David Baron on Being a Jewish Father

with my daughters

I can’t introduce David with an anecdote because we spoke for the first time at this interview. I’ll say this: he has always given the impression of being harmless and gentle.

What is a common misconception that people have of you?

People are surprised to learn that I’m 44 and I have a daughter who’s about to enter college. My daughter is 18 and she lives in Dallas. She’s with me and my wife during summers and winter breaks. I have a younger daughter who’s 13. They’re both from my first marriage. Most people don’t know about this part of my life because my daughters are only here for part of the year.

You wear a yarmulke sometimes, don’t you?

I do. I’m Jewish. And I’m an ordained rabbi, as well. That’s another misconception people have of me. I’m not a rabbi as a day job, you know, leading a congregation. But I do work with a few congregations in town and assist other rabbis during the holidays. Sometimes I lead things at home with my wife. We keep Shabbat. It’s very, very sweet.

Growing up I wasn’t Orthodox but I always had a desire to be. In the last 10 years I’ve come back to Judaism. For those first six or seven years, I wore my yarmulke all the time. Or a little hat. Always something covering my head. But now (in the past 18 months) I just wear it when I get home or go to services.

I recently heard you receiving yoga instruction in Spanish. Until then I thought maybe you were from New York because that’s a very high-density Jewish population. Where are you from?

I grew up in Mexico, went to a Jewish school, had Jewish friends. There are about 100,000 Jews in Mexico. It’s a community that has stayed small. The young people come to the US or go to Israel, but it’s a very tight-knit community. I still have family and friends in Mexico, friends all the way from childhood.

Jews are all throughout Latin America because they were trying to leave Europe either during World War II or leading up to it. It was very difficult to come to the US. The immigration quotas were super tight. So Jews would go to Panama, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil.pRAYInRome

My mother is from Israel so my mother tongue is Hebrew. And then I learned Spanish. So, even though I grew up in Mexico, we spoke Hebrew at home when I was a kid.

Are your kids multi-lingual?

They speak very little Spanish. They’ve taken it in school. I tried a little bit to speak to them in Spanish when they were young but I wasn’t consistent. I spoke a lot of English with them because my ex-wife didn’t speak any Spanish. My parents spoke to them in Spanish so they learned a little bit that way. They have the seed in their brain and they know more than they let on.

How important is it that your wife be Jewish?

I could write a whole book about this! It’s a complex question. We’re both very spiritually based in our lives. Having a spiritual practice and a relationship with God is very central to both of us. So more than anything, for us to have compatibility with that at home was very important. Ibike_commuting generally believe that two people of different religions can get married if their foundation together is about something else. But for us, religion and spirituality is a big foundation. So we want something at home that will be compatible. And we’ve created a great life together.

How does having the same religion as your wife impact how you are as parents?

I think we’re going to make it easier for them. For a child growing up, having a stable foundation at home where she can get an identity is really important. I respect and love all religions but I think that it’s good to offer something to the child. To say, “This is the root.” If they then choose to go somewhere else, they go somewhere else. For me, it was something I wanted them to experience. The common thing with Judaism in America is that kids get only superficial participation.

What’s your day job?

I’m in the high tech industry with Hewlett-Packard. I have a fun position in a fun group. Most of the development that we do is in Israel so my job takes me to Israel a few times a year. I try to conduct business in Hebrew. It’s difficult. I’m much better with prayer and biblical Hebrew than modern business Hebrew. It’s a different vocabulary.

Do you see any conflict between yoga and religion?

No, all of it strengthens my Jewish practice. I came [to the studio] this morning and I did the chanting. Then when I go home, I bring back some of that energy. In pranayama one morning, I remembered that one of the first Jewish morning prayers is, “My God! The breathing soul that you place within me is pure…” The key in this translation is that the Hebrew word for soul is “neshama,” and the root of that word is the same root for “breath” or “breathing.” So I translate it as “breathing soul.” There is a connection between soul and breath. So I was sitting in pranayama and this prayer came to me and I understood it in a new way. I love my yoga. I love Hanuman.

Here’s a snapshot of David’s journal after a pranayama practice. It’s a quote from a 20th century rabbi in America, Rabbi A.J. Heschel. David loves this quote because it’s an example of how spirituality connects all people, even though the externals of religion can make us forget this unity.Heschel

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