The guests filed into the recep­tion hall, and the band began to play a slow, qui­et tune. All around Sarah, every­one hur­ried to join hands. As the music’s rhythm began to pick up speed, so did the steps of the dancers, cir­cling the bride and groom.”

Excerpt­ed from Sarah’s Solo writ­ten by Tra­cy Brown and illus­trat­ed by Paula Wegman

The preva­lence of social media and smart­phones has caused a surge of FOMO — the fear of miss­ing out. With our entire lives on dis­play on Insta­gram, Face­book, and Twit­ter, it’s hard not to feel some anx­i­ety when oth­ers seem to be hav­ing more excit­ing expe­ri­ences than we are at any giv­en moment. This may be espe­cial­ly true for chil­dren choos­ing to engage in Jew­ish fam­i­ly rit­u­als, rather than in sec­u­lar activ­i­ties with their peers. My chil­dren spent many Shab­bat din­ners expe­ri­enc­ing FOMO as their friends attend­ed their school’s Fri­day night foot­ball games. As they got old­er, how­ev­er, they found a way to make these Shab­bat evenings fes­tive by invit­ing friends to share in these rit­u­als, intro­duc­ing them to chal­lah and oth­er Shab­bat foods; in doing so, they even­tu­al­ly found the oppo­site of FOMO — the joy of miss­ing out.

I thought a great deal about JOMO — the joy of miss­ing out — when writ­ing Sarah’s Solo. While Sarah is dis­ap­point­ed when her par­ents tell her that she must miss per­form­ing the solo at her dance recital to attend her cousin’s wed­ding, Sarah ulti­mate­ly finds JOMO in the Jew­ish rit­u­als at the wed­ding. My hope is that chil­dren read­ing Sarah’s Solo will find that there is always some­thing to enjoy in every sit­u­a­tion they find them­selves in. Doing so is inher­ent­ly Jew­ish. As the Mish­nah teach­es: Who is rich? He who rejoic­es in his lot.”

As Jews, we have all heard the sto­ry of Sandy Koufax, the Los Ange­les Dodgers base­ball play­er who famous­ly chose not to pitch in Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kip­pur. I recall a tough dis­cus­sion with my son Sam­my over whether he would pitch in an impor­tant base­ball game that fell on the first night of Passover. If Sandy Koufax could miss a World Series game, sure­ly Sam­my could miss a high school game. A hard choice for any teenag­er to be sure — take part in our fam­i­ly tra­di­tion, or have FOMO by miss­ing an impor­tant game.

If Sandy Koufax could miss a World Series game, sure­ly Sam­my could miss a high school game. A hard choice for any teenag­er to be sure — take part in our fam­i­ly tra­di­tion, or have FOMO by miss­ing an impor­tant game.

My book Sarah’s Solo touch­es on those times my chil­dren were forced to make the tough deci­sion to choose Jew­ish rit­u­als over oth­er inter­ests. They opt­ed — with the occa­sion­al nudge from my hus­band and me — for fam­i­ly, rites of pas­sage cel­e­bra­tions, and hol­i­days, over attend­ing sec­u­lar events such as ath­let­ic com­pe­ti­tions of all sorts, birth­day par­ties, school dances, and so on.

In Sarah’s Solo, Sarah is devot­ed to bal­let. She prac­tices tire­less­ly for the solo she is to per­form at her dance recital. When she is informed by her par­ents that her cousin Lizzy is get­ting mar­ried on the day of the recital and that she will not be able to per­form her solo after all, she is under­stand­ably dis­ap­point­ed. When she arrives at the wed­ding, she is fid­gety and dis­en­gaged but becomes inter­est­ed in the dance-like qual­i­ty of the bride cir­cling around the groom. Lat­er, when the band plays Hava Nagila”and the guests dance the Hora, Sarah becomes cap­ti­vat­ed. As the bride pulls Sarah into the cen­ter of the dance cir­cle, Sarah becomes lost in anoth­er world. Sarah per­forms a solo after all, just not the one she orig­i­nal­ly planned.

Sarah’s Solo will be released on March 2, 2021 as the world is enter­ing its sec­ond year of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. The Covid-19 real­i­ty for many kids means miss­ing out on a lot of activ­i­ties — in-per­son school­ing, play­dates with friends, and indoor activ­i­ties such as the bal­let that Sarah so loves. FOMO can be even more dif­fi­cult than usu­al for chil­dren dur­ing these com­plex times. I am hop­ing that read­ing Sarah’s Solo will open up some inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions about FOMO, dis­ap­point­ment, and hope­ful­ly find­ing JOMO in spend­ing time as a family.

Tra­cy Brown splits her time between Char­lotte, NC, and Vail, CO, with her hus­band, Lar­ry. She has three chil­dren, who live scat­tered across the coun­try. Tra­cy cur­rent­ly sits on the Exec­u­tive Board of the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. Sarah’s Solo is her debut pic­ture book.