Community Blog Breathe First Yourself

By Carolyn Keller
dad swimming pool with daughter

We came together to explore how Judaism can make us better parents. We posed many questions: What rituals will enhance our relationship with our kids? Might we begin the day with Modeh Ani (the traditional prayer said by Jews upon waking up in the morning) or another spiritual practice that helps us acknowledge how special each day is? Can we really turn off our phones and welcome the peace of Shabbat?  How do we model kindness and instill it in our children? How do we make time for all this when we are so stressed in our own lives between work and chores, children and partners…?

In MetroWest this fall, a remarkable group of parents joined together in a collaborative effort to explore these questions in the first joint MetroWest Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) class.

We came from Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham, Congregation Or Atid in Wayland and MetroWest Jewish Day School. We were of different ages and backgrounds but we found common ground easily. All of us welcomed the opportunity to share the wisdom of our Jewish texts and each of us found different passages that resonated.

We discussed the responsibility of parents to children, and how we might interpret the Talmudic passage that parents should “teach your child to swim.”  Is it only literal, or does it imply a more global meaning to teach children skills so they can navigate our complex world?

Many of us have heard the modern adage that as parents we should “put on your own oxygen mask first.” Following that metaphor, it makes sense that parents need to learn how to swim before teaching that skill to their child. More broadly, it reminds us of the need to take care of ourselves and our own learning in order to become the best parents we can be.

In MetroWest, we came to find answers but came away with much more. We became a true community of learners that appreciated different perspectives; we learned from the texts, but just as importantly, we learned from each other.


Carolyn Keller has been an educator and community builder in the Boston Jewish community for four decades.  She has been instrumental in many successful enterprises from Me’ah to the MetroWest Jewish Day School.  She is the proud mother of three and grandmother of three.

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