Beliefnet
Since Father's Day began in 1910 in Washington State, people have been giving cards, neckties, and steak dinners. It has also been a time when we reflect on our fathers and how they have shaped our lives.

The classic joke about Jewish fathers is an exchange between a young boy returning from school and his mother. The boy says, "I got the part of the Jewish father in the school play." The mother replies, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Maybe next year you'll get a speaking part."

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  • Jean Fitzpatrick on Fathers and Spirituality

  • Not all Jewish fathers are quiet types, or Woody Allen stand-ins who explain, "I'm the boss, your mother is just the decision maker." Some have been powerful and passionate, others outspoken and defiant. And in truth, no joke or personality trait can accurately describe the men who faced the challenge of balancing career, family, and the outside pressures to be a success in America.

    Jewish fathers in particular have gone through enormous changes in the last three generations. In 1900, 80% of Jewish fathers in America were working blue-collar jobs, generally in textile factories.



    Rabbi Daniel Brenner is the Director of the National Jewish Resource Center at CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

    By 1950, nearly 75% of young Jewish men were going to college, and as a result, today well over 80% of Jewish fathers are professionals--from high-powered businessmen and lawyers to doctors, teachers, writers, and artists.

    On the whole, Jewish men have gone from day laborers to careers with security and status, and the effects of these sweeping social changes have been felt in each family and by each father.

    More for Father's Day:

  • A Step-Dad Makes Every Day Father's Day

  • Everything I Need to Know ...I Learned From My Kids!

  • Jean Fitzpatrick on Fathers and Spirituality

  • Clearly the role that fathers play in families has changed. And while fathers are still asked to provide and protect their families, these days the ideal dad is also expected to drive car pools, cook dinner, provide emotional support, and more.

    Yet on Father's Day, we honor our fathers not by comparing them to some ideal but by acknowledging them for who they really are. We pause to reflect on their history, remember the challenges they faced, and meditate on what they taught us along the way. In that, we truly live by the words "Honor thy Father."

    But how to honor them in a way that means more than a day off to go play golf?

    This is where our Jewish inherited wisdom comes in. As Jews, we have been wrestling with the often difficult task of honoring fathers for well over 3,000 years. Abraham's story begins with tensions with his father. Jacob battles with his brother over his father's blessing. The Talmud contains numerous stories that ask: What are our obligations to our fathers? To what extent do we need to go to respect them? And how do we best honor them?

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