Recently there has been a renewed interest and excitement about Jewish grandparenting. A national survey on Jewish grandparenting was launched in November, plus there are many new programs throughout the country and here in Dallas.
There are so many special gifts that an elder can provide to a young child. 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, including family recipes, stories and memories.
4. Be Scheherazade. Write letters and tell stories.
5. Be there in times of pain. One of the treasures elders offer 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 with the children’s parents.
9. Live locally, support globally. Support, volunteer, get involved and show your grandchildren the joy of being part of community.
10. Be all you want them to be. Be the best Jew you can be — keep learning — show them how it’s done.
We know that all the generations from young to old are benefiting from such relationship-building programming. We are thankful to have many grandparents whose grandchildren live far away matching with children here.
To further that connection, a new program at the J Early Childhood Center, made possible through a grant from a wonderful J grandmother and her family, connects children with the J elders.
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 can be done by aunts, uncles, friends and even parents!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.