According to the March 2009 report, How Spiritual Are America’s Jew?, spirituality is one of the gateways into meaningful Jewish life, a gateway that the Jewish community has neglected. The authors of the report, Steven Cohen and Lawrence Hoffman, find that Jews lack the language to talk about God. Without language to describe spiritual experiences, those experiences are fleeting.
Since I started writing for children about God, I did so because in most Jewish materials I found, God was missing, at least the kind of God I could believe in. All children come to us with an innate spirituality. What they don’t have is the language to express it. We need to give them the language to talk about God, the tools to reflect and explore their spiritual experiences. Spiritual experience is a given. Spiritual awareness must be learned or it will be remain dormant for a lifetime.
Most of the stories about faith and God I found (and there weren’t many Jewish ones) stifled the imagination and didn’t relate to the world of childhood. I wrote God’s Paintbrush and In God’s Name to encourage children to have a conversation about God, to imagine God in the landscape of their lives – learning to ride a bike, getting lost, feeling lonely. I wanted children to be able to do more than parrot back names for God from the prayer book, but to name God out of their own experiences – to call God – Father, Mother, Friend.
Jewish education is more than the transmission of information, knowledge about ritual, customs and history; it is also about teaching our children to be gracious and grateful, to have courage during difficult times, to have a sense of wonder and appreciation, of joy and purpose. That is what it means to nurture their spiritual lives.
Some Children’s Books by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Jewish Lights Publishing
In God’s Name
But God Remembered
Noah’s Wife, The Story of Naamah
God in Between
Cain and Abel- Finding the fruits of Peace
Adam and Eve’s First Sunset
Butterflies Under Our Hats
Siddur Kol HaNoar – The Voice of Children – A Siddur for Shabbat (a children’s prayer book) Co-edited with Jeffrey Schein