In most countries of the world, there is a day to celebrate Mother’s Day, another for Father’s Day and a third, Children’s Day. In Israel we do not have these commemorative dates individually; we have a special day called “Family Day” – “Yom HaMishpacha”.
This day had a process of development in the history of Israel: in its first stage, only Mother’s Day was celebrated, until in the year 2000, the Ministry of Education decided that the 30th of Shevat would be celebrated as “Family Day” throughout Israel, in honor of the family unit and its importance in Israeli society.
The date was chosen in honor of Henrietta Szold (this was the date of her death), although Henrietta was childless, she was known by the children who made aliyah – children who immigrated to Israel from all over the world – as “the mother of all the children”.
Henrietta Szold, born in the United States, led the “aliat haNoar” and founded several institutions to support children and young people who came to live in Israel.
In 1904, Henrietta Szold began her studies at the JTS – the Conservative Rabbinical Seminary in New York. The president at the time, Shneur Zalman Schechter, accepted her studies on the condition that she did not apply for the title of rabbi at the end of her studies. She was the first woman to study at JTS.
In 1912 she organized a seminar at the Reform Temple “Emannuel”, where she founded, together with 38 women, the “histadrut hatzionit Hadassah”.
Yom HaMishpachah in Israel has become a day of love and celebration for mothers, fathers and children. It is particularly popular in schools and kindergartens, where children create art projects and write cartisei brachá – cards with blessings – for each member of their family, and bring pictures of their family members to display at school.
Today the reform movement in Israel especially conveys the importance of recognizing the different types of families that exist. We can no longer just talk about the “father-mother-son(s)” family, today we have all types of families and all of them must be recognized and celebrated, families as father-son(s), mother-son(s), father-father-child(ren), mother-mother-child(ren) and mother-child(ren).
And not just in the Reform movement. If in the past, in ganim (kindergartens) and in schools, posters were placed with drawings or photos with the “typical” family, today non-Orthodox institutions strive to put up posters where we can see the wide spectrum of families that exist, recognizing what we all know today: the family is the group of people who care about and love each other, regardless of the household composition.
Rabbi Deby Grinberg-Wajnberg
Kehila Yozma www.yozma.org.il