By Stephen E. Lipken
A congenial group of Jewish parents from Westchester County and surrounding communities met with Carmel Academy, Greenwich, CT. Head of School Nora Anderson to discuss “How to Be the Jewish Parents We Mean to Be” on Sunday, September 25 at Westchester Jewish Center (WJC), Mamaroneck at a brunch sponsored by Carmel Academy and WJC Adult Education Committee.
Introducing Anderson, Heather Taffet Gold, WJC Adult Education Committee Co-Chair, mentioned that Anderson trains the WJC faculty. Anderson began, “I feel I’m coming home. Carmel originated at WJC 13 years ago. Education has been my passion…I have brought up five sons…Each one of them was extraordinarily different… How do I manage my ‘quiet kid,’ my super outgoing one, the one who naturally wants to work or the one who tells me ‘Do I have to go to school?’
Anderson said that her goal is to develop a parenting action plan. She asked the audience to list some characteristics that they would like to see in their children. The answers included creativity, flexibility, respectful, adaptable, overcoming challenges, keeping their word (loyalty) and caring for others.
She then showed two texts, Genesis 25:27 regarding Jacob and Esau; Proverbs 22:6, “Train a lad in the way he ought to go…” and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee in which Mogel talked about parents’ preparing children for a competitive world yet expecting almost nothing at home. “As a result they often didn’t learn to solve problems on their own or gain the strength that comes with independence.”
Some of the parents pointed out that Esau and Jacob had the same genes but had separate personalities. Anderson stressed that the mindset must see children for whom they are, not trying to change them but to work with them, respecting their differences.
Anderson concluded that despite the Millennial Era, curfews can still be adhered to; dress codes and respecting shul’s including WJC prohibiting the use of cell phones on Shabbat, plus talking to children in family meetings to gauge their feelings and goals.