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#1 of 8 Old 07-10-2012, 08:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Our family is not an especially religious family. I was raised Lutheran, but if I had to put a name to my beliefs I would say Deist, maybe. Hubby is Jewish, and we are raising DD Jewish. My parents are very devout Christians who have come to terms (but don't necessarily like) the fact that we are raising DD Jewish, so there is that in the picture as well.

 

We don't go to services very often, maybe a few times a year, but she has been to a synagogue. We do Shabbat at home as often as we can, and celebrate the other holidays at home too. She knows the stories behind each holiday, Jewish songs, and a few Hebrew words, so she had definitely had 'exposure' to Judaism. Just not a lot.

 

Lately, she seems to be extremely curious about Christianity..well, from a 4 year old perspective. During the spring, she asked to go to church (her close friend at preschool goes to church every Sunday). She said she would rather go to church than temple. Last week, I was reading her a story from the Torah, and then we got into a small discussion about different bibles (Hebrew, Christian, Koran,etc). She said she would rather hear stories from the Christian Bible. When I asked why, I realized she thought the Christian Bible was about her friend named Christian. I did not do a very good job trying to explain the difference between someone who is Christian, and people named Christian. Any advice on tackling that subject with a quite intelligent 4 year old?

 

Then yesterday, completely out of the blue (why July? I'd understand December, but now?) she asked if she could have her picture taken with Santa. I asked why, and she said she liked the ice palace (at our local mall last decemeber), and she wanted her picture taken there. I told her we could go and I could take her picture in front of the ice palace, but that our family doesn't celebrate Christmas, so Santa is part of a holiday that we do not celebrate. And then, for the very first time, I also told her that we don't believe in Santa Claus. It just popped out of my mouth. Until now, we have always avoided the Santa Claus discussion. She was never interested, and I didn't want to tell her something that could be told to other kids who do believe. It didn't faze her at all, but she is still adamant in wanting to meet him.

 

One other example, a few months ago she asked me who Jesus was. I have no idea where she even heard about Jesus. I told her that some people, including grandma and grandpa, believe that Jesus is the son of God. Jewish people like daddy, believe differently. She said: "But I believe in Jesus." I know she has no idea what that really means, but that was another time we were totally at a loss of what to say.

 

DH doesn't know how to answer these questions. I don't either. I was raised Christian, and have no experience being a child who has a different faith from the majority. His mom says DH and his brother never asked about it when they were kids, or she doesn't remember. And we don't know how to handle this sudden interest Christianity, but zero interest in Judaism. I was expecting this during the teen years, but from a preschooler? I have no idea what to do! We also have friends who are Muslim, Buddhist, athiest, and agnostic. She never takes an interest in any other religion than Christianity.

 

Any suggestions on how to handle this? I know we could take her to temple more often, and that might help, but I have largely left the religious stuff up to my husband, since I really shy away from attending services of any kind (I do go with them whenever he has the urge to go). Dear hubby, not super religious himself, is not quite the take initiative type of person, so it never happens.

 

Sorry about the long-winded post! smile.gif


 

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#2 of 8 Old 07-10-2012, 09:34 AM
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I'm Jewish (not really practicing, but still consider myself to be), and my husband is not.  I would just answer things as truthfully as possible.  My mom was raised Christian and converted when I was 3 to Judaism.  So I went to Hebrew school and temple on Saturdays and high holy days, etc.  

 

She answered all my questions.  I knew who Jesus was, and all about Santa and so on.  I think that when something is a part of your life - such as Judaism and the stories and traditions behind it - it becomes "normal" and the other thing looks cool.  And let's face it - Christmas has some pretty spectacular trappings! LOL  

 

It also sounds to me like someone in her preschool is talking to her about Christianity.  Probably the friend you mentioned.  I remember having Christian friends talk to me about it in school.  And it varied from "this is so rad!!" to "What do you mean you aren't Christian!!??" to "You're going to hell." So, just be aware that some of it may be motivated from that source as well.  


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#3 of 8 Old 07-10-2012, 07:46 PM
 
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Hey OP:  we're raising DD as a Jewish child in large city where a quarter of the population identifies as Jewish, but our own particular neighborhood is very Catholic and Greek Orthodox.  I never thought it would be an issue but the issue has raised its little head!  LOL.  There are very few Jewish children in DD's school, so obviously she gets exposed to other cultures and other religious ideas.  One thing that has helped us is to know that she belongs somewhere without alienating herself from her friends and neighbors.  We don't presently belong to a Temple but we do get her involved in Temple day camps and right now she is in a summer camp sponsored by same Temple.  I think what helps is giving her a sense of identity.  She's almost 6 and it is really important for her right now to feel she belongs somewhere, to feel that she is not "different."  We try to visit relatives often and to encourage her sense of belonging in Judaism, even though we are not particularly religious.  Personally I think it is okay for her to be exposed to the traditions of others as long as I feel she has a strong foundation in her own culture and tradition.  


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#4 of 8 Old 07-10-2012, 08:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey OP:  we're raising DD as a Jewish child in large city where a quarter of the population identifies as Jewish, but our own particular neighborhood is very Catholic and Greek Orthodox.  I never thought it would be an issue but the issue has raised its little head!  LOL.  There are very few Jewish children in DD's school, so obviously she gets exposed to other cultures and other religious ideas.  One thing that has helped us is to know that she belongs somewhere without alienating herself from her friends and neighbors.  We don't presently belong to a Temple but we do get her involved in Temple day camps and right now she is in a summer camp sponsored by same Temple.  I think what helps is giving her a sense of identity.  She's almost 6 and it is really important for her right now to feel she belongs somewhere, to feel that she is not "different."  We try to visit relatives often and to encourage her sense of belonging in Judaism, even though we are not particularly religious.  Personally I think it is okay for her to be exposed to the traditions of others as long as I feel she has a strong foundation in her own culture and tradition.  


Do you mind my asking how exactly you give her a strong foundation without going to Temple? My husband's family lives in Arizona, so we only see them once or twice a year.

 

We also live in a somewhat "Bible Belt" area (NC). This was never an issue before we moved here. Of course, she was 3 at the time that we moved. Both of our previous homes (MD and NJ) had strong Jewish communities. Here...not so much.

 

I LOVE the exposure to other cultures and religions in DD's school (it is Montessori, and very diverse, the only preschool in the area that had any diversity, I felt). I feel like we are not doing a very good job at giving her exposure to others who share the same religion as she does. She does not have a strong foundation, and I struggle to give her that. I just really shy away from going to temple, but I guess that is the best way for her to meet other children who share her faith and traditions? Ack...this shiksa avoids religious institutions at all cost...I guess I'm the real problem! nut.gif


 

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#5 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 07:39 AM
 
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Hi OP:  maybe the word "foundation" was not the best description on my part.  Maybe that would be a more appropriate way to describe it from a religious standpoint.  I guess what we really try to make sure happens is that we constantly reinforce the idea of identity.  I know it is probably tough not having family near that would allow you to easily participate in celebrations, traditions, etc.  Keep in mind that your DD is very little!  My DD is five (almost six) and I can actually say that this past Passover was the first time that she made the big connection between being Jewish and what that identity means.  Think about it, if you were four, what would appeal to you more?  A service at a temple or a big guy in a red suit handing out candy and presents?  Admittedly there is a certain magical quality about Santa and trees, etc.  In the eyes of a four year old, that is big stuff. 

 

Are there any non-service activities offered by your local temple?  Some of the reform congregations in my area have big events around certain holidays and you don't have to be a member to attend.  Also, you can consider taking baby steps:  for example, when Passover rolls around next spring, maybe you and your DH could host a seder at your house or try to attend one somewhere else.  I think that would be a great way to start introducing certain traditions and concepts.  By then, she will probably be at a great age to start soaking it in.  One of the things that I want to do with DD this year is to make our own Passover Haggadah.  It is an activity to do together as well as an opportunity to focus on the story and the meaning of the ritual.  I don't know...just throwing some ideas out there as I understand where you are coming from in a lot of respects.  DH and I are pretty much agnostics but it is important to us that DD maintains a sense of identity, culture and tradition. 


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#6 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 06:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Think about it, if you were four, what would appeal to you more?  A service at a temple or a big guy in a red suit handing out candy and presents?  LOL, I definitely see that! :-)

 

Are there any non-service activities offered by your local temple? I have to admit, I have no idea. I have left this up to hubby, and well...we haven't gotten too far. We have only lived here for one year, and only been to the temple once (which actually isn't even a temple, they hold services in a church because they do not have a building yet...which makes it even more confusing!). I'm going to make it a point to explore this further. I think what she is missing is the group/social experience. Like you mentioned before, being around others (esp. other kids) who are also Jewish.

 

Also, you can consider taking baby steps:  for example, when Passover rolls around next spring, maybe you and your DH could host a seder at your house or try to attend one somewhere else.  I think that would be a great way to start introducing certain traditions and concepts.  This is actually the one thing I do really well! My mother-in-law actually told me I make the best seder out of the whole family. I love to cook, so we have hosted a seder 5 out of the last 6 years. We also usually go to at least one other seder during the holiday (hubby has a coworker who is also Jewish, and before we moved to NC, we lived much closer to his extended family).

 

By then, she will probably be at a great age to start soaking it in.  One of the things that I want to do with DD this year is to make our own Passover Haggadah.  It is an activity to do together as well as an opportunity to focus on the story and the meaning of the ritual.  That's a great idea! I put together our own Haggadah when DD was a baby, I hadn't thought to add to it with her help.


I think what I'm realizing from this conversation is that we really need to make a concerted effort to connect with other Jewish families in our area, so that she starts to understand that there are other people who celebrate the same holidays we do. We do all the holiday stuff at home, and have a huge home library of Jewish picture books (I love PJ library! If you haven't heard of it, it is a wonderful resource!). But that is all done inside the home. Which, when compared to the glitz of Christmas...well, I can see why she is enchanted by it. :-)


 

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#7 of 8 Old 09-05-2012, 06:30 PM
 
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Our family is not an especially religious family. I was raised Lutheran, but if I had to put a name to my beliefs I would say Deist, maybe. Hubby is Jewish, and we are raising DD Jewish. My parents are very devout Christians who have come to terms (but don't necessarily like) the fact that we are raising DD Jewish, so there is that in the picture as well.

 

We don't go to services very often, maybe a few times a year, but she has been to a synagogue. We do Shabbat at home as often as we can, and celebrate the other holidays at home too. She knows the stories behind each holiday, Jewish songs, and a few Hebrew words, so she had definitely had 'exposure' to Judaism. Just not a lot.

 

Lately, she seems to be extremely curious about Christianity..well, from a 4 year old perspective. During the spring, she asked to go to church (her close friend at preschool goes to church every Sunday). She said she would rather go to church than temple. Last week, I was reading her a story from the Torah, and then we got into a small discussion about different bibles (Hebrew, Christian, Koran,etc). She said she would rather hear stories from the Christian Bible. When I asked why, I realized she thought the Christian Bible was about her friend named Christian. I did not do a very good job trying to explain the difference between someone who is Christian, and people named Christian. Any advice on tackling that subject with a quite intelligent 4 year old?

 

Then yesterday, completely out of the blue (why July? I'd understand December, but now?) she asked if she could have her picture taken with Santa. I asked why, and she said she liked the ice palace (at our local mall last decemeber), and she wanted her picture taken there. I told her we could go and I could take her picture in front of the ice palace, but that our family doesn't celebrate Christmas, so Santa is part of a holiday that we do not celebrate. And then, for the very first time, I also told her that we don't believe in Santa Claus. It just popped out of my mouth. Until now, we have always avoided the Santa Claus discussion. She was never interested, and I didn't want to tell her something that could be told to other kids who do believe. It didn't faze her at all, but she is still adamant in wanting to meet him.

 

One other example, a few months ago she asked me who Jesus was. I have no idea where she even heard about Jesus. I told her that some people, including grandma and grandpa, believe that Jesus is the son of God. Jewish people like daddy, believe differently. She said: "But I believe in Jesus." I know she has no idea what that really means, but that was another time we were totally at a loss of what to say.

 

DH doesn't know how to answer these questions. I don't either. I was raised Christian, and have no experience being a child who has a different faith from the majority. His mom says DH and his brother never asked about it when they were kids, or she doesn't remember. And we don't know how to handle this sudden interest Christianity, but zero interest in Judaism. I was expecting this during the teen years, but from a preschooler? I have no idea what to do! We also have friends who are Muslim, Buddhist, athiest, and agnostic. She never takes an interest in any other religion than Christianity.

 

Any suggestions on how to handle this? I know we could take her to temple more often, and that might help, but I have largely left the religious stuff up to my husband, since I really shy away from attending services of any kind (I do go with them whenever he has the urge to go). Dear hubby, not super religious himself, is not quite the take initiative type of person, so it never happens.

 

Sorry about the long-winded post! smile.gif

FWIW, DH's sister ended up briefly at a Christian daycare, because they were very well priced and close to my MIL's job...and after three days, she came home talking about Jesus and when MIL told her, "Ruth, honey, we don't believe in Jesus," she, four years old at the time, cried and said, "But I love Jesus."

 

I think, with all do respect, that as an actively proselytizing religion, Christianity is a very word-of-mouth thing and kids tend to repeat what their parents say, which can include things like "You have to accept Jesus or you won't go to Heaven", etc. Hearing that from other preschoolers could make her feel left out. The entire pageantry of Christmas and of Santa Claus is a HUGE draw for kids, too, and I can understand why she might not want to accept that we Jews don't get to have a part of that.

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#8 of 8 Old 10-03-2012, 06:18 PM
 
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Just came across this thread.  If you haven't come across it yet, check out interfaithfamily.com.  They have lots of resources.  It sounds like your dd could use some social interaction and some positive associations with Judaism.  That probably means connecting with other Jewish families, either through the synagogue or through another venue if it exists.  You could call up the synagogue and ask for advice on events or holiday celebrations or services that are fun for kids and when to arrive.  For example, this week is Simchat Torah.  It's not the best known holiday, but there's music and dancing, and kids usually get flags and sometimes apples, and it's just a ton of fun.  But in my community young families are advised to come a little over an hour after the service starts so that they can arrive for the fun part, and miss the part where the kids would have to sit quietly.  

Last year PJ Library sent us a book called "The only one club" around Christmas time.  It might be a good one to read with your dd if you don't have it yet.  It's about a girl who's the only Jewish one in her class.  She comes out feeling good about herself and learning that everyone is unique in some way.  

For me, as a child, I think the most powerful influence on my Jewish identity was seeing my parents involved, and seeing what they loved about being Jewish.  They didn't have to be totally consistant, or be in total agreement with the Rabbi at the synagogue we went to.  What mattered to me was that they cared about the Jewish things that we did and they did them enthusiastically.  It may mean finding the way to do holidays that you can be into as a family, particularly your dh since it's his religion / culture he's passing on.  

Best of luck!

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