Where the Jewish heart is

Cindy May 2024 image

When I picture a "Jewish home," I think back to my childhood dining table on Friday nights. Over the glow of Shabbat candles, my parents would place their hands on top of my sister's and my head and bless us to become like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.

L'dor vador.  From generation to generation.

Now, decades later, at our own Shabbat table, my husband and I rest our hands on our daughters' heads and make that same blessing, along with an age-appropriate translation of the priestly benediction: "May you always be safe, shine light in the world, and feel truly at peace with yourself."

In Jewish homes around the world, parents and other loved ones fulfill that same ritual, each home putting their own unique stamp on it.

When I think of a "Jewish home," it is that Shabbat scene that comes to mind--and all the Jewish values the blessing encompasses: Gratitude, family, peace, hope, joy, spirituality, and  tikkun olam .

Rather than in the synagogue, that blessing is recited in the home--for our homes are our base for Jewish life. Ever since the destruction of the ancient temples, we Jews have been designating our homes a holy place--our small sanctuary. 

It's in the home where, from birth, we're forming the nucleus of who we are as Jews. It's in the home where we kiss the  mezuzah , light the Shabbat candles, fry up the latkes, break the Yom Kippur fast, and hide the  afikomen.  It's in the home where, as children, we're cultivating our Jewish values and identities. And it's in the home where we have a safe space to ask life's biggest questions through a Jewish lens. 

In our annual home and garden issue, we'll explore the nexus between our homes and our Jewish lives, from decluttering according to the Jewish calendar to creating your own Jewish garden.

Sadly, at a time of so much hate and heartbreak in the world--we also reflect on the tragic reality that our brothers and sisters in Israel are facing, many of whom are absent from their own homes because they were killed, captured, or displaced after October 7.

As sad as we are, I also see hope at this crossroads for the Jewish people. Rather than retreating from Jewish life and cowering in fear, our community grows more resolute, many of us affixing our  mezuzahs  to our doorposts more proudly than ever. I take comfort in knowing that, even now, the Jewish home is where we're grounding the youngest among us in Jewish values--like Torah, family, hope, compassion, and peace.

And I take comfort in knowing that our people will be blessing our children for infinite generations to come. 

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