Hineni Fatherhood is a blog on Jewish fatherhood in the 21st century.
Why a Jewish Fatherhood blog?
My wife and I
are expecting gave birth (!) to our first child (“Red Panda Cub” – a girl, that’s no secret) in August. There are lots of excellent Jewish motherhood blogs out there. Jewish fatherhood blogs? Amazingly enough, there are, um, two? Maybe? As of some Googling, that includes one independent blog (last updated in 2010) and a more up to date blog hosted on ShalomLearning.com. There’s a few more if you count articles tagged “fatherhood” or “dads” on sites like Kveller and Chabad.com.
Jewish motherhood-related blogs, on the other hand? I’m easily counting three or four full pages of Google results before they start to mix into various other search results.
Suffice to say – there’s not a lot out there. And I happen to think it’s just as important to create forums for discussing and sharing our experience as dads as it is for moms. So, I’ve created this blog to do just that – share my experience as I prepare to become (and experience being) a dad for the first time, and explore about what it means to raise Jewish children in the 21st century.
The Torah – Jewish tradition’s source code narrative – is full of Jewish fathers. They are generally … not so great.
Abraham – the first “Jewish dad” – literally almost kills his own son (Isaac). That was after sending his firstborn (Ishmael) to basically die in the wilderness with his mother, Hagar. Great role model.
What stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac on the top of Mount Moriah? Hineni. Here I am. Abraham’s reply as G-d calls out his name, after which G-d says to Abe “Dude – don’t kill your son. Are you crazy? Kill that lamb over there with the angel instead.”
As far as lessons go, “don’t kill your children” is a good one to start with.
Lesson number two? Be present. Hineni.
Life moves quickly. Don’t miss what’s right there in front of you and enjoy the little and big moments when you can.
About the Author
I’m Yoshi Silverstein. I’m an Ashkenazi-American Jew with Chinese-Caribbean heritage from the Pacific NorthWest (Inland NW, really). I’m a Jewish educator / JOFEE professional, landscape designer, coach, and writer. I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn with my wife, our pup, and our first-born child (“Red Panda Cub” – born August 2017).
That’s a lot of things. Let’s break it down:
- Ashkenazi-American Jew: my dad’s side of the family were Ashkenazi Jews from Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. They immigrated around the turn of the 20th century. My dad was born in Newton, MA and moved to Southern California when he was eight, where he spent the rest of his youth.
- Chinese-Caribbean Heritage: my mom’s side of the family is Chinese. Her biological father was from mainland China and stationed in British Guyana (now Guyana) with the diplomatic corps where he met my grandmother, Ivy – also Chinese – who grew up in Guyana. They moved to the US when he was transferred to San Antonio, and had my mom and her two younger siblings. They later divorced. My mom was fourteen when my grandma married my Grandpa Jimmie – the grandfather I grew up with. He moved to the US (Texas) from Canton Province, China with his father when he was 13 and fought in WWII – including fighting at Normandy on D-Day.
- From the Pacific / Inland NW: I grew up in Spokane, WA – twenty minutes from the WA/ID border. Part of the greater Pacific NW, yes, but also culturally distinct from our friends West of the Cascade Mountains in Seattle, Portland, etc. My parents met in medical school and chose Spokane because they wanted a small city with close access to skiing, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. When I was growing up, we had one synagogue – affiliated with the Conservative movement, formed in a merger with the other Spokane synagogue (Reform) in the 1960s. In the years after I left for school, a Reform congregation split back off, but has since partially re-merged to share resources such as our Hebrew school infrastructure and educators.
- Jewish educator / JOFEE professional: I was highly involved in Jewish youth group and summer camp in high school and college. For the last twelve or so years, I’ve dedicated myself towards a career in JOFEE – Jewish Outdoor, Food / Farming & Environmental Education. In my day job, I work for Hazon as Director of the JOFEE Fellowship. You can read more about that here.
- Landscape designer: in between JOFEE jobs, I got my masters degree in landscape architecture at the University of Maryland. My thesis focused on designing for new modalities of outdoor experiential Jewish learning. While in school I founded Mitsui Design, which strengthens connections to Judaism and nature through design and community engagement. You can read more about that here.
- Coach: My top five StrengthsFinder traits are Strategic Thinking, Ideation, Futuristic, Relationship Builder, and Individualization. This lends itself well towards coaching – JOFEE Fellows in my day job, and I also coach CrossFit classes a couple mornings a week at our local gym, Bushwick Crossfit.
- Writer: I’ve enjoyed writing since my dad forced me to re-do my 7th grade book report on Chaim Potek’s The Chosen and discovered that I actually had a knack for it when pushed. I’ve continued to write in various media over the years, and sometimes have even gotten paid for it – particularly here.
- Bushwick: we’ve lived here since moving up to NYC from DC in 2014. It’s a funny neighborhood, lots of vibrant families and artists and characters, and we sort of ended up here without having any idea what we were doing, but we’ve gotten used to it here and enjoy all its charms. And we’ve developed some really great friendships. Can’t say that we plan to stay in NYC forever though, especially with our little one on the way and daycare / preschool costs looming in the coming years …
Ok that’s plenty about me! If you’ve read this far you’re clearly interested … so go read some blog posts!