Last week, WVFC ran an essay by longtime contributor Roz Warren called “I‘m an Atheist Who Nurtures Orthodox Jewish Kids.” Along with a lively and thought-provoking dialogue in our Comments section, the piece went viral, with comments and reprints popping up on websites and blogs around the country.

Elisheva Simon, the mother of the kids for whom Roz babysits, now joins the conversation, explaining their relationship from her own perspective. As a rule, religion isn’t a major focus for WVFC, and we don’t think it’s the main point of either Roz’s essay or Elisheva’s. But given the amount of dialogue that Roz’s piece has prompted, we’re happy to offer Elisheva’s response as a way of moving the conversation forward. –Ed.    

Roz, our extraordinary babysitter, is an atheist. Her personal creed comprises thoughtfulness, intelligence, warmth and humor in equal parts. 

Life is complex. Life as an Orthodox Jew doubly so. We were raised, and we raise our children, with particular values: God first, the Law next. God is good, and inspires us with love and fear in equal parts; all and everything comes from the Power that rules infinitely and invisibly. And as for the Law, boy oh boy, how that Law extends its spiritual jurisdiction over every area of our lives: the way we wake up, how we break our bread, the proper tying of shoelaces (amazing but true).

I know many who are similarly particular about childcare, checking out the babysitter before she comes to meet the kids: is she a religious person with Torah values as well as being kind?

Not a pic of us. All Orthodox families are different.

That’s not for me. I love my Torah life style; I love the intertwining of being devout and being a good human being here on this earth. Be good, the Torah says, be good to others, be a steward of the earth. Make the world a better place for your being in it, and do so in the constant presence and awareness of God. To me that means: learn from everyone. See how we can incorporate lessons from all the different beliefs and ideas out there, and sanctify them.

I want this woman to influence my children! Not only because of who she is, but by being an example of what can be. See, children, see? How people who are not like you can be amazing and wonderful and contribute massively to the world? God put us all here, to learn from each other, and grow. And see, children? We did.

Elisheva Simon
February 9, 2012