My favorite poster making the Facebook rounds is below, because it captures for me the essence of what we teach at TRT:
In this super-charged political climate, when some people proclaim the need to return to prayer, they don’t necessarily mean the “Shema” or “Avinu Malkeinu.” They are referring to their own prayer experience and don’t hear the cognitive dissonance when they tell us we should be in church more often. Sometimes, when I gently suggest we too are “prayerful” when we attend temples, they understand and respond, “Of course! You go to a Jewish church.” It’s up to us to help them understand what we do, where we pray and when we celebrate the Sabbath and holidays.
To do that, our kids need to be comfortable with and aware of all our own traditions so that they can incorporate them into their lives as they mature. They need to dance with the Torah on Simhat Torah, light candles on Hanukkah and come in costume to hear the megillah. They need to know the differences between erev Shabbat and Shabbat. They need to know the basic prayers, and when to say them. That’s our job to teach and yours to reinforce.
At the same time we want our kids to have the ability to understand that there are many spiritual paths to God, and Judaism, though paramount to us, is but one of them. We want our kids to be so proud of who they are that they are excited to share our rituals with others. That is why I love when I see our students bringing friends to Rock Shabbat, or to our Purim carnival or to our candle lighting on the Friday night during Hanukkah.
This year, Passover and Easter coincide – though the seders are the two nights prior to the Christian celebration of Easter Sunday. It means we can invite friends who might not be at all familiar with our holiday to taste, hear, see and experience our communal journey to freedom. Welcoming people who pray differently to our seder table makes more people aware that our ways are not “strange,” just different. At the same time, if you have friends and family who invite you to Easter Sunday mass, or a celebratory meal, go ahead (you might have to bring your own matzah), and learn what their holiday is really like, well beyond the chocolate bunnies. We can learn about the spiritual message important to them, and they can develop a deeper understanding of our haggadah’s message. After all, we represent so much more than flourless cake and bitter herbs.
Let’s make sure our kids pray well together, AND pray well with others, too.