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On-The-Job Jew Training

On-The-Job Jew Training

Two great new pieces out this week — both from West Coast Jewish publications — by women who grew up in interfaith families.

I especially related to the piece by Emily Savage, a staff writer at northern California’s The J, about how she’s basically acquired a Jewish education from working at a Jewish newspaper.

When I started out at The Detroit Jewish News, back in 1997, I frequently thought how ironic it was that I, who’d had no formal Jewish education (save for some college Hebrew classes and an oh-so-rigorous semester at Tel Aviv University), was assigned to cover Jewish education.

My situation was a little less dramatic than that of Emily, who didn’t know the difference between a minyan (quorum of 10 worshippers) and a minion, and had never heard of a mikveh (ritual bath) or tefillin (prayer phylacteries). Two years of eating in Oberlin College’s Kosher Co-op, a year sharing a Jerusalem apartment with a Pardes yeshiva student and a fluency in Modern Hebrew, had supplied me with the key Jewish lingo and a pretty good understanding of basic Jewish ritual observance. Nonetheless, I knew nothing about texts, Jewish history or Jewish institutional life — and I had spent virtually no time inside a synagogue.

Whereas Emily’s piece is about growing up with little Jewish education, Leyna Krow’s is a tribute to the involvement of her gentile mom in raising her Jewish:

She took me to and from Hebrew and Religious school, attended synagogue, picked out Jewish books from the book store, made our home festive for the holidays, helped plan my Bat Mitzvah, etc. And for her efforts she gets to be rewarded with the knowledge that most of the Jewish world still does not believe she’s raised a Jewish child? That she was incapable of the task? Doesn’t seem right. I feel pretty Jewish. And I credit both my parents equally for that.

It sounds like Leyna’s mom did a great job even though, sadly, no one ever informed her that not all Jews recognize patrilineal descent. If she were raising her kids today, she would have more resources and support at her disposal, like the Jewish Outreach Institute’s Mothers Circle program.

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