Religion has been tough for me. I was raised Catholic and early on began to find areas with the faith that did not align with my personal belief system. But now that I am mom, I want nothing more than for my ladies to have a strong sense of self that includes an understanding of their religious and spiritual beliefs.
John and I have talked extensively about religion and how we would introduce it to the ladies. We decided pretty early on that we would like to raise the ladies in the Jewish faith. However, with all the moving and complications life has thrown at us we had little time to figure out how to start being “practicing Jews.”
Well, we finally made time. A great friend suggested a temple that she thought would align nicely with our family’s personality and spiritual needs. So I took the first step and wrote an email to the Rabbi. I was so impressed with the response, I told John we had to go visit and see if we have finally “found religion.”
The Rabbi we met with was a vibrant, honest, understanding, thoughtful and welcoming woman. We brought both of the ladies with us to the initial meeting and the Rabbi was not deterred by Caroline’s energy and said that even though there are special programs to provide religious education for kids with special needs, the congregation would love it Caroline participated in religious education at our temple. INCLUSION, she wanted Caroline, too! My heart nearly leapt out of my chest.
We had a follow-up meeting where we learned a bit about the history of the congregation and I learned a bit more about the faith. John’s mom is Jewish so he knows quite a bit more about the faith. I loved the idea of a religion that is rooted in thankfulness and the desire to help others. I shared that up to this point we have celebrated a variety of holidays and traditions – inclusion, if you will. The Rabbi was very open-minded and said that as we grow in our faith we can make the decision about what we want to celebrate and what not to. I might have shared that Caroline LOVES, LOVES Santa Claus and that we spend Christmas with my Catholic parents. The Rabbi’s response was perfect, “celebrating and appreciating others’ beliefs does not have to diminish your belief system.”
We have started celebrating Shabbat, every Friday. And for our family it includes a conversation about what we are thankful and what we appreciate about each other. Vivian has responded so well to these conversations, it has been a joy to see. She can’t make it through the conversation without walking over to each of us and giving a big hug because in these moments she realizes all that we are to each other and all that we have to thankful for.
The ladies will start attending Sunday school this fall. To prepare for this, we have been reading some children’s books recommended by the Rabbi. These books introduce traditions of the faith in very simplistic and accessible ways and the way in which they discuss the philosophy of the faith is so tender and thoughtful.
I am really excited about taking this huge step forward. By committing to a faith we are providing our ladies with religion, traditions and philosophy to help them develop a sound moral compass. And as for me I have found a great deal of peace through the process of introducing the ladies to Judaism and learning more about it, myself.