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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hebrew School car pool a rite of passage, too


By Lorraine Gershun

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lorraine Gershun's older daughter has attended extra study sessions with a rabbi for months.

Photo by Lorraine Gershun

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When my mother-in-law entertains the kids with stories about my husband's youth, a recurring subject is their Hebrew School car pool.

Her mention of "Hebrew School car pool" draws our immediate attention. We possess intimate knowledge of this cultural phenomenon familiar to many Jews who have studied for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

We are presently in the thick of it with our older daughter, just months away from the big date.

Imagine a vehicle filled with tweenage children who have been snatched from the schoolyard immediately after a full day of classes. They eat a snack in transit, barely have a moment to unwind and have homework to do upon return.

They are whisked onto H-1, pushed through traffic to the "shul" (ours is on the Pali) and learn how to pray in a completely foreign language. Oy vey!

The final reward in their eyes? Standing in front of 200 of their parents' cousins, college friends, colleagues and a few of their own friends to lead the congregation in prayers that they have been rehearsing with the rabbi in a weekly study session for the past six months.

With instant gratification almost a term of the past, these constant gratification kids have a harder time than ever seeing the ultimate payoff: a spiritual connection with their religion, Judaism, that transcends any fleeting pleasure elicited from those electronic items that are permanently glued to their ears and eyes.

While an incredibly deep satisfaction might lie ahead when they embrace Jewish lives of their own, they are not convinced.

I'm not complaining. If I didn't believe, we wouldn't participate. I am definitely not complaining about the carpool. It is a Godsend, saving time and gas and my sanity.

I am simply highlighting similarities in something that both my husband and I experienced as kids growing up on the Mainland and are now operating as parents in Hawai'i. It is as much a rite of passage as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah itself for both driver and passenger.

Ultimately, it feels good to be facilitating this Bat Mitzvah process for my daughter.

It's why our parents did it for us. They knew that someday we would get ours in return; we are now the drivers. From generation to generation. ...

It might be a bit uncomfortable, but she is learning how to embrace her commitments to being Jewish and is empowered by me keeping my commitment to her, even if it ends up driving us crazy.