Behrman House Blog

What Do I Say to My Kids?

There is rancor in the air this holiday season, and to many it seems like the bullies are winning. In the vitriol that passes for public discourse lately, there are even angry exchanges about who is really to blame for our various predicaments and what should be done next. The posts on my Facebook feed regularly ask “What am I supposed to tell my kids?”

I would instead have us consider what we can ASK our kids. What explorations can we encourage them toward, guided by our Jewish heritage?

For example, how might Jacob’s experiences help us understand the value and challenges of telling the truth? What does a close look at Moses show about the qualities you might want in a leader? What can any of us learn from Noah about staying true to our beliefs and values, even when others don’t support us? What might we discover in the actions of Mordechai and Esther about making a difference in the world and pursuing justice?

Our tradition is replete with examples of how we can respond when we feel the world going awry. As educators, we can create opportunities for kids to explore the personal and ethical struggles described in our sacred writings, to discover and name the values they find there, and to see how these values have been developed and refined through our rabbinic tradition. We can help them make meaning from all of this, and consider how they wish to behave and to live.

We have a genuine teachable moment here. This is the time to spark curiosity about the ways Jewish tradition can serve as a guide to living in the world we inhabit right now.

We have so many goals in Jewish education. We want to help kids develop an abiding Jewish identification; experience meaningful ritual and practice; embrace the Jewish holidays; connect through Hebrew language skills; understand and stand with Israel. Yet underlying all this is our desire to impart the values our tradition upholds.

Now is the time for us to help our children understand what we mean when we talk about values, and perhaps even more importantly, what makes these values of ours Jewish.