A ‘modern Jewish mom’ offers hope to harried households on Shabbat
Author and Web site host Meredith Jacobs says children are often the “reentry point to synagogue and Jewish life.”
For some women, however, reestablishing that connection can be a daunting proposition, especially with activities that pull the family in different directions on the weekend and Shabbat.
With her new book, The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat (Harper Collins), Jacobs hopes to alleviate some of that confusion and frustration.
The Guide, set to hit bookstores Feb. 20 the release was delayed because of problems in some of the Hebrew text is an offshoot of Jacobs’ series of workshops for women about Shabbat which, in turn, came out of her Web site.
Jacobs, who worked in public relations before her kids were born, was a stay-at-home mom. Although she writes a monthly column on family and parenting for the Baltimore Jewish Times, she never thought she would write a book, especially not a book about Shabbat.
Her Web site casts a wide net. Among the contributors are Rachel Sarah, a Jewish single mom who writes about finding a connection with other single friends and their children to create a sense of family with people who aren’t actually related; Jacobs’ sister, Jennifer Kagnoff, who considers “What would a Jewish mom do?” in an advice column; and their mother, Ellen Levin, who writes a column from a bubbe’s point of view.
“Connection” is an important concept to Jacobs. Shabbat, she says, connects “every Jewish women before you and every Jewish woman yet to come.”
“I was one of those kids who loved Hebrew school,” she said. “Very much a [United Synagogue Youth] kid,” something she is trying to instill in her children, Sofie, 10, and Jules, eight.
“Our kids are growing up in a very violent, scary time. How do you find the time to sit down and talk to them about basic values? We use Shabbat and the parsha as that vehicle,” she said.
“More and more, we are looking to put meaning into our families’ lives and give our children a sense of place in the world,” she writes in the introduction to the Guide. “Although we want our children to be successful and want them to have all they desire, we also want to give them knowledge of something deeper, something larger than themselves and more meaningful than the material things they acquire.”
The Guide includes suggestions on how to create a shalom bayit (peaceful home) on Friday evenings, recipes, topics for discussions, projects, and summaries of the weekly parashot. And, because teenagers have their own agendas, she devotes a chapter to helping them maintain a connection to family and to Judaism.
Jacobs acknowledges the difference between having Friday night dinner and becoming shomer Shabbat when conflicting schedules make it all but impossible to engage in a formal sit-down dinner every week.
“Find that time to bless your children,” Jacobs said. Even if the meal consists simply of pizza, “let your children and spouse know how much they mean to you. Too often in our modern world, we need to find those moments to say, ‘I love you.’ You can’t just assume that people know how you feel about them.”
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