Erzika’s Impossible Dream

Erzika’s Impossible Dream

Most Jews in Prague are completely assimilated.

It’s so rare, in fact, to meet a member of the Jewish community with 2 Jewish parents that until a few years ago, the application to join the Jewish community offered only 2 possible choices under “Jewish background” –“Jewish mother” OR “Jewish father.” 2 Jewish parents wasn’t even an option.

So when Erzika* came up to speak with me after my class this past Shabbat, I wasn’t surprised when she told me that only her mother was Jewish, and she herself had been married to a non-Jewish man before he passed away around a decade ago.

Erzika told me that she began exploring her own Jewish background following her husband’s death, when she joined the Jewish community, began attending services and classes there, and started observing some mitzvot.

Here is the sad story Erzika shared with me:

“You spoke in your class about living our Yeud, our life’s purpose. And in a way, I have that; I’m passionate about my work teaching law. I started out teaching at Harvard and for many years now I’ve been working full-time at the university here. I travel around the US, Europe, and Israel lecturing at top law schools. I love it!

“But I have a big problem, and I want to ask your advice…

“I grew up with no Jewish identity, and I raised my only child, a son, the same way. We had a Christmas tree when he was a child, and he didn’t even know he was Jewish until he was 10!

“But my problem is this…I have become very Jewish over the last years, but my son is now 21, and he has no interest in Judaism!

“I’ve tried everything I can think of to make him more interested in living as a Jew and marrying a Jewish woman. But he’s a handsome young man, and all the pretty Czech women throw themselves at him!

“My son has no interest in coming with me to shul or to community events. I’ve taken him on several trips to Israel, and to larger Jewish communities in the US when I lecture there so he can see what it means to live as a Jew. But I’ve made no headway whatsoever.

“I love my work, but right now the thing that is most important to me in the whole world is to have Jewish grandchildren!

“Chana Jenny,” she asked me with a desperate twinge to her voice, “what can I do to make my son want to be Jewish ?”

I told Erzika what I told Erzika, but now I want to tell you, dear JewishMOM (and remind myself), something else…

Next time we look back on our days/years/lives, and think “I have a very busy life taking care of my kids and my home and getting ready for Shabbat every week and, when I can manage, listening to a class and davening and doing some Chesed here and there… but what have I TRULY ACCOMPLISHED with all my hard work?”…

Next time you (and I) think this, remember Erzika’s urgent plea; and remember that our humdrum reality is Erzika’s (as well as, tragically, millions of other Jewish mothers’) impossible dream.


  1. Amazing post and reminder! In our kiruv work, we also unfortunately encounter the same sad reality of totally disconnected Jews. I’d like to add on to your request — that when we think this — we should PRAY for all the assimilated Jewish souls out there — pray that they have the desire and ability to reconnect with their Jewish roots and raise beautiful Jewish children just like us!
    Thanks so much!

  2. Many of us are impossible dreams that became reality. Hashem can do anything, so yes, Rachel, our prayers and efforts really can help bring back many more too.

  3. It would help me, Chana Jenny, if you can post what you told Erzika.
    Thank you (I really like your blog).

    • I told her to spend 5 minutes a day thinking of what she can do to help the situation. And to pray–not to underestimate what Hashem can do when we pray and also put in our little effort. Creating the vessel for His wonders to pour in. I’ve seen this work in my life countless times.

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