Post by Rabbi Robyn Frisch,the Director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, which supports interfaith families exploring Jewish life and advocates for a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed – and benefited greatly from – the practice of mindfulness meditation. Studying and practicing mindfulness has helped me to be less judgmental (of myself and of others), to be more present in the moments that make up my life, and to better appreciate the simple beauty in the world around me.
Often, when thinking about a lesson I’ve learned in mindfulness, I’ll say to myself, “Judaism teaches this!” I’m struck by how so many of Judaism’s rituals and teachings can help us to lead a more mindful life. Or, as I put it in a blog that I wrote a few years ago, “my mindfulness practice is fully interwoven with my Jewish spirituality.”
What do I mean by this? Well, for example, when learning about “mindful eating,” I was taught about the importance of not just devouring food, but of thinking about where the comes from and how it got to me, as well as what it looks and smells like, and how it tastes when really focusing on it. I remember thinking, “Judaism teaches us not to just eat our food mindlessly. We have blessings to recite before and after eating that make us stop and pause to remind us of the sacred nature of eating and of how lucky we are to have our food. This mindfulness lesson is inherent in Judaism.”
As I practiced mindfulness over a long period of time, I became especially grateful for the way in which it affected my parenting, enabling me to become more fully engaged with my children and more aware of special moments spent with them. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much Judaism has to offer when it comes to tools for mindful parenting. Judaism gives us the Shema, a beautiful prayer to say with our children before putting them to sleep, helping to calm their minds and make them feel a sense of connectedness. Judaism gives us Shabbat, a special day to focus on family and rest and to take a break from the hustle and hassles of the rest of the week. And Judaism gives us HaMotzi, a special blessing to recite as we stop and pause before eating.
The wisdom of Judaism in regard to mindful parenting is just one of the reasons that I’m thrilled that InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia is offering a free email series called “Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family.” This popular email series is for parents who want to explore bringing Jewish traditions into their family life. Participants receive eight emails over four weeks (emails are sent on Mondays and Thursdays) about how to bring spirituality and traditions to their parenting in realistic and meaningful ways. The emails share content ideas; video links; questions to discuss with your partner; ideas for family projects; personal stories written by other interfaith families who have brought these same aspects of Judaism into their lives; and book suggestions around sleeping, eating, playing, praying, and more. Essentially, the emails offer parents lots of ways to bring mindfulness to their parenting, to their own lives, and to the lives of their children – it’s mindful parenting through a Jewish lens.
The emails can be read on your own time, whenever works best for you. And there’s specific advice on how to address the topics covered in an interfaith family. There’s no pressure to do things a certain way – just basic information, and an opportunity for parents who didn’t grown up Jewish (as well as those who did) to learn about Jewish traditions and practices.
While some parents just want to receive the emails and perhaps choose their own aspects of Judaism to bring into their family’s life, for those who desire it, there’s an opportunity for interaction. In each email, there are suggested questions for discussion with your partner, and the opportunity to respond to me with your answers, or with anything else you may be thinking about. I’m happy to engage in discussion about any of the topics covered (or anything else that comes up in your interfaith family) or to share your thoughts or questions with others who are receiving the email series.
Registration for the email series is always open…so if you click here and register now, you’ll start getting the emails in your inbox as soon as the next series begins. And before you know it, you can be raising your child with more Judaism – and more mindfully – than perhaps you’d ever imagined.