Leavening

So, finally, I’m jumping on the “Jewish bloggers blogging about Pesach” bandwagon.

I know, I know–I’m late to the party. I can live with that. I’ve always been a bit of an outlier and, in the spirit of the festival, mah nishtanah.

And, like many, I’ve been seeing or receiving the various Haggadah supplements that are going around. I’m going to be a bit of a contrarian about Haggadahs for a moment. Specifically, I’m going to complain about text.

As in so many other things, Judaism has largely developed to have a “fixed” text for the Seder. A script, with stage directions. Many of these are important, of course–if you don’t know the Kiddush, you need the text, assuming that doing the Kiddush “right” is something you want to do.

But what if it isn’t? Or, put another way: should it be?

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Outliers

Not the Malcolm Gladwell kind. Well, maybe not. (I haven’t read the book. Rabbinical school classes started last night, and I’ve got things going on, you know?)

I enjoy reading Kveller. But it occurred to me this morning that while Kveller doesn’t expressly bill itself as only or even primarily for Jewish mothers, the general weight of things is not evened out between mothers’ and fathers’ concerns. (Kveller bills itself as “A Jewish Twist on Parenting,” but its website looks more Cosmo than New Yorker. Compare Kveller’s appearance to Tablet’s.)

I’m perplexed by this, but only a little, because I can see a few things happening that would cause this. One is that I think many Jewish fathers don’t focus as sharply on parenting issues. I understand that–however advanced we may have become on gender roles and rights, there still seems to be a tendency for dads to focus on work more than family. I do it, too, though I try not to.

The other is that Jewish fathers don’t focus as sharply on Jewish parenting. I think that’s because, at some point, the Jewish part of the equation seems falls to the wayside for Jewish boys in many environments.

I’m curious about why this is. I’m not sure if it’s merely my own perception of things, if some of the Jewish identity wars have had the effect of pushing Jewish males from being overly concerned with their Jewish identities, if we’re not doing Jewish education “right” for boys, or something else.

I wonder to what extent this could be helped by Jewish fathers teaching Jewish life to their children. For example: on the average home that lights Shabbat candles, who’s doing the lighting? Usually, mom. Often without dad in the room. There is rarely a full Kiddush (if you do that sort of thing–the traditional Kiddush text is not a really humanistic thing, after all). Traditionally men recite the Kiddush. And if you never actually learn to recite it in Hebrew school or at home…well, you see where this is going.

So, I realize I’m an outlier in this regard (assuming my general observations are correct). We use humanistic texts for candles, wine, and challah, and for havdalah (when we’re able to do it–sometimes we’re out, and sometimes my son’s “wheels fall off” before havdalah and we just can’t do it), and I’m the one doing all that–in part because of a difference in knowledge between my wife and I, but mainly because I think it’s my job to bring our son along as best we can on this stuff.

So…how do we make me less of an outlier? Do synagogues or Jewish Community Centers have regular “doing Jewish fatherhood” programs? Our local JCC does a daddy-daughter night-out kind of function, which I think is a great start, but I’ve never seen any program like the one I’m thinking of.

Thoughts for the ether this Friday before Shabbat.