Jewish Dads Rock!

Here I am cooking latkes. I like them thick, with plenty of potatoey “meat” in the middle. Dipped in applesauce. (Seriously, how can anyone sour cream? A latke is not an enchilada. Plus, applesauce is pareve, so even the kosher among us, like me, can eat it with anything.)

The Forward requested a photo for the #DadLatkeChallenge, but I would like to include a message as well: The vast majority of today’s Jewish dads rock when it comes to sharing responsibilities with our wives.

Take a look at my Conservative synagogue on any given Shabbat, Sunday morning, or evening event during the week, and you’ll see dads and moms caring for the kids, doling out the food, taking part in the children’s services. Look at the JCCs where I’ve been speaking on book tour, and you’ll see the same equality in action. It’s the new norm, not just in public but in the American home.

This isn’t a theory, nor wishful thinking. It’s the reality backed up by all the hard data. I lay it out in my book “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together.” Virtually all dads who live with our kids care for them in every major category several days a week or every day, and that includes feeding them. American families have achieved far more egalitarianism than almost anyone realizes. Dads and moms are putting in equal hours on behalf of our families.

For dads, more of those hours are for paid work. For moms, more are at home. That’s because of the laws, policies, and stigmas holding us all back. Millions of dads want more time at home for family activities like holiday preps and latke-making, but the outdated macho work culture we’re living in makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to do so. I suspect this is why those who chose to take your survey for Who Sets the Table? said moms are doing so much more to make holidays happen in our homes.Millions of moms, meanwhile, want to resume or further pursue their careers. We’re all being held back by these structures, and we need to fix them.

Yes, as you note, moms are “kind of tired.” So are dads. Reports about one gender getting more “leisure time” or moms doing more when both parents “work full time” are false and misleading. I explain all this in the book.

When I was growing up in Albany, New York, we’d drive to my grandfather’s house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, for Shabbat and the holidays. His little home was right next to the small synagogue at which he served as Orthodox rabbi and a tiny store at the edge of his driveway, at which he sold kosher meat. The women, principally my aunt who lived closest to him, did virtually all the cooking. We were all expected to do everything else.

But even then, we listened to “Free to Be You and Me” like it was, for lack of a better word, gospel. I grew up knowing that I’d one day share all tasks with my wife, including preparing holiday meals. It’s what I wanted. Skip ahead roughly 30 years, and I find myself having to launch a legal battle just for some basic equality in caregiving.

Minutes after this photo was taken, my wife Melanie Lasoff Levs and I switched places. She got into the cooking while I went and played with the kids. Either scenario reflects the gender equality we are passing along to our children. And, by the way, this was Melanie’s first reaction when I received your latke challenge: “Lots of moms also buy frozen latkes at Trader Joe’s and there’s nothing wrong with that!”

It’s awesome that the Forward is shining a light on continuing inequalities in our culture. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t about dads being lazy or 1950s-ish. It’s about how all of us need to work together to move things in the right direction. Forward!

Josh Levs is an investigative journalist, former NPR and CNN reporter, and author of “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together.” He lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children.

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