The Important Thing That Keeps our Family “Doing Jewish”

blurry image of dishes and the words The Important Thing That Keeps our Family “Doing Jewish”

At the Pesach Seder, we engage in rituals that millions of us around the world are also engaging in. We think about these rituals when we think about Passover. But there are other rituals that we could and should focus on. In the 3 days before Pesach, I flip my kitchen and Kasher it for the chag.

I have heard rabbis say teaching the Shema is the most important thing you can teach your children to be a “Good Jew” and to ensure that Judaism is part of their lives.

I disagree.

Yes, the Shema is integral, brachot are critical, but I might argue that outside of Torah the most important thing for a family to teach the next generation is how to make a seder, including all the things that come before the festival candles are even lit.

There is a Hebrew word, karet, that means to be cut off. A Jew cannot “do Jewish” without other Jews (ie think about how much we need a minyan for) so to be cut off from one’s people is really the most significant punishment (if we choose to look at it that way).

How many people today can read beautifully from the siddur, had a B’ Mitzvah, know the long version of every bracha? Yet if you asked them to prep a house for Pesach, they might feel overwhelmed and unable to fulfill the mitzvah without researching it.

If someone never saw it being done, they might find it to be too much. If it is too much effort and the significance has not been impressed upon them, will they always do it?

Every fall I hear college students tell me they are “kind-of Jewish” or “My parents/grandparents are Jewish, but I’m not really anything”.

When I ask these students about their backgrounds I often hear that they may or may not have had a religious education, they may or may not have gone to camp, they may or may not have learned any Hebrew, or have been to Israel, but almost without fail what they did not have in their childhoods was someone ask them to help them flip a kitchen, or help them cook the seder meal, or ask them to do anything other than learn the four questions.

When we engage our families in rituals, we show them that these things matter to us and teach them to find personal value in the same rituals that connect us to our own past.

After all, isn’t that the same lesson the wise child teaches us in the seder? If we want a Jewish future, we need a Jewish present to teach from.

So, my sage advice on Jewish parenting during Pesach is simply this: Say the Shema with your kids and teach them how to make a seder from flipping the kitchen to the family charoset recipe.

Check out Atty Garfinkel-Berry’s Orange Glazed Salmon recipe in the USCJ Community Passover Cookbook.


  • "Atty Garfinkel-Berry, MBA began her position as the Hillel Solo Professional for Hillel of Northern Nevada in Reno, Nevada in the summer of 2017; a position she will be leaving at the conclusion of this academic year in favor of another Hillel position. Prior to coming to Reno from Sacramento, California Atty owned and ran a kosher catering business in both Sacramento and in southern California and has previously worked for a local Jewish Federation in southern California as well as time as an interim assistant director for a small ADL Regional office. In her non existent spare time Atty likes to camp with her children, make besamim bags as gifts, and on occasion write. "

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