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Jewish immigrants and their children are divided by a common religion

This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with teens across the world to report on issues that impact their lives.

MIAMI (JTA) — When Ricardo Tanur arrived in Miami in the 1990s he had a hard time finding a religious school for his children and finding a synagogue where he felt comfortable. The biggest challenge, however, was leaving his Orthodox community in Mexico and raising his six children in an unfamiliar Jewish community whose religious values often did not align with his own. 

“When I first arrived in Miami, I felt that I was leaving a part of me in Mexico, and did not feel that I truly belonged to the Jewish-American communities,” said Tanur. “I was unsure how I would raise my children in the faith when I didn’t have a temple or community which I felt a part of.”  

Eventually Tanur joined the Bal Harbor Shul and the Skylake Synagogue in Miami Beach because he felt that community could make “a positive impact on his children’s personal and religious values.” This was important to him when raising children in an area whose approach to tradition was more “modern” than what he was used to in Mexico City.

The challenge of raising children in an unknown Jewish community is common for immigrants, especially for those in Miami. More than a third of the Jewish population in Miami are foreign-born adults, higher than in any other American Jewish community. With the continued population growth of foreign-born adults, the immigrant experience affects how young people approach religion by combining traditional and modern practices.

“My approach to religion differs from that of my parents mainly in the external aspect,” said Deborah Tanur, Ricardo’s eldest daughter. The 20-year-old, raised in Miami, said her father expected his daughters to wear the modest clothing typical of his Orthodox community back in Mexico. And yet her peers weren’t wearing skirts that fall below the knee, high-cut necklines or long sleeves. 

Her 18-year-old sister, Raquel, recognizes the strain caused by these different ways of thinking. “The Mexican community is more closed-off and small, whereas in Miami the community is very modern and open,” she said. “This was not always easy for my mother and father to understand, as traditional appearance and practices were something which they believed to be a large part of conserving our faith.”

When Deborah was younger she was drawn to her Jewish friends’ liberal, Ashkenazi services, which were different from those in her parent’s Ashkenazi, Orthodox synagogue. “When I was little, I would sometimes ask to attend a Reform service with my friends’ families,” she said. “My parents did not allow me to do so at first, but eventually my parents and I navigated through our different perspectives in order to find common ground.” 

Differences between children and immigrant parents’ are not only restricted to the level of observance, but also to their approaches to traditions and prayer. This is true for Luiz Gandleman — the son of two immigrants from Brazil and the president of the Jewish Student Union at Gulliver Preparatory in Coral Gables.

“My parents grew up in a very strict Ashkenazi community, so a lot of the prayers and service is heavily Ashkenazi which isn’t necessarily the case with me,” Gandelman said. “There are Jews from all over here [in Miami], so I observe a lot more broadly. I have attended both Ashkenazi services as well as Sephardic services, so I have adapted aspects from both.” Gandelman added that some holidays are observed differently in America than they are in Brazil.

“Hanukkah is observed on a smaller scale in Brazil, at least in my community. My parents didn’t really do anything for Hanukkah besides the traditional practices” of candle-lighting and a few special prayers, he said. “I convinced them to start celebrating on a greater scale with Hanukkah dinners and gift giving. My parents thought it to be an American thing at first, but after much convincing we were able to take the best of both worlds and mix our two beliefs.” 

This different approach to faith is common for many children of immigrant parents, which Senior Rabbi Jeremy Barras of Temple Beth Am, a Reform synagogue in Pinecrest, recognizes in his congregation.

“More so in Miami Beach and Aventura, than Coral Gables and Pinecrest, the parents tend to be more traditional and the kids less so,” Barras said, referring to Miami-area suburbs. “The older generations are more interested in customs and rituals. The younger generations are more interested in culture and spirituality. It means that more creative means are required to engage younger families and the next generation. No longer can we rely on traditional models of observance to drive participation.”

The distinct way of thinking between immigrant parents and their children is not limited to their approaches to religion, but also to their feelings of belonging.  

“Most of the people that are here [in Miami] came from Latin America which wasn’t always as safe and as great of a situation for Jews. In any minute if things got bad you would want to move. because of fear of anti-semitism. Americans don’t really worry about that, Americans never think that they are going to have to leave,” Barras said.

This lack of belonging also affects identity. Such is true for the Guimaraes family, Reform Jews who immigrated from Brazil.

“I would define myself first as Brazilian, and then as Jewish. Personally, I see myself as being merely a Brazilian Jew on American soil,” said Cassio Guimaraes. 

Her youngest child, Ana Catherine, has the opposite view. “My identity is best described as an American Jew,” the 16-year-old said. “I always felt that I had a place here despite my Latina makeup. My traditions and values are well rooted in the community within Miami.

Despite differences between immigrant parents’ and their children, their religion provides common ground. 

“Although me and my parents pray differently, it widens perspective. For example, I pray using a wider range of prayers than do my parents. For example, I recite the amidah while my parents do not. Nevertheless, I love learning how my mom was raised praying and how my dad learned to pray, and they love learning what I know,” Gandelman said. “We end up teaching each other. It is a nice way for us to connect and build on each other’s religious beliefs together.”


The post Jewish immigrants and their children are divided by a common religion appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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