This past weekend, we had the first of a new program at the J called “Jewish Journeys” for grandparents and grandchildren ages 4–8. The Sunday afternoon experience is to create and share Jewish experiences between generations. Hopefully, this program will grow because Jewish grandparents and their grandkids have so much to learn from one another.
Jewish educator Joel Lurie Grishaver wrote a piece titled “10 Attitudes of Highly Effective Jewish Grandparents: Patterns for Enhancing and Sustaining Your Grandchildren’s Jewishness.” Here is a brief outline of his suggestions:
1. Ask the right question: Don’t ask “Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish?” — rather ask “What kind of Jews do you want your grandchildren to be?”
2. Be “Auntie Mame”: This wonderful aunt gave two gifts — first, exposure and freedom to explore wonderful new worlds, and, second, total attention to talk and process them.
3. Be a curator: Collect, preserve, catalog, exhibit and then bequeath the family artifacts — this includes family recipes, stories and memories.
4. Be Scheherazade: Write letters and tell stories.
5. Be there in times of pain: One of the treasures grandparents have at their age is the ability to handle pain and deal with the difficult things in life. Be available — that is the key.
6. Be a community center: Be the place where great things happen.
7. Don’t be the pope and the poperinna: Be the place where holidays happen but let your children create holidays at their home.
8. Do not play tug-of-war: self-explanatory!
9. Live locally, support globally: Support, volunteer, get involved and show your grandchildren the joy of being part of the community.
10. Be all you want them to be: Be the best Jew you can be — keep learning — show them how it’s done.
Being a grandparent is a wonderful time of life. Give your grandchildren the gift of your love of Judaism. And what if you aren’t a grandparent? These hints can be done by aunts, uncles, friends and even parents!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.