I’m an RK. That’s right. My dad is a rabbi which makes me a “Rabbi’s Kid,” or an RK, as we like to call ourselves. I didn’t always like having this as part of my identity (but I’ve since changed my mind). The response I’ve always received when people learn this about me is fascinating. When it first comes up, people look at you a little differently.
“So, are you really religious?”
“Do you know the Torah by heart?”
“I didn’t realize rabbis could have kids…” (that was always my favorite).
There is some sort of awe-inspiring respect that most people have for rabbis that I just don’t get. It’s just like your dad being a lawyer, or a doctor, or a plumber. All dads have jobs, but when they come home, they’re just dad.
My dad is an awesome rabbi. He’s been at the same small congregation in Muskegon, MI for 34 years. He’ll deny that he’s anything special, but ask anyone in the Muskegon community, Jewish or not, and not only do they know him, but their eyes light up and have something kind and wonderful to say about him. Yup, that’s my dad.
Sounds wonderful now, but if only people knew what it was really like growing up as the rabbi’s kid in a small congregation of about 50 families. Shabbat, which I now consider a relaxing, joyous, and prized weekly occurrence, was dreaded.
From the outside, it probably looked like a nice family dinner followed by services, the Alpert family sitting in the front row while my dad stood before the congregation. On the inside, it was a stressful, scarfed-down meal followed by a frantic rush to get to the synagogue to set up (no custodian or office staff—Rabbi Dad had to be the first there to unlock the doors).
Once there, we would usually draw a crowd of 8-12 and my siblings and I were the only youngins under the age of 30. We’d have to sit through a service we never understood, the same one every week, and then socialize with the grown-ups after. All this on Friday nights, while our peers were off at the movies, at football games or hanging out with friends.
We would do what we could to get out of it (sorry Mom and Dad, we really weren’t sick that many Friday nights), but our guilty consciences always brought us back week after week.
What eight-year-old Aleza didn’t understand then was that those Friday nights made us a community, and that is what Shabbat is all about. It wasn’t until I left home that I really began to appreciate Shabbat. I began to see it as a break from the rest of the week. It’s what I like to consider my weekly spiritual deep breath; it doesn’t matter how I celebrate, as long as I take time to relax.
While I felt tortured when I was younger, I now see the strength and love that comes from my Jewish family in Muskegon. We may be small, but we are mighty. These people have watched me grow, and I feel like they consider me one of their own daughters.
While-eight-year old Aleza wanted to be a “normal” kid, I wouldn’t trade anything for the sense of community I have from my hometown. Now, I am proud to be a Rabbi’s Kid and there is no other place I’d want to be for any Jewish holiday than Muskegon, MI sitting in the front row watching my dad lead a congregation of people who love him and his family.