Kveller writers talk G-d with their kids

The Jewish parenting website Kveller is running a series right now on parenting. They’ve got 5 perspectives so far, and I have to admit I have mixed feelings.

They seem to have picked some extreme situations–a mom who clearly has OCD, a kid who has chosen Communism over Judaism–but also some pretty normal ones, like the soon-to-be dad finally realizes the fate of his unborn child is out of his hands and chats with G-d about protecting him and (this had me laughing both out of amusement and empathy) the mother whose kids imitate G-d saying, “No!” to each and every request she makes at a trying stage of life.

What surprised me most is that so far most of the parents seem to not have thought about what they would say about G-d before talking about Him with the kids. Some of the stories are frankly depressing, like watching the blind leading the blind. Not surprisingly, their fumbling responses get some pretty sad results.

But I just love that a non-Orthodox (at least, not only Orthodox) Jewish website is hitting this issue, which largely goes undiscussed in polite American circles. And we’re getting a real glimpse into American Jewish households to see what’s going on in there.

It’s pretty harrowing.

Sure G-d says, “No,” an awful lot. But what about all the times it turned out good for you?

What about saying, “Thanks, G-d!” every time you experiences a moment of joy? “Thanks for the parking space!” and “Thanks for there being exactly enough cupcakes for us all!” make an impression on kids as much as all those heaven-sent No’s.

What about discussing with your co-parent about how you’ll represent G-d to your kids ahead of the “Big Talk?” Because it’s as much of a Talk as the more famous one, and requires at least as much forethought.

Something that surprised me also was that no one really mentioned sharing books about G-d with their kids. A lot of the what I’ve communicated with my own kids about G-d has come from books and magazines, like  Where are You Hashem?, The Invisible Book, and Hashem is Truly Everywhere.

Do any readers out there have literature they like to share with their kids to enhance their “G-d Talk?”

Soul-bearing writing–writing personal essays that are a little too personal for comfort

Tablet published a new piece of mine today, about the untidy family life of a person who is an Orthodox Jew with relatives who are devout Christians. The comments are busy, and no trolls have appeared so far (meaning that anyone who disagrees with me does so with politeness and reflection).

I’ve published the piece because the problem I described in the article is a surprisingly common one  (among the “baalei teshuvos” who come to religiosity as adults) that most people ignore.

It’s sorta mortifying. This is a problem that is very private for me, and–like many who share it–it is a source of pain that I usually sweep under the rug. I’ve had to explain the absence of half of my family to many people over the years, and it’s never comfortable. Now the entire world can read about it (and share! and comment!).

In general, I don’t write about my family unless it is 100% positive. I felt that this needed to be an exception, in order to support people who share this type of situation. I intentionally omitted the name of my father’s family, and I tried to protect their identities. I wanted not to expose them, but the problem. Nonetheless, one of the commenters pointed out that I was still airing my family’s laundry in public.

I’d love it if readers weighed in here (in a comment below) or in the comments section on Tablet.

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Cold shoulder or pit bulls? On Peter Beinart, the Atlanta Jewish Book Fair and how to act when you disagree with a writer

I don’t often comment on news items, but this one is both Jewish and book-related, so I thought it would be worth mentioning.

Earlier this year, Peter Beinart–blogger and professor–wrote a book blaming the lack of peace in Israel on the Israelis. Even to someone whose politics are somewhat atypical for an Orthodox Jewish American, I found the premise of Beinart’s book both offensive and intellectually flimsy.

Should we set the dogs on ‘im?

This week Atlanta’s JCC hosts 10,000 visitors at its annual Jewish Book Fair. Initially, Peter Beinart was scheduled to appear there to promote his book. But, due to the outrage of many Atlantans who disagree with his public attacks of the Israeli government, Beinart will no longer be welcome to speak at the book fair. Instead, he’s speaking this evening at a different venue. (For more coverage, see here.)

Was this the right reaction? Continue reading