These Are Not the Families We Imagined, But…  

When I married in 1974 and started to have our children (1,2,3,4) we went down a pretty conventional and predictable Jewish path … one pidyon ha-ben (the ceremony welcoming a first-born son) was followed by four bar and bat mitzvahs later.

And then in birth order, our children  began to marry but only one out of  the four chose a Jewish partner.  I had to help my kids find rabbis who would marry because the Conservative rabbi they knew and loved would not conduct their ceremonies.

Time and again, I found that if I wanted to stay in relationship with my children and the amazing family we were becoming.    I needed to make the adjustment -not accommodation— adjustment. I needed, for instance, to travel to Tanzania to be with the family who was going to be alone for Passover for 3 years in a row.

I had to scope out the hair-trigger issues—learn which questions set off land mines and which ones opened doorways of opportunity: “Not where are you going for the High Holidays, but do you have a new dessert recipe for Rosh Hashanah?”  And, I saw my friends doing many of the same things; struggling to navigate the landscape of this strange new world. These were  not the families we imagined when we first set out on our parenting journeys over 40 years ago.  We were on the front lines of dealing with these and other complex and sometimes painful issues, not bringing up the rear.  What amazed me through all of it was how little attention the Jewish community paid to us while it focused so much attention on young families.

David and I founded the Jewish Grandparents Network in August of 2017 – at the same time he became a grandparent. We believed that our mission was essential.  At first, no one listened.  But  all of that changed when close to 8,000 individuals participated in the first National Study of Jewish Grandparents.  We like to quote Karen Radkowsky, our lead researcher, who said “I’ve never seen a response like this.”

The Jewish Grandparents Network relies heavily on building relationships of all kinds.  We invite you to be our partner – we have much work to do.  When we neglect our grandparents, we neglect the unique gifts they bring to our families and our communities.

First we change attitudes.

Next we change behaviors.  That’s why the Jewish Grandparents Network  exists.

Lee M. Hendler is the Co-Founder and President of the Jewish Grandparents Network

  • Karen Lilienfeld
    Posted at 23:50h, 07 November

    Todah Rabah

  • Arlene Lebowitz
    Posted at 15:35h, 11 November

    How do you join Jewish Grandparent Nerwork?
    The words in article are very true.

    • Jewish Grandparents Network
      Posted at 15:21h, 17 November

      There is no membership to participate in the Jewish Grandparent Network -join our Facebook group, comment on articles and essays on the website, send us your own articles and contact us with thoughts and questions –!

  • Mark Rosenberg
    Posted at 15:24h, 30 November

    We have three non-Jewish spouses for our four kids but have 6 Jewish grandchildren. Keep your mind open

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 22:47h, 04 December

    Our children and their spouses also decided to raise 6 grandchildren ( to date) as Jews. For each couple, this means something different: from Camp Ramah and regular attendance at family services to solely at-home observance of Jewish life.. As their grandmother, it means that I support their choices and try to model my own Jewish choices with integrity and joy. We all continue to learn from one another. Definitely a work in progress!

  • Evie Rotstein
    Posted at 21:33h, 11 December

    Great work! Enjoyed your presentation at the URJ Biennial!
    Thank you.

  • Jane West Walsh
    Posted at 13:05h, 08 January

    Thank you for taking the lead on this important misunderstood area of contemporary Jewish life! I responded to the survey and now I see next steps. Yey!

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:02h, 23 June

    So pleased that you appreciate our website. Thank you for taking the time to send such encouraging thoughts!

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:03h, 23 June

    We are so pleased that you find our content useful. Please keep visiting and consider writing a popup story. We’d love to hear from you!

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:07h, 23 June

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write and let us know that we are hitting the mark for you. We try! We would be delighted to receive your donation, too.
    Please look for the oval donate button at the top of our home page on the far right. It’s in the same yellow as the yellow in our logo. Thank you for your support!

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:08h, 23 June

    Delighted you are finding our content helpful! Please visit our Facebook page too.

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:10h, 23 June

    Thank you! We love the designer who worked with us on our color palette and the gifted illustrator who has created all of our site and national study illustrations. We are fortunate to be working with such talented and wonderful people.

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:12h, 23 June

    Thank you for taking the time to send such welcome encouragement. We hope you will continue to visit!

  • Lee Hendler
    Posted at 03:13h, 23 June

    Hope you have had more success on return visits. we have not heard this from other visitors but please let us know if the problem persists.

  • sherri morr
    Posted at 03:10h, 11 October

    Lee-Mazels t0 you for this much-needed program. I cannot think of anyone better to galvanize such a movement! I love the whimsical palette-can you share the illustrator. My youngest son Noah Bernstein has one adorable 21-month-old daughter, and another baby on the way in March. I have been writing a collection of letters to my granddaughter. Do you know of anyone else working on such a project? Is it something the grandparent network might be interested in?

    I hope you and your family are well.

    Sherri Morr

    PS: I am a very involved volunteer with Rabbi Laura Geller here in LA at Chai Village LA where we have many grandparents! I am also active at IKAR where their model of welcoming all has resulted in a huge number of young diverse families; now the grandparents are regularly attending Shabbat as a means to spend Shabbat with their grandchildren. Ikar serves a lovely (free) lunch; the crowd has to be asked gently to go home already at 3PM or 4PM. Quite different than we were running off t0 soccer practice after Chizuk Amuno back in the day.

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