Editor's note: Laurel Snyder is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a poet and author of many books for children. Follow her on Twitter at @laurelsnyder.
By Laurel Snyder, Special to CNN
(CNN) – A few years ago I was invited to my local Jewish Community Center to do a reading of my picture book “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.” It was going to be a child-friendly event, so I took my kids along.
Now, “Baxter” isn’t really a book about being kosher. It’s about wanting to be accepted into a community. But I always like to make sure my listeners know what the word kosher means before I read it, since the joke at the center of the book depends on that. So as usual I asked the Jewish Community Center crowd if they could define the word.
Before anyone else could answer, my own son Mose, who was 5 at the time, jumped up and shouted out, “I know! I know! Kosher is us! We’re kosher!” Then he sat back down again, beaming proudly.
And I might have been proud too. Only, you see, we’re not kosher.
On the drive home I tried to figure out what to say to Mose about his mix-up. I wanted him to know what it means to be kosher, to live by a rigid religious dietary code, day in and day out. But I also needed him to understand that we’re not.
How could I show respect for this part of our Jewish tradition while also suggesting that it doesn’t seem relevant in our own household? Should I just blame it on my own parents, who didn’t raise me that way?
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It’s not easy to explain something to a kid when you haven’t yet figured it out for yourself. One of the most helpful/terrible things about having children is that they require us to think things out explicitly. That often means they make us face the very things we’ve been avoiding.
Sometimes, as a result, kids challenge us to become more mindful or observant. I hadn’t been a member of a synagogue for years when I became a mom. I hadn’t hosted a Passover Seder or found the time to light Shabbat candles.
Even though I worked for a Jewish agency and wrote about religion professionally, when it came to my home life I was almost completely unobservant. Judaism was something I thought about more intellectually than personally. Religion was an interesting idea more than a belief system.
Now I light candles each week and say the blessings. I belong to a havurah – a cohort of local Jewish friends who get together for monthly potluck dinners – and also a synagogue.
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Because there’s something about having kids that makes me want to be a better version of my Jewish self. I want something special to pass on to them. Something more than “You’re Jewish because I’m Jewish.”
But sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes my kids help me recognize the limits of my faith.
In truth, I do not keep kosher and I don’t really want to. My husband is not Jewish, though we’re raising our family to be. So, yeah, we eat tacos for Shabbat dinner most weeks and usually skip Friday night services.
This is the truth and I have to own it. I can only shift my life around so much without feeling inauthentic. Lying to my kids about my religious life is no way to model the value of faith.
So when, after the “Baxter”/kosher fiasco, I set out to write my new picture book, “Good night, laila tov” (laila tov means “good night” in Hebrew), I wanted to paint an honest portrait of my largely secular household.
I wanted my kids to recognize the family in my story as Jewish, but also as, well, like us. Which is to say, not exactly kosher.
On some level I was reacting to the fact that most of the Jewish picture books in my home feel like they’re about someone else. They’re usually set in a Polish village a century ago, or on the Lower East Side of New York City, where mothers cook and fathers pray.
I wanted “Good night, laila tov” to be a sort of lowest common denominator. Contemporary and universal. It’s not about Jewish history, and it doesn’t have a single rabbi in it. It won’t teach you new Hebrew words or show you how to say a certain prayer.
It’s just a story about a Jewish American family going camping, experiencing nature, love, work and rest. In writing it I hoped to capture something typical, something natural, something simple.
And it does present, to my mind, Jewish values: Nature is spiritual, and takes us beyond ourselves. Time spent with family is sacred.
The family in the book plants trees and picks up their campsite, because caring for the earth is part of Judaism, I think. Along with caring for each other.
But as I wrote, I found myself a little afraid that, in attempting to write a picture book for everyone, I was letting the Jewish particularity go. Aren’t family nature, and environmentalism tenets of faith beyond the Jewish world, in every religion?
What did it say about me, my choices, my household, that the Jewish life I was choosing to depict looked like it could be any household at all?
Then I come back around to that moment with Mose, that moment of realizing I’d somehow misled him. Because whatever I’m unsure of, whatever I don’t know about faith, I do know this: if it isn’t honest, it doesn’t count.
The purpose of faith, as I understand it, is to infuse life with greater meaning. To make it more real. Not to dress it up. Not to pretend.
My kids and I are on a journey together. We’re setting out for parts unknown.
And while we may find ourselves changing as we trek along, there is a sacred quality in simply being who we are today. Of stopping on the trail and taking a deep breath. It’s enough, I think, to be exactly who we are, kosher or not.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Laurel Snyder.
"The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried & found wanting but that it has not been tried" – Chesterton
How come you can have duel citizenship but you can't belong to more than one religion?
You wouldn't know until you learn that it's DUAL and NOT "duel". You DIMWIT!
My parents where religious. We went to church, we celebrate every event and I did not have any bound with this religion whatsoever. I did not baptis my kids. I want they can grow up without any religious influence and find their own way how, and what they want to believe in later. I think religion is the most un-democratical and a very intolerant way. Religion is not free and it does not give people a free spirit.
Will you be doing that in every other area in their lives?
Yes, atheists are more educated (pause).....that's what they've been YAPPING everywhere on this blog BUT...take a good look at the the original poster to see what a true atheist is.
Wow, a Jew who is not religious. Who would have thunk it?!?
What is more ridiculous, a Jew who is not religious or devote Christian who believes the Earth was created only 2000 years ago by a Supernatural being in all of six days?
Prayer does make change.
The change was going to happen without the prayer.
Can it break a twenty?
Maybe for some but it takes a helluva prayers for people like me to change.
Sure it can, even your ass! You STEER!
And you're the best example of prayer making change, Tom, Tom.
The author says she and her children are not especially religious, but they are...
Anyone who goes to Church for anything other than a funeral is religious. Simple as that. God knows how they sit there for hours and listen to the drivel. My God would never force his followers to sit in a boring room for hours on end for no particular reason.
To me it does not matter what your religion is as long you can get along with other people of different faith
What a wonderful article. Thanks so much for sharing part of your journey with all of us. Instead of demanding a fixed, black & white answer to it all, you beautifully leaned into the tension and shared your heart. Many blessings to you and your family.
@proud Jewess says:
"Listen yourself, VoR. I don't have to prove anything to you. Prove to me God *doesn't* exist!"
I figured as much.
Bigotry (a real burden for the mankind)
All false religions are bigoted. The members of false religions, at least those of them, which take seriously their religion, love only members of their own religion or people, which they want to convert.
This nasty behaviour you find among Catholics, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, false Protestants, etc..
The problem is that the false religions see Grace as their PROPERTY. As soon as you have joined their religion you participate in infinite Grace, which dispenses you from correct behaviour in daily life.
Let us take the Islam as an example:
Sura Al-Fatiha (Sura 1):
1 In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
2 Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
3 The Beneficent, the Merciful.
4 Master of the Day of Judgment,
5 Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
6 Show us the straight path,
7 The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.
The first Sura sounds even Christian (Allah is called merciful), but let us consider that this is not the only Sura of the Koran.
The whole context of the Koran makes it clear that the first Sura is related only to Muslim believers. Allah is merciful and gracious only towards Muslims or people, which want to convert to Islam.
This bigotry could be endured, if Islam would mean love and righteousness in daily life (a true Christian shall be full of love and righteousness to everybody independent from belief, color, nationality, status, etc. in daily life). Regretably a good Muslim is yet a Muslim, which keeps the 5 pillars of Islam, independent from practical love and righteousness:
– Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
– Establishment of the daily prayers;
– Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
– Self-purification through fasting; and
– The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
The 5 pillars of Islam have not much to do with rightousness, excepted almsgiving (whereby, I would like to know, if a Muslim would give alms to a poor Christian, or if he would regard his poverty as a curse of Allah?).
The mean trick of all these is that you become a participant of grace yet by keeping the 5 pillars, independent from your daily behaviour. You may think like this (if you are a Muslim): I have tried to convert my workmate to Islam, but he refuses. He is now under the wrath of Allah, who will throw him into hell finally. Why should I love this nasty disbeliever, which is not loved by Allah? Why should I give him any good hints and advices? Why should I talk with him? Why should I be concerned about his security? Why should I help him, if he is in need? Allah doesn't love this infidel individual, hence I am allowed to hate him too.
The same att-itude have got Catholics, Anabaptist, Mormons, etc..
They keep certain rituals of their believe and by that they are participants of infinite Grace, which allows them to treat their infidel fellow human beings, which they regard as disbelievers, very ill. They feel not obliged to show love and rightousness to their fellow human beings.
How works a true Christian, in contrast:
A Christian knows that at Judgement Day he will get judget according to his works. Only if he has lived a life of love and rightousness he will finally enter heaven. A Christian loves everybody, independent form belief, color, nationality, status, etc.. He loves people, even if they are no Christians and even if they don't want to become Christians. A true Christian doesn't regard God's Grace as his property, but shares it with his fellow human beings. The Christian sees always himself as that one, who is required by God to behave correctly. A Christian oversees the sins of his fellow human beings and behaves friendly and kindly despite their sins (of course, if people harm one another, the Christian has to intervene and to stop the wrongdoer).
Yet a true Christians will hold on to the truth and confess it to everybody:
The gospel: God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification.
The man, who believes that and gets baptized (or remembers his infant baptism), will receive the power of the Holy Spirit to love his fellow human beings and to behave righteous.
You are very confusing.
"This nasty behaviour you find among Catholics, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, false Protestants, etc.."
Are you saying Judism is the only true religion?
LOL... and how do you know that you are following the one true religion? Don't all religions make the same claim?
Regard that I am a German. It would not be appropriate, if I would criticize them too much, because of Germany's bad history.
The problem is that when ever you criticize Judaism you also at the same time criticize the descendants of Jakob (the first Jew). Mostly the descendants of Jakob are adherents of Judaism, whereby always a small number of them converts to Christianity. They are called Jewish Christians.
Hitler and his adherents did not criticize the Jewish doctrine, but the Jews in itself, their flesh and blood. Hitler condemned a Jew, just because he was a Jew or descendant of Jacob (Hitler falsely assumed Jewish blood would contaminate German blood, when they had intercourse). Hitler was a pure racist.
I criticize all religions, which do not welcome the only Redeemer Jesus Christ, including Judaism. Although I criticize Judaism, I love the Jews and may God bless them.
I criticize the Islam, but love the Muslim Arabs and the Muslim Turks. I always merely criticize wrong doctrines, but not the people in itself.
I appreciate that you feel badly about the Holocaust but you are no more guilty of it than I am. You were not alive at that time and didn't commit the murders some Germans at that time did. However, deep inside your religion are the seeds of the Holocaust. And your beliefs about Judaism have the seeds of the Holocaust. Anti semitism until very recently has been exclusively tied to your religion very unfortunately. It is extremely offensive to hear you try to convert Jews to your religion. Please, leave Jewish people alone. You are arrogant, seem to know almost nothing about Judaism and are writing long-winded and off-putting posts. NO Jew is going to read your posts and question ourselves. We are only going to feel offended. No Catholic, Muslim, etc is going to read it and welcome your message. Imagine the same message directed at your religion. You would not accept it. I feel you are very far from the true message of your religion. Maybe you should try working on yourself more and leave others alone until you are a better example yourself. And at that point your words and actions will speak for themselves and you can still leave Jews alone.
As I am a German I first want to apologize for all the crimes we (the Germans) have committed against the Jews. I regret deeply.
The blood of the people, which have committed these crimes flows in my veins. I only can continue to live, because God gave his precious Passover Lamb for me. Even the worst people on earth can get saved by God's Lamb.
The Jewish prophet John the Baptist once said:
29 The next day John seeth Jesus (a Jewish carpenter) coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Jesus and John the Baptist fullfilled Ezekiel 36: 24-28:
24 For I will take you (Israel) from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them . 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Dear Jew, Catholic, Anabaptist, Muslim, Mormon, etc. join God's Passover Lamb Jesus Christ and he will purify you perfectly.
The gospel: God, the Father, delivered God, the Son (God's Lamb), for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification.
Simply believe that and get baptized (or remember your infant baptism, if you are yet baptized). At baptism your dirty, impure old man of sin dies (you die for the sin) and you resurrect to a new life in Christ. Your heart gets circu-mcised and you receive Jahve's Spirit. It is not only that God forgives you, but he also makes you a new creature (rebirth by Water and Spirit), which is able to live a life of divine love. By the love of the Spirit of God you fullfill the law of the Torah. If The Divine Legislator lives in you, how shall you break the law anymore?
Dear Jews, God gave you the law of the Torah, so that you might realize your sinfulness and that you need a redeemer. When at last will you accept the saviour, which the God of Israel has sent to you?
Dear Jews, you actually don't have a problem with the lousy Germans or other Antisemits. You actually have a conflict with your own God. You should gradually start to understand your own scriptures. Yet by the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) it is possible to prove that every man needs a redeemer and that an Anointed One should come and get wiped out from the earth (Daniel).
Through baptism we die for the sin and receive God's Spirit, which uses our actually sinful body as a tool for doing works or righteousness. Every day a Christian invites Christ or the Spirit, which he has yet received at baptism, to rule his sinful body.
In other words: The biological body of the Christian doesn't get delivered by baptism, it remains sinful (see Romans 7, where St. Paul describes his sinful past made of flesh and blood, his body). The Christian only appears holy, because the divine power, which he received at baptism, is stronger than his sinful body, and helps the Christian to overcome his sinful body and to live a life of righteousness.
Gospel of Jesus Christ, Amen.
ok so if "A Christian loves everybody, independent form belief, color, nationality, status, etc.. He loves people, even if they are no Christians and even if they don't want to become Christians." then you must not be one considering how you just bashed every faith in a hateful and ignorant manor while criticizing other denomination for their hypocrisies while being hypocritical yourself. then going on about saying we shouldn't claim grace as a property or place limits on it while simultaneously you withhold it to "nasty Catholics, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, false Protestants"
i don't know if you were hurt by someone of these groups that caused you to hate these faiths but there is no point in calling out all the sins of the world and blaming them on other people while claiming to be a perfect example of love. remember Jesus hated the sin not the sinner.
Prayer changes things .
Prayer changes otherwise intelligent and rational people into believing they can talk to an imaginary super friend.
By stealing the name atheism is not healthy for children and other living things even the atheist thief recognizes that atheism is not healthy for children and other living things.
Imagine how the others whose names you've stolen feel.
proven over & over & over & ...
You're a proven liar. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!
Actually. Scientists have a measured evaluation of prayers influence over bilogy. Its been recorded. Now as to whats exactly happening is up for debate. And why do people who dont believe in god or mock god think that prayer is like a wish granting machine that fails? Prayer is communication with god, nothing more or less. God isnt a genie that grants 3 wishes, and just because some kook refuses medical attention for her child doesnt mean god "approves" .. Man
That's funny, I was raised by atheists and I raised my children as atheists and they are raising their children as atheists and I never gave it a thought. I guess it's only a big deal if you are a theist.
It's nice to see ignorance and bigotry alive an well. My family have been freethinkers for generations. I was raised in an atheist household, and my values are fundamentally humanist. I have a good job that contributes to humanity, a loving wife (also an atheist), many friends and a full life. I treat animals with care a respect, and contemplate the order and structure of the universe and humanity's place in it daily. This is the norm for atheists, not the exception.
The view that atheism is somehow bad for life is flat out bigotry. Holding that view makes you a bigot. Good job.
"Prayer changes things"
....what other living things would those be? Squirrels? Dogs? Cyanobacteria?
How about providing children with a real education and teach them what anthropologists, archeologists and religious historians seeking the truth have to say about where god came from:
I wish they taught this is all schools
If you want to be burning in a lake of fire and acid like Gandhi is right now, ignore Christianity and just live life being a good person. God will punish you accordingly.
If you want to be sipping margaritas pool-side with Jesus like Hitler is right now, become a Christian. God will reward you accordingly.
An update on Judaism:
ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."
Actually, no legitimate historian has ever doubted the existence of Abraham or the Exodus. In fact, the Bible (Old Testament and New) has been proven to be the most historically accurate book ever written – never once havin been disproven despite unending attempts over 3500 years.
You're dead wrong and I really don't understand what your purpose is in writing this "story". My grandfather was an orthodox rabbi as well as holding a pHD in theology. He's probably turning over in his grave reading the nonsense you just posted.
If the stories from the Old Testament were falsified, wouldn't that make the successor religions false as well? Don't forget Jesus was a Jew himself before he parted ways.
Neither has the Old Testament been proven. By your logic anything is real until disproven…Big foot, Loch Ness Monster and UFOs all have more evidence they are real.
"Phosphorus' Law of Anthropogenic Potential: Any and all events or manifestations that can occur under natural conditions can also occur under human controlled conditions, provided that the fundamental and principle laws and mechanics pertaining to that specific system are fully understood and applied correctly."
Interesting. I pop on here half a day later, and Pipe-Dreamer is still smoking his crack pipe, and laying out his drug-induced philosophy. I guarantee I'll see him ranting like a schizophrenic in another few days when CNN posts the next religious article. By the way, according to him, gawd killed 5 of his sisters, he was born to Mary and Joseph, he was born again at the age of 33, and he has been touched by the lord ever since. He believes gawd is at the helm for all matters of biological fertilization and his sky fairy decides how or when a woman gets pregnant. Ask him all about it. It's good for a laugh or two. :-D
That is more sad than funny.
Even worse, looking at many of the posts here, he's not alone.
And you have centered your current attention to commenting about your experiences with said crazy person.. Which is crazy.
It's more entertaining than anything. A little humor goes well with my morning cup of coffee.
Children should be allowed to remain atheist for as long as they like. And ridiculed mercilessly if they join any cult., which of course includes any of the so-called mainstream religions.
Religion will eventually die and children will not suffer this global insanity anymore.
YOU will eventually die, and you will find out who Jesus Christ is, whom you denied and even ridiculed !
There is a vast difference between the man made religion and God's revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ His Son whom He sent to declare Him and explain Him. But thet God-less, SELF-exalting, man does not know that, neither does he want to know!
As for the children...... we've seen the result of God-lessness in our own society. In view of the whole picture of our society for past couple decades, since God has been banned from the classrooms , and shuned from our public places and lives, it is evident that we've become less human and just more barbaric.
And children, the poor children...... they are the real victims, being robed of their innocence by the enemy of their souls who works through his willing vessels, is determined to desensitize and numb them, so that they have no chance to grow up as normal human beings. That's how advanced we have become, advanced into godlessness and barbarism!
And you think that is what children need? History itself will accuse this generation of the God-less of crimes against humanity!
"As for the children...... we've seen the result of God-lessness in our own society. In view of the whole picture of our society for past couple decades, since God has been banned from the classrooms "
Yeah, like the Christians that came to this country actually murdered the Indians in huge numbers and stole their land, not even following the teachings of your Christ. You and your kind are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites, stuck in your delusion too afraid to acknowledge your religion is based on past pagan religion. LOL!
Religion is manmade, not god made. It will never die. Man will always have a need to worship, even if it is other people.
Religion is about control.
PRISM 1234 ad YeahRight did a great job of proving your point Anon
Learn about Judaism:
Go to chabad.org
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.