A Rosh Hashanah message to parents of Jewish babies from a parent of Jewish Adults: Do Jewish all year long.
For my daughter’s very first Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur, we dressed her up in a frilly, off white outfit complete with a pill-box hat. I think it also had a fuzzy white boa. We found a matching pair of white framed cat-eyed sunglasses and she popped them on willingly for a pre-shul photo shoot.
It was hilarious.
I’ll spare posting a photo because she is a cool 20something now donning a black trench coat and Doc Martin combat boots through the streets of London and has a reputation.
You’ll just have to use your imagination.
On her second Rosh Hashanah, at the start of the Torah service, she screamed with joy
“Mommy, look, IT’S THE TORAHS!”
We were asked promptly by the usher to remove my enthusiastic Jewish toddler from the sanctuary. But that is a different topic that you can read about in other blogs.
This post is for YOU. The 20 or 30 something Jew, Jew of Choice or someone married to a Jew who is raising a very small child in the Jewish faith.
Don’t mean to scream, but stick with me here. Let me continue.
When the daughter was slightly older and was attending a Jewish preschool, I took her brother, about 2 1/2, on a shopping outing at Michael’s. It was springtime and the aisles were cluttered with those big, faux pottery urns.
“Mommy,” my baby duly noted from his vantage point in the shopping cart seat.
“They got really big Kiddush Cups”
Next, the youngest came along.
He was about 22 months and we were celebrating my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary on a cruise.
It was Tuesday night.
Formal night on the boat. Everyone was dressed up in tuxedos and gowns and other formal fashions. And in true cruse fashion, everyone was crowding outside the Starlight dining room, cattle-call style, for the doors to open. Because they had not eaten in 30 minutes at least.
All of a sudden, my 22 month old, in my arms dressed up in an instant-cute 3 piece suit of his own, yells at the top of his lungs.
It was a Tuesday, remember? But seeing people dressed up, to this almost 2 year old, it had to be Shabbos.
Funny thing is, a woman in her 60’s in a floor length black sparkly gown turned around and said Good Shabbos right back.
She was from Dix Hills. She knew my in-laws.
So now, it is many years later. That babe in my arms is a high school freshman. His brother is a freshman in college and his big sister is spending a semester abroad in London.
So where am I going with this?
During his freshman parent/student orientation, there were separate schedules for parents and students and I had not seen my son in a few hours.
Where did I catch up with him? At the student activities fair. He was checking out the Chabad table.
My son after a week of school told me he switched around his classes because one ran too late on Fridays and he did not want to miss out on Shabbat dinner and services. He’s toggling between Hillel and Chabad.
He may not get to services on both days of Rosh Hashanah, but he sought them out, knows where and when they are and it will be up to him to set his priorities.
He had a chance to perform in a pit for a show and get paid, but it takes place on Erev Yom Kippur, so he turned down the gig.
My daughter had to scramble to figure out her Rosh Hashana plans only days after landing at Heathrow to start her semester at University College of London. The “mandatory” orientation day and first day to pick classes? The first day of Rosh Hashanah.
She panicked. Does she miss orientation, a mandatory orientation, to find a place for services? Or does she go and try to catch up with services later?
These are adult choices. Jewish adult choices every Jewish adult must make in a world that does not make concessions or conveniences around the holiest days of our calendar.
This morning she emails me. She found another Jewish girl on her floor with English relatives and would be spending part of Rosh Hashanah.
And the university, in an email, in true English spelling, stated:
“We are aware that tomorrow is a Jewish holiday and that some of you may not be able to attend the above meetings. Please do let us know if you are unable to attend and we will organise an alternative meeting to catch you up.”
So, really, Jewish parents, where am I going with this?
Because this post is not just about me. It is about you and the Jewish community that is seemingly hanging on by a thread outside Israel.
Just a little bit.
Get Jewish Books from the PJ Library Read them with your kids, if just 10 minutes a day.
Make Shabbat. Even if it is only challah and grape juice on a Friday night followed by pizza or take out.
Please, for the love of Gd, make Jewish learning a priority. Take them to Hebrew school when Hebrew school is in session.
And bring them, if only once a month, to Shabbat Services in the years before they become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Bring them when they are unruly babies and toddlers. Let them climb up around the bima. Let them hear the melodies. Shlep them into the sanctuary and if they whine too much or cry, take them out and then take them in again when they are calm and keep doing it! To hell with what the old people say and complain. Synagogue is not supposed to be a quiet tomb.
Because little Jewish moments every day, over months and years, stick.
Then, when you are an old(er) Jewish parent like me, you get to watch your own kids make those hard choices for the sake of being and doing Jewish come Rosh Hashanah.
I wish you all a Sweet, Good New Year and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
I am usually sad when the calendar turns to September, marking summer’s end and another busy school year.
Not this time.
That’s because I had U2 tickets for their September 3 concert in Detroit, their kick-off to their second American leg of the Joshua Tree tour.
There was lots of great music offerings going on in Detroit this summer. Free offerings. It started with a free Aretha Franklin concert – perhaps one of her last – in June and capped off with Jazz legends like Herbie Hancock and newcomers like Kamasi Washington playing for free at Detroit’s prestigious Labor Day Jazz Festival.
That’s where my oldest son was hanging out last night. He is now in college, studying jazz performance. Because of him, I have deepened my love and appreciation for jazz.
Still, jazz is work. When I listen to jazz music, I work hard at understanding the back and forth of musicians talking to each other through their instruments, finding the structures and the scales and chord progressions in seemingly unstructured improvisations. Who is comping for who and knowing when to clap when one solo blends into the next.
Not so much effort is required of me to enjoy – no – to be enraptured – by U2.
For us Gen Xers, it’s as natural as taking in a breath. As effortless as an old friend.
Sitting up in section 320 in Ford Field last night, my 20-year-old daughter seemed a bit bewildered, maybe embarrassed at me screaming and declaring my undying love for Bono at the top of my lungs several times at last night’s concert.
Mom! She retorted, as if she wanted to inform me: dad is standing RIGHT next to you!
I reminded her I had been wanting to see this concert since I was her age.
30 years I’ve been waiting to scream my head off at a U2 concert.
I’d spent 20 of those years parenting someone.
So, yes, if only for a few hours, mama channeled her inner 20-year-old.
And every memory of my listening to U2 for some 30 years, and the people in those memories, were with me.
From hearing a boy singing an unaccompanied “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as he auditioned for a play back in high school. You were with me.
Biking along the beach in Staten Island for miles and miles, to rest in the sun on a boardwalk bench as we listened to the entirety of Under a Blood Red Sky on cassette. Side one flipped to side two. Sharing earbuds plugged into a single SONY Walkman. You were with me.
To listening to Joshua Tree on my stereo late at night alone in my room, or at a party in college, and debating whether Bono and the like had sold out with this commercially successful record compared to their older stuff on October or War Yes, you were with me too.
So after 30 years, and then waiting nearly an hour after a great opening set from Beck, the first drum beats of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” pounded out, and everyone was on their feet, and the end of the wait was all the sweeter.
Now, I know that at U2 concerts, Bono usually has some kind of theme. A message.
This one was all about America. U2’s love and pride in America.
As of late, I am not too keen about singing the praises of America.
I have endured the past seven months in a semi fog.
As each day dawns, I dread what buffoonery the current White House administration will dish up next to shock and embarrass us, all the while providing a smokescreen for Congress, which is fulfilling its promises of gutting regulations that protect our air. Water. Earth. Workers. Women. Minorities. A dismantling of democracy as we know it.
For seven months, I have hung my American flag upside down on my front doorway as a symbol of our nation’s deep distress. I am a journalist, after all. A declared enemy of the people.
But over and over again, Bono spoke for himself and the rest of his band mates – The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. – as they declared that America is their second home, and how thankful they are to America to opening their doors to millions of Irish and their descendants.
Over and time again, he reminded the audience of mostly Gen Xers (and some of their kids) that America is great because it is known for championing and giving – and not taking away – freedom.
He praised Detroit. This first city stop on their second American leg of the JT tour.
Bono described the Motor City as “city of invention, city of reinvention. A city of history … city of the future.”
Indeed, Detroit is reblooming all around us since we moved here in 2013. This new energy is visible and tangible with every new shop and restaurant cropping up around downtown and midtown. On our way to Ford Field, we passed several about-to-open bars and restaurants, an urban garden teeming with flowers and vegetables, old buildings covered in scaffolding soon to be open to residential and commercial real estate.
Helping U2 visually drive home the message of what is good and beautiful about America and Americana was a giant 200-foot-long, 43-foot-tall video screen, featuring 1,700 gold-painted panels and a silhouette of the tree famously pictured on the album sleeve.
During the 2-hour performance, as the band performed the Joshua Tree from side A to side B, the scenes changed from song to song.
An open road into a desert ambled as the backdrop to the album’s first song “Where the Streets Have No Name” Then desert transitioned into mountain and into Joshua Tree National Park, where my oldest turned to me and said “this makes you want to go out and take a road trip into the open spaces of the West.”
A small-town brass band filling in the instrumental accompaniments to “Red Hill Town.”
An all American girl wearing the most faded American blue jeans clad a stars and stripes bikini top and swung a lasso.
A native American woman danced.
Another woman painted an American flag on the side of an old barn.
A moon shone above a prairie night in “One Tree Hill.”
As the band performed “In the Name of Love,” the text of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech scrolled on the enormous screen. Words like truth, freedom and love were extracted from the sentences and danced independently.
Before last night, I had not known that before he delivered it in Washington, D.C., he first spoke those historic words in Detroit.
Had you had closed with “Vertigo” as your final encore song, with all the jumping and the red and black op-art swirling on the screen and the flash of white-hot lights, it would have been enough.
But no. You gave one more because you needed to end with a somber yet hopeful message.
And that message, in this country that feels at times is ripping apart, was “One.”‘
That in the darkness of Charlottesville and the fury of Harvey, there is a silver light. A light of the fact that we are one. And we must carry each other. “”
Left or right, we have to come back to a point to realize we are United, not Divided States. America is more than our current leadership.
And last night 50,000 Americans were reminded of all that still can be good, that the greatness has never left this nation, by four Irish musicians.
That’s why, a U2 concert is just what every American needs right now. Catch them if you can.
To hell with the ticket price.