You know the expression “summertime and the living is easy?” How about “summertime and the living is JEWISH?!” Summer is the time when we are most free – days are longer, no homework and reduced obligations. Because of this, and because we often don’t have as much time to devote to Jewish activities as we would like during the hectic school year, we try to do more in July and August. Here are some ways you can spend time being Jewish this summer:
1 Invite other families over to enjoy a Shabbat BBQ. Ask everyone to bring a side dish, throw some chicken or burgers on the grill and spend the evening outside reciting the blessings, enjoying a nice meal and then relaxing and conversing with friends while the kids play outside.
2Celebrate Havdallah at the Beach. Take the family, pack up the fixings for s’mores, bring a guitar and join with friends for a bonfire at the beach. The ceremony is easy, beautiful and uplifting. It’s even more magical and spiritual at the beach, with a fire dancing in the moonlight and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
3 Go to the synagogue more often. Sometimes it’s hard on Friday nights during the school year when kids often have sports or conflicting activities. Most congregations have special services and events going on during the summer months, because it is the time when families might be looking to join a new synagogue. Take advantage of this special programming to attend services at your own temple or even visit some of the other synagogues. It can be very enjoyable to try a new style of service or be exposed to new and different clergy, melodies and people.
4 Schedule an opportunity for your kids to spend time with their friends from Hebrew school and synagogue. The kids have more free time, and the summer can be a perfect time to provide an opportunity for these relationships to flourish. Kids see their school friends all the time at school, but it’s harder to develop solid friendships with religious school friends. But these friendships are often the ones that will last your child’s lifetime. Kids and especially teens are much more likely to want to go to services or youth group activities when they are better friends with each other.
5 Speaking of temple youth groups, we’ve noticed that the programming always runs from September through May. With once-a-month programs, conflicts often arise, and kids need to miss. I, personally, think that they should have more events over the summer months, because people often have more time/less conflicts. The longer days and warmer weather are very conducive to fun outdoor events such as the park, pool or beach. Talk to your synagogue’s youth group director to see if you can help plan an event or two for July or August.
6 Use summer down time to conduct “Jewish research.” If you have pre-school-age children, there are many Jewish preschool options in the OC for you to explore. If you have teens, help them explore ways that they can stay connected and involved in their Jewish community, such as through Talit Nation and BBYO. If you’re starting to research colleges with your high school student, spend some time researching which schools offer a strong Jewish life on campus.
7 Join the JCC and spend some time at the pool or gym, hanging out with other Jews.
8 If you’re vacationing, try to incorporate an element of Judaism into the trip by attending a Shabbat service in a different place or visiting a Jewish neighborhood.
9 If you’re staying local, summer weekends are the perfect time to explore the wonderful Jewish museums and neighborhoods in Los Angeles – this is at the top of our “to do” list for the summer.
10 Most parents try to encourage our kids to read as much as possible over the summer. How about suggesting some Jewish themed books? Check out the Guide to Jewish Literature at www.hadassahmagazine.org for some great book suggestions for all reading levels from elementary to adult.
Whatever you do, enjoy your summer…with family and friends… where the living is… Jewish!