web analytics
November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Turn Friday Night Into Family Night

I cannot recall in my lifetime a man elevated to the presidency who was abandoned by his father as a small child. Barack Obama is eloquent and open about the pain his father’s absence caused. But even amid such candor, these things often repeat themselves in the generational life of a family.

The president-elect is likewise refreshingly honest about how his political life has pulled him away from his own children. As The New York Times reported two days after the election,  “Since 1996, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate, Mr. Obama has spent long periods away from home, and by his own admission, he is a part-time parent at best. The past six years have been a particularly punishing set of marathons, as he ran for a United States Senate seat, then spent weekdays in Washington, then traveled on the presidential campaign trail for nearly two long years.”

But Obama has announced the best-possible solution to his previous absenteeism: family dinners.  “His election,” the Times reported, “will help realize a long-held, cherished family dream: For the next four years, the Obamas will finally eat dinner together.”

Close your eyes for a moment and picture the enormity of the spectacle. The most powerful man on earth, leaving the emergencies of the Oval Office during an economic meltdown, every night at about 6 p.m., to show his children that the world can wait. They come first.

Yes indeed, this is precisely the change we need. And with that kind of example being set, is there any mom or dad on earth who can claim to be too busy to have dinner with his or her kids?

It has long been my cherished dream to establish a national campaign to “Turn Friday Night into Family Night,” encouraging American parents to give their children one uninterrupted night a week without the distraction of all the electronic noise generated by TV, iPods, DVDs, and the telephone. And while this can happen on any night, Friday is best because it sets a tone of togetherness for the rest of the weekend so that the family can feel closer and hopefully choose to spend even more time together.

A tsunami of research bears out the importance of family dinners to a child’s stability and wellbeing. Studies by Columbia University and the University of Minnesota found that teens who do not have regular family dinners are three and a half times more likely to abuse drugs.

Researchers at Columbia also found that teenagers who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to smoke daily and get drunk monthly. Girls who have regular family dinners with their parents are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits or abuse diet pills.

But despite this compelling research, eating dinner together is for many families a rarity often performed in front of a blaring TV. Don’t parents realize that when they leave the TV on or bring reading material to the table they are telling their kids, “You bore the heck out of me”?

Over the past 20 years there has been a massive decline in the number of families who eat dinner together, with more than a third reporting they have irregular dinners at best and one out of ten admitting they never eat dinner together at all.  For those who do, it’s a pretty limited affair, lasting about 26 minutes. And about sixty percent of families eat dinner with the TV on and seventy percent regularly answer the phone!

That’s why “Turn Friday Night into Family Night,” which aspires to have three million families signed up at FridayIsFamily.com by December 2009, is all about rooting out any and all electronic distractions so that for one night a week, at least, children and parents can be heard. This was the gift that was given to me as a child in a Sabbath-observant family. But the full focus of  parents on their children, for at least one night a week, should be the birthright of every boy and girl, Jewish or not.

American teens don’t know how to interact with other people, immersed as they are in an electronic reality where they text instead of speak and where the only “face” they encounter is the first syllable of a popular social networking site. The result is a bland personality and a blank stare. Teens seem to come alive today only when left alone.

My goal, which is now the primary campaign of This World: The Jewish Values Network, is to gift the Sabbath to the world and return us to the salons of old, a time before television when family togetherness revolved around stimulating conversation and laughter rather than watching a movie together.

Our plan follows a 2/2/2 theme: two hours of family dinner, with the family inviting two friends as guests, and with two subjects suggested for all to discuss. And it’s better if the kids invite the guests since it teaches them the blessings of hospitality — and the family home, rather than the local mall, becomes the preferred hangout. 

We plan to publish a weekly curriculum that will include topics for discussion and quizzes that parents can use to generate conversation and spark interest. We also have several leading Hollywood celebrities who will discuss the dysfunction that was fostered in their own upbringing through a lack of family time and how American families must act to correct it.

America is reeling under the pain of an economic meltdown. People are looking for something wholesome with which to anchor their lives. We need family and community like never before. Let’s encourage families to invite people who have no family and get singles to band together on Friday nights to create intelligent salons where they can meet each other instead of going to a degrading meat market at a bar.

As for the president-elect, we’re asking him to conduct a national monthly lottery to give parents who sign up for “Turn Friday Night into Family Night” a chance to be selected to join the first family at their own family dinner in the White House. So what are you waiting for? Add your name and make America one big family.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s daily national radio show on “Oprah and Friends” can now be heard on Sirius 195 as well as XM 156.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Turn Friday Night Into Family Night”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/turn-friday-night-into-family-night/2008/11/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: