By Janessa Berkowitz
Like any parent, I am always seeking out and pursuing opportunities where my daughter (who is 3) can experience beautiful people, who will gently help her learn how to similarly navigate and enjoy the complex world around her. As parents, we all essentially want to prepare our kids for what can be the harsh realities of life (without losing the fun). We work diligently to answer their complex questions with understandable and digestible answers (without heading down the rabbit holes we cannot, or dare not, explain). As parents, we also know that lessons learned early can help build a strong foundation for thoughtful decision-making later in life (when we are not there to guide them-gulp). This task is a BIG one.
We have all heard the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child, but very few villages still exist and the challenge of this great task of raising a tiny human falls on parents alone (who are often stretched across too many responsibilities). Some families are fortunate to still have these rare ‘family cocoons’ that the rest of us drool over. So, for many parents, the importance of connecting to a community is essential, if not a point of survival.
Insert the story of my precocious three year old daughter. She is in the possibly-not-so-unique-predicament of lacking a living grandmother at a tender age. I believe intensely in the importance of intergenerational exposure, so when my mother passed away unexpectedly in March of 2015, I was panicked. How would my daughter navigate life without this incomparable and safe place of unconditional love (in fact, how would I)?
What evolved over the year ahead was something truly heartwarming. My daughter showed me a magical flexibility that, as adults, we cannot comprehend. With the innocence of a toddler, she began to seamlessly adopt her Adath friends' grandparents as her own. In mere minutes, she was calling them by their preferred names (Bubbie, Zadie etc.) and asking them to watch her do this and that. Through this childlike framework, she sees her adoptees as belonging to all children in the community. And likewise, these kind grandparents were elated by her attentions and affection and happily rose to the occasion.
This…is organic and beautiful.
Similarly, by attending Gan Shelanu, my daughter has the privilege of having ‘grandmothers’ and ‘aunts’ encircling her Monday through Friday. The peace I feel leaving her in this world each day is immeasurable. Adath has filled a void in our lives; a place I worried would remain empty.
Adath clergy, staff and congregants share