I am Hopeful. I'm Up for the Challenge. I am a Mother.
My daughter is 11 months old. Yet I don’t know if the thought that I am someone’s mother has fully settled in. Mother. It’s a term I did not consider carrying much weight until 11:46pm on June 12 of last year. Now, it’s a term that feels very rich and heavy. It is a term that is ripe with promise. It is a term that terrifies me.
I come from a line of diverse Jewish women. They not only differ in personality from one another, but in Jewish practice. There is my Savta, a woman who grew up in Israel during the 1940s attending agricultural schools and packing ammunition during the War of Independence. Next, my Grandmother who continues to make homemade gefilte fish and chopped liver during the Jewish holidays even if she is only hosting three guests at her table. Then there is my mother, a strong woman who demonstrated not only how to be a hard worker, but how to be an active leader in the community. Finally my mother-in-law, exuding kindness and generosity to her loved ones and those in need.
I now have the responsibility to be a link in the chain for my daughter to these women. I want to provide a strong sense of Jewish pride; a strong taste for Jewish food; a strong comfort in family, cooking, and community; a connection to our family’s Zionist roots, a comprehensive Jewish literacy and sense of ownership in Jewish traditions and texts.
Perhaps it would have been easiest to map out how to do all of these things with my partner prior to the arrival of our daughter. Perhaps it would be easier to raise her in the same educational paths in which I participated in my youth. But as I age, my relationship to Judaism changes, the diversity of my community grows and my outlook on the world takes on a broader view. I married someone with a good heart, kind eyes and a sense of humor. I did not marry someone who grew up keeping kosher or who celebrated Shabbat and holidays like I did.
I find comfort in the practices, rituals and traditions in which I was raised. It’s much harder to compromise, finding a middle ground in which we both feel comfortable. It can be even trickier to then lay out a "Jewish plan" for your child. Our daughter is 11 months old. Decisions surrounding whether or not she will be forced to eat kosher food outside the home, or what kind of Jewish education we want to provide for her (and how) are just around the corner. These conversations are difficult; we have yet to resolve some of the issues. But, there are worse things than having two parents who care deeply about the individual they are raising and who are dedicated to finding answers that work for their family.
My responsibility to my daughter as her mother is not only making sure she is in good health, gets a good education and becomes a good person. I am responsible for the emergence of her Jewish identity and to WANT to be a member of Klal Yisrael. I am the link to her Jewish heritage and the guidance to her Jewish adolescence.
It is a terrifying task, but I am hopeful. I'm up for the challenge. I am a mother.