THE BOOK OF LIFE - Parenting on a Prayer
4:33PM Apr 29, 2020
Amy Grossblatt Pessah
Gail Carson Levine
[MUSIC, INTRO] This is The Book of Life, a show about Jewish kidlit, mostly. I'm Heidi Rabinowitz. Welcome to our special series, Books in the Time of Coronavirus. We'll hear from authors who had to cancel their spring 2020 promotional events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this final entry in the series, we hear from Amy Grossblatt Pessah, author of Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children.
Next time, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming with longer in-depth interviews about Jewish kidlit. Listen for the dedication at the end of today's episode for a greeting from our next guest, Gail Carson Levine. I also want to let you know about my article in the March and April issue of The Horn Book magazine, co-written with past Book of Life, guest Sadaf Siddique. Sadaf appeared on the podcast in August 2019 to talk about Muslim kidlit, and our interview was the inspiration for this new article, called "We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim books." Find out more at BookofLifepodcast.com.
Hi, this is Amy Grossblatt Pessah and I am from South Florida. I'm excited to be here to talk about my recently published book called Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children. It was published by Ben Yehuda Press this past March and I was going to have an in-person book launch at Congregation Shaarei Kodesh. Obviously that was cancelled. So I did a virtual book launch which certainly wasn't the same.
One of the things that I was planning to talk about in my book launch is how the idea of my book germinated in the actual sanctuary synagogue space of Shaarei Kodesh. The book evolved over a period of about a decade or so. I kept a journal for each one of my three children, and in that journal, I wrote down funny stories, anecdotes, anything that I wanted to remember that I thought I would, but actually knew that I wouldn't. And so this journal turned out to be almost like a treasure trove of anecdotes and stories that when my children became parents, my intention was to give it to them. Well, at the same time, while I was raising my kids ... for anyone who's done this before, you know, it's not a simple path and there are lots of twists and turns. And I was always looking for more information and more ways to get guidance. So after reading lots of parenting books, there were still many difficult decisions that I had to make. And I would look for inspiration and guidance wherever I was. Well, one Saturday morning, I happened to be in services and my children were actually in babysitting for that morning, so I had more than three minutes to myself. And as I sat and did some praying, I noticed the words in the prayer book started jumping out to me, almost whispering words of parenting advice. And they were things like the Shema prayer. Listen; oh, okay, I need to be a better listener. And the word v'ahavta, "you shall love." So how was I loving my children and in what ways and how did I teach my children to love themselves? Over the course of about 10 years, I scoured the prayer book and I mixed the prayers with the stories I had written in the journals for my children. It became somewhat of a parenting map or a guide. Now, I don't profess to be an expert and I don't profess that there's just one way to parent a child. Anyone who's a parent of multiple children, even in the same family knows that each kid is different. And so through my book, what I do is I select 18 prayers, and I associate a value that I believe is important in raising children. Some of those values include love, the importance of our words, blessings, family, learning, God, the big picture, empowerment, and confidence. Each one of these 18 chapters talks about a value that I found embedded in the Jewish prayer book. What makes this book unique is that, at least to my knowledge, I haven't found any one else who has used the prayer book as a way to guide us to become better parents. But what also came out of this book is the prayer book and these stories and the tapestry that is created by the interweaving of these two, the self reflective piece, how we are as parents, and how are we as people because I believe that it's less important, what we say as parents, as opposed to what we do. Our kids see everything. And so part of the opportunity of becoming a parent is not only to learn from our kids and to teach our kids, but also to work on ourselves so that we can be the best version of ourselves, showing up for ourselves, for our kids and for our families. At the end of each chapter, I include activities that help to promote the specific value that's being discussed, in addition to discussion questions for parents to consider, think about, talk about. The combination of the activities and the questions helps to deepen the implementation of this value. And one thing that I would like to stress is it's really about finding the parenting path that works for you. I discuss a lot in the book about listening to your own intuition and listening to your own inner GPS, your inner Great Parenting System. Of course, it's helpful to get input from other people from other resources, other books, but ultimately, it is each one of us who knows what is best for us.
I like to think of my book, hopefully as a key or a guide map that will ultimately empower each individual parent to take the knowledge that is within our Jewish tradition and weave it together with their own inner knowing. If you're interested in learning more about my book, you can visit my website www.parentingonaprayer.com. My book is available through independent bookstores, which I am happy to support. You can check out Indiebound.org or Bookshop.org. And it is also available on the larger sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon. In addition, it is an E book. So if you prefer to read digitally, you are able to do that as well.
In thinking about ways to perform tikkun olam, one of my favorite pastimes is to plant trees. Right now, we are in the middle of this pandemic. And part of the disease really affects the lungs and the breathing of each individual who was stricken with this horrible virus. When I think of the lungs and the body, they remind me so much of the trees which serve as the lungs for our planet. And so as a way to connect to those who are suffering, I would encourage all of us to plant more trees. These trees, I hope, not only will serve as a connection to those who are suffering from this disease, but also as a way to support the greening of our planet. Climate change is happening. Oftentimes, people use the term climate crisis. And one of the ways that I believe we can help to stem all of these carbon emissions is through the planting of millions and millions and millions of trees. So wherever you are, whatever part of the country in whatever part of the world, I would invite you to join me as we plant trees to help the lungs of our planet. I'd like to offer a very big thank you to Heidi for having me on this podcast. I'm grateful to her vision and her generosity to specifically interview authors who were hoping to launch their book during this time, so many, many thanks again to The Book of Life Podcast and for this opportunity to share a bit about my book. I hope everyone will stay safe and healthy.
[MUSIC, DEDICATION] Hi, this is Gail Carson Levine, author of A Ceiling Made of Eggshells. I'll be joining you soon on the Book of Life Podcast. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella offered Spain's Jews a choice: convert or leave. My episode is dedicated to the Jews who left, though they faced a hostile Europe and a Mediterranean Sea plagued by pirates.
[MUSIC, OUTRO] Don't be a stranger! Say hi to Heidi at 561-206-2473 or BookofLifepodcast@gmail.com. Check out our Book of Life Podcast Facebook page or our Facebook discussion group in Jewish Kidlit Mavens. We are occasionally on Twitter too @BookofLifepod. Want to read the books featured on the show? Buy them through Bookshop.org/shop/bookoflife to support the podcast and independent bookstores at the same time. You can also help us out by becoming a monthly supporter through Patreon, or making a one time donation to our home library, the Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida. You'll find links for all of that and more at Bookof Lifepodcast.com. Our background music is provided by the Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band. Thanks for listening and happy reading!