Mother-daughter slumber party promises fun, food, friendships

The traditional American slumber party is an impenetrable down-and-nylon fortress where PJ-clad girls get together, giggle, talk about boys, giggle, eat junk food, giggle and generally do anything but sleep.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, Jewish Women International, formerly B'nai B'rith Women, will add a new twist to the age-old custom by hosting a slumber party that girls and their moms can attend together.

Millbrae's Clarion Hotel San Francisco Airport is the site of New Beginnings, an opportunity for Peninsula Jewish mothers and their seventh- or eighth-grade daughters to explore their relationships.

"The main goal is to try to improve communication at this very critical age, in a non-confrontational way," says Jewish Women International regional director Celia Harms. It is "primary to be able to do this in a Jewish context."

The event's organizers want young girls to maintain good feelings about Judaism as they emerge into womanhood, Harms says.

"If we can help create a very positive atmosphere and something that's a positive influence and fun for them, they'll want to have a Jewish home as they grow up."

The two dozen mother-daughter pairs slated to attend the slumber party are a diverse group, coming from Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated backgrounds.

The slumber party program features a communication workshop led by Sheila Dubin and Marlene Didech of Stanford's Children's Health Council. Jewish educator Patti Moskowitz will lead a session titled "Creating Jewish Memories."

Moskowitz plans to explore the idea that being Jewish is actually about memory — about remembering history, holidays, customs and rituals.

Women, Moskowitz believes, are responsible for perpetuating Jewish memories.

"Mothers in Judaism have a very potent role because they are the keepers of the home," Moskowitz notes.

"We as mothers are responsible for passing down traditions and customs to the next generation. There's something very wonderful about empowering someone to do that on [her] own."

The slumber party, with plenty of games on the agenda and even junk food to share, will also be a chance for girls to meet others their age. And while two mother-daughter pairs will share a hotel room, girls have the additional option of carrying their sleeping bags into the hospitality suite, should they decide to party all night.

Sigal Kletter is hoping her daughter Shanie will do just that.

"There is nothing really here for young girls, as far as Jewish things go," Kletter says of San Mateo, where she lives. "We don't belong to any of the synagogues so we're out of the circle." The slumber party, she notes, "is a nice way" to bring young girls together.

Twelve-year-old Shanie agrees. She looks forward to spending time with Jewish peers.

"It seems like we have more in common because we can talk about our religion and traditions," Shanie explains.

But that is not the main reason she is so happy to be attending the party. First and foremost she hopes to spend some quality time with her busy mom.

"It gives us a chance to get to know each other better and to spend time together," she says. "We usually go shopping together and other things, but we really don't talk that much while we're doing it. So we really don't know each other that well."