This Jewish School Tradition Needs to Change

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t see the problem with the Imma (mother) and Abba (father) of the classroom Shabbat ritual until a friend pointed it out.

The opposite, honestly: when my three kids came home from school on Fridays, I eagerly asked who in their classes was given that honor. I love it too. Or I did, until I realized that not every kid has an Imma and an Abba. And that  not every kid will be an Imma or an Abba, or be an Imma in partnership with an Abba.

The problem is twofold: the modeling of an “ideal” two-parent family along strict gender and heteronormative lines, and the concept that ritual observance must be structured around the nuclear family. Language needs to change, and the roles need to change, because our community has already changed. We need to signal inclusivity and acceptance. Kids of all circumstances should see their families reflected in the way that we model our sacred moments.