By Laura Seymour
This week at the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, I used teddy bears to talk about respecting differences as we played with many different bears.
There is so much to learn from a cuddly bear!
Teddy bears give comfort to children and to adults — they are good listeners. When children play with teddy bears, they are embodying Jewish values.
We began simply by talking about teddy bears — and it is always better to talk while you are holding a special bear.
Before you read further, run and get a teddy to hug.
Here are some additional Jewish values that go along with teddy bears so the next time you hug a teddy think about this (and you are never too old for a teddy bear!):
There are many kinds of love. Ahavah is a Jewish value that teaches love and respect for other people and all of God’s creations.
Dibuk Chaverim: Cleaving to friends
This value goes beyond having friends to developing relationships with trust and devotion.
G’milut Chasadim: Acts of loving-kindness
These deeds go beyond simple kindnesses to spelling out the real-life moments in which we need to take care of each other.
Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim: Kindness to animals
According to Jewish law, we must always treat animals kindly because they are God’s creatures.
B’tzelem Elohim: Created in the image of God
This does not mean that we look like God or that God has a body or face. People are created with the ability to reason and know good from bad. When we talk about each person being created in the image of God, we must remember to pay attention to what is holy about each person and to model our behavior after that of God.
History of the teddy bear
Teddy Roosevelt was the President of the United States about 100 years ago. One day (in 1902), he went on a bear hunt but could not find any bears to hunt. Finally, a friend brought him a baby bear but Teddy Roosevelt would not hurt the bear cub.
A Jewish couple in New York, Morris and Rose Michtom, heard about Teddy and the bear. Rose sewed a stuffed bear and called it Teddy’s Bear. After that, everyone wanted a Teddy Bear. Morris and Rose gave all the money from selling their teddy bears to tzedakah to help others.
Teddy bears may not be created in the image of God, but each one is unique and very special. If we practice each of the Jewish values with our teddy bears, it is good practice to help us treat all people (and animals) with the same respect and love.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.