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."
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
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.
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?
For those whose fathers have died, perform a ritual for remembering:
Play an album or read a book he enjoyed, look through some family photographs, give to a cause he supported, or visit a place he liked. Share his memory and tell someone a story from his life.
Rabbi Simon Bar Yohai once said, "The most difficult of all obligations is to honor your father and mother." --Tanchuma Ekev, 2
This Father's Day, reflect on the contribution fathers have made in sharing their love and guidance from one generation to the next. And if you have the opportunity, get him a bow tie--I hear they're coming back.