Going to Religious Services

Updated on April 20, 2009
S.R. asks from Encino, CA
34 answers

I have been happily married for nearly 8 years. The only big issue where we differ on seems to be religion- my husband is not religious at all, and while supportive of my spirituality, doesn't care to attend synagogue services on a regular basis. I feel that it is very important to have my children attend services regularly and be familiar in a synagogue setting. So what happens is that I usually attend once a month with the kids. My older son says he hates it and it's boring and why doesn't Daddy go? Every attendance is a huge arguement where I say there are some things he just needs to learn how to make the best out of. I was the same way, and there was never a choice about attendance, and eventually I did grow to love and appreciate it. But our whole family went together! IT tears me apart, I don't want him to end up hating it, and at the same time, I believe it to be important all of us. I would love to hear if any of you have dealt with this- regardless of your actual religion.

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T.T.

answers from San Luis Obispo on

Hello Sophie,

my situation has been very similar to yours, except that I have only one child. This is what I'm doing, it seems to work out well. As my son was very little, I always took him with me to Sunday Services at my Lutheran church. As he grew older (about six or seven), he said to me "Mom, how come that I have to go with you all the time, and Dad doesn't go at all?" I explained to him then, that I can't make decisions for his dad (since he is an adult), but that regular attendence to worship is very important to me, and as his mother, it is my duty to him to share my faith with him. From that time on, it was settled, that my son will accompany me every other time (without arguing). My son will turn twelve years old very soon, and he is growing very well in his faith and in his spirituality (and enjoys his special time with his dad). Every one of the many past summers, he always attended with great excitement Vacation Bible School. Now he is to old to attend VBS as a student, but he is happy this summer to help out with the program. I hope, that you and your husband can agree on some solution, whereas both of you feel comfortable and confident in doing what is right for you as parents, as well as for the children. I'll say a prayer for you tonight, that all will work out well for you.
God Bless

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D.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

I think perhaps the most important point is being missed. Much of what adults love about their religion isn’t attractive to 5 year olds. Appealing to your son with what is funny, silly, and exciting will keep him coming back for more at this age. If he is having fun, enjoying his religion, he will wonder why on earth his father would want to miss out on such a great thing. The longer he stays the more these beliefs will become a part of his life. When that happens he will become more serious and devoted. It would be easier if your husband was on board, but you have something your husband will never have even if he enthusiastically shared your beliefs. Your experiences and love for your religion are yours alone. Finding ways to express these things to your son is one of the very best things one can pass on to a child. Attraction is key.

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M.

answers from Las Vegas on

Hi Sophie. I am Jewish, married to an atheist. I have learned that respect is a two way street. My husband respects my right to practice my religion and I have to give him the same courtesy of allowing him to have a lack of any sort of practice. We compromise in that he will come along with me depending on the level of importance. For example, he will always come to Passover Sedars with me because I value them so much. He will not attend a random service with me though. I have to pick my battles. As far as the kids are concerned, we just tell the kids that mommy and daddy have different beliefs and it's ok. We tell them when they are older, they can make up their own minds as to how/what they will practice. It does help that my hubby and I work opposite and that we spend a lot of alone time with the kids. My daughter is going to be 4 and wouldn't even think to question why daddy isn't there because he works graveyard and sleeps during the early evenings.

I think you and your hubby need to find some sort of medium that makes you both happy. You are going to have to compromise on this one. Perhaps he could have a talk with your son and tell him that he used to go to temple as well when he was a child and now that he is an adult, he gets to make his own decisions about whether or not to go. He can tell your son that he'll get to make his choice about it later in life, but he has to experience it for a while longer to really know what he wants.

Good luck! I know it's not easy.

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C.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

Sophie,

I have not dealt with this personally, but work with families who face these challenges.

So long as dad is supportive, tell your son that you felt exactly the same way about attending services when you were young, but that you and his dad feel that a spiritual education is important to his development as a human being. He can see by the differing choices you and your spouse have made as adults that he will have the opportunity to make his choice about attendance when he is an adult, but he does not have a choice now.

When he complains, calmly repeat that you understand, but that you will not change your mind because... (articulating the "because" is important to expressing the family values). If complaining continues, let him know he is welcome to remain unhappy, but will need to find a private space to wallow, as it is disruptive to the rest of the family.

Good luck and stand firm.

C.

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E.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

If the service is geared towards adults of course he will be bored and hate it, I did when I was a kid. I go to church with our children but my husband does not, my 4 year old always asks why Daddy doesn't go and I always say, Daddy does other things and we are lucky to be able to attend church, but she loves it because she goes into daycare where they do fun kids stuff in addition to learning a little bit about God and songs. I think what you need to find is a synagogue that will provide fun ways for your child to learn about God, but keep going, it is very important to raise your children with spiritual guidance. The problem is your synagogue not your child, he is only 5.... Good Luck you are doing the right thing

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D.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Sophie,

Let me give you the other side...I grew with a very Catholic Mom and an Agnostic Dad. My Mom starting taking us to church every Sunday since I was an infant, so it was ALWAYS in my routine. After my sister was born, my Mom was hospitalized and we didn't go for months due to her recovery time. I asked my Dad once why he couldn't take me and he said 'it wasn't his thing'.

So, once my Mom was better and able to go we started going again and by that time I was 4.5 and full of questions and needed answers. I asked my Mom why we Daddy didn't come and she said, 'His beliefs were not the same as hers, but it meant a lot to her to share with me her religious beliefs.' This sparked a whole other kind of thought process, and of course I challenged it several times more...until my Mom had our Priest speak to me about God and what it meant to explore our individual feelings about spirituality. Well, he did it in a way that made sense to a then 5 year old. Basically, he asked me to give him a chance to teach me about being Catholic and if I decided as a young adult to try another religion I could do it.

This WHOLE talk empowered me and made me feel like it was really MY CHOICE and not my Mom's. At any rate, I did try other religions as I grew into a teen and attend other services, but ultimately I went back to being a Catholic girl...even attended a religious University.

Today, I choose to go and will do the same for my son as my Mom did for me. Inform and teach and allow for questions and exploration...it has made my faith strong.

You might want to have your spiritual leader speak to your kids about the amazing stories and history that comes from being involved in your beliefs. I love sharing beliefs and talking with my cousins who were raised Orthodox Jewish and even attending their special services. But, I'm still who I am and we respect that about each other. You might also ask Dad to get involved in explaining the right to choose comes from being informed and making informed choices, but that his choice isn't out of a desire to not go but an adult choice based on beliefs.

It's such a tough subject, that my son's Dad and I haven't had our son baptized because we don't agree on Godparents. Ugh, but really get some spiritual guidance and get help explaining/showing what it means to believe in something.

Good Luck!

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L.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Sophie... I can relate to your situation. My father wasn't a church attending individual but supported my mother's choice that we be while growing up. I too tried that why doesn't he have to go thing. But I think it goes with the why doesn't dad have to go to bed when I do. There are things you can expect from your kid's that isn't the same for your husband. If he chooses not to attend services and doesn't interfere with you and your kids doing so, I would simply explain to your son that he needs to go. Eventually, I came to find my own spirituality and I'm so glad my mother introducted it to me. I also grew to appreciate those who don't worship in the same fashion I do. I think that is so important these days. Our family was united in every aspect and that didn't reflect anything other than my dad didn't attend services. It didn't diminsh anything at all. I would continue to do what you are by sharing your faith with your children and not make your husband the bad guy for not going. My father was the most ethical and best example of a man I have known so him not attending services with us didn't change that. Like your son, I learned in time that I needed to do things I wasn't open to initially but also learned by doing so you never know what the outcome will be. For me, it is a deep personal spirituality. Best wishes to you and your family and sounds like you have them on the right track!

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S.F.

answers from Reno on

Hi Sophie!

My sons, now 15 and 11, were the same way when they were youngsters. My 15 year old grew to love it and did a superb Bar Mitzvah when he turned 13. He loves going even more now, as an "adult." My 11 year old, is still in complain mode, but since he's in training for his Bar Mitzvah, too, we keep plugging along.

Let your children know attendance is non-negotiable and don't engage in argument. Even if Dad doesn't go (my husband has gone once...to his son's Bar Mitzvah <g>), he should let his kids know that attendance is non-negotiable and that he will be unhappy to lean they did not behave themselves well. If your son behaves poorly, there should be a consequence. For my sons, it was no goodie at oneg. They would have to stand at my side, while I indulged, and explain to all the well meaning matirarchs who inquired that they couldn't have a piece of cake because they did not behave properly. Silly, but it worked.

Stick to your guns! They'll come around. And, if they don't, once they're adults, they can make their own choice about attendance. In the meantime, it's good to learn how to grin and bear it!

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J.H.

answers from Honolulu on

In my humble opinion, you may need to go MORE frequently -which I know is going to be a stretch once you've delivered number three. My husband is likewise completely uninterested in church and I feel it is very important. I started when my oldest was just a couple months old taking him every Sunday that we were not ill. Because we went regularly, he grew up with it and made friends there. If they make friends, they'll start asking why doesn't dad WANT to go and maybe dad will start asking that question, too! :-) Having friends there will be a reward in and of itself but until those friendships form, you may need some other enticement - special meal afterward, cookies and juice during fellowship time, an extra sticker on his chore chart, whatever works for you. Also, it may be beneficial for you to volunteer in the children's programs to help your kids break the ice with their peers. Keep it up, Dear One. Imparting faith in our kids is so important. However there are so many non-faith benefits to going to worship and maybe you can convince hubby to come on THOSE aspects, pray, and let God do the rest.
Oh, BTW, ditto from me on finding a church with a good children's program.
:-)

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L.H.

answers from Honolulu on

Hi Sophie,
The most important thing is, not to force him. Allow him to take his time. It also took me eight years of our marriage till MY husband slowly started going twice to church a month with me. Our children, they were already broke into to it. My husband at first stays home. Then he started going once every two to three months or sort to say when he feels like it because he ends up alone at home. So up to eight years into the marriage, I never ever force him but then he surprised me back. While I was going to church with the kids all these time, he was home reading and studying scriptures and researching more and more into going to church which he didn't care what and where we go to. Into our tenth year of marriage, he was already going every Sunday. Our boys started complaining as they get older that it's boring. But I never stop going to church educating our children that it's another way of receiving blessings and not just focusing on material things which come and go...it worked for me. Although it's different on everyone else. Some will never go. Some slowly but surely will participate into it, and some will need more time...Just don't force him or the issue. He will come around. Be very positive. Continue to go about your agenda of maintaining your attendance to the synagogue. Somewhere in there, the Lord will soften things for you...be strong...

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J.W.

answers from San Diego on

Keep going and setting a good example. Pray for your husband children and stay in prayer about your strife. Don't stop praying and attending because if you give up you will send that lesson to your children. God Bless.

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G.Y.

answers from San Diego on

I cannot believe that a spiritual experience for a child is boring. I was a Sunday School teacher for years. The children loved coming to my class. This should be a fun learning experience for your child. I suggest you find a place that is fun and which he will learn. I suggest not pushing your husband into doing something he does not like. Instead let him see the wonderful change in you and your son through this experience. He may want to go then. Once a month is not enough to help with this change.

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B.V.

answers from Los Angeles on

Yes introduce your children to religion because they may have big problems someday and need a religious background to turn to when they need it.
Some how make it fun or bribe them with a nice treat afterwords. Perhaps you can find a friend with like ideas and make it more kid centered. Can you find services for children?
Good luck.
B. v. O.

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A.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

wow that last post sure was an opinion and didn't help at all. Religion is a choice. Most the time people decide on religion based on what their parents told them was true. It takes a lot of creative thinking and being bold to step outside of the mainstream ideas and decided to "not be religious at all". Your husband will not suddenly start believing in what he thinks are total myths that people waste vast amounts of time on. Be glad he's open to you taking them. Children will not turn into terrible people because they didn't want to go to church or believe. It is a helpful thing to have mostly to make you feel better (in my opinion) and if that's your choice then go for it, but I believe that everyone should be given the options. I used to go to a Unitarian Universalist Church where people of all kinds attended and I enjoyed the children's programming. Isn't church supposed to bring the family together? Find some way to make it more interesting or let him stay home with an open invitation to come later. I don't think bribing him and just saying/thinking "deal with it" is very nice. How did you feel about it?

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S.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

I am very Christian and my husband is very nothing. I am lucky because my husband comes to church with me and sings and sits with me during the sermon. He does this out of his desire to support me in the things that are important to me. I do similar for him by going to his very boring work things, or whatever else he needs me to do to support him. I consider myself very lucky...

However, what I really wanted to tell you was that my daughter, who is 13, really had no idea that my husband was not a Christian and she was quite shocked to learn of it because his parents are Christians and because he attends church with us. This was not a day I would ever wish on anyone...

So, the only thing I can really say in response to your situation and in light of my own is that your children are a reflection of your feelings about a subject... On some level, you want your husband to go with you and you find it a drag to be in the synagogue without him. Because of this, your children baulk at the idea of going, because you also baulk at the idea of going without your husband.

But, you cannot change how your husband feels about attending synagogue with you. You can only change how YOU feel about going without him. I believe that if you were to make a POSITIVE decision to attend with or without him, as a stand in FAITH that if you are faithful, then your G*d will be faithful in return... You will see a change in your childs' attitudes, and in your own attitude toward being at the synagogue. If you are unhappy with your synagogue, find one you like better, and then GO every week... Continue to invite your husband and ask him to go for special occasions like High Holidays or any time your children might be doing something special at the synagogue.

Remind your children that G*d says we are to honor both our mother and our father, and let them know that attending synagogue with you is a way they can honor you. Eventually, they may come to love attending synagogue as you do. But, they need to see it as something you enjoy doing and look forward to going to before it will look like a thing they "get to" do instead of a thing they "have to" do... And, if you are all enjoying it and reaping a benefit from being at synagogue, you may very well find your husband will also want to "GET TO" go to synagogue with you!!

I hope that wasn't too rambly!! :D

Best of luck to you!! :D

Huggles!!
~S.~

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J.L.

answers from San Diego on

Hi Sophie, Love the name, Let me share something with you, back in 1991 my husband started going to a church that he liked very much, I wasn't interested in the same way he was, but he started going every Sunday, and sometimes a mid week service, eventually I started going because I didn't like him going after something without me, so we became members, but it's normal for one spouse to be relunctant, theres many wmen in our church whos husbands don't go and many men whos wives don't go, just keep going, and as you grow spiritually, you will become a more spiritual wife and mother, and you just may when your husband over, that's how my husband won me over. As far as the kids go, unless where you attend have seperate classes or service for the kids, they will be bored, where we attend they have a childrens ministry for all age groups, it's not baby sittning it's actual class rooms with learning, music and activitys, and they love coming to church. When kids sit in a service with their parents the sermon, lesson, is geared toward the adult matality and goes right over the heads of children, that's why it is boring to them. Many adults today don't want nothing to do with church/religeon because they were forced to go as children, I agree with you that it is important, for children to attend, but a 5 and 3 year old need something that is geared towards ages, so they can understand and enjoy, attending, my kids are 25, 22, and 20 and we have been going to this church since our youngest was toddler, so they grew up in the church, but in their own classes. Hope this helps, and I pray you have much sucess in your spiritual walk. J. L.

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P.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

DEAR SOPHIE,

Just another reason why NO MIXED MARRIAGES! I have the same dilema you have and it's LITERALLY HELL. I am very CATHOLIC and my husband is NOTHING! How do you raise kids with Jesus being the savior of the world one day, and then the next he's "just a man"?

I have passed this belief of mine on to my own children, and hopefully they will both marry in the same faith. It's hard enough being married and not having to encounter mixed belief systems would seem to make a marriage that much easier.

I have no idea who my boys will marry, but I PRAY for their wives now and always will that their wife will be Catholic, strong, beautiful, a good mother and an answer to THEIR PRAYERS as well.

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C.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

I would take them. I was raised by 2 parents that were forced to go to church, and they both turned their backs on religion. So, i only went when I stayed at a friends or relatives. When I was older it was a problem-because I knew NOTHING about religion. art classes, funerals, weddings. It is embaressing. In college I took a religion class to gain a clue. As a parent we do not go to church. my husband was forced and hated it. I think we should, but, my children misbehave. I think I should feel better after going to church, I just feel annoyed w/ my kids. Maybe compromise, go every other week as a family?

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D.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Sophie, Go to your services for yourself and have your children attend. Maybe the children services ARE boring, investigate and find a great place for them too.
These are coping tools for their lives. I am telling you I don't know how people can make it without some spiritual guidance. Do this for yourself and don't make your husband go. I have been attending the Lutheran church all my life and my husband was raised in a non religious Jewish/non church home Jewish heritage school, no Bar Mitzvah... he goes with me occasionally and has done some gatherings for fun. over 24 years now.
I can only be responsible for my direction, and I don't bug him, my kids have been confirmed and then I let them go their own way...my Dad made us kids go until we moved out and I don't think that was a positive thing. Keep praying and help your self stay strong, life gives you plenty of tests!! God bless. Deb

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J.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

First of all, have you looked for a temple that has kid services? It seems to me that asking a 5 year old to sit through a full service might be a challenge. Since you're in Israel what about outings to historical/religous sites? I've spent alot of time there and know that they're EVERYWHERE. That's a family experience that will help your son get a sense of his history. Share the stories with him before you go so that he has a feel for it prior. What 5 year old would not like to hike Masada, float in the Dead Sea etc?

The larger issue is your husband. My husband is not Jewish. I've told him that it's important to me that he join the family at temple on holidays - high holidays, Purim, etc. Maybe if you told your husband that it's important for you to come occasionally he'll get it. If he doesn't then you need to respect his choice and remember it's nothing persoanl directed at you (might help with any anger).

My stock answer when my kids ask about their Dad's religon is that Daddy is not Jewish, but we as a family are. They go to Jewish day school, so they know that the religon you're born with is based on the mom - that bit of knowledge seemed to answer all their questions. Good luck.

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B.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

When I first read your request I assumed your "older one" was 12 or 13 years old! At 3 and 5 they just go, don't listen to the complaints. Does your worship place have a cry room? Use it if you have to, but gradually develop the expectation that your children will sit quietly and behave appropriately for the duration of the service. I had to do this with an Autistic child, and believe me, it was not easy! But he is now so well behaved, we take him every where, including a regular public high school where he attends regular ed. classes, sings in the choir, and runs on the track team. I am not saying he makes good grades, is the best singer or the best athlete, but he behaves appropriately, is learning things, and "fits in". If you have a girlfriend or sitter who will go to services with you, this can help. We used one when he was little, so that the family could sit in church and the sitter took him to the cry room when necessary. He was expected to behave appropriately in there, and ultimately worked toward sitting with the family (and sitter) in the big sanctuary. But to this day (he is 17 now), we do bring things for him to do. In fact the church publishes little "kids bulletins" that have dot to dots and word puzzles having to do with the day's lesson. There is one for big kids and one for little kids. We take one of each, and he does both of them during the sermon, or the part of the service that is boring to him. He loves the music and other parts. For little kids, I would also bring favorite books (especially if they are bible books) and one quiet toy. (not videogame!) Don't worry about your husband not coming, there is nothing you can do about it except, as the NT says, possibly win him over by your quiet, godly example. If you fight about it, you are sure to give the kids a negative experience about it. If he supports you and the kids going, it is all good. You can pray for him, and leave the rest to God. Bless you! Oh, I would go every week. Maybe have the kids stay home with him once a month so you can experience going by yourself. I don't think they are likely to develop the love and respect you want them to if you are only going once a month. On the three times that they go with you, it is not optional.

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K.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

I am in the same boat .... my husband attends holiday services by force, other than that, religion is all up to me, although now that my daughter is learning "grace" she likes to say it at the dinner table and he is fine with that. Because I knew how he was, I purposely found a church that had services that worked for my needs, but also has an exceptional children's program. It has a seperate church for teens if they prefer to not be in the main service, which seems to help them come to faith with their friends on their terms, rather than by what seems like my force. I know we will have some battles eventually, but because I feel that religion is essential in a person's life, until my children graduate from high school, they will attend church.

I hope you find some success and less battles with your son, but I agree - religion is important to have, so perservere! Good luck.

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M.E.

answers from Los Angeles on

I believe you should not force religion on anyone. If your son sees your husband not going, then he will want to do the same. You married a non-religious man and this is the downfall. Why not let your son stay home every other time you go. Also, do not try to make your husband go. Like I said, religion should not be forced on anyone.

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J.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

My husband and I attend different churches also. I think it would be important to take children early on in their lives. That way it is something that is simply part of their lives. I don't remember a time that I didn't go to church, simply because my parents took me and my sisters since we were babies, I am now doing the same with my son and he is only 9 months. also read religious books to him at home, they make amazing books for kids these days. then take a sticker book or something that pertains to religion for him or her to do during service and talk about service over brunch. I understand this is a challenge I attend mass alone which I find very hard sometimes since I grew up feeling like church was for our family to come together.
Peace, -J

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M.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

No child is happy about going to religious services. Like you said, you learned to love it. I am also Jewish with a husband who is not religious in any way. The difference is that I am not a practicing Jew. I do however, celebrate the major holidays with my sister. But I do not go to services. Right now, my family celebrates all holidays and we will just have to see what happens when my daughter gets older. Of course she will always be a Jew! LOL
Obviously, there is not much you will be able to do about your husband. Just thank your lucky stars that he is supportive and lets your kids go to synagogue.
If the role was reversed, I wouldn't want my children going to church. I have actually said to my husband that "over my dead body my child would attend a church service".
I really don't have much advise to other then your lucky that your husband is ok with the your kids going to synagogue.
Good luck to you!

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M.S.

answers from Las Vegas on

Dear Sophie:

First of all, it peeves me when people say that parents should abdicate their duty to train their children and should let children make up their own minds about faith. EVERYONE makes up their own mind about faith! Still, that doesn't mean that as a woman of faith and a mother, you should neglect to teach and train your children.

Of course you should take your children to the religious services that mean so much to you. Just like you teach them to eat with utensils (you don't let them "make up their minds" about that either, right? Ha ha!)and to dress modestly and to be kind to others, and to brush teeth, etc., etc.

Like I said, EVERYONE makes up their own mind about faith but they make it up based upon their life experiences and education. They make it up based upon what they observed in the LIVES of people of faith that they've watched all their lives (like their parents). You must equip your children with the tools to make that decision and that is why parents take their children to worship.

That said, obviously having parents who do not share faiths can be awkward but it can be dealt with. First of all, you said your husband is supportive. I'm going to compare that with when I began homeschooling my children. My husband was "supportive" but did not consider it as important as I did and the kids could tell. I asked him to be supportive of my belief that this practice was HUGELY IMPORTANT by speaking of it that way to the children. When he told my children that "WE homeschool," peace reigned!

In other words, ask your husband to tell the children that attendance at synagogue is a requirement of your home. Honestly, he has CHOSEN as an adult to no longer attend but as a child, he was under the authority of his parents and had no say. Your children are under your authority and this is how you've chosen to train them spiritually and socially and they need to accept that (...just as they accept the manner in which you've chosen to educate them, for instance. I'm assuming they agreeably attend the school you've matriculated them in!). The children will understand that dad chose, as an adult, to pass on worship while they are still required to go until they're out of your home.

Now, it is up to you to find the right PLACE and the right STYLE of worship in order to allow your children to see the incredible TRUTHS and BEAUTY of the Judaic faith you are trying to introduce them to. I can't imagine what could be boring about ANYTHING in the Bible!

I wish you the very best, Sophie!

M.
PS: Just a thought: Going once a month is probably not enough for the children to "connect" to the synagogue. Let it become a weekly routine so they can form relationships there and I think you'll see them looking forward to attendance. My children are at worship, Bible study, and related events between 3 and 4 times per WEEK and if we miss ONE thing they freak OUT!

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M.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

My husband doesn't go to church either it used to be a big deal and I stopped going then I realized I love & need it so I now go with out him. As for the kids I took them with me when they were young and when they got to be older and started fighting going because dad doesn't go I let them chose. I just hope that they have a foundation and one day will chose to go on their own. It is really a hard thing I hope this helps.

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S.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Sophie: It sounds like you have gotten some good advice but I wanted to share a little of my story too. My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic. According to Jewish faith the children are to be raised to Catholic and we all attended church, Sunday School or Catechism and even Catholic School. But I was so fortunate because my dad went to church with my mom. I'm sure it was a big compromise on his part but we also celebrated many of the Jewish holidays and traditions. My mom never missed a cousin's bat mizvah or a passover at my aunt's house. We would sometimes go to Temple and I even went to a Jewish summer camp with my cousins. I would take my children to synagoge every week and I know that the kids also have a class on Wednesday nights by my house. I would seriously convince my husband to attend too for the kids and the marriage. I am very proud of my parents for giving me a dual religious foundation and I believe that my religious beliefs are really strong because of this.

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D.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Sophie,
You got a lot of responses. I am waiting for my 6 year old to tell me she does not want to go to Sunday School (at the temple) but she has not yet. She just does not enjoy it as much as I would like. BUT, there are days she does. Sunday school, I think, makes a difference bescause she knows the other kids and families there. My husband also has no religion, and he is supportive of my choice to raise them Jewish, but also does not partake. Sometimes he does though. Your children may enjoy going if they knew other kids that would be there too. I believe that would make a difference. Are there kids services. Maybe every week is too much, so maybe consider that. Also, there might be special occasions (not just the high holidays) where the tempe has a service and then some celebration afterwards. I was raised conservative in an orthodox temple, but now we are members of a reformed temple (out of respect to my husband who is not Jewish), and there, there is much more singing with guitars and more fun than I had growing up. After each Friday night service they go into the social hall where the sisterhood has cakes and drinks for eveyone and there is music for Isreali dancing. The kids just run around and have fun with the other kids. That is where it is nice for my husband to come sometimes. Also, it gives the adults the opportunity to maybe meet other couples. Don't give up. Just tell them that Daddy thinks diffently. I have had to tell my kids that we are all Jewish except Daddy (they are 6 1/2 and 5) and so far they have not questioned this. So kids will learn the diffence between Mommy and Daddy. Good Luck.
Best,
D.

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M.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

My parents had the same experience you're having. My father is a non-practicing Catholic and my mother was raised Baptist (protestant). What ended up happening was my mother, when we were young, would go to church and take us along and leave my father at home. Then, I remember she would drop us off at church and then pick us up later. (I don't think anyone can do that now.) She attended on and off with us but there was never a question or whether we would go--we just did. She may have quoted the Bible on how parents need to raise their children to learn about God and it is their job to do so. Eventually, we attended on our own and my mother rarely went. In my 20s I didn't attend and returned to church at the request of my soon-to-be-husband. We are now attending together most of the time and our kids protest a bit at times. Usually its when they haven't been in awhile. If I had any advice to you, it would be for you to attend regularly with your children. When its a habit, they don't protest much.

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S.E.

answers from Los Angeles on

I wasn't clear, are you in Israel or here in LA? If in LA, may I suggest that you try out Nashuva, (www.nashuva.org) an alternative and inspiring service that your husband might be able to bear. They also have kid activities, so the kids don't have to sit through the whole service, which might really be too boring for them.

And, having lived in Israel myself, if your husband doesn't attend synaguogue nothing will get him to, it just isn't part of the culture.

Good luck!

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R.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Sophie,

You bring up an issue that raises difficulties for many families, regardless of where they live. In Israel, where the religious dynamics are, to say the least, a bit different than in the US, your type of situation can get even more complicated. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that secular Israelis don't much feel the need to practice Judaism, either in or out of the Beit Knesset!

You don't mention what type of congregation you're taking your children to, or where you live. Since there are very few Masorti congregations in Israel I assume you're attending an orthodox shul. Consider shopping around for one that is kid friendly and/or that offers alternative services that your husband might consider attending once in a while. There are no shortage of shuls in Israel, and nothing says that you have to attend the same one all the time. My hubby lived in Jerusalem for a year while attending rabbinical school and, while I only got to be with him for 3 weeks of that time (I couldn't afford to leave my job in the US for that year and uproot 2 teenagers), we attended several shuls and no two were alike (I came during the chagim, so there was plenty of opportunity for shul hopping!) For pomp, "high church" and amazing music, there's nothing like the Great Synagogue on King George. Diagonal to that on Agron, however, is the flagship Masorti syngogue, Moreshet Yisrael, next to the Fuchsberg Center. Adam Franke, who's the rabbi there, is a great guy and has a daughter who would be about 5 or 6 now, I believe. If you're in that area, you might want to give him a call and talk to him. (When we were there, though, the synagogue was attended mostly by American rabbis who had retired to Israel!) We also attended a wonderful modern orthodox synagogue (I can't remember exactly, but I think it was called Shirah Chadashah or Shir Chadash) that was about as close to egalitarian as you could get in Modern Orthodoxy, and which had a special children's program. Another alternative Minyan we attended -- Kedem -- had really lively services and great discussions. They're on Emek Refaim not far from Liberty Park (in that area of little up-scale shops and restaurants).

It would certainly be helpful if your husband would attend once in a while. It's always easiest if both parents present a united "front" to their children. The first step would be to find a congregation that he can build a relationship with, and that he will not find boring (3 hours of shabbat service can be tedious for adults, too!) Do you have relatives in the area? Do they attend services? Shul might be more a pleasant experience with Tsaba and Tsafta, and they can stand in as role models for your husband. Also, incorporating rituals into your home is important. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Start small -- maybe just light the candles on shabbat to start, than build over time to having a festive meal, add in Kiddush, bless your children, and eventually include the bentsching and z'mirot. Welcome in another family with kids your children's ages, and make sure to make it a warm and enjoyable time for all.

As for growing to like services, well, you can never tell. Everyone gets something different from them. My eldest was a very religious kid until his second year of High School, then totally rebelled. Before 10th grade, we never had to fight with him to go to services and he was very comfortable with his Judaism. Despite his rebellion, he was thrilled to spend a month in Israel on youth pilgrimage, but upon his return adamantly refused to go to services. Now at almost twenty, he still is not interested in attending services and no longer keeps kosher, yet he still davens sometimes in a little minyan of his friends and organizes ad hoc services for the chagim. He attended seder this year with the congregation he grew up in before we moved away and is considering tutoring B'nei Mitzvah students. I figure, at least he's at the table, even if he's not partaking of the full meal just yet.

We're having similar issues with our daughter, who is almost 16 (it can be part of being a teenager). It's a little more complicated with her, because now that my husband is a rabbi there is a bit of a natural expectation that our daughter has a good background and will attend services. I backed off on insisting that she go for quite some time after her Bat Mitzvah, but we now expect it (especially since she will be travelling to Israel this summer and will be expected to take on some leadership roles). As much as she complains that she "doesn't believe in organized religion", she participates in services, joins in with the discussion during Torah study, maintains kashrut, and is respectful of home observance.

Sorry for the ramble. I guess my message is this. It is up to you to give your children roots and wings. It will be up to them to figure out how to fly when they're ready to leave the nest. And by the way, I am not above a little bribery. I always made sure to bring some sweet treats to shul with us when the kids were little. There's an old tradition to this -- the words of the Torah should be as sweet on their lips and in their hearts as the candy they enjoy in the sanctuary!

Kol tuv,

R.

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S.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Sophie,
I had the same challenge with my husband (we've now been married 14 years). For most of it, we never attended service regularly. A friend invited us to Rock Harbor in Costa Mesa and my husband actually enjoyed the service for the 1st time. The pastor mentions football here and there, his topics are always very down to earth and related to the world we live in "today." The music is like a Christian rock concert. Anyway, that got us going regularly, almost every week. It became a bit of a drive for us however and one Sunday we were just too late to trek to C.M. for service so we went to Calvary Chapel here in our neighborhood, as it turned out the kids liked the Sunday school better. So, we've stuck there ever since for the sake of the children and the convenience. I do however believe that had we started at CC, my husband would have still been reluctant to a regular Sunday service schedule. But, because we got into the habit with his easiness with Rock Harbor, our transition to Calvary Chapel was simple for him to bear.

Good luck, I know it's very important for your family. Sometimes it helps to find the right fit/church as well.

S.

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M.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Sophie,
You just described my family & my childhood as well. We deal with the same thing over here. I always see all the families sitting together (we're Catholic) or even just the dad and the kids, and I feel sad we can't be like that! But the bottom line is, you can't force this kind of thing on your husband - maybe someday! However, I've found that if you want to be sure your kids develop spirituality, morality and the so-important relationship with God that will benefit them far more than anything else in life, then don't feel bad to make it a regular, standard thing. I try to tell the kids that the very least we can do for God is to spend that 1 hour (or whatever it is for you) a week just being there for Him. At 16 or 17 years old, then it needs to NOT be forced anymore - it needs to be the person's decision out of respect for THEM. That's where the older generation missed out - they didn't think that a young person needs to WANT to be there, and let them make that choice. Like everything else with teens, you just have to hope they'll eventually do the right thing. I hope this helps - just to know I'm in your boat as well. Oh, I always remember to thank my kids for going because I want them to know I care about the way they feel.
M.