“Nobody likes going to religious school,” I tell my youngest daughter whenever she complains about going to Hebrew school, which is twice a week. “It doesn’t matter if they have to go to CCD or Sunday School or a madrassah. Nobody likes it; it’s just something you have to do.” I am not certain this is 100 percent true, but I would put money on a 10 point margin of error.
Nonetheless, the complaining gets old. “It’s SOOO boring!” she’ll say. “We don’t learn anything! It kills the whole day.” Indeed, she has spontaneously developed all manner of mysterious illnesses on Thursdays around 3:15 and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. I don’t have much sympathy. I figure now that she’s in fourth grade, it’s time for her to suck it up and face the fact that life isn’t always playgrounds and popsicles, as hers pretty much has been so far. I mean, I do all sorts of things that I don’t enjoy–laundry, watching 8th grade football and making school lunches, to name a few; why shouldn’t she? But I also feel slightly wounded that she is so baldly rejecting the heritage that I bring to our family. (It’s bad enough that my son proclaimed himself “no longer Jewish” immediately following his Bar Mitzvah.)
So last weekend, when she started whining in the car en route to the first Sunday School class of the year, I tried a new approach: I played the Holocaust card. After all, I remember the one time I sat truly riveted in Hebrew School was in fourth grade when I learned what a concentration camp was. I tried to bring it up matter-of-factly: “It’s important for Jews to keep practicing their faith because a lot of people throughout history have wanted to kill us, just for being Jewish. Have you ever heard of Hitler?” She hadn’t. “Well, if we lived in Germany when Hitler was in power, we would be in a concentration camp”–I explained what that was–“or possibly even killed. We’re lucky we live here, and now. So you have to go to Hebrew School to keep Judaism alive. Plus it teaches you how to be a good person. Does that make sense?”
She shrugged in the back seat. “Sure,” she said, and was quiet the rest of the way. Maybe I had traumatized her, or maybe she was just thinking about all the outdoor fun she was about to miss. Either way, it seemed to make an impression. When we arrived at synagogue, she said she wanted to sign up for the youth choir–a first! And when she got home later, I asked, somewhat tentatively, how it was. “Good!” she said brightly. “We got candy.”
Take that, Der Führer.