Our boy Ethan plays football for his middle school. As supportive and loving parents, we’re in the stands every Friday night, cheering him on. And if the coach ever puts him in the game, we’ll cheer even harder!
Not long ago, we were attending the Bar Mitzvah of Ethan’s friend, Zach. Zach did a beautiful job reading from the Torah (or so we were told; we arrived too late to hear it ourselves). Anyway, during the luncheon that followed (so beautiful, and the kugel was to die for), we overheard one of the regulars mention that Yom Kippur will fall on Friday night this year. Friday night!
Of course we immediately rushed home and consulted Ethan’s football schedule, and, wouldn’t you know it, he has a pre-season game that very night. Pre-season! That means he might actually get a chance to play!
Now, N., as devoted Jews, we never miss Yom Kippur evening services. An hour a year may be an inconvenience, but we are raising our children to be committed to Jewish tradition. What kind of parents would we be if we missed the game? So we were wondering: would it be OK if we just had a nice cookout on Saturday instead?
— Super Jewish American Parents
Dear Super JAPs:
Isn’t America wonderful? Our ancestors came here looking for a place to escape persecution, and found themselves liberated not only from the tyranny of the Cossacks, but free to practice their own kind of Judaism as well.
You should feel free to celebrate the holidays according to your family’s custom. For example, it is becoming common for busy families to reschedule the Passover Seders from the traditional first and second nights of the holiday to a more convenient time.
Sorry to say, we haven’t always been so flexible. Two millennia ago, the Pharisees and Essenes in Roman-occupied Israel were bitterly divided over the question of whether or not Yom Kippur could even fall on Shabbat. They cursed and excommunicated one another, and didn’t allow their children to marry. Such primitive attitudes! Today they’d just settle the matter with lawsuits and restraining orders, like civilized people.
Our ancestors studied the holy books day and night to better understand their role in the world and their responsibilities to the community. But their kids didn’t have soccer, math tutors, SAT prep courses, dance and Boy Scouts to contend with. Congratulations, JAPs, on your commitment to raising evolved, enlightened Jewish kids for whom the weight of Jewish practice rests but lightly on their thickly padded shoulders.
— N. Troyer
N. Troyer is a Certified Ponsie Life Coach. When Troyer is not writing the author spends time in the garden and breeding goats. N. Troyer believes that a true friend tells another when that friend is acting like a schmuck, in which case the author is probably the best friend you’ve ever had.