Thursday, October 6, 2016

Debbie Stern and Elana Shaw: Mother-Daughter Welcome Team!

Anndee Hochman, For The Inquirer

Elan Shaw, left, and Debbie Stern, right
When Debbie Stern and her husband were first married, Friday night meant a kosher dinner prepared in their fifth-floor walk-up on Manhattan's East 89th Street, a turn-of-the-century apartment with a bathtub in the middle of the kitchen.

Amid religious disaffection, mother and daughter make it life's work to keep the faith
By the time Stern's daughter, Elana, was a teen, the family had decamped for Valley Cottage, N.Y.; there, Shabbat evening meant a challah from Rockland Bakery, an argument about whose turn it was to light the candles, and a twinge of adolescent annoyance during the parents' customary blessing of the children.

"I remember my mother wanting to put her hands on my head, and I didn't want her to," Elana Shaw says.

But the rebellion was short-lived. Today, this mother and daughter are not only observant Jews, but professional Jewish educators whose choices run counter to a widespread trend of religious disaffection.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, one in five Jews describes him or herself as having no religion, and 62 percent say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture. Among Jewish respondents who have married since 2000, nearly six in 10 have non-Jewish spouses.