I was asked to post my remarks from our Meet-n-Greet. Here they are:
It has been great to see all of you and hear about your summers. I wanted to take a minute or two to tell you about something that I did this summer. It won’t sound like a big thing to most of you, but to me it was HUGE.
I joined a gym!
So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that I’ve avoided doing this for my entire adult life, even though I’ve always known that I should be working out. I’ve always been shaped like this – ROUND! But, after the death of some very close relatives and friends in the past year, and increasing health issues of my own as I’m beginning to get older, I decided that it was time for me to get over it and just do it!
It has been a learning experience. And, as I have spoken to returning parents, and new families in the past few weeks, I realized something: Religious School is a lot like a gym!
For example: I was terrified to get started…I was sure that the gym was filled with young, beautiful, skinny women with perfectly toned bodies, dressed in revealing leotards or sexy yoga pants. Turned out to be a bunch of women, most of them my age or older, with less-than-perfect bodies dressed in baggie shorts and big, oversized T Shirts. I dreaded going at first; I was afraid. But eventually I surprised myself – I began to actually look forward to going.
What preconceived ideas do you have about Religious School? The Hebrew School of your childhood was probably much different. Everybody is supposed to hate it, right? Give it a chance and pay attention to what is going on in Religious School, and you may realize that your kids are actually having – dare I say it? – FUN? They are making friends, they are learning about their really awesome identity. They are not being tortured. Some even like coming!
I was so worried about people judging me at the gym. Would they accept me or laugh at me? Would I ever fit in? Well, to my surprise, everyone was really nice, and I quickly learned that most of the other women at the gym are just like me in many ways! I remembered that I was there to become fit – not because I was already fit! That’s why the professionals are there.
How many of you stay away from synagogue because you think you don’t fit in? You’re not “Jewish enough”? But, that’s why we’re here. Give us a chance. You will be surprised.
A HUGE difficulty was that I had to really rework my schedule to fit in time each day for me to go to the gym. I had to re-prioritize; and we’re talking giving up one of my passions – something that I’ve done almost every day for the past 8 years – so that I could make this a part of my lifestyle for the rest of my life. It reminded me of how parents always come to me about scheduling problems, and all of the activities that their kids absolutely MUST join. Where is Judaism in your list of priorities?
I quickly learned that what I do in the gym can’t be repeated at home without buying lots of equipment, and even then I don’t have the help of the professionals and the encouragement of the others in the gym. What I can do at home to reach my goal is to eat healthy foods and exercise on my stationary bike on alternate days. It is all about making good choices, and changing some really bad habits. After all, it is a lifestyle. Does that sound familiar? Can we make your kids Jewish in just 5 hours per week? Can you ignore it at home and expect to suddenly be Jewish? This is going to take work….consistent work! And it must be followed up at in the home, or it isn’t going to work at all.
After a while at the gym, I went through a period of a pretty bad attitude. I began to notice that some of the other ladies barely do what they are supposed to be doing. They shuffle around, sit on the equipment and chat and don’t even try. They don’t always come – sometimes, I’m the only one in the gym! Hey, I’d much rather stay home, too! I began to think that maybe I could get away with skipping some of the sessions, or resting for a while when the trainers have their backs turned. Everyone else does it….why don’t I?
Of course, that’s crazy! This is for ME. If they don’t make the most of it, that’s their problem. And, I hear that a lot with our students: so-and-so doesn’t come regularly, or never comes to services, so why should I?
And, here’s the biggie: I barely lost any weight yet! Hey, I’m not getting my money’s worth, right?! But there have been some other, unexpected benefits: I have WAY more stamina and strength. My back has stopped hurting at night, so now I’m sleeping much better. And, the blood tests from the doctor visit in July came back with greatly improved numbers… So, I’m healthier, even if it doesn’t look like it.
What does being Jewish look like? How many parents expected their kids to be reading and speaking in Hebrew after the first few weeks of Religious School? Is that even a realistic goal…the right goal? Or, perhaps we should be looking more long-term, and at other benefits. Your kids have Jewish friends. They are comfortable here at the Center. They have gotten familiar with the clergy, and have learned history, Torah, and traditions. The Hebrew will come. They will shine at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but in the meantime, perhaps they are becoming spiritually healthier, even if it doesn’t sound or look like it to you right now.
I could keep making comparisons, but I think you get the point. My staff and I are here to help your child to learn how to be Jewish. This is our passion, our goal. We’ll provide the exercise equipment and the instruction and encouragement, but it is up to you to make the commitment to use it, to carry on at home and make it an important part of the rest of your life. We need parents to help our kids to continue what they’ve learned at home, to make it into a lifestyle. What we teach here is to keep them spiritually healthy for the rest of their lives. You are here for all the right reasons. Don’t lose sight of your own goals!
Looking forward to a great year!