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Jewish but Not Religious, and Chores

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My family is Jewish but not religious. Most of us are atheist or agnostic. We still celebrate all of the holidays because we consider ourselves culturally Jewish. We used to live in a Jewish area, so the schools were closed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Now we live in an area with very few Jews, so the kids have school on those days. My oldest is in high school and doesn't want to miss classes. But I feel that it sends a message to others that Judaism doesn't matter when not even the Jews observe the holiday. I want to forbid her from attending school. Is that unfair? -- Jewish

Dear Jewish: From what you've said, it sounds like your primary concern is that others will misunderstand Judaism if your daughter attends school. You may be right, but your first obligation is to your daughter. Why doesn't she want to miss school? I'm guessing because high school is stressful. It moves quickly, and missing even one day can cause a bit of a breakdown.

If you were a religious family, it would make sense that your daughter stay home to observe the holiday, whatever that may entail for you. But since your family is not even sure of the existence of a god, I think you can try to be a little flexible here. Forbidding her doesn't seem to be the best option. Have a conversation (one that works both ways) about your feelings and hers. Help her understand why this is important to you. Listen to her concerns, and see whether there is any middle ground.

There are many other ways to help your community understand the Jewish culture. Have a giant Hanukkah party, or invite the whole neighborhood over for a Seder at Passover. Organize an interfaith holiday service or a nondenominational prayer for peace. When it becomes meaningful for your daughter, she will join in. But don't force it.

Dear Family Coach: My wife and I think our 8-year-old and 10-year-old should have some chores. But we are so busy that I worry we would start them with chores and the chores would then fade out. I don't know if we would enforce them. How important is it for kids to have chores? -- Busy Parents

Dear Parents: I think the irony of being too busy to enforce chores is lost on you. Maybe you would be less busy if your kids were to do more around the house. And if you were less busy, maybe you would have more time to actually sit down and enjoy your kids.

It is important for kids to have chores. There is no free ride in life. It takes care and work to live productively. Sure, your kids will learn to do their laundry and somehow find something to eat in college. But why wait for them to flounder on their own? Teach them now how to do simple tasks around the house. Kids also feel accomplished when they complete their responsibilities and are recognized for their efforts.

I do understand that parenting is a whirlwind of activity these days. Finding time to assign chores may seem daunting. Start simply. Give each kid one assignment to complete every day. Doing it every day will make it easier to track. Decide on a consequence if the chore isn't completed. Some good options to begin with are feeding the dog, cleaning the litter box, emptying the dishwasher, putting in the laundry, sweeping up after meals or unpacking lunchboxes.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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