A Jewish Mom in Oakville

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About the Author

Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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Moving to Oakville as a young married Jewish woman was both exciting and intimidating to me. I had grown up in Toronto, and although I did not live in a largely Jewish neighbourhood, I lived a very Jewish life. I was not particularly “religious” – I did not “keep kosher”. I did not frequently attend religious services or observe Shabbat in a traditional manner, but I was very involved in Judaism. I went to Hebrew school three times a week, belonged to two Jewish youth groups, went to a Jewish summer camp and longed for the day that I could go to visit Israel.

Right after high school, I made the trip to Israel with my youth group and what was supposed to be 6 months ended up close to 6 years. I made a home for myself on a kibbutz in Israel and made many wonderful connections. I lived and worked on the kibbutz, teaching ESL to children on my kibbutz and a couple of neighbouring kibbutzim. At some point, I realized that I wanted to return to Canada, so back home I came.

A few years later I got married and we purchased a house in Oakville where my husband was working for Alterra Developments. I knew that there was a synagogue in Oakville and that there would be a Jewish community for me to be involved with and that my (future) children would receive a Jewish education and have Jewish friends where we live.

My Jewish identity was, and still is, very strong, and I wanted that for my children. It is not so difficult to achieve that when involved in the Jewish community, but I truly believe that much of it came with from being going to a Jewish summer camp.

All 3 of my kids have strong Jewish identities, though in very different ways. All 3 have been to Israel – 2 of them for a short trip, and 1 for 4 months. None are “religious” – they are not kosher, do not frequently attend services, and do not observe many of the traditions in their daily lives, but there is no doubt in my mind that they identify strongly with Judaism and have a deep tie to Israel. That’s the thing about Judaism – there are many ways in which one can feel Jewish, “be” Jewish and “live” Jewishly. One can choose their own path – the path that speaks to them – and still be Jewish.

By Susan Polgar

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