What are your earliest memories? They are probably related to home and family. Many times these early memories are connected with a strong emotion, whether positive or negative. What do we want our children’s earliest memories to be?
One of my earliest memories is of my Consecration at Congregation Shalom. I was barely four years old. I remember going to Sunday School (always in one of my best party dresses) and being told we had very important homework, we needed to learn the words to the Shema. They called the Shema the “watchwords of our faith.” I never understood that phrase. I couldn’t understand what a wristwatch had to do with a prayer and I had no idea what faith was. I just knew it was important that I learn these 12 words.
They gave us the words to the Shema, typed in English transliteration, on a narrow piece of paper. I stared at that paper for a long time.
I wasn’t reading much English yet. These words didn’t make sense to me at all. I went home and showed the narrow slip of paper to my big sister. She knew everything because she was nine! I remember sitting in our family room for what seemed like hours repeating these words after her until I knew them by heart.
When the big night arrived, I remember sitting on the steps in the sanctuary with all the other four year olds, holding miniature Torah scrolls. We stood up and said the words of the Shema, the “watchwords of our faith” in front of all the grown ups in the room. Then one by one we took our turn standing in front of the holy ark. Rabbi Harry Pastor (who I thought was probably God) put his hands on my head and said something in Hebrew and then whispered something in my ear in English. I don’t remember what he said, but at that moment, I felt like a part of something bigger than myself. I couldn’t have explained it then, but at that moment, I felt like a part of the Jewish People.
Why Go Jewish for your children? So they will have warm fuzzy memories, like when I learned the Shema, and so that they will feel part of something bigger than themselves. Whether you choose a Sunday morning religious school, a preschool, or a day school, give your children a gift and Go Jewish.