Yehuda Kurtzer is the author of “Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past.” His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
When my son Noah was about 3 or 4, he came home from school one day and asked me, “Abba, who are the Jewish people?”
Thrilled by this opportunity to begin in earnest my son’s Jewish education, by the depth of this questioning at such a young age, I replied, “Why, Noah – we are the Jewish people!”
Whereupon he burst into tears, inconsolable. When I finally calmed him down, I asked him why he was so upset. “Because I don’t want Pharaoh to hurt me!”
I was conflicted about how to answer him. My parenting instincts inclined me to disabuse him of the myth altogether: to tell him that it was just a story from a long time ago, that he was safe, that maybe the story wasn’t even true.
Goodness knows a toddler does not need to be terrified by Judaism in general, much less that fear be a catalyst for his sense of belonging to a story he is learning for the first time.