Camp is over and school has begun. As I prepare for the school year, I go to the many, many books and resources to find ways to make Judaism come alive for children and parents (and grown-ups of all ages!). There are two wonderful books for early childhood teachers (and parents, too) of which even the titles send an important message. “Jewish Every Day” by Maxine Segal Handelman and “What’s Jewish about Butterflies?” by Maxine Segal Handelman and Deborah L. Schein are amazing in both concepts and ideas for things to do.
First, however, think about the titles: “Jewish Every Day” — isn’t that what Judaism is about? We don’t just “do” Jewish on Shabbat or a holiday, but we are indeed Jewish all day every day, and how can we bring that into our lives? Take some time to think about where you can bring Judaism and its values into your life. Many years ago, a young woman told me about a time she was at the park with a friend and their children. There was a quick rain shower and then a beautiful rainbow. The woman talked with her son about the science of rainbows (he was 4) but the friend talked with her son about G-d’s promise and the wonder of the sign of the rainbow. The woman was sad that she missed the opportunity to bring G-d into her child’s life, but there are opportunities every day and that is what is wonderful about being “Jewish every day!”
The idea behind the book “What’s Jewish about Butterflies?” is very much the same but the book includes 36 lessons for teachers. Each lesson gives the big idea, the Jewish values, a connection to Israel, Hebrew, songs, blessings and a story. The 36 lessons are great, but each of us can take a moment to think about all the things we do and add the “Jewish piece.” Do we have to do it for EVERYTHING? Of course not, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
What is the hope with all of this? That we remember that being Jewish is part of our total being and not a segment of the day or week. Try it!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.