Hi,

My nine-year-old son is the only Jewish child in his school. He has been disappointed numerous times because of the scheduling of fun and exciting events on major Jewish holidays. This has happened again this year. His school's overnight field trip is scheduled on a Jewish holiday. He has been looking forward to this for two years. His disappointment is evident.

Should I allow him to go, and celebrate the holiday on the second day?

I am very torn.

Answer:

I am sorry to hear of the challenges that you and your son are experiencing when it comes to observing the major Jewish holidays, and I totally hear your desire to let your son just enjoy his childhood.

Right now you have a critical decision to make: do you let him have a good time at the expense of the Jewish foundations of his life, or do you encourage him to do what’s morally correct?

Think what kind of precedent you are setting for him by giving up this holiday for a school trip. What happens when he can get a ticket to a World Series game… on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur? What if a spring break in Mexico with all his friends conflicts with Passover? This might seem like it’s not a big deal, but as the parent, you are teaching him priorities that will stay with him as he grows up.

The slippery slope starts—or begins to stop—here.

Discuss Sandy Koufax. It's the 1965 World Series. He's scheduled to pitch on Yom Kippur, but declines. Instead, he attends synagogue in Minneapolis. (His replacement pitched terribly and the Dodgers lost 8–2. What did Koufax do after Yom Kippur? He went on to pitch games Two, Five, and Seven, throwing complete-game shutouts in games Five and Seven.)

This trip is like your son’s World Series. As a Jew, the Jewish holidays come first. It's a difficult decision to make, but it is sacrifices—and successes—like these that lift us up to a whole new level of inspired Jewishness.

Make this holiday a terrific and meaningful experience. Make sure you have all the delicious holiday foods. Light the candles and prepare the house in the holiday spirit. Prepare thoughts and stories to discuss over the holiday meal (you can find many on Chabad.org’s Jewish holiday minisites). When your son feels that you are excited about the upcoming holiday, he will get excited too. If he gets the impression that the holiday is just another burden, there is no doubt that he will also feel that way.

Locate the closest Chabad Jewish Center and find out when they have services, what the situation is for kids (many have special children’s programs) and whether they have any community holiday meals that you can join.

Help him be proud of the fact that he’s Jewish and that he’s doing what Jews do and have done throughout history.

Let him check out our comic strip of a Jewish kid like him, Joey: Hero of the Hour, and make him feel like a hero.

Two more points:

  1. Don’t just take the trip away from him. Substitute a trip on a day when you could both have some fun together.
  2. You write that your son is the only Jewish kid in his school. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid when it comes to challenges in regard to his Jewish faith. I don’t know what your current situation is, but I would strongly suggest that you try to change the situation, and relocate him to a school where there are other Jewish children.

Let me know how things go.

Chaya Sara Silberberg
for the Judaism Website – Chabad.org