Almost from birth, the American Jewish mother does everything she can to ensure that her American Jewish daughter meets a nice Jewish boy.
What seems like minutes after her daughter’s baby naming, the American Jewish mother registers her daughter for Hebrew school at the local synagogue (or temple, if you happen to be a Reform American Jewish mother). And for a few years, the mother sails by on her daughter’s love of tefillot – not the actual meaning of the prayers, mind you, but the sing songiness of the chants. After all, who can resist a good Adon Olam? It comes in, what? 36 catchy varieties?
But soon after, the American Jewish daughter starts to whine that she doesn’t want to keep going three days a week to Hebrew school – her friends are busy with tennis and ballet and she wants to be busy with tennis and ballet, too. She doesn’t want to be wasting time on the Alef Bet since who speaks Hebrew in America anyway?
So her parents start telling her fabulous fairy tales of a land called “Bat Mitzvah” where you get rewarded for studying Torah troupe. The payment comes in the form of jewelry, and jewelry boxes to keep the jewelry in, and in a few envelopes with money for your college savings account (which will in reality be your camp account because these days camp costs almost as much as college.)
Then, some time in between Sunday School and Bat Mitzvah, the American Jewish parents send their daughters off to Camp Ramah in the Poconos or Camp Harlam…where it’s sink or swim. Swimming after cute Jewish boys for the next five or six years, hoping to score at the weekly campfire or in a quiet corner at a USY convention, where she learns how to French kiss, but certainly nothing more.
And, says the American Jewish mother, God willing, during one of those years at overnight camp or in Jewish youth group or at a state school with a few good Jewish fraternities or sororities, the American Jewish daughter will fall madly in love with a nice Jewish boy whose parents are from Rye or Westchester, but not Brooklyn or Long Island. Even better, his family would be from The Main Line or Denver or Scottsdale, because this would mean his parents are Jewish, but not New York Jews, which as we know, are not the same as other Jews.
And, so God willing, by taking all the right steps and supporting all the formal and non-formal indoctrination, the American Jewish mother has put her American Jewish daughter on the path to a nice “shidduch.” Yes, God willing.
But, God forbid, that nice Jewish boy is Israeli.
Oy vey. God forbid.
God forbid, your American Jewish daughter falls for a nice Israeli Jewish boy. Then, all your hard work has been for nothing.
Because one day, the American Jewish daughter will marry that nice Israeli Jewish boy. And filled with all the yiddishkeit from Hebrew school and Zionist summer camp and Jewish youth group and a summer trip to the Holy Land…
One day…yadda yadda yadda…The American Jewish daughter will make Aliyah.
If you’re an American Jewish mother, I bet you’ve never imagined the scene where you kiss your American Jewish daughter goodbye as she steps on a plane to Israel with her husband and three children.
But it might happen.
So, be mindful, American Jewish parents. Instilling a love of Judaism in your American child is a careful practice. Much like a tennis serve: You want to make sure you hit it strong enough to get over the net, but not too hard it’s sent flying out of bounds.
Because, one day, yadda yadda yadda …you might find yourself kissing a computer screen giving your Israeli grandchildren “nishikot” via Skype.
Like my American Jewish mother.