DD's absent dad is Jewish; should this influence how I bring her up?

(46 Posts)
DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:34:50

I'm quite heavily pregnant at the moment and am about to be a single mum, all going well, to DD1. I have a lovely and very supportive family.

Little one's father lives quite far away, did not want a baby at all, and is not going to be involved in her life at all. He is Jewish, culturally but also practising. It is rather likely that little one will look quite Jewish (oddly, my family already do a bit, although we aren't).

I am not Jewish, I'm sort of... not religious. Parents brought me up with a mix of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu practices. I sometimes pop in to Quaker meeting for my fix of inner light, and will keep doing this with DD when she arrives.

But I'm aware that there's quite a strong cultural heritage here, and that it will be somewhat externally visible. I know next to nothing about Judaism - various family members are secular (very secular!) Jews, but this seems only to extend to a general fascination with the second world world, declarations of 'on no account should a rabbi be invited to my deathbed' and a vague liking for matzos at inappropriate times of year.

If babydaddy's heritage was, say, Catholic - I know I would probably make an effort to get DD to Catholic church on occasion so she knew a bit about it all. But that is slightly more familiar territory for me, and I might pop in to a local church and have a chat with the priest to see what he thought.

Hm, what is my question. I guess - what should I tell little one? Would it be appropriate or inappropriate for us to get involved with the local Jewish community, and if so, where to start? I just don't know how important this is or where to begin.

acceptableinthe80s Mon 27-May-13 19:44:24

Why would you? He's not going to be raising the child, you are therefore you can raise her however you wish.
The absent fathers religion is irrelevant surely?
Don't be sure she'll look like him either, my ds is the spitting image of me and bears no resemblance to his father at all though obviously that's not,always the case.
I think it's a bit weird indoctrinating a child into a religion that you personally don't follow.

TiredyCustards Mon 27-May-13 19:49:14

I think you're only technically Jewish if your mother is.

LeoTheLateBloomer Mon 27-May-13 19:53:32

I'd say it depends on how much you're planning on telling her about him as a person.

If not much, then no it's not necessary.

If you want to give her enough information for her to chose (in the future) to try to form some sort of relationship with him, then just telling him that he's Jewish will be sufficient then leave it to her if she feels the need to learn about her heritage.

I don't see any point in putting yourself out for someone who will play no part in her upbringing.

Vatta Mon 27-May-13 19:54:33

honestly if he's not going to be involved in her life I think you may confuse her a bit by raising her with Jewish influences that she doesn't have in her family iyswim. I'd probably leave it alone.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:54:42

I don't intend to bring her up in any particular religion, but I am sure she will grow up having some experience of, say, Buddhist and Quaker stuff. And probably C of E stuff through school.

I suppose it's just that I wonder if I ought to give her some exposure to Judaism, as that's part of her cultural heritage too.

Pretty sure she will look Jewish enough to make people wonder, or to wonder herself. Regardless of babydaddy and his scary super-genes, me and sister do, although we aren't!

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:55:16

tiredy, you're quite right, technically she won't be Jewish as I'm not.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:56:24

Leo, I don't know AT ALL what I'm going to tell her about him.

It's pretty hard to imagine how to say 'your father didn't want to know you' in a less psychologically damaging way.

(Any ideas?!!!)

Weegiemum Mon 27-May-13 19:57:35

I (think) (know) that Judaism is matrilineal.

If you can't get in touch with her Dad, you need to do it as you see fit.

I'm not sure but I don't think I'd be able to sink into another culture (as Judaism) without a guide. Did your dds dad give any indication before he bowed out? (And how lame is that?)

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:58:02

Vatta, yes, that's a really good point - I hadn't thought of it as being confusing but you are right and it might feel a little artificial.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:01:02

Weegie, he said he'd find it weird having a kid who wasn't Jewish. I think it's quite important to him.

BUT... I don't really want to ask him what he thinks on this one, since he's decided to feck off out of little one's and it makes it sound like I value his opinion. I am busy doing the whole 'I'm an independent woman' thing and want to make the right decision for little one and me regardless of what he thinks.

Maybe I am just being bolshy and overly proud about this to cover up a bit of sadness here smile but there you go.

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:01:21

what are you going to tell her when she asks where her daddy is? If you are going to tell her about him, you could also mention that he is Jewish and I don't see why, since it is part of her heritage, you cannot generally bring her up knowledgable about Judaism without actually taking her to a synagogue for religious instruction. Read about it, make recipes together, read stories which have something to do with a Jewish setting. You say you grew up exposed to different traditions, so your dd can do the same maybe. I don't think you need to teach her all the complexities of a religion you don't practise yourself but what is the harm in learning a bit about it?

I think you have no need at all to worry about whether she looks Jewish and therefore needs to know about it. Seriously, drop that, it is a bit odd. Focus on the positives of Judaism (in particular the food!), some nice traditions and songs. When she is older, she can get into it if she wishes in more depth

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:04:09

Looks though like the dad is gone for good, so even if he would want his dc to be Jewish, if he is not going to be around at all, I wonder how relevant that is IYSWIM

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:08:19

ZZZenagain, I don't really know what to tell her on the whole 'daddy' thing. At the moment I start crying when I think about it! But I know I need to think seriously about what is best to say when she asks, apart from 'I wanted you very much from the moment I knew you were growing inside me'.

I suppose the attraction of getting involved with a community of people is that they are actually Jewish and I am not! God knows what a hash I would make of trying to explain Judaism when I know nothing about it!

Good point about food, though... drool... that is a nice easy in, with little explaining.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:10:27

ZZZenagain, I don't think it's really relevant to me to know or care about what he would want. As you say, he's not around, and I do think you forfeit the rights when you forfeit the responsibilities.

I just want to think about what's best for little one.

Justfornowitwilldo Mon 27-May-13 20:14:10

I know this is a bit of a minefield and it would open you up for more rejection, but would his family be interested in contact with your baby?

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:18:14

when she goes to nursery or to school, she will at some stage pick up on the fact that most dc have a mum and dad at home and at that point, she'll ask you about him. You have a bit of time to think about it. I think the general advice is not to say anything negative about him because she will reflect it back on herself. There must have been some good things about him for you to have wanted to spend time with him - tell her about those things and maybe all she needs to know is that he lives somewhere else and it didn't work out between the two of you but you are glad you met him because it means you have her.

Don't know why I am assuming a dd actually. Sorry about that. I don't know enough about Judaism to tell you which congregations are likely to be open to you as a non-Jew and your dd as half-Jewish but on the father's side. There are different streams within Judaism. Perhaps someone else knows which type of synagogue/Jewish organisation would be open to her. A friend of mine is half-Jewish (on her father's side), she is Christian and so is her dh but she sends the dc to a Jewish Children's Club which meets on Sundays. They are in age-based groups, dance, play games and learn about the Bible stories etc, bake together. It seems nice and the dc seem to be accepted but we are in Eastern Europe and I don't know what is available in the UK. Since Judaism is not a missionary religion, possibilities might be restricted but ask around. If you have a liberal Jewish synagogue near you, in your shoes I might just go in and ask to have a word with the rabbi, get some advice.

hermioneweasley Mon 27-May-13 20:20:09

Does his family want to have any involvement (finding it hard to imagine a Jewish grandma not wanting to be Parton her grandchild's life)

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:22:14

AISH.com is a nice website I have found for learning a bit about Judaism. We look on there when things come up in our reading which we don't know about - festivals etc. They have a nice video on there with Moses organising the exodus online. We had a chuckle at that one. When dd read something about Rosh Hashannah which is Jewish New Year she looked it up on there and found a video she liked of some crazy boys prancing around Jerusalem. In a light-hearted way without too much depth, you can learn about other cultures and I think that is good for kids. They want to be proud of whatever elements make up their cultural heritage.

Why would you? HE does not care. Do what is easiest for you. No reason why you should turn into a "quasi Jew" to appease and honour and absent father who cant be arsed either way.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:23:58

Hermione and justfornow, he has decided he doesn't want his family to know he has a child, so no, they won't know and won't have the option of being involved. Long rubbish story, but it is as it is.

I don't know them and it would feel really wrong and appropriate for me to make contact.

sunshine401 Mon 27-May-13 20:24:13

Religion is not a heritage. It is a personal choice. All children should be raised understanding all religions, therefore in a position when they are old enough they can chose which (if any) religion they believe in and want to follow/practice.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:26:10

I think you are a lovely mum for even thinking about this.

I think you would want to look into reform or progressive / liberal Judaism and start doing some research. I am similar in heritage to your dd (dad is around though) and I like knowing about where I come from.

I think it's very important to understand your genetic makeup, so at the very least I would tell her in the early primary years about her exciting genetic heritage and maybe eg read a book about Jewish religious holidays and tell her about Jewish food.

If you happen to live anywhere near Marble Arch there is a lovely Jewish nursery there where my friends send their kids - at least half of the children are not Jewish and it is Ofsted outstanding.

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:26:48

I think being Jewish is more than adhering to a religion, it is also to do with being part of a cultural tradition beyond the religion. So some people feel no real draw to the religion but do feel a part of Jewish culture. At least that is how I understand it.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:28:30

Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity, so it is a heritage. No one in my Jewish family has been religious for at least 70 years, but the heritage is still important to me.

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