Let My People Go to Work

With three kids in Jewish school, why can't I restart my career?

Just wait until your youngest child starts school, they told me. Then you'll be able to go back to work, have time for yourself, have a life again. That's what everyone said. But they were wrong. They didn't know what it's like to be a parent with kids in Jewish day school.

With three children in our religious, private day school, I barely go a week (and, as egalitarian as my husband and I try to make it, it's inevitably me) without being expected to come in for a holiday party, birthday celebration, or pre-Sabbath fete. That's assuming the school is open, which is doubtful--in addition to closing for all the national, secular holidays that the public schools enjoy, there seems to be, oh, 650 Jewish holidays throughout the year. Of course, you expect to get the High Holidays off. But what is the "Fast of Gedalia"? (Would Gedalia have fasted for me?) Many Jewish schools close for the entire week of Sukkot, and for two full weeks in the spring for what my Bible tells me is the eight-day holiday of Passover. At my daughter's old synagogue-based preschool, they actually canceled an entire day on less than a week's notice because a family needed the room for their son's bris.

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And don't forget the early closings on Friday afternoons from September through April, when the Sabbath "comes in early" with the setting sun. Ostensibly, this gives the teachers an opportunity to get home and prepare for the Sabbath. Of course, hundreds of mothers now have to figure out how to keep the kids occupied as

they

try to prepare for the Sabbath. (Explain this to an administrator, and she'll ask, "Why don't you have the kids help you?" Oh sure--as soon as Maria lines them up and they finish singing "Edelweiss.")

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids' school. It is a warm, nurturing place, and I admire the staff's commitment to involving parents in our children's education. And I really do enjoy coming in to see my little Kayla dressed as Queen Esther, or my son Elie beaming as his classmates give him personalized birthday blessings, or my oldest child Noah solemnly accepting his own Bible at the second grade

Chumash

party (a ceremony that warranted the dads' attendance as well). This is what raising children is all about. And it is certainly why many of us choose to send our children to a religious school. In Yiddish, it's called

naches
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