I Was Expecting a More Jewish Father

The Seesaw– Answering all your questions about interfaith Life- The Forward



My Half-Jewish Husband is Becoming Less Jewish

Five years ago I married a half-Jewish man. When we met, he was fairly Jewishly engaged, but over the years his interest has waned. We have recently started a family together and he has agreed to allow me to raise our children as Jews. Question is, how much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays? Or does it really need to be a family affair? —Singing the Prayers Alone

Figure Out What Really Matters to You First


LAUREL SNYDER: I think you’re asking two very different questions here. The first is about your marriage in particular, and the second is a more general question about best practices.

How much should I… ask him to participate?

The answer to this part is about your marriage, specifically. My husband and I are really independent from each other in lots of ways, and our household reflects that. For instance, I leave town for writing conferences, and he goes to see a lot of music without me. It follows that sometimes I’m interested in Jewish observance and he doesn’t attend. I don’t feel hurt by that, and so it’s okay. Because I know when I do care, he’ll come along. But that’s not the right way to be, it’s just our way to be. I think you probably want to be honest with him about how much it matters to you, whatever that means. Repressing those desires will likely backfire.

Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?

Yes and no. In my opinion, the issue here is whether the kids see you guys both feeling happy and respected. Every marriage is an intermarriage, in a sense. Plenty of inmarried families have one parent more deeply invested in religious life. So I’d say you should take the lead and not worry about it too much.

My other bit of concrete advice is to look for Jewish activities that your husband might find more meaningful. Are there things that might connect to outside interests for him? Whether it’s a reading series or a softball league, he might just need a new way to connect.

Laurel Snyder is the author of books like “Bigger than a Bread Box” and “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted To Be Kosher.” Find her online at laurelsnyder.com or on Twitter @laurelsnyder.

He Should Participate for the Sake of Your Kids


SUSAN KATZ MILLER: In my experience, children experience a deep sense of pleasure when the whole family practices rituals or observes holidays together. This does not mean the parents need to have identical beliefs, or even the same religion. It does mean they respect and love each other enough to want to share these moments of cultural or spiritual importance with each other. My mother is not Jewish, but she goes to synagogue with my father, prepares the Passover Seder, and sings Rock of Ages (that’s Ma’oz Tzur, not the Christian hymn) at Hanukkah with us. It is hard for me to imagine what it would have felt like to have her “sitting out” on those occasions. My husband and I took another pathway, participating in both family religions, together, with our children.

Some non-practicing adults return to deeper practice when they experience religion again through the eyes of their young children. So don’t assume your husband does not want to participate, just because he hasn’t been going to shul lately. You don’t mention why your husband’s interest in Judaism has waned, but I think it’s important for you to find out how he feels. If he is now an atheist, take a look together at some resources from Humanistic Judaism. You identify your husband as “half-Jewish.” It is possible that the agreement to raise Jewish children is causing him to feel alienated or pressured. It might be helpful to discuss together all that is positive about being part of an extended interfaith family, and assure him that you want your children to respect and honor the family’s full religious history, even if the children are being raised Jewish.

Susan Katz Miller is both an adult interfaith child, and an interfaith parent. She is a former Newsweek reporter, and the author of “Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family” (Beacon Press).

There’s No Formula to Raising Jewish Children

JAMES PONET: There is no single rule or formula today for bringing up Jewish children. We no longer know what constitute the critical components of a Jewish identity or the necessities of Jewish education. I urge you to start with yourself.

The arrival of your children has triggered in you important questions and has opened for you new opportunities. Why do you want your children to be Jews? What is it for you yourself today to be a Jew? What interests you, scares you, perplexes you, offends you and intrigues you in the notion of living as a Jew? Are prayer and holiday observance an active part of your own self-understanding as a Jew? What really is at stake for you in raising your children as Jews?

These questions do not have easy, fixed answers. But they are your questions with which I urge you to live, hopefully with other young families who are also questing. If your husband is presently unmoved by these questions, I urge you to cut him slack, love him more, and live true to your feelings, not your judgments of him or yourself.

There has always been mystery, wonder, joy, wisdom and love at the heart of living as a Jew. Bring those elements into the life of your emerging family. And do not get trapped by focusing only on what makes them specifically Jewish. Rather learn to name them and know them as intrinsically Jewish.

By the way, if there were but one Jewish song, or story, or prayer, or saying, or celebration, or teacher, or place, or book, or dream—just one—that you could convey to your child, what would it be?

James Ponet is the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale where he also is a visiting lecturer at the Law School. Fortunately he has been married over 40 years to Elana Ponet with whom he has 4 children and 2 grandchildren.

The 11th Annual Young Child Expo & Conference 2014

The 11th Annual Young Child Expo & Conference 2014 – New York Jewish Parenting Guide


It is our great pleasure to present the 11th Annual Young Child Expo & Conference 2014 – a joint project of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and Los Niños Services. Our goal is simple – to provide useful information to professionals and parents in order to help all young children learn, grow and reach their full potential.


Our conference brings over 1000 people together across all kinds of programs, disciplines, and interest areas from speech pathologists to parents, to those working in children’s museums, day care centers, preschools, and those working with children who have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other special needs. In one unique event, this conference integrates learning about typically developing children as well as those with special needs, including autism. It runs from April 23-25, 2014 in NYC at the New Yorker Hotel – on 34th street & 8th Avenue.

Register at www.youngchildexpo.com or call us at 1-212-787-9700 x 333.

Save me! An alien took over my child’s personality

By Shannon Symonds -FamilyShare

Do you ever wonder if aliens have taken over your toddler’s body? Is going to the store like going far far away from sanity? Learn why toddlers tantrum and what to do about it.

 I dressed my toddler like a little lady and took her shopping for a wedding gift in a shop full of glass and crystal. She reached out to touch something sparkly and I panicked, “No! Don’t touch!” I said quickly and firmly as I reached for her. SMACK! She threw herself flat on her back on the hard floor. The sound I heard was her curly head hitting the ground like a melon.

She writhed like she was possessed by an alien. Every head in the busy store turned, and when she opened her mouth the sound that came out wasn’t human.”She does this,” I tried to explain to the other shoppers as I scooped her flailing body off the floor and rushed out the door. Within a few minutes the screaming had stopped, her nose was wiped and it was as if the possession by aliens had passed. But, as a mother I now had Post Tantrum Stress Disorder. I was sure the alien was waiting inside my little darling for the next time we were in a public place.

Later, I was able to attend a training on how children’s brains develop. I was thrilled to learn that my toddler was normal, not possessed by aliens, and that someday life on my mother ship would return to normal. Here is what I learned. The good news, our children have brains. The bad news is when our children are born their brains are still rapidly developing and will continue to develop as they grow. Being half-baked creates behavior challenges. Each child’s brain has:

  • An old brain or an area where instincts are housed.
  • An area of the brain that controls the urge to fight, take flight or freeze when frightened.
  • A storage area for memory.
  • An area for problem solving.
  • An area of the brain that controls emotions and behavior also called the Prefrontal Cortex. This is the last area of the brain to develop.


All of these areas in the brain communicate with each other. When a child enters a full-blown tantrum, communication can shut down between the areas of your child’s brain. What does that mean to you? It means that if you are trying to talk and reason with a tantrumming child, it is probably not getting in at all. They may not remember a word you say. Not only are their brains not taking in what you are saying, they probably don’t understand how they are feeling or what they are upset about.

Children have fears about the world and what they don’t comprehend. They may feel like flushing the toilet is sending away a part of themselves or that when you put on a mask you magically become a monster. Toddlers do not understand “pretend” versus “real.”

An article published on Parenting.com called, “Toddler Temper Tantrums” explains what happens in a toddler’s brain when they have a full-blown tantrum or alien possession. This feeling of heightened arousal causes the body to release cortisol, known as the “fight or flight” hormone. Maybe it should be called “tantrum juice.” Cortisol increases blood pressure, speeds up breathing rates and may lead to confused or unclear thinking. (Sound like anyone you know?) This anxiety is developmentally typical in moderation. So, knowing that your child’s brain is having a short meltdown and that during his alien possession he is not thinking clearly, what can you do to comfort and help your child?

  • First, work on regulating your own breathing, body language and tone. Your calm demeanor can be contagious. Model how you want your child to be. Children often mirror our behavior.

  • If your child is flailing, arms and legs flying, don’t get hurt and don’t let her hurt herself. Keep a safe space or timeout spot in your home. If you are able, place your child there until she is calm. If she is yelling at you, let her know you can’t hear her until she talks nicely.

  • Hold your child or be near your child until his breathing has slowed, his eyes are open, and he seems to be ‘present’ or aware of his surroundings. Speak softly and calmly until you can tell he is able to listen.

  • When your child begins to be present and aware, it is time to teach her. Using a calm and soft tone explain to her what you need. For example, “I would love to buy you all the toys in the store, but I can’t. I need you to help me by being good while I shop so we can get food for our dinner.” Focus on what you want to see or have her do.

  • After the tantrum, give your child a direction he can understand. For example, “Hold my hand in the store.”

  • If the tantrum is prolonged and accompanied by nightmares or other behaviors seek professional help.

    Howcast video, “How to deal with a screaming child while shopping,”gives excellent step-by-step instructions for handling your own shopping alien invasion. Finally, if you have Post Tantrum Stress Disorder, remember this will pass.

    As children grow older, are better able to communicate and have further brain development, the tantrums will end. Or at least you will get a break until it is time for them to borrow the keys to your car.

    Shannon Symonds worked 14 years as an Advocate for families experiencing Domestic or Sexual abuse while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to laugh, write, run, paint and most of all play with her family and friends


A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

By Amy Peterson-family share


Your relationship with your children is one that can bring a lifetime of satisfaction and love. Nurture it NOW, and it will last forever

It’s never too late!

When you’re a new parent, seasoned veterans often comment on how fast kids grow up. It seems impossible that a tiny baby will become an adult. Now that my oldest child is a teenager, I’m realizing those experienced parents were right. I have less than five years left with my daughter in my home full-time. Suddenly I want to turn the clock back and spend more moments teaching and loving her.

Since I can’t do that, I have to continue to focus on building a lasting relationship with her and my other children. I want to be close to my children throughout their lives. The foundation of a lasting relationship starts early in life and is built on time-tested principles like the six mentioned here. Here are more ways to build a trusting relationship with your child.

1. Time together. There is no substitute for time spent together. Quality time with kids makes them feel important and loved. Fortunately, most children are happy with simple ways to spend time together, like wrestling, cuddling, playing games, taking a walk or just hanging out. That being said, occasionally making an effort to take your child on a special outing will show him how important he is to you. A lunch date, bike ride, movie date or overnight trip will make lasting memories for both of you.

2. Listen. Parents like to dispense advice. The advice I offer is to spend more time listening than talking. Kids have interesting and funny things to say. My 3-year-old tells me make-believe stories about seeing the tooth fairy and catching leprechauns. My 10-year-old will tell me endless details about the plot and characters of his current favorite book. I hope that my children know I will listen to the silly and serious things they have to tell me. We talk as a family at dinnertime, prayer time and in the car. Bedtime is also a great time for talking and listening.

3. Show interest. Your children’s interests are important to them. Even if video games aren’t your thing, you need to be interested in them if your child is. As children grow, their interests change. Be supportive of their talents and abilities, even if they diverge from the path you wish they were on. You can also try to find a common interest. As your children become adults, your relationship can still be close. Visit your college kids for a weekend, be an involved grandparent and have family reunions.

4. Express and show love. I will be sad if my son ever stops giving me hugs before bed. Although I wasn’t raised in a particularly affectionate family, I love to shower my children with kisses and cuddles. I also express my love by praising them for the good things they do and saying, “I love you so much” often. Discover how your child likes to receive love. One of my daughters doesn’t like to snuggle much, but she soaks up words of praise. As you show love to your children throughout their lives, your relationship will be strengthened.

5. Don’t be too critical. Parents are responsible for teaching their children so many things. However, parents have to remember that children are learning to navigate the world. They will make mistakes, often over and over again. Children need to be able to know that they are able to learn and make mistakes without feeling criticized or judged by their parents. I find it helpful to remember how young my kids are and that it is my responsibility to patiently teach and set a good example. If I remember my own mistakes and weaknesses, I am gentler with my children’s.


6. Forgive and forget. As children grow, they’d rather not be reminded of the dumb things they did in the past. Children will hurt our feelings and do things that make us angry. If they mature and make amends, leave the past in the past. It’s common for the “remember when” stories to come out as families get together. Make sure you bring up the light-hearted and fun stories, and leave the more difficult ones behind. Forgiveness and charity are basic values helpful to maintaining any relationship.


I know my children won’t always live in my home, but I think we’ll always be close. Building lasting relationships is work, but the sweet reward of love and togetherness is worth any effort.


 Amy M. Peterson currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children.



Mom Of Disabled Son Creates Harness That Allows Him And Other Children To Walk For The First Time

By NoCamels Team

Debby Elnatan is not your typical mother.

When told her son had cerebral palsy and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, this Israeli mom decided she would spend years building a device that would allow him to stand on his legs and walk, just like everyone else.

In a heart-wrenching stroke of genius, Debby created a harness which allows her and her son Rotem to walk in unison, leaving his hands free to engage in other activities.

Now her invention has been launched onto the worldwide market.“When my son was two years old, I was told by medical professionals that he doesn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them”, Elnatan, a music therapist told the daily Mail.

Out of the “pain and desperation” with her son’s condition she created the Firefly Upsee Harness, a harness which allows handicapped children to stand and move together with a supporting adult.

13 Mom Of Disabled Son Creates Harness That Allows Him And Other Children To Walk For The First Time

Elnatan and the Upsee

The special harness is fastened on to the guiding adult at the waist, enabling them to pull the child up to a standing position using another harness attached to the child’s shoulders and legs.

Then, the child and adult fasten the shoe bindings which help the two to take steps in unison. Currently, the product’s design suits one leading adult and a 3-8 year-old handicapped child, but due to large demand, the product may be expanded for use by slightly older handicapped individuals.

A UK parent sees her son Jack walk for the first time

Debby’s innovative thinking has already paid off for nearly 20 families around the world whose children suffer from conditions limiting or inhibiting the freedom of movement.

Maura McCrystal, mother of five-year-old Jack, from Northern Ireland, has been one of the first parents to use the product.

She told the Daily Mail: “Last Sunday was a significant one for us as a family as it was the first time our son Jack was able to play football in the back garden with his dad, his brothers and our little dog Milly.

“To see Jack playing like any other five-year-old boy made me very emotional. Jack and his brothers so enjoyed it.”

Available soon around the world

After a global search for a company to mass-produce her “Upsee”, the Israeli mother chose Northern Ireland-based manufacturer Leckey, which has a long track record in making equipment for children with special needs.

The harness will cost around $540, plus shipping, which makes it an affordable option for parents, who like Debby, want to give their children the chance to walk for the very first time.