Jewish Child Indoctrination

Jewish Child Indoctrination

Question: Some people say children should be left to make up their own minds about religion. Do you agree?

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Who can disagree with that! No one has a right to ram religion down the throats of anyone. Nor would the religious affirmation of one who is forced into it be authentic and meaningful. It would be not much more than Robotics 101. Ultimately, it is the child’s choice, the child’s responsibility.

However, I suspect that this is not really your question concerning Jewish child indoctrination. From the words “should be left to make up their own minds” you may be insinuating (I am not sure) that parents should not enter into this arena at all, and just leave it to the children to find their way.

If that is what is behind what “some people say,” that is a proposition fraught with difficulty. Does it mean that parents, in order to assure the free choice of their children, must avoid religion altogether? That would be preposterous, and irresponsible.

The fact that children are raised in the religion of their parents is as natural as that they are raised with the values of their parents. Asking parents to remove their religion from the home is effectively demanding that parents refrain from introducing values such as charity, compassion, empathy, from the home.

But, you say, those values are OK, it is just religion that is a problem. Sorry, but that will not pass muster. Religion is intrinsically about eternal values. Removing those values from the religion is akin to making bread without wheat.

Parents who embrace these values and live by them are bestowing great blessing on their children by raising them in such a caring environment. Surely, the children are free to reject these values at any time. But not introducing them to these values in a vibrant manner is delinquent parenting.

The challenge of parenting is to transmit values in a way that is so inspiring that the children will want to emulate their parents. Parents who resort to coercion of any sort are likely to fail in whatever forced behaviour they try to impose on their children. Parents who lead by noble example will more likely have children who embrace that example, happily and eagerly. And of their own choosing.

Religious Opinion

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