmas Day, we will make the short trip up the turnpike and celebrate with my husband’s side of the family. There will be a beautiful tree and decorative lights and more food and frolic than you can imagine. We will honor their holiday and enjoy the day. It’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion. My daughter is raised in a Jewish house but gets to experience life and religion outside of these walls.
Religion to me is tradition and spirituality as much as prayer. I want my daughter to be proud of who she is and those that came before her. I also want her to know there is more than just what she sees day to day.
By going to her school that day, I was trying to share that lesson with her classmates. I think I did. Next year, she will be in elementary school. I am already working on my lesson plan for that class!