Pack Some Yiddishkeit This Summer


    Despite the temptation to leave our Jewish commitments behind during the lazy days of summer, a local rabbi suggests bringing a little Yiddishkeit to the beach, the mountains, or even the backyard.

    By: Rabbi Yair Robinson

    By now, Shavuot and the Omer are past, summer has come; and we look forward to days of relaxation. We slough off our winter doldrums, take up our t-shirts and prepare our flight to shore and sun, to campsite and new green leafy place. Our thoughts turn toward vacation and away from the toil of school, of work, of day-to-day living.

    It is easy in this time of summer holiday to leave behind all our cares and focus entirely upon ourselves and our needs. However, it should not be a time to leave behind our Jewish identity, nor let our commitments dwindle. As much as we joke that "no one is Jewish over the summer," we should never leave our enthusiasm for Judaism with the parkas.

    This is not to say that summer must be a time of great seriousness — the days are too pretty to waste on great effort. However, there are ways to bring Yiddishkeit out of the school year and into the lazy days of summer; little things we can do to bring our Jewishness to the beach, the mountains, or the backyard:

    • Make Shabbat Outside: All you need are tea candles, a sunset, challah and a little bit of juice to say goodbye to the week that was and welcome the Sabbath bride, be it on the beach or in the woods.
    • Collect Tzedakah at the Shore: Have the kids save up all the change from every video game, ice cream or other treat over vacation. Put it away to donate and decide where it’s going as a family.
    • Read: The kids have their summer reading list, and you have your beach books. Add a Jewish book or two to the list, something you’ve always wanted to read about or study. Now’s your chance! Hurting for ideas? Check the Reform Movement’s list of significant Jewish books or the Jewish Exponent's book section.
    • Find the local synagogue: Whether you’re off to the Jersey Shore or Martha’s Vineyard, the mountains or staying home, there’s bound to be a synagogue nearby. Look up the Friday night service schedule. Find out if the synagogue offers tours, summer courses, Lunch & Learn programs, crafts, storytelling or other activities. If you’re away, seeing another synagogue can be a refreshing break from the mini-golf.
    • Get Crafty: Like to knit? Sew? Needlepoint? Quilt? Woodwork? Practice making a Jewish object like a kippah, a new talit, a challah cover or a pushke.

    The rains pass, but our attention to Jewish life need not pass with it. I hope you’ll pack your Yiddishkeit along with your bathing suit and sunscreen.

    Rabbi Yair D. Robinson is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, Del.