Recommended Books for Jewish Parents
This annotated bibliography from the Jewish Reconstructionist Community in association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College includes online and offline resources about many aspects of Jewish parenting, from a wide range of perspectives. Annotated by Deborah Eisenbach-Budner, Havurah Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Education Director.
On Being a Parent
Our Share of Night, Our Share of Morning: Parenting As a Spiritual Journey, Fuchs Kreimer, Nancy, HarperSanFrancisco: 1996. Paperback. ISBN: 0062512889.
Written by a Reconstructionist rabbi, this is a favorite book which gets at the important big questions about parenting: What are our goals as parents? What do we learn? Who do we become? Based on interviews with parents of kids of all ages and from various religious and secular orientations, this book is especially good for new parents overwhelmed by the tachlis (everyday details) of babyhood and child-rearing books. Short, accessible sections on topics such as Character, Wonder, Separation, Trust, Being versus Doing and Bodies. Perfect for reading while nursing. Practical ideas and suggestions are tucked into this book as well.
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Kabat-Zinn, Jon; Kabat-Zinn, Myla, Hyperion, 1998. Paperback. ISBN: 0786883146.
Focusing on the practice of mindfulness as an antidote to the stress of parenthood and as a way to enhance and enrich parenting, this book explores the inner experience of parenting. There are exercises and intentions that guide one toward conscious parenting – by learning how to stay more present in each moment. Can be wordy, but especially helpful for folks interested in meditation or mindfulness. Beautiful stories and quotes, some practical suggestions for everyday life also.
Jewish Parenting: Rabbinic Insights, Abrams, Judith Z.; Abrams, Steven. Jason Aronson; 1994. Paperback. ISBN: 1568211759.
This book is an interesting collection of rabbinic texts (Talmud, classical Midrash), put into context by scholar/rabbi Judith Abrams and pediatrician Steven Abrams. Topics include: Importance of Children in Rabbinic Tradition, Child Development, Birth Defects, Parent-Child Relationship, Adolescence, History of Pediatrics and Rabbinic Medicine. Especially helpful as a sourcebook of rabbinic quotes.
Jewish Parenting Wisdom, Rosman, Steven M.. Jason Aronson; 1997. Hardcover. ISBN: 0765759691.
Practical Parenting: A Jewish Perspective. Lipsitz, Gail Josephson, Ktav Publishing House; 1997. Paperback. ISBN: 088125536X.
This is a practical guide to parenting, which sets out important issues and then gives some pragmatic suggestions (ex. body image, diversity, when your child is “different”, money, generational issues). It is sprinkled with Jewish cultural or textual sources and directly addresses some issues such as dealing with anti-Semitism and holidays.
And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope. Gellman, Marc. HarperTrophy, 2002. Paperback. ISBN: 0060098864.
Filled with easily readable stories that address some of the hard questions about loss, bad things in the world, comforting friends, etc., this book can be read aloud to 4-8 year olds or read by 3rd-6th graders. Good for starting family conversations.
An Allowance Is Not a Bribe: And Other Helpful Hints for Raising Responsible Jewish Children. Gonsher, Allan, Jacob Aronson; (2000) Hardcover. ISBN: 0765761335.
From a family and children’s therapist, this book interweaves general concerns about childrearing with Jewish values, culture, traditional perspectives.
Jewish Parenting: Mensch Making. From Torah Aura, an excellent publishing company which publishes Jewishly rich, thought-provoking educational materials, especially for families with children in grades K-3.
8-page lesson that offers parents stories, ethical questions and strategies to help their children become the best people they can be.
Exploring God and Spirituality with Children
Talking to Your Child about God: A Book for Families of All Faiths. Heller, David. Bantam, 1990. Paperback. ISBN: 0553282298.
By a scholar/psychologist, this book generically explores children’s spiritual development and their emotional, spiritual, psychological growth in ages 4-12, as it relates to their perceptions of God. It offers activities and exercises to initiate conversations about God with children so parents are not caught off guard. It discusses how parents’ feelings about God as well as media and culture impact children’s perceptions.
Becoming a Jewish Parent : How to Explore Spirituality and Tradition with Your Children. Gordis, Daniel. Three Rivers Press, 2000. Paperback. ISBN: 0609805266.
This book addresses questions such as: How do you instill a positive, vital sense of identity, religion, and heritage without turning off your kids or overwhelming them? How do you explain what it means to be Jewish if you are ambivalent about it yourself? How do parents who have little or no formal religious training themselves pass on rich, multilayered traditions that may have been missing from their own childhood experiences? It is filled with anecdotes, thoughtful information about the history, holidays and traditions that shape Judaism, as well as a useful glossary and thorough reference section.
Teaching Your Children About God : A Modern Jewish Approach. Wolpe, David J. Perennial, 1995. Paperback. ISBN: 0060976470.
Rabbi David Wolpe shows Jewish parents how to openly explore the idea of God with their children. Through poignant anecdotes and practical exercises, Wolpe teaches how parents can guide children in the practice of prayer and create an atmosphere in which children feel comfortable questioning and wondering about God, life, and death. It asserts that parents who may feel something missing in their own spiritual lives can nourish their own souls even as they nurture their children’s.
Jewish Parenting: Talking About God. From Torah Aura, an excellent publishing company which publishes Jewishly rich, thought-provoking educational materials, especially for families with children in grades K-3.
8-page lesson designed to provide the resources and answers to help parents talk to their children about God. Gives parents stories and questions as a way to begin the conversation.
Striving to Create a Jewish Family and Home
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children. Mogel, Wendy. Penguin Books, 2001. Paperback. ISBN: 0142196002.
This book more deftly blends Jewish teachings and parenting concerns than most Jewish parenting books. Rather than throwing in tidbits of Jewish culture and text, Mogel, a clinical psychologist and educator, strives to take essential values of Judaism and apply them to parenting. Her message is most appropriate for children being raised in middle and upper-middle class, liberal communities. However, the thought-provoking and sometimes very pragmatic suggestions can be applied universally.
The Jewish Parents’ Almanac. Danan, Julie Hilton. Jason Aronson; 1997. Paperback. ISBN: 1568219520.
Meant as a handbook for parents to rediscover or discover Judaism for themselves as they teach their children, this book is chock full of creative ideas, resources, and guidance for Jewish observance and celebration. It goes far beyond holidays and Jewish home-making to look at Values, Mitzvot, Israel, God, Prayer, Jewish Cultural Literacy for children and adults. There are many resources from all denominations suggested and the important questions of “why be Jewish” are covered in addition to all the “how-to” guidance.
How to Be a Jewish Parent: A Practical Handbook for Family Life. Diamant, Anita; Kushner, Karen (Contributor). Schocken Books; September 2000. Paperback and Hardback Available. ISBN: 0805211160.
Like all of Anita Diamant’s how-to books, this is an accessible, non-judgmental, affirming book. A perfect starting place for many families. It suggests ways to create Jewish space, community, and time with children, from a primarily liberal Jewish orientation. There are topics that modern families address (ex. Special needs, adoptions, etc.) and many helpful resources.
What Does Being Jewish Mean?: Read-Aloud Responses to Questions Jewish Children Ask about History, Culture, and Religion. Freedman, E.B.; Greenberg, Jan; Katz, Karen. Publisher: Prentice Hall, 1991. Paperback. ISBN: 0139627472.
The “answers” given in this book are fairly pedantic but they do give parents food for thought as they anticipate or think about how to answer real questions their children will/have raised.
Parenting and Partnering, The Reconstructionist: A Journal of Contemporary and Jewish Thought and Practice, volume 64, number 2 (Spring 2000).
A wide array of thoughtful essays dealing with many aspects of family-making.
From an Orthodox Perspective
Cohen, Simcha Bunim. Children In Halachah. Artscroll Mesorah. Hardcover.
Laws relating to young children: Chinuch, Shabbos, Kashrus, Learning and much more.
Donin, Hayim Halevy. To Raise a Jewish Child: A Guide for Parents. Basic Books; 1991. Paperback. ISBN: 0465086357.
Wolpin, Nisson. Timeless Parenting: Raising children in troubled times – understanding, coping, succeeding. Artscroll; 2000. Hardback.
Levi, Miriam. Effective Jewish Parenting. Feldheim, 1986. ISBN 0-873064-05-4. Out of print.
Mrs. Levi uses the principles of cognitive psychology to help parents (especially mothers) cope with their own feelings during the trials and tribulations of childrearing. The book is richly illustrated by examples from real life and should be read by husband and wife together in order to arrive at a harmonized treatment of children and thus eliminate a significant potential source of dissension.
Radcliffe, Sarah Chana. The Delicate Balance: Love and Authority in Torah Parenting. Targum Pr; 1989. Hardcover. ISBN 0-944070-22-1.
On the Web
Mishpacha.org is an innovative on-line community bringing together groups of people for on-line study and discussion, forming small ongoing virtual communities of Jewish parents — communities that continue long after the course has ended. The core of the Mishpacha program is a three-month course in Jewish life, designed to serve as a springboard for discussion and on-line conversation. Mishpacha is a project of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, an organization composed of 58 Jewish groups including representatives from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements, and other streams of Jewish life.
- What Is Parenting? Transmitting Jewish culture by embodying Jewish practice is part of the responsibilities of Jewish parenting. Commentary on Parashat Bamidbar by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
- Parenting: A View from Jewish Sources. Rabbinic readings of biblical stories suggest some pitfalls to be avoided in raising children. By Rabbi Nachum Amsel