this morning, BC and i were working on her hebrew homework. i’m stepping up my efforts a bit in israelite land, as i learned last week that BC has been actually memorizing everything rather than reading it. there’s a certain amount of intelligence in having a photographic memory, as she apparently does; but there’s also value in actually learning how to read it properly.
bizarrely enough, i did the exact thing when i was her age. i was terrified of my 3rd grade hebrew teacher, an excruciatingly thin orthodox lady with a scary flippy pageboy wig and a habit of sitting on the desk before us, chewing on her nails. i don’t really know why she scared me so much, but i spent the better part of that year either hiding out in the shul bathroom or feigning stomachaches and staying home to watch the channel 7 4:30 movie.
so when i actually “returned” to hebrew school full time, i had to catch up. i had learned a bit in 2nd grade, with the happy adventures of koopi kof (koopi the monkey) and the idiot children uri and riva, so i at least had a base. but i had to catch up. fortunately, i can memorize anything if you put it to music. (i memorized chemistry formulae in high school later, having put them to a billy joel tune. ah yes, i can sing it now: mole over liter is molarity; mole over kg is molality; p1v1=p2v2…yeah, i slayed in 10th grade.) once i started singing prayers, i knew it would all click.
it all worked fine until the cantor caught up to me when i started bat mitzvah lessons at 12. i couldn’t write my full hebrew name. he made me write it 100 times: sharon chava bat menashe v’etta riva. (i don’t actually have a hebrew keyboard, and most of the people who read this don’t read hebrew, anyway. so you’ll just have to imagine it 😉
yep. the jig was up.
but the beauty is that the cantor also understood that if he made a tape of my haftorah, i would not only sing along with it, but i would read it. and read it i did. (it was a weird story, too, one about which i always felt conflicted. at the time, i went along with the whole remembrance theme, but i was always a little disturbed by that story and remain so to this day.)
but i digress. per usual.
so while i am not too worried about BC learning hebrew in the long run, i feel like it’s my job to help her along here. i never force her to love going to hebrew school (though she is very fond of her teachers and especially of the principal, for whom she made a get well card this morning on her own volition); but i always tell her my rule: you have to understand your culture before you have any right to reject it.
(read: if i had to
suffer through attend hebrew school, so should she. nyah nyah nyah. but seriously…)
i honestly don’t care if, one day after her bat mitzvah, she decides to become a zen buddhist. or an atheist. or whatever she wishes. but as long as she at least has the beginnings of understanding about her religion and a portion of her culture (she doesn’t just come from me, you know), i will feel a bit more satisfied. of course, i would love her to find some part of judaism to embrace, but once she is of an age where she can decide for herself, i don’t feel like i will be in a position to make her do it my way.
and i won’t.