By Rebecca Borison
When Connie G. Krupin first became a mother, she went to the nearest bookstore to find a baby book. After purchasing one of the options, Krupin was forced to immediately grab her white-out to cross off “Baby’s first Christmas” and “Baby’s church.” She, therefore, vowed to one day write a Jewish baby book that reflected Jewish values and the Jewish family. About thirty years later, Krupin became a grandmother and published A Time to Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal. Moment spoke to Krupin to find out more about the process of writing a Jewish baby book and the joys of raising a Jewish family.
MM: Who exactly is your target audience for your book?
Krupin: I expect that this will be in the hands of those who are very religious, moderately religious, and those who have little knowledge but desire to have a Jewish home. This is a gentle guide. In fact one of the most important facts about this book to me is that this can go into the hands of a mother, or a father, who has had no Jewish education, and this parent now has a glossary, so that she can learn about it. She has the tools. I tell them how to put the candles in the chanukkiah. I tell them what the prayers are to bless their children on Shabbas. I tell you why we wear masks and costumes on Purim. I give you the challah recipe and the hamentaschen recipe. I give you all the tools to raise Jewish children, and you don’t have to ask one embarrassing question. I think that’s a major thing for people who either convert or grew up with no education. It’s like I should know, but I don’t want to expose myself by asking. That’s why I want this in the hands of every young Jewish family because it just serves so many purposes.
MM: What kind of a background do you have in art?
Krupin: I was an art major. I have two degrees, and my first degree is in art, my second is in interior design. I’m an oil painter. I have illustrated a book before this for an author. So essentially, I’m an artist, I’m a painter, and a furniture designer. I will say that there is a concept of hiddur mitzvah, glorifying a mitzvah. In my adult life, Judaism has always been a part of who I am, when I was an interior designer, and I had several clients who were synagogues. I’ve designed about 10 arks for synagogues in the Washington area and other Judaic things like tallis racks, ner tamids, and things like that. To me that was an expression of hiddur mitzvah. I feel with this book it’s actually another level of hiddur mitzvah because I feel that I’m going to have a much broader reach with this.
MM: What sort of research did you do for the book?
Krupin: I vetted it from very religious—and you’ll see that the Lubavitch Rabbi and his wife have actually contributed to the book—all the way to reform and even intermarried people, and believe it or not everybody loves this book, so I think I’m going to get a Nobel Prize because I don’t know anyone who’s done anything in the Jewish Community that everyone agrees on. But they do! It’s crazy!
MM: What were some of the benefits you found in writing this book?
Krupin: One thing that I discovered about this book is that it really expressed what I wanted to impart to my children, that I know other parents and grandparents want to. And if you’ve seen the book, then you know it’s joyful, it’s upbeat. My daughter once said to me, “Mom, you always made being Jewish fun.” That’s what I believe we need to do to raise joyfully Jewish children. It expresses the beauty, the joy, the wisdom of who we are, of what we’ve all inherited. It’s our birthright. It’s right in our backyard, and all I do is I put it out there and people can look through the book and go “Wow, I’ve heard that quote, but I never knew that was Jewish.”
MM: Besides for being a Jewish baby book, what separates your book from other baby journals?
Krupin: One thing that people say when they think about baby journals or keeping a journal of any kind is “Ugh I’m never going to write in it.” What I’ve done is I have included recipes, I’ve included how to bless your children on shabbas. This is going to be a reference. It’s a reference guide, a coffee-table book, it’s much more than just a place to record. And because of that, people will be pulling it off the shelf, and when they do, they’re going to jot something down. It makes it an effortless, joyful experience to use the book.
MM: How did you approach the tone of your book?
Krupin: My philosophy is that as Jews we are everything—we are modern, we are ancient, we are cool, we’re fashionable, we are smart, we are funny. That’s why I put funny quotes in there as well as some very touching things. A lot of Jewish books that you find are very serious—and sometimes even dour—and that’s all. Or they may be funny and that’s all. And sometimes when they’re funny they’re even self-deprecating. That’s not what I’m about, that’s not what I care to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I respect who we are, and I think it’s just as noble to be silly and funny and fashionable and shallow as it is to be serious and cerebral. We have to respect that we’re all of those things.
MM: Whom did you base the illustrations off of?
Krupin: They’re real children. There are my children in there, there actually is my grandson there because it wasn’t ready by the time he was born, so I have pictures of him in there. I have Rabbis’ children; I have friends’ children. I needed models so I drew from children. It’s anybody that could lend me their child.
MM: Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
Krupin: They’re all my babies, I don’t know that I can really give you one. There is a quote in here that I’ll give you. “Each child brings his own blessings into the world.” I don’t know that that’s my favorite quote, but that’s my answer to your question, that each blessing serves a different purpose, so how can I choose one. Maybe that’s my answer. In writing this book and collecting the material for the book, I realized that Judaism is so rich in philosophy and quotes and advice. The Torah as you know is a guide for living, so even if I only stayed with the Torah, which I didn’t, it was only a matter of editing. There is no shortage of wisdom out there and so already I’ve edited down, and these are my favorite quotes.
MM: Do you have any advice for Jewish parents, besides for reading the book?
Krupin: Number one is start immediately. If you want your children to be Jewish, you start at birth. The second thing is you can’t fake it. You have to feel it first. You have to be proud in order to create proud children. You have to take joy in order for your children to take joy. Children are very smart; they’re very intuitive. You can’t fake your way through it. Just make it real. Make it joyful, and make it from day one. This is about saying the shma to your children every night. In my own family, that was something we never did, and that was something I learned writing this book. And I do that with my grandchildren now. The lesson there is that even though they’re young, it’s going in. The shma is beautiful and soothing. I sang it with my grandson last night, and he doesn’t know Hebrew, but it’s going to go into his heart, into his memory. You can literally start with day one.