Mom and Wife

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was raised Jewish-ish by a single mother who was more of a new-age
hippie Buddhist pantheist than a practicing Jew. Surprisingly I married
a man who is far more devout than I am and have grown to love
keeping a kosher house and all the rituals of the seasons. This year for
Chanukah my mother sent our three children three books, for them to
share with one another and with us. Two were spiritual books about
astrophysics, which didn’t bother my husband at all, as he works in the
sciences, and often quotes Einstein to prove that God and science are
not incompatible. But the third book was a collection of Buddhist
bedtime stories. I recognize that my mother (who is good-hearted
even if she doesn’t totally understand my life choices) does not mean
to offend, but my husband sees is as undermining their faith. They are
11, 8, and 5, so still very much malleable in their learning. What
should I do with this book?

Mom and Wife

Dear Mom and Wife:

What a wonderful gift of a learning opportunity your mother gave your
family! The world is filled with people who are devout members of
religions other than Judaism. For your children to be raised in a bubble
without knowing that, or understanding that other religions offer their
adherents many of the same values, rituals, comforts, and emotional
sustenance as Judaism would be a horrible disservice to them. Surely
even your husband has to negotiate multiculturalism in his workplace,
and has learned to treat others with the same respect he wishes to

I would use the stories as teaching moments for the family, with or
without your husband’s participation. Among my favorite memories
from childhood is talking and sharing with my mother while we cleaned
up after dinner. Perhaps have the older two rotate reading the stories
a few nights a week. Then talk about what they are about in terms of
values such as compassion and generosity. Then compare those values
to Jewish teachings such as goodness and tzedakah. Focus on what is
best in each religion and what unites us as people instead of what
divides us. If Jews and Buddhists cannot do this there is not much
hope for the planet. And thank your mother for her thoughtful gift,
telling her it’s a teachable moment for everyone including your hubby.