Parents can nurture young Jewish feminists at home

Raising girls to be Jewish feminists is probably easier than raising boys to be feminists. Yet the task for our generation of parents is made easier by the fact that our children will be part of the first American Jewish generation to have a critical mass of women rabbis, thinkers, writers and leaders to serve as role models. Indeed, it is somewhat of a novelty for our children to meet male rabbis.

I want our daughters to be raised as Jewish feminists not only because I want their religious self-esteem to be high, but also because Judaism itself needs this corrective after 4,000 years of development. By including the voices of the other half of the Jewish world, I suspect Judaism would become far more dynamic and relevant.

Here are some ideas to help you raise Jewish feminists.

If we teach our children that we are all made in God's image, we can't then tell them that God sits in a chair in Heaven, stroking his beard, and decides who shall live and who shall die. The first images we plant in those fertile, spiritual minds is likely to stick — and it should not be of a male God. The second commandment tells us not to erect idols. Creating God as a male God is a form of idolatry and can potentially disempower girls spiritually.

Have your children draw things in our world that show aspects and attributes of God. Encourage the to conceptualize situations in which God exists in our lives, such as when we help a friend or do a mitzvah. That way they see that God exists in everyone.

Jewish feminism is not only about religion but also sociology. How do you and your partner relate to each other in front of your children? The dynamics of your relationships will teach your children about the roles they can play as they grow up. In our home, I do the cooking and shopping, and Susan does the cleaning and laundry. We strive for our decision-making to be fair. And when it is time for Friday-night kiddush, the eyes of my children gravitate to my wife, who leads most of our rituals.

So many of the videos and books in our homes send messages that are unhelpful, whether it is "Cinderella" or even "The Cat in the Hat." Younger children might like to read "In God's Name" by Sandy Sasso. All older kids should receive at their bar or bat mitzvah a copy of Judith Plaskow's "Standing Again at Sinai." And teens and parents should check out a wonderful new anthology and study guide by Hadassah, titled, "Jewish Women: Living the Challenge."

Don't just dress up for Purim, which falls next year on March 12, but make sure the story is told, since it is one of the few Jewish holiday stories with a female lead. Passover has several feminist rituals, like a cup for the prophetess Miriam and the placement of an orange on the seder plate. With your daughters, start participating in monthly Rosh Chodesh (new moon) groups, which are filled with creative energy.

I know my daughters will not live their lives free of sexism in the general society or in the Jewish community. But by raising them to be proud female Jews, I hope they will have the confidence and tools to deal with the bigots they will encounter and the barriers they will inevitably face. And perhaps, in their journeys, they will have the chutzpah to smash a couple of idols along the way.