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?
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
Am I Jewish. My mother and father almost never went to Synagogue, never prayed, weren't kosher, etc. I don't even believe
in God. Any opinions?
Sounds like you're Bokononist.
If you feel Jewish, you are Jewish.
You should look up your local Chabad House. They are very welcoming to all levels of observance, they love teaching, and they usually have free or low cost classes, and communal Shabbat/Holiday dinners. You will not regret it!
Sarah forgot to add "Or you're a Marxist."
I'd just say you were free, and I'm happy for you.
How about educating children instead of indoctrinating them. You could teach them what anthropologists, archeologists and religious historians seeking the truth think of about where god came from:
I think that people are so pessimistic about religion these days because they were raised to think that it is oppressing. Religion is actually very good to have because it strengthens your loyalty and makes you a better person, and also sets guidelines to live your life as good as possible. There are many people in my community who you would have NEVER thought would follow a religion, yet they recently converted to Islam. Clearly they see beauty in that religion. If you non-religious people claim to be so kind and nice, then why are you saying bad things about people who follow a religion? Do your own research– with CORRECT sources– and see what religion is all about. The people who portray religion in a negative light are usually the ones that are practicing it WRONG. So don't just look at these bad examples! Do your own research! Learn! Keep an open mind :)
Are you saying that I could wake up tomorrow and suddenly believe in a supernatural being without any evidence?
I can't just lie to myself and say I now believe just because I want these "good things" you talk about.
And thats another issue itself. I don't need religion to have those.
Nobody is telling you to lie to yourself. Do some research. See what attracts people to religion. Say for instance Islam– which many people are converting to these days. What makes that religion so great to people. You'll learn a ton, trust me. I've learned a lot too by reading up on other religions from reliable sources and asking a lot of questions to followers and leaders in those religions.
I like the part where you implore people to learn and keep an open mind. Great advise. You can do that too. Actually read the bible and see how contradictory it is and what a horrible moral example it sets.
I actually got a chance to learn about many religions, including Christianity, in a World Religions course I took. If Christianity does not appeal to you, then so be it. Personally, I am Muslim and I am so proud to be and I've found so much beauty in that religion.
Pretty funny video about that:
That was supposed to go under the Noah's ark comment below.
All of us descended from a single man, Noah, who built an ark 300 cubits by 90 cubits when God got angry and flooded 'the whole world" drowning everyone including the innocent unborn in the wombs. And Noah saved 2 of every known microbial organism, herded onto this boat from every continent, including arctic wolves and polar bears. I know this because I read it in a pop-up book when I was in the second grade. And the priests and nuns believed it. Surely it must all be true.
Ooops...there I go again with sarcasm. Sarcasm is mightier than the sword. Everyone will now say I am part of that infamous "attack on religion."
Hey Sam, I see you haven't grown any brain cells yet and STILL have NO rational arguments, so you resort to personal insults. Quite amusing. :)
Yeah, I for one wish Noah hadn't saved viruses, small pox, poison ivy, mosquitoes and wasps!
Sarah...I see you're not smart enough to properly utilize the reply link under the correct post. Pretty tall order for someone who has been calling people stupid in here all day.
All in all I though this was a senseless piece of dribble. Just filler. Useless waste of time reading this piece.
why are you "wasting your time" commenting about it?
I must have felt a compelling need to do so...like everyone else who comments here.
Agreed. I received this "Pig who Wanted to be Kosher" book for free. It went right in the garbage. We are observant aka, unlike this author, we keep kosher, and we manage to "find time" in our busy schedules to light Shabbos candles. It is sad that her kids are confused by her inconsistencies, but my kids will never be confused about those facts. They know that pigs are not kosher and never will be, and real Jews, even non-observant ones, will never buy her dopey idea of a non kosher animal in a Jewish home. This drivel is confusing for kids. Kashrus is not a "negotiable" rule. If this author spent more time reading Torah, and less time reading Marx, she would see that there are many lessons for children in there already. She may then actually able write a book that doesn't belong in a dumpster.
"I received this "Pig who Wanted to be Kosher" book for free. It went right in the garbage."
Gee, I'll bet that gave you a real charge of self-righteousness and power, huh?
(p.s. at least you could have recycled it)
Yeah, Sarah... and I use pages from an old Torah to drain my fried bacon slices.
Sailor boy: Drivel. The word is drivel, not dribble
To Get Real: "Gee, I'll bet that gave you a real charge of self-righteousness and power, huh?
(p.s. at least you could have recycled it)"
Since you are mentally challenged, let me explain in terms that my 3 year old can understand. Kids are confused when you are wishy washy. This author is confusing her own kids, and I certainly don't need her dopey books to confuse mine.
Strange, I don't recall anything in the article that says she reads Marx. Or was it that you were just attacking someone with an unfounded assertion because she thinks differently than you?
Today's lesson re: 'Holier Than Thou, Bitches!' comes from Sarah, and is brought to you by the letters F and U.
To HawaiiGuest "Strange, I don't recall anything in the article that says she reads Marx. Or was it that you were just attacking someone with an unfounded assertion because she thinks differently than you?"
Since you were apparently asleep while you were reading this piece, the author admitted...."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..." From this, any Jew with half a brain can conclude that she is a "Reform" where they worship Marx more than Torah. This sect of Jews should not be teaching children or anyone else about Judaism.
I was not "attacking", I was pointing out how she admitted that her own kid is confused by her inconsistencies, so ya think maybe she shouldn't be inflicting her incoherent ideas onto other people's children??
You should really think before you make unfounded accusations.
Listen, Toots, I was raised by a self-righteous, domineering, opinionated, my-way-or-the-highway, because-I-said-so mother... believe me, you are doing your poor little kids a great disservice, if not downright harm. Please stop it.
You are obviously too stupid to think of a rational argument, so you use profanity.
KEEP IT CLASSY!
So you extrapolate based on assumptions mired in distaste for what you see as a defector. Still the same thing. I don't think that gives you the right to put words in her mouth.
I have a feeling Sarah's neighbors run and hide and turn their lights off when they see her coming.
Dang, Sarah is a beeeyotch, y'all.
TO Over It; "Listen, Toots, I was raised by a self-righteous, domineering, opinionated, my-way-or-the-highway, because-I-said-so mother... believe me, you are doing your poor little kids a great disservice, if not downright harm. Please stop it."
You can't be serious. Toots? Really? My kids, unlike you, LOVE learning, especially about Torah, and are happy and well adjusted. They often teach me things that i never knew. Maybe if you listened to your mom, you wouldn't be such a bitter loser, trying to tell others how to live perfectly like you...Toots.
"HawaiiGuest So you extrapolate based on assumptions mired in distaste for what you see as a defector. Still the same thing. I don't think that gives you the right to put words in her mouth."
Obviously you are a non-Jew, so let me explain further. Observant Jews don't view Reform Jews as "defectors", they view them as misinterpreting Torah, and drawing incorrect connections between Torah and Marxist ideals such as environmentalism that do not exist. All Reform Jews do this, not just her. She, as all Reform Jews, is wildly off base, and should not be teaching her own children, let alone anyone else's, about Judaism. She should stick to ABC'S and 123's, since she admits that she is so conflicted that she is confusing even her own son.
But thanks at least for having rational arguments, unlike some other mentally challenged individuals on this forum.
@Sarah, Heaven forbid we be wishy washy with our kids... that may lead to a child thinking for themselves. What we need is the firm one-sided resolve that George Bush had. Far better to indoctrinate them with one teaching even if it's just a fantasy. That's why in my household we only worship Harry Potter. I don't want to confuse my child.
Strange, I've done a bit of reading into Marxism, and found that it is a economic and sociopolitical worldview. In fact Joseph Stalin (an avid marxist after Vladimir Lenin) pushed into a period of massive industrialization that, while successful, led to massive negative impacts on the workforce and the environment. In light of all that, I don't know if you can draw the correlation of Reform Jew, Marxism and environmentalism.
More likely, your kids are walking on eggshells trying to please their bully of a mother. You have shown your colors here. Again, I hope that you wake up and stop the authoritarianism.
When I read Sarah's posts, all I can hear is Kyle's mother on South Park.
To Over It "More likely, your kids are walking on eggshells trying to please their bully of a mother. You have shown your colors here. Again, I hope that you wake up and stop the authoritarianism."
Seriously, how old are you? You sound like an ignorant rebellious teenager, w/tatoos and an nosering, eating cheetos in your mom's basement. Grow up.
To Ashrakay "Heaven forbid we be wishy washy with our kids... that may lead to a child thinking for themselves."
Obviously you are either a non-Jew or just an ignoramus. True Torah study encourages children to critically think for themselves, and unlike other religions, it encourages them to ask many questions. So get your facts straight before you make an ass out of yourself.
@Tom Tom – crying, over here. Seriously. Now I desperately want her to keep posting just to read it all in Kyle's mom's voice. WHAT WHAT WHAT??
Sarah, are you dedicated to making sure we're all properly chastened? I can hear your thoughts; they sound like "I'll go to bed soon...but not yet. Someone is WRONG on the INTERNET."
Sarah, "Seriously, how old are you? You sound like an ignorant rebellious teenager,..."
No, dear... I have children who are as old or older than you are - nice, rational ones, though.
RELIGION IS A MENTAL DISEASE. Being against religion does not make one an atheist. I can believe in Christ and be completely against "the church", just as was Jesus in his day. The church is a contemptuous conglomeration of corruption and control. The Christian Church is it's own anti-Christ. BAN RELIGION. ALL RELIGION DIVIDES. RELIGION LEADS TO TYRANNY. RELIGION OPPOSES FREEDOM.
That's funny, because I'm a practicing Muslim and I've never felt more faithful, moral, or liberated than with this religion. The feeling I get when I pray or put on my hijab everyday is amazing. I am so proud to be a Muslim and I feel that if more people learned about what Islam really is, they would understand why it means so much to us. Islam is about good manners. And I sure don't think it's a disease.
Why do people have to convince themselves that life is meaningless unless there's a spaceman on a cloud that is pulling the strings for them? Can't you just lead a good life because it's the right thing to do, regardless of the fantasy man?
I have a theory on that, but it seems to pi$$ off a lot of people.
Yea...one nhilist commented that even the work of people like Einstein was meaningless because in the end the Sun will devour the earth.
Can't argue with that :-( Poor nhilist.
People have a innate tendency to see endings and change as negative. It's far easier for them to believe that everything will continue on in a magical fairy kingdom where everyone can live together in bliss. To me and end means a certain kind of peace. I'm more comforted by an ending than a beginning.
Prayer changes things
Prayer changes things
Yeah, our dogs pray all the time.... so does our goldfish, and our houseplants.
like rain dances change the weather
You're a proven LIAR, prayer doesn’t not. 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!!!!!!
so does meditation
at least one is more straightforward
I was raised in an atheist household. I have a loving, tight-knit family, we contribute to society, we're nice people. I didn't ever feel deprived as a child. Atheism isn't unhealthy. It's just how some of us are.
"Atheism isn't unhealthy. It's just how some of us are."
That's why the original poster is viewed as a LIAR on this blog.
magic is unexplained science.
therefore, magic is real.
Lol, that's an interesting way to put it.
Look on wikipedia.
because if its on wikipedia, it must be right! (wikipedia slogan lol)
I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christi but I don't believe many of the stories in the bible. From Adam and Eve to Jonah and the whale. You have to ask yourself, "If those things really happened, why don't they happen today?" Science is great, not evil like many christians will tell you. Many christians will tell you you have to believe in all of the bible to be saved. Really? So slavery is a good thing? A guy was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it? Yeah right! I'm not a simpleton.
Love one another unconditionally and show compassion to those in need. Peace out!
If we are intelligent and moral enough to pick out the good parts of the Bible and reject the mythology and barbarism, that shows that we are able to be moral, loving beings without consulting ancient books in the first place.
Reblogged this on dialecticalaporia and commented:
Been thinking about how I'd bring up my children (re: religion) if I ever have any, and this piece paints a nice picture from an unorthodox Jewish perspective.
Whew, I have had my finger henirovg over the submit button on a saved shopping cart full of DIY Windows Home Server components, I guess I can wait another couple of weeks to see how Pogoplug works out!
At least Atheism does not have a "convert or die " policy like some of major religions that are out there.
Not to hear Stalin or Mao tell it. God bless
"Marxist–Leninist atheism is a form of atheism which holds that the essence of religion is the opium of the people and it should therefore be abolished. Communism, as originally laid out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, required the abolition of all religion in order to reach its ideal end-state. It was interpreted in this fashion by Vladimir Lenin and the Government of the Soviet Union until the country's dissolution. Other atheist states, such as China, adopted similar doctrines and combativeness towards religion."
If you want to take the few and apply it to the whole, it just shows how little relevant information you have.
Actually you are merely describing an authoritarian state. Many such states, whether under religious control or not, tend to be very brutal to detractors. However, under secular states such as what we have in the West (be definition they are not run by a religion) we do not see such things.
@Bill "...be definition they are not run by a religion..."
=>I thought atheism wasnt a religion?
Stalin and mMao didn't suppress in the name of atheism. They both had combed back hair, does that mean that anyone with combed back hair will suppress their people?
In his rejection of all religious thought, Marx considered the contributions of religion over the centuries to be unimportant and irrelevant to the future of humanity. The autonomy of humanity from the realm of supernatural forces was considered by Marx as an axiomatic ontological truth that had been developed since ancient times, and he considered it to have an even more respectable tradition than Christianity. Atheistic philosophy had, in his view, liberated human beings from suppressing their natural potential and allowed for people to realize that they, rather than any supernatural force that required obedience, were the masters of reality. Marx’s hatred for religion was based especially upon this view in that he believed religion alienated humans from reality and held them back from their true potential. He therefore considered that religion needed to be absolutely eliminated from society.
I find it a big relief not to have to worry about Santorum in the White House. He would've shoved the baby jesus down everybody's throat to no end. We would all be gagging on the baby jesus. Eating, drinking and sleeping the baby jesus. Billboards everywhere with a picture of the baby jesus.
santorum is certainly can not compete with you intellectually.
I received this "Pig who Wanted to be Kosher" book for free. It went right in the garbage. We are observant aka, unlike this author, we keep kosher, and we manage to "find time" in our busy schedules to light Shabbos candles. It is sad that her kids are confused by her inconsistencies, but my kids will never be confused about those facts. They know that pigs are not kosher and never will be, and real Jews, even non-observant ones, will never buy her dopey idea of a non kosher animal in a Jewish home. This drivel is confusing for kids. Kashrus is not a "negotiable" rule. If this author spent more time reading Torah, and less time reading Marx, she would see that there are many lessons for children in there already. She may then actually able write a book that doesn't belong in a dumpster.
The phrase 'gagging on the baby Jesus' will unfortunately be with me for a long time, I suspect...
I wish people actually talked about their religious or non-religious convictions this much in person or public, instead of saving it for the pseudo conversation of web forums. There is almost no interesting intellectual thoughts, just name calling and subjective whining posing as absolute truths from both sides. CNN post boards...done
I love these boards. Nothing but troll bait. Trolololololololol.
As a jew myself this story is great, finally a story that isn't about being super religious. I too enjoy my bacon cheeseburgers with a side of milk
lol me too!
Does intellectual musing and self-analysis get any more lame than this?
I suppose it's better to only half brain damage your kids, rather than going all in!
Have you ever noticed that athesits are very bitter, angry, and negative people. Maybe it's because they think when they die they die. That's a bummer.
Actually we are quite cheerfull, because we know when YOU die, YOU stay dead.
It's one of the benifits of common sense
William Demuth just proved my point! Such a angry angry person. :)
Dear Chuck,You are a big silly billy. You apparently don't know any non-believers based on your comment. You appear to be a negative, bitter and angry person who hates athiests.
Duggerdog....I work woth many and they are all bitter. Their common theme is to pal around and watch Keith Obermann and Rachel Maddow (very happy people. :))
I was happy and cheerful, but then I met Christains.
OH Chuck, if you only had a brain.
Chuck, it's true that many atheists seem angry. Wouldn't you be angry too if you recognized that the predominant religion in your country was nothing but a Bronze Age fairy tale but it was so widely accepted that it intruded into your country's politics, laws, educational system, medical science, and nearly every other aspect? Angry atheists just have a low tolerance for BS.
atheists are justified in feeling anger. in a world without god, life is ultimately meaningless. we are all here by mere chance and will die very soon. there is no "good" or "evil" and no "right" or "wrong". we can all see how this would lead to despair.
As opposed to the Christians who feel that they must beg for forgiveness, Chuckie?
Really, there are generally two types of people. Those who realize there is something greater than themselves,. and those who think they are the greatest. (atheists)
Why must you holier than thou people always categorize us Atheists as thinking we are the greatest. It is just not true. We are caring thinking feeling people just like everyone else we just choose not to believe in any god or gods. No evidence and you are proof of that.
It appears one does not need much effort to be greater than you.
Please try harder in life, and stop believing in fairy tales.
Even of there was a God, even he wouldn't like you very much.
That's quite the ad homenem attack there. How about you get off your little high horse and actually use some critical thinking. (See I can make attacks like yours too).
I have to disagree. There are many flavors of people. One thing can be said about all religious people though, they ALL think they are correct and the rest of the population are wrong.
There is a common ground though, if only we (yes I said WE) would reach it. I tend to try to live my life by the 10 commandments, regardless of who I think wrote them.
Really, there are generally two types of people. Those who realize there is something greater than themselves,. and those who think they are the greatest. (atheists)
Appears you perception is clouded. Don't be afraid of what you don't understand.
Fraud just sayin poster. God bless
Yeah, because thinking that there is an all powerful being, watching out for you, who created everything in the universe just for you, and suspends the operating principles of the universe in your favor, is certainly a more humble position to take than refusing to believe in something for which there is no evidence. Sure. Just keep telling yourself that.
Did my little tag along ghost say something? lol
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.