Yoel’s 1st Day at Cheider

Yoel’s 1st Day at Cheider

It’s been 13 years already, and I know I should have gotten over it by now. But I haven’t.

I can’t get over the utterly bizarrely wonderful fact that I am the mother of Orthodox children.

My kids are growing up keeping Shabbat, learning Torah, loving the mitzvot…Who would have ever dreamed that little Jenny Freedman of Friends School would grow up to have kids like these?

And I feel this utterly bizarre wonderment most sharply at school events. At the Chanukah parties, the siddur parties, the End-of-Year concerts.

At those events I watch my child stand or sit or dance amongst an excited and white-shirted crowd of their religious classmates, and I remember myself at that age living such a totally different life.

And I feel so phenomenally blessed to be living this life and to be reaping one of the greatest rewards of this life: Religious kids.

Yesterday was a day like that. It was the beginning-of-year party for Yoel’s cheider.

Yoel’s my only son, so he is my first cheider boy. And sitting with the other moms yesterday, taking in all the peyos and the kippot and the shining little-boy eyes as they watched the jolly white-haired, long-coated rebbe sing his old song with a Yiddish lilt:

We all want to go to cheider to learn Torah!
We all want to go to cheider to learn Torah!

…I felt such profound gratitude. And disbelief. That that little cheider boy with the peyos and the kippah and the glowing eyes is my own flesh and blood.

How did this happen exactly?

Maybe it’s the flowing stream of tears I’ve shed over the years over this song, and my yearning for that destroyed world and those days long ago, as well as for a son of my own who one day would also have a rebbe who would teach him “Dem Aleph Beis”?
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Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Center for Jewish History NYC


  1. Did you grow up near Philadelphia that you went to a Friends School? I almost went there, but opted for a school farther away.

    • no, I actually went to baltimore friends school:)

    • i grew up near philly, in lower merion. several of my friends attended the Friends Schools. but i’m probably a generation older than you….
      in any case, i completely identify with chana jenny’s feelings of disbelief and thankfulness.
      when i look at my 10 kids, totally immersed in their yiddishkeit instead of dabbling on the edges of it, i have to say, “Hodu lashem ki tov. ki l’olam chasdo!!!”

  2. This is so sweet! I also have that moment, when my toddler says amen to one of my brachos, or says Shema, or wants kiddush and challah. I think about how all of his early memories are surrounded by mitzvos and chagim. I love it. I’m so grateful. Thank you for reminding me how wonderful it is!

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