The adoption process was almost at its end. We were working with a birth mother in Arizona and we had a date set for her caesarean section. As a Jewish man, I knew I wanted my child to be Jewish so I started the research and found someone to do the ritual circumcision that is performed typically when a boy is eight days old. In Jewish he is called a Moyel. He happened to also be a pediatrician. I was not taking any chances!
My husband is Catholic so we also then had a Christening when Paul was about three months old. I was in a mixed religion marriage and instinctively knew that it was too early to start fighting over how the child would be raised.
My brother had converted his son years before so I knew we needed to have Paul dipped in the ritual Mikvah (Jewish holy pool of water) and blessed so the conversion would be done. A local Rabbi performed this service and was told by my dad that he would never see us again. He was probably correct as that was not the Synagogue we had planned on joining.
And yet, life led us back to Brotherhood Synagogue. I wasn’t taking any chances, so I enrolled Paul in Hebrew School while he was in Kindergarten: his other dad expressed interest in raising him in his religion and I agreed, as long as he took care of that. It didn’t happen
Paul spent eight years at that Hebrew School. Throughout those years he made new friends, and also bonded with his public school friends, several of whom were also at that same Synagogue. In fact, that years graduating Hebrew School class had 10 out of 30 students that are in middle school with our son. That is a sign that we picked the right Synagogue, and that he has the right community.
Things got rough three years ago. Paul was not behaving. I was afraid he was going to be kicked out of Hebrew school, so I pleaded his case and the Hebrew School Principal responded by giving him more specialized and semi-private lessons. Paul blossomed in a way that brings tears to my eyes. He started to learn and grow at a fantastic rate. We had started to attend the Saturday Junior Congregation (all students get a threatening letter that they have to attend seven a year at the minimum). We fell in love with the Jr. Cong leader and spent the next three years of Saturdays there. Even when Paul did not want to go Peter and I forced him (OK bribed with xbox time) because we both loved it!
In 6th grade Paul earned the annual Jr. Cong award. What a turn around from just two years earlier. Which leads me to something that I tell my son over and over again. If your house of worship, Synagogue, Church, Mosque, etc., is not the best, then you are going to the wrong one. Ours is the best.
And then last year we celebrated the most perfect Bar Mitzvah.
Many children never see the inside of their Temple again, after their Bar Mitzvah, perhaps until they have kids. I am thankful because while we no longer attend regular services, Paul joined, of his own volition, a Jewish youth group that has chapters all over the city. He also goes to a Jewish summer camp and hopes to join them on an Israel trip in a few years. I am grateful for any connection that is maintained, it is important for our children to have a connection to their religion.