Parents can record their children’s milestones in this journal and celebrate being Jewish.
by Lauren Reisig
In 1945, Rabbi Eliezer Silver traveled from the United States to a Catholic orphanage in Alsace-Lorraine, where he inquired about Jewish children hidden during the war. The rabbi was told there were no such children at the orphanage, but, nevertheless, a priest granted the rabbi’s request to return at bedtime. Standing before the children, Rabbi Silver began singing the Shema. The Jewish children responded by calling out for their mothers. The rabbi turned to the priest. “These are my children,” he said. “I will take them home with me.”
This story is one of many that punctuate the pages of Connie G. Krupin’s baby book, A Time to Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal ($49.95). The story, Krupin says, “illustrates how memories and traditions, and the love of who we are, begins at birth.” She set out to create a baby journal that captures what it means to be Jewish and reflects “the beauty, the wisdom, the humor of who we are as a people.”
Krupin’s inspiration came from her own life. Following the birth of her first child, Krupin tried to find a baby journal to document her newborn daughter’s formative years, only to discover that baby books left much to be desired, at least for the Jewish mother. Krupin encountered the same dilemma a few years later following the birth of her son. “I immediately took out my Wite-Out and I whited-out baby’s first Christmas. And I whited-out baptism. And I whited-out church,” Krupin quipped, explaining how she exchanged the traditional Christian milestones for hand-drawn menorahs and shofars. Cut to 30 years later, when Krupin’s daughter announced her own pregnancy, and Krupin realized there was still a void in the marketplace for an attractive and meaningful Jewish baby journal. Rather than waiting for someone else to create one, Krupin, an artist and entrepreneur who served as president of Connie Krupin Interiors for 25 years, took the initiative. What started out as a family project, however, evolved into A Time to Be Born, a baby journal fit for every Jewish child.
A Time to Be Born exceeds the parameters of the traditional baby book. “You can put in how tall the child is, and how many teeth they lose, and I have all of that in there,” Krupin explains. “But to be Jewish is to have character.” And so, situated amid Krupin’s original artwork, a chart to record baby’s weight and length and a place to document baby’s first holidays, is a page where parents can acknowledge and track their child’s development of character, as he or she grows from an infant into a mensch.
Krupin vetted the journal “through ultra-Orthodox down to intermarried” to ensure the book’s wide appeal. “If you know a lot, that’s great. If you don’t, I know there’s a lot of self-consciousness, especially if you married into this religion and have agreed to raise a Jewish family,” Krupin says of her decision to make A Time to Be Born an informative resource as well as a keepsake. “For Chanukah, I not only give you the blessings to say and when to say them, I show people how to put the candles in and how to light them. On Shabbos, I tell people how to bless your children and how to light the candles…I tell you why we wear costumes on Purim…I also say how we spill drops of wine on Passover for each of the 10 plagues. Why do we do that? Because we’re a compassionate people. And even though the plagues were against our enemies, we have compassion. Wine represents our joy, so we lessen our joy with every drop for every plague that was imposed upon those people.”
Krupin adorns her hand-drawn illustrations with passages from the Talmud and sayings from secular figures, including Albert Einstein and Gilda Radner. By interweaving the religious with the secular, A Time to Be Born does not merely acknowledge how Judaism as a religion shapes who we are, it embraces the uniqueness of Jewish culture and shows how qualities seen in infancy form us as individuals and as a people. The result, says Krupin, is an “expression of my belief and perception about being Jewish. What it is to be Jewish. What it is to have children and a family. What it is to have a Jewish home,” Krupin says. “Consequently it’s joyful, it’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s touching, because we are all of those things. It celebrates who we are.”
(Originally published in fall 2014)