I am writing this in eager anticipation of your birth. I know that I have much to learn about being a parent. I’m sure the challenges will be greater than even now I can imagine, and the rewards are probably bigger than I can fathom at this point. Please know that you are a cherished being whom your father and I have waited half a lifetime to meet. We’re so excited about your birth and everything that will come afterward. I write this to you now, knowing that my perspective may change as you grow and develop as an individual and as I grow as a parent. Your father and I are becoming parents later in life, with many experiences and, I hope a little wisdom gained from them. I know we still have much to learn. But this is what I know so far and what I hope for you in the future.
First, know that you will have a unique perspective because you are Jewish, but you also will have your father’s culture and traditions. Consider yourself doubly blessed with this wide vista from which to view the world. Even though your father is not Jewish, we agree that it is important for you to be raised as a Jew. You will naturally absorb the secular culture around you. Learning what it means to be Jewish in this world will be more difficult and may be a continually on-going quest, just as it is for me.
As parents, we want you to be knowledgeable about Judaism and to appreciate your religion and history. You will see that there are many wonderful customs and beliefs. Thousands of years of wisdom are contained in the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism that can guide you throughout your life. Remember, you are forever linked to this long and rich history. As a reminder of this, we are choosing a Hebrew name for you.
The world your father and I live in is mainly a secular, liberal world. While your dad doesn’t identify with any religion, I always knew I was Jewish even though my mother and father are not particularly observant. I do remember my Grandpa Sol, your great-grandfather, telling stories about being chased by Cossacks, and hiding in haystacks during the pogroms. Even after his family settled in Eveleth, Minnesota, the Finnish miners’ kids bullied grandpa and his brothers.
Your great-grandma Gantz’ parents fled Kiev, Russia to settle in the wilds of Saskatchewan and trade with the Indians. Often the stories I heard about being Jewish were about the hardships that Jews endured just because they were different.
Our family has become very assimilated and lost touch with many of the religious traditions, but we identify ourselves as Jews and are proud of that fact. Judaism is your foundation, but it is also important to be part of the larger world. While our Jewish ancestors may have lived in fear, confined to the Jewish community or later sought to bury their identity when they ventured out into the world, I hope you will be proud of who you are and find a trusted community beyond Judaism.
Cultivate a diversity of friends and remember to judge a person as an individual, not by their ethnic, religious or racial group. Be sincere and honest and learn to recognize these qualities in others. Call these people your friends. Be aware of the evils of the world, but do not be consumed by them. Don’t let them stunt what I hope will be your adventuresome spirit and desire to taste all the wonderful things the world has to offer.
By adventuresome spirit I don’t necessarily mean white water rafting or backpacking through Mongolia, although if that is what your heart desires, then I would say to do it. By being adventuresome, I really mean be broad-minded and curious about the world. I hope that you will have a passion for learning. In school, learn for the sake of learning and not with an eye only to a future career or how much money you can make.
Hard work and a broad understanding will bring success. Ultimately consider yourself successful if you sit back at the end of the day and reflect with a sense of pride and satisfaction on your behavior and accomplishments – both personal and professional – for that day.
Remember you will learn more by listening than by speaking. Be observant, but don’t just be an observer. Be confident and proud of what you can offer to the world. This means knowing your strengths as well as your flaws. The only way you can truly know yourself is to embrace life fully and in a balanced way. Enrich your mind, exercise your body, and feed your spirit with music, art, meaningful work, friends and helping the community at large.
I hope that you, just as I do, will continually strive to achieve these ideals. I apologize in advance for any shortcomings I may have as a parent. I promise I will try to become aware of them and to correct them. And I look forward to learning from and about you.
Love, Mom 3/7/99