I was honored to be asked to submit a column to the inaugural issue of Jlife’s Kiddish. In the late ’70s, my husband and I made a conscious decision to move to Pasadena. We understood that this meant having to work a bit harder to maintain a Jewish home. We would get a large freezer to lessen trips to the kosher butcher and face the fact that there would be few other Jews in our children’s classes. However, the pace of life was a bit slower and less trendy, and we found that the local Jewish community really worked harder to be a family. In the 40 years we have been here, personal and professional experience has allowed me some insight into some ways to successfully raise Jewish children in our area.
One of the first things you need to do is find other Jewish families with children the same age to form a local familial group where you can celebrate holidays together, share simchas, carpools, gripe about soccer pictures on Yom Kippur, and take Shabbat walks together. Affiliate with a Jewish institution. Obviously, attending one of the area’s Jewish preschools or the Jewish day school will solve the problem of your child being a minority in their classroom. All of our area-synagogues have religious school programs, family services, and programing for families with young children. There are great youth groups at the synagogues for older kids. I cannot tell you how important it is, as your children get older, to ensure that they have a core group of Jewish friends with whom they can share their experiences. Families in this area tend to affiliate more with all religious groups which is positive in that there will be lots of respect and understanding when missing activities for religious reasons, but it also means at least one of their non-Jewish friends will at some time probably announce that they are praying for them. They will need Jewish peers to face these encounters with. Sign up for PJ Library, and read this magazine to keep abreast of what is happening in our Federation.
The San Gabriel-Pomona Valleys is a great place to raise Jewish kids. Our area has a lot to offer if you take a bit of extra time to find out what is happening in this neck of the woods. _
Judy Callahan is director of B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool and a member of PJTC.