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Help! Need to help my 9 year old understand a bit about being Jewish, but...

(16 Posts)
Elibean Tue 21-May-13 12:58:26

...have grown up in a non-practising family, with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother (she did convert to pacify her MIL, but it was total nonsense really).

dh is Jewish, but wasn't brought up with any rituals or religion either. Though he does have more of a Jewish identity, in an ill-defined sort of way.

And we live in an area of London that has hardly any Jews living in it.

It's all horribly vague. And now my lovely 9 year old, in reaction to a conversation I started about exploring that side of our heritage, burst into tears and said she didn't want to be Jewish, and wasn't going to be Jewish, because she was scared 'because they used to measure people's noses and then kill them for being Jewish' sadsad

We talked it all through, she got good and angry with Hitler and has calmed down, we talked about all the other minorities that have been persecuted, all the religions that have warred, and how right she is to react to something horrific with horror....but I feel dreadful that the only real input she's picked up is the Holocaust.

I'm not looking to immerse her or us in anything, but would love to access some positive images/role models/aspects of culture and don't know where to start. Should I email the Rabbi of our nearest Synagogue? But that's religion, not culture....any ideas?

All tips and advice gratefully received. I feel horribly clueless and ignorant.

EasterHoliday Tue 21-May-13 14:13:44

you need to find a local family (or your DH's family) / some of DH's jewish friends who will invite you along to seders / passover / all the fun parts. Go to a purim party. I've grown up with the culture but not the religion (same family set up as you, but my father's family invited us a lot).
what sort of role models would interest her? Natalie Portman? (refused to continue endorsing Dior until they confirmed sacking of Galliano) Sacha Baron Cohen? Half of Hollywood?
of course you could start your own traditions ahve dreidels as well as christmas decorations / hide the matzoh at passover.

Elibean Wed 22-May-13 10:26:20

Thanks Easter smile

Sadly, I don't actually know anyone in the UK who celebrates any of the festivals....I do in the US, but that's not a lot of use to dd.

A Jewish Winx would be handy, but failing that I should trawl the Hollywood preteen females - good idea.

Even my mildly religious grandmother (on dad's side) didn't do much in the way of Jewish rituals, though she invited us to Xmas lunch occasionally!

Elibean Wed 22-May-13 10:27:04

Actually, nearest Synagogue might know of families in my area who wouldn't mind meeting up....perhaps I should risk phoning them??

codswallopandchips Wed 22-May-13 10:31:37

Yes! Given your background, I'd suggest Reform or Liberal rather than Orthodox. Give me a minute to think and i'll come back with some more suggestions... Unfortunately we're quite far away from you, so can't help with festival invitations, unless you fancy a trip North!!

midoriway Wed 22-May-13 10:50:53

My family has a very similar cultural background to yours. Hannukah is a great place to get started, kids will take presents whatever the occassion. DH explains the stories to DD, we got a book on Jewish folk tales, and she went to her cousin's Bat Mitzvah. When we travel around Europe we usually go out of our way to visit old Jewish quarters, which is a great starting point for discussions on history, and the difference between religion and culture. Food is also a really simple way into understanding Jewish culture. We have a couple of good cook books with recipes from Jewish traditions all over the world, Iran, Israel, New York, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Russia, north Africa.

codswallopandchips Wed 22-May-13 10:51:01

Here are contact details for some of the liberal rabbis:

Food is a good way to get started too, if you like cooking - Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food is amazing, lots of background info and might help get the matzo ball rolling grin

Elibean Wed 22-May-13 14:46:43

Wow, thank you both!

Codswallop, you never know - was born up North, may yet return wink

Hannukah is a fab idea, you're right about presents, perfect intro (though thought of introducing yet more presents into a season thats full of both dds' birthdays and Xmas makes me shake in my boots). I shall look for some simple story books.

My Dad was friends with a lovely Rabbi (Hugo Gryn) and I once met with him to talk about my lack of knowledge...he gave me a couple of books, I should look for them. That was a long time pre kids, for me, but I have them still somewhere.

Midori, are you the same Midori of Goldie renown? If so, pat for them and hi from me - you helped me in the Doghouse when we were getting our Mouse smile

Elibean Wed 22-May-13 14:47:25

Think gefilte fish might be beyond me, Cods, but could manage some matzo - ball or otherwise grin

codswallopandchips Wed 22-May-13 18:10:58

So, you want I should give you a recipe? grin

(actually, i do have a good, easy, gefilte fish recipe - PM me if you want it!)

Also, if your kids are into arts and crafts, you might like this site -

Cuddledup Wed 22-May-13 19:41:32

You could always try cooking some traditional Jewish recipes.
This is a lovely website written by a convert to Judaism - a shiksa
THis is the website of a reform synagogue in West London: (Women rabbis - so I guess they're good role models!).

EasterHoliday Wed 22-May-13 21:39:13

goodness me, I used to know two of Hugo Gryn's children and I'm now trying to remember the context - he is an artist I think?
Which part of London are you in? maybe take her for a treat to St John's WOod High Street for chicken soup & a salt beef sandwich at Harry Morgans :-)
I bet you will find some local people - we moved from North West London (can't move for jews) to the countryside & in our single track lane of 4 houses, one of them belonged to a jewish family whose son has his own bar mitzvah band!)

midoriway Thu 23-May-13 23:15:21

I don't think I am the midori you are thinking of. I am the midori who drank too much midori once, and was a bit green the next day.

DH had his bar mitzvah, but he grew up in a pretty secular family. Helping DD learn about Judaism has been a bit of a learning curve for him too.

lovemybabygirl Sun 26-May-13 12:40:18

elibean where abouts do you live? I am an orthodox Jew and could maybe put you in touch with some lovely people who can tell/show you about judiasim with no pressure to do do anything you don't want to...
Not sure I understood your post correctly btw, your father was jewish and your mother converted?!
You can pm me if you want btw, happy to talk x

SavoyCabbage Sun 26-May-13 12:51:18

Spooky! I am trying to teach my 9 year old about Judaism at the moment too. We are not jewish and i don't know any jews at all to help me out. I want to teach her about different faiths as its not done at school where we live at all. I have literally sent an email to a synagogue five minutes ago asking for a tour.

I have been looking for documentaries online too but I can't find any. I remember seeing one a few years ago which I think was about Jews in London but I'm not sure. They were putting up a wire at the time and it was really interesting. Oh, and there was a family with two kitchens. I wish I could find it.

Startail Sun 26-May-13 13:17:38

Loads of info on Hanukkah on the web, telling the story and how to light the candles etc. at exactly 9y level.

The story of Passover links into the story of Mosses she's done that in RE.

My best friend from uni is reform/progressive Jewish and is bringing up her young son in the faith. I know bits from midnight chattering over coffee and feeding her as she tries to keep kosher to an extent.

The full orthodox rules for food and doing no work on the Sabbath are very complex. DFs practical version for living in a non Jewish city with no kosher butcher is much easier - treat me as a vegetarian who eats fish with fins and scales.

I suspect the progressive/reform out look on life would appeal far more to a DD than the Orthodox, which to my mind is very misogynistic. (No female Rabbis, separate seating a religious events, woman's place is in the home, wearing head coverings or wigs on marriage).

DF had the lovely lady rabbi from the progressive synagogue in Birmingham do her wedding blessing (Civil service, non Jewish DH). We were welcomed to her sons naming at the synagogue very kindly too.

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