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Raising Your Children in an Open Society

How do you balance your desire to have your children continue in your footsteps with the recognition that they have the right to live their own lives? This is the tension that every parent and every child struggles with, and therefore this memoir by Mary K. Bogot will speak to the hearts of many people, for she has experienced it from both sides: first as a daughter, and then as a mother. 

In her youth, she tells us that she clashed with her parents by marrying a Jew. This upset her parents who were believing Christians. Her mother made her promise on her wedding day that she would baptize her children, so that they would achieve salvation. She agreed without hesitation, because at that stage in her life, it seemed the natural thing to do. But as she matured, Judaism came to mean more and more to her, even more than it did to her Jewish husband or his family, who were very assimilated Jews, and who did not know what to make of her seriousness about Judaism.

By the time her children were school age, there was no question that she wanted them to have a Jewish education. She ended up converting to Judaism, and then divorcing her first husband, and the second time around she married a rabbi. She has lived a deep and meaningful Jewish life ever since that has included some years of living in Israel, writing books for Jewish children, being active in Jewish life at the local, regional and national levels, and serving as a counselor to people who are preparing for conversion to Judaism. But her children have each gone their own way. Now she has Israeli children who call her “savta,” American Jewish children who call her “bubbie” and American Christian grandchildren who call her “grandma”.

This book is the story of how she has somehow balanced her own commitment to Judaism and the hope that her children will continue to be Jews with her desire to maintain a relationship with all her children no matter how they live, and with her determination to grant them the right to choose how they want to live their own lives. She confesses that when she hears herself expressing her pain over those of her grandchildren who will not be Jews, she hears the echo of her mother’s voice, expressing her pain and disappointment when she became a Jew. This book is her attempt to come to terms with both these forces that struggle within her soul.

It is terribly painful for Jews to accept it when a child leaves the Jewish people, for we are a very small people and therefore every single Jew is precious. It is almost inevitable for a parent to feel a measure of guilt when a Jewish child leaves the fold, although sometimes it is not the fault of the parents at all, but simply the result of living in an open society where so many choices are available to our children.

Mary K. Bogot’s book is the touching memoir of a person who, in the words of Judy Collins, has seen the world from both sides now and who has somehow learned how to navigate between the difficult alternatives. Both as a daughter and then as a mother, she seems to have learned how to hold on to her faith while giving her children room to be themselves. Parents and children can both learn from her experience.

Exerpted from “Parents, children can learn from memoir”, by Rabbi Jack Riemer in the Florida Jewish Journal, March 28, 2012,  reviewing “How Do You Know the Word Shlep? You’re Not Jewish” by Mary K. Bogot

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2 thoughts on “Raising Your Children in an Open Society

  1. Puaweixuan on May 23, 2012 at 9:06 am

    that no human can ever die for the sins of othersCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- says that Jesus died for the sins of maknindJUDAISM/ISLAM- says that all humans are born pure, and innocentCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- some say that all humans are born with original sin’.JUDAISM- says that G-d would never allow/enable a virgin birth’CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM (including ‘messianics’)- says that Mary gave birth, though a virginJUDAISM- says that the Jewish Messiah won’t need a second coming’CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM (including ‘messianics’)- says that Jesus will have a second coming’JUDAISM/ISLAM- says that every human should speak directly to G-dCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- Jesus claims in the new testament’ that the only way’ to G-d is via him and often pray to Jesus before G-dJUDAISM/ISLAM- says G-d is one, indivisible, cannot be separated into three aspects/incarnationsCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- some sects speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy SpiritJUDAISM- says that we are ALL equally G-d’s childrenCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- says that Jesus was god’s son’ above all othersISLAM- some Muslims claim that the prophets are perfect and have never sinned, others believe the prophets sinned and repentedJUDAISM- has no concept of hell’CHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- *some* Christians believe non-believers go to hell’ISLAM- most Jews and Christians and all non-Jews/non-Christians go to hell though some state that only Allah knows who will end up in hellJUDAISM- has no devil’, the Jewish Satan’ is just an ordinary angel, under G-d’s controlCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- describes Satan’ as a devil and fallen’ angelISLAM- Satan was a jinn created from fireJUDAISM- the messiah’ will be a normal, mortal man who must fulfill all the Jewish messianic prophecies in one normal, mortal lifetimeCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- Jesus was the messiah’ and will fulfill the prophecies when he returns’ISLAM- believes Jesus was a prophet, not a “son of G-d”. Mohammad is the last prophetJUDAISM- says that the righteous of ALL faiths will reach gan eden’ or garden of eden’.CHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- some Christians insist that only those who know Christ’ can reach heavenISLAM- some Jews and Christians will reach Paradise, Muslims reach paradise and have it better than Jews and Christians. Many Muslims believe that G-d judges all equally.JUDAISM- The “law”/covenant is seen as a blessing, not a burden that can never be fulfilled. Being perfect isn’t the point in Judaism. Being aware of the 613 commandments, we have G-d on our minds almost hourly. That is part of the covenant, we obey G-d’s laws and G-d ensures Judaism will survive forever.CHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- Views the commandments as restrictive and impossible (except the 10 in stone). It is believed in Christianity that the death of Jesus was necessary because living by the laws is impossible and view the commandments as something of a curse.ISLAM- Views religious laws as part of the religion and of being observant and submissive to G-d, much as Jews do.JUDAISM- forbids Jews from trying to convert anyone to JudaismCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- believes in actively witnessing’ and encouraging people to convert to ChristianityISLAM- all must convert to Islam or pay a fine to remain Christian or Jewish and live as 2nd class citizens (all others must convert or die)JUDAISM- The Torah remains unchangedCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- differences from the original TorahISLAM-claims the Torah and Christian bible were corrupted (with no proof)JUDAISM/ISLAM- no concept of original sinCHRISTIANITY (including ‘messianics’)- some sects of Christianity believe in “original sin” to justify the need for a savior. Others believe that humaknind cannot keep from sinning and requires a savior to cleanse them.Thanks Paperback for the majority of this with some tweaking by Qua Patet Orbis and Myself (Aravah).

  2. 3questions on October 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Excellent post! It truly shows how alike and yet how conflicted all religions are. I guess you can draw straws, flip a coin or bob for apples and get the same results. It all matters on what you were taught as a child, what you grew up around and what you have been exposed to as an adult. Your point of view changes, your concept of reality changes and your beliefs change over the years. Each new occurrence in your life influences your future. No one person knows for sure what is correct or incorrect. But this post shows many conceptual differences and also many agreements.

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