Judaism Starts At Birth

As an early childhood educator with many years of experience in the field, I would like to comment and add to what Laurie Legum had to say about helping young children acquire a Jewish identity (“Mommy Musings,” Oct. 11).

Children learn from the moment of birth; they cannot verbalize what they learn, but they are influenced by the environment in which they live, as well as the many tangible experiences that they will have. Young children see, touch, hear, feel and taste, and it is through these experiences that their Jewish identity begins to grow and develop. Watching a mother light Sabbath candles while hearing the prayer, singing songs about the Sabbath and reading books about Jewish values and concepts all help in creating a strong Jewish identity. Having special food at holiday time, the smells and tastes are creating experiences for the young child. Waiting until a child is “old enough” to experience a Passover Seder is having wasted much time. Our Sages tell us that a child, a newborn infant, begins to acquire a Jewish identity while being held in his mother’s arms as the rituals, especially Sabbath rituals, which come every week, are being conducted. Repetition is so important. Each of us adults had had many experiences that have shaped who we have become. Unfortunately, adults cannot pass on these experiences to their children; the children must have their own. Judaism is a home-centered religion, because what we acquire from our home experiences helps to create the Jewish memories and experiences that shape us into who we are.

Rena Rotenberg
Baltimore

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