Rachel Nussbaum is a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumna and the Rabbi and Executive Director of the Kavana Cooperative in Seattle (www.kavana.org).  She can be reached at rabbi@kavana.org.

I am the oldest of five children, and since recently giving birth to baby number two of my own I’ve been marveling at my parents’ child-rearing skills.  I’m particularly struck by the fact that having reached adulthood, my brothers and I have taken such divergent paths (professionally, Jewishly, and personally) and yet cherish our close relationships with one another.

As a young child, I remember feeling like part of a “pack.”  Neighbors compared our family bike-rides to a mother duck trailed by ducklings, and photos from a Disney World trip reveal children dressed identically in red and khaki (as if wearing a team uniform).

On the other hand, I also distinctly remember a conversation with my parents from my college days.  They described their parenting philosophy of not pushing their children in any particular direction, but waiting for our individual interests to emerge and then fanning the flames of those passions (whether music or urban planning or fishing or medicine or the rabbinate), thus giving each of us a boost in our own direction.

Today, as the leader of the Kavana Cooperative in Seattle, I try to follow my parents’ example, encouraging people to forge a strong sense of collective identity, while also thinking independently and in terms of personal meaning.  We refer to this approach as “personalized Judaism in a community context,” and I believe it has been one of the keys to the community’s success to date.