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By Melissa Henriquez
Every Sunday morning as I practically drag my 6-year old out of bed to go to Hebrew School, Iâ€™m reminded of the final scene in â€śMy Big Fat Greek Weddingâ€ť when Toulaâ€™s own daughter has turned six and is begrudgingly headed off to â€¦ where else?!Â Greek school.
Like Toulaâ€™s daughter and Toula before her, and Toulaâ€™s mother before her (and so on and so forth) my daughter knows she must to go to her own version of Greek School â€” she just doesnâ€™t â€śwantâ€ť to.
Personally, I began Hebrew School in third grade. Because I wish Iâ€™d started earlier, we enrolled my daughter when she started kindergarten last fall.Â I wanted her to have a better sense of Jewish community than I did growing upÂ and an earlier start to Jewish learning. Since Hebrew School goes from 9:15 a.m.â€“12:15 p.m.Â every Sunday for all ages, itâ€™s admittedly a hefty time commitment for the short-attention-spanned kindergartnersâ€“but it is what it is. Fortunately for us, Hebrew School overlaps when my (Catholic) husband normally goes to mass, anyway, so itâ€™s not that my daughter is missing much family timeâ€“and itâ€™s given me precious, special one-on-one time with my 3-year-old son.
Itâ€™s not that she doesnâ€™t like Hebrew School once sheâ€™s thereâ€“she has adorable little friends, they sing, they have music class, they bake and participate in a mini-service. They do art projects and learn their Hebrew letters, colors and numbers. She learns about Jewish customs, history and holidaysâ€“and I love that now she peppers me now with questions about Judaism. Because sheâ€™d learned about Passover and the Jewsâ€™ exodus from Egypt, she asked me if I was a slave because I was Jewish (hoo boy!). I love seeing her little mind work and how she asks me who else in her world is Jewish, as well as who is not (her grandpa, her daddy, 99% of her friends).
But letâ€™s be honest: while being Jewish is something I take deep pride in, it isnâ€™t easy by any means. And itâ€™s definitely not easy for a 6-year-old kid who just wants to stay home in her PJs, read, color and ride her bike on Sunday mornings, especially when all of her friends from school are Christian, and only a handful are regular Sunday church-goers.
I know first-hand how hard it can be to be â€śdifferentâ€ťâ€“to be one of just a few Jewish kids in my school and the only Jew among my close friends. I remember the pangs of sadness I felt having to miss a huge cheerleading competition in eighth grade that fell on my bat mitzvah day. I desperately wanted to be in two places at once, but could not.
Looking ahead, I know my daughter will face similar situations; itâ€™s inevitable that Jewish life and sports/activities will at some point collide, and Judaism will often need to be the priority, as it was for me. As I grew into adulthood, I came to appreciate the significance of those sacrifices, and I hope she will, too. But whatever she thinks or decides about Judaism as an adult, I want her to at leastÂ understandÂ it, and thatâ€™s why weâ€™re doing this.
This first year of formal religious school has been a real adjustment for our little family, and Iâ€™d be lying if I said we werenâ€™t all looking forward to summer break when we will have free Sunday mornings again. But all in all, I wouldnâ€™t change a thing. Itâ€™s been a great learning experience and Iâ€™ve been thrilled at the beginnings of her Jewish education. And come September, I think our soon-to-be-first-grader will be excited to go back to a familiar school where she has a newfound sense of belonging.
This article was reprinted with permission fromÂ Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids.Â Follow Kveller on FacebookÂ andÂ sign up for their newsletters here.
MelissaÂ HenriquezÂ is red-headed Jew from Jersey who married a wonderful dark-haired Catholic guy from El Salvador. They met in college, endured several years of long-distance love, married in 2006 and now liveÂ in Michigan with their two wonderful children: Maya (6) and Ben (3).Â By day, she is a marketing manager at a global marketing agency and by night she blogs atÂ Let There Be LightÂ (est. 2008).Â Melissa’s writing has been featured on Babble.com and The Huffington Post.
I grew up in the same town where I currently reside. I remember going to high school with only a handful of other students who called themselves Jewish. I knew that raising my family in my hometown meant we would have to go to the very small synagogue in the next town over or if we wanted to be part of a larger community, we would need to drive 20 to 30 minutes north or south to more Jewish areas to find that.
It never crossed my mind that we would run into the issue of being the minority in what I thought would be a simple search for a preschool. Admittedly, I was a bit late in my search, thinking that with a baby due at the end of August and the school year starting in early September, I might want to hold off on sending my daughter to preschool to avoid her having too many changes at once. It turned out that she really wanted to go to school, so who was I to keep that from her?
With the limited openings available to those of us who started our search late, I found that there were very few secular schools with openings. There was one within walking distance, but it only had openings for the afternoon session, which I thought may not be ideal for a still-napping toddler. My daughter toured the school with my stepmother and they both absolutely loved it. But I was unable to make it to the tour and was still apprehensive about sending her to school during prime nap time.
My search had to broaden. The Jewish preschools, like the Jewish communities, were quite a drive from my house, so it seemed unlikely for that to work out as we readjust to life with a newborn again. A highly recommended preschool in our area with morning openings just happened to be a Christian preschool. I scheduled a tour and reached out to the InterfaithFamily Facebook group, â€śRaising a Child with Judaism Participants and Alumni,â€ť to ask whether other parents would send their children to a preschool of a faith other than Judaism and what kinds of questions they would ask on a tour.
The post had some lively discussion and I found that resource very helpful in gathering my thoughts, both before and after the tour. I went into the tour thinking I would be OK with the education if the religious component was strictly value-teaching. When speaking with the director, I asked whether theyâ€™d had students of other faith backgrounds in their school before. The comforting answer was a â€śYes, weâ€™ve had Hindu and Jewish students in our school before.â€ť
We started moving through the motions of a typical day, and while my daughter happily played and worked on a craft with the other children, I asked about prayer time and the Bible stories that they read. It turned out that the Bible stories were sometimes familiar ones like Noahâ€™s ark, but at other times, they pull from specifically Christian liturgy. They also do an annual Christmas pageant and talk about the story of Easter. I left the tour thankful to have had the opportunity to ask those questions, but feeling unsure about the school.
I went home, talked to my husband about it, and thought it over. Yes, even if we chose a secular school, she would be exposed to Christian holidays. We are an interfaith family, so she will be exposed in our own familyâ€™s celebrations as well. However, teachings of Jesus would not be a part of a secular schoolâ€™s curriculum. With that in mind, I scheduled a second tour of the neighborhood school with afternoon openings. My daughter jumped right into all of the activities again, already feeling like this was a familiar place. My husband and I asked lots of questions and they were all answered the way we hoped. It felt right, despite the fact that it would mean missing naps two days a week. We took home the registration paperwork and I got started on it right away, so we would not miss out on the few remaining openings.
In the registration packet, I was thrilled to find a questionnaire on celebrations and holidays. The questions were excellent, with sensitive wording and dug much deeper than I would have expected. The questions included the following:
What special days do you celebrate in your family?
This put my mind at ease. I answered each question thoroughly, probably with more detail than the school is used to, but this was of utmost importance in my preschool search. I want my daughter to understand and appreciate that other families may have different celebrations and beliefs than we do and I want her to be able to share some of our traditions with her new friends. This school will allow for both, and to me, that is the perfect setting for her first few years of schooling.
I have not posted here in a little while. In part, because the business of life has caught up with me, and, in part, because in the midst of huge changes in this country, inspiration is not coming as quickly. But I canâ€™t miss a chance to embrace this Valentineâ€™s Day. Â
You may call it a Hallmark holiday, or a day reserved for lovebirds, but as you may have read before, I disagree. Valentineâ€™s Day is a day you can chose to dread or relish, or anything in-between. This year, as February 14 approaches I am hoping we can use it as a reminder that we all can actively #ChooseLove, and see if we can find some joy and maybe even understanding.
Remember when you were in elementary school, and had to spend all afternoon the day before Valentineâ€™s Day making sure you had a card for every other kid in your class? Or remember last year, when you stayed up late finishing your childâ€™s class cards? The Valentineâ€™s Day of early childhood isnâ€™t just about your romantic partner, itâ€™s about your friends (and maybe some kids who arenâ€™t really friends at all). It might be about buying things–cards, stickers, candy–but it is also about performing a gesture of caring for the people around you.
We are living in a time of tremendous divides in our country and our communities. Be it politics, faith, country of origin or some other line that separates one from another, this is a great time to #ChooseLove. You can choose whatever you want for your February 14: a hot date with your partner, a boycott of the Hallmark store, a giant candy heart to share or not to share, but Iâ€™d encourage you to think of it as a chance to try to see your friends, neighbors, colleagues or the strangers in your life with love. Â
Just like writing Valentineâ€™s cards for your classmates, it is easier to do this for some people than others. But I believe that the act of trying to extend love can bring us closer together, or, at the very least, warm our hearts just a bit more than the day before Valentineâ€™s or the day after. So will you try it with me? Â
By Rebecca Rolland
MyÂ daughter Sophie will be 3 this November. My husband Philippe and I have decided to let her start half-day preschool (sheâ€™s begged). Still, weâ€™re late starting to look at options. I canâ€™t settle on anything, and as a doctoral student in education, I fear my knowledge of the researchâ€”my vise-grip on â€śhow things should beâ€ťâ€” has gotten in the way.
Ironically, in the world of parenting and education, it seems as though you can really know too much, or at least can be tooÂ critical.Â Then, I see an ad for a Jewish preschool not far from our home.
My own religious past is complicated. I was raised Protestant because of my father, but my motherâ€™s entire family was Jewish. My maternal grandfather and his brother were the only ones who survived the Holocaust, traveling from Hungary to Ellis Island in the hold of a ship. As both my grandparents died when I was a child, I was never able to ask any more. If I had a story to tell about my past, it would be one of absence and loss, of lacking knowledgeâ€”hardly the only story I want to pass down.
â€śLetâ€™s check it out,â€ť I tell my Catholic-raised husband, who was actually taught by nuns in his early years. Weâ€™d decided not to push Sophie towards any faith, but the school looks like a good option, emphasizing respectful interactions, strong routines and a balance of strictness and care. At least thatâ€™s what the website says.
In my work, I know the importance of high-quality early education. As decades-long studies have shown, such as the Perry Preschool Study, children who were placed in a â€śhigh-qualityâ€ť program were found to commit less crime, have higher educational attainment and income and need less welfare assistance than a control group.
And yet, I know that a childâ€™s experiences include far more than a single classroom. Developmental psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner, in his â€śecological systems theoryâ€ť developed in 1979, describes how everything in a childâ€™s environment affects her development, ranging from the microsystem, or her immediate surroundings, through the macrosystem, or remote issues such as the national economy, which affect a childâ€™s experiences in surprising ways. Choosing a preschool means choosing a microsystem, where Sophie will have thousands of interactions with teachers and peers over the course of the day.
No pressure, I tell myself.
When I visit the school, I stand in the temple while the children sit in a semicircle singing Shabbat songs. Their voices mix together, high and low, and bring me to tears. The narrative I had about myself, about my past as a source of loss, didnâ€™t have to be the one I passed down. My pastâ€”and the culture surrounding itâ€”could be a source of joy, of learning and of life.
Even more, seeing the school in action helps me change my narrative about what Sophie needs, and what I need as well. Itâ€™s not about what should work for a child, I concede, but what actually does work, for the child as well as the family. Itâ€™s about the values we want to move toward, the history we want to honor and the past we want to bring to light. What resonates for one family might mean nothing to another. In the ecological model, context is everything.
We decide to send Sophie to that school in the fall. My own life comes full circle, in a twist that I couldnâ€™t have predicted. In attending a JewishÂ preschool, Sophieâ€”blonde and blue-eyed like her fatherâ€”will have a chance to touch her past through her present, to eat apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, smell sweet spices for HavdalahÂ and play in a sukkah for Sukkot. I never went to temple until college. In helping Sophie know her past, Iâ€™m returning to a system of traditions that I, in my own life, have ignored.
The Jewish part of my history has been buried until now, and with it, my story about myself. Without searching for a preschoolâ€”and without finding this oneâ€”we probably never would have made this decision at all. Not only that: as we light candles for Shabbat, and as we tear into a loaf of challah bread, Iâ€™m helping change my story of the past into something sweeter. History can be a chance for celebration, not simply mourning. Those traditions are coming alive for us once again.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters here.
Or at least, this is what my six-year-old daughter Laurel would have me believe. This week, I opened up her teacherâ€™s monthly newsletter, scanning, as usual, for mentions of my own child. The final page usually includes what Laurel calls â€śjokes,â€ť except theyâ€™re actually wordsÂ â€śout of the mouths of babesâ€ť which sound funny to adult ears, but often meanÂ more than they say.
This particular snippet of conversation went as follows:
Classmate: â€śI speak English, Chinese and Spanish.â€ť
Laurel:Â â€śI speak English and Chinese and Spanish and Christian. And I speak Jewish too.â€ť
I laughed, of course, when I read it, and Laurel chuckled, too. She meantÂ â€śHebrew,â€ť of course, and â€śChristianâ€ť isnâ€™t really a language. Yet even as the children in her class oppose English to their lessons in Spanish and Chinese, Laurel knows as an interfaith child that Jewish can be contrasted with Christian, and Judaism has a language which is not English.
Out of the mouths of babes, indeed. Religious studies scholar Susan Friend Harding, for example, argues in her bookÂ The Book of Jerry Falwell, that the way words are used in fundamentalist Christian culture is key to understanding that culture itself. Or, to put it another way, culture functions like a language, and finding oneâ€™s way through an unfamiliar culture is much like learning to speak, write, or understand a new language.
As she gets a little bit older each month, I find it fascinating to see how Laurel learns her way around patterns of tradition and observance. She does indeed â€śspeak Jewish.â€ť I hear her speaking Hebrew when we say blessings for Shabbat. I hear her adorable mispronunciations and as she follows her parentsâ€™ guidance through the words of the Shema, revealing her growing familiarity with the language of Judaism. Even her younger sister Holly, at almost 28 months, tries to say the prayers, which usually results in some very cute utterances.
Sheâ€™s learning, too â€“ I think â€“ that churches and synagogues refer to similar types of places, but are not quite the same. One belongs to the â€ślanguageâ€ť of Judaism, and the other to the â€ślanguageâ€ť of Christianity. We, her parents, still dance nervously around the linguistic content of some of these religions: Ben remains as uncomfortable telling the stories of yet another Jewish holiday that exists because of some long-ago military triumph as I am answering her questions about Jesus â€“Â or even Santa Claus. In both cases, we try to treat the topics historically, and to say why Jews or Christians view these things as important. These conversations form one part of our daughtersâ€™ cultural knowledge and understanding, and one part of the â€ślanguagesâ€ť theyâ€™re learning.
When I first wrote for this blog, Laurel at 5 was only beginning to understand what religion or holidays meant, much less that they could come from different backgrounds: Jewish, Christian, national, or secular, or something else entirely. What a difference a year makes, and as little Holly gets older, too, sheâ€™ll grow in her understanding of the â€ślanguagesâ€ť present in our family.
Just last night, Laurel came into Hollyâ€™s room as I was putting her to bed. â€śI want to sing the Shema to my sister,â€ť Laurel said, and she did, beautifully, her sister listening as the language of Judaism washed over her. This morning, the Shema is stuck in Laurelâ€™s mind. She sang it repeatedly, joyfully throughout breakfast, and I have no doubt sheâ€™ll bring the language of Judaism with her to school today.
Â What â€ślanguagesâ€ť do your children speak? With what traditions, knowledges, and practices must they become familiar, in order to speak, think or act in the traditions of your family?
My memories of religious school are pretty varied. I remember visiting the sanctuary in first or second grade, a room whose enormity overwhelmed me, watching a few old men daven in the corner while our teacher pointed out the ark and the eternal light. I remember great conversations in our Jewish Studies sessions in later elementary school, reading coming-of-age stories about Jewish children and discussing them together. I remember lots of bagel cafe sessions, too many, if I recall, designed to drill down on how to order cream cheese in Hebrew.
I also remember a few teachers who seemed old-fashioned and way too strict. I remember some social dynamics between middle school students that hardly seemed to reflect the Jewish values we were learning in class. I remember some unfortunately contentious conversations during Confirmation class with a rabbi who didnâ€™t seem to understand us teenagers. Like my secular school experience, there were things I liked, and things I didnâ€™t. When all was said and done, I think I would say religious school was important, and I learned things that have stuck with me. There were people and things I loved about it, but I am not so sure I would ever say I loved it.
We are only two months in, but Ruthie loves Sunday School. I didnâ€™t expect that. I hoped sheâ€™d like it. I hoped sheâ€™d learn some things that would stick with her. The big surprise of this school year is less about her Monday-Friday school experience, and more about how much she loves Sunday School.
There are a few reasons why Sunday School had a step-up in the likeability scale before she even started. She has a Sunday School best friend, who she met last spring, who not only clicks with her beautifully but even shares her name (another Ruthie!). Unlike many of her peers, Ruthie started in public school in pre-kindergarten, so her Monday-Friday school is old hat, but this is her first year in Sunday School, so there is a shiny newness to it. Â And Sunday School is something that only Ruthie does – Chaya isnâ€™t old enough for it, so her Sunday morning obligation also solidifies her position as a more mature sister.
But that alone isnâ€™t enough to create love. I give the majority of the credit to the reality that her Sunday School is loveable. The temple where we are sending Ruthie is one of many where I have seen a commitment to make religious school awesome, recognizing that a lot of the parents dropping off kids on Sunday morning did not love Sunday School. Â The curriculum is varied and current. Once the kindergarten crafts are done, Ruthieâ€™s class engages in Hebrew Yoga to connect themselves to Jewish concepts and spirituality. Learning about Torah is so fun that we have overheard Ruthie bragging to her non-religious friends about how cool it is that she is learning about it.
A friend with older kids assured me that Ruthieâ€™s love is likely to wane, that I can expect an adolescent girl at some point that Iâ€™ll have to drag to temple on Sunday morning. I donâ€™t doubt that that may lay ahead. But for now, Ruthie loves Sunday School, and it is a pretty great gift.
This year, we won the lottery. The school lottery. Â We were among the lucky few to win a coveted public pre-kindergarten slot for Ruthie, at one of our first choice schools, no less. This means that last week we celebrated Ruthieâ€™s last day of preschool, and with excitement and a twinge of nostalgia we will become an elementary school family in less than a week.
When I went to line up our fall calendars, I was faced with my first big school decision. Hopefully you have already realized that Rosh Hashanah comes very early this year. On Ruthieâ€™s second day at her new school. Transitions are not easy at four years old, and after months of preparing for school, of trying to get her excited about her new classroom, her school uniform and making new friends, it feels like an unfair jolt to her system to go through the routine for her first day only to break it up by pulling her out on her second. And I have thought a great deal about the possibility of dropping her off at school on the way to synagogue that day â€“ of not mentioning the holiday in the spirit of structure during a transitional time. After all, sheâ€™s nowhere near Bat Mitzvah age, and will spend her time at synagogue in childcare eating honey sticks and making a paper shofar.
As torn as I feel about breaking up her routine, however, she will miss that second day of school. Rosh Hashanah is important, as both a holiday and a time for our family to be together. Ultimately the observance and chance for reflection is more important than the bedtime difficulty the disruption will likely inspire. And in full disclosure, the thing that pushed me over the edge on this decision is the experience of navigating the holiday with my husband, and our annual holiday frustration.
Eric is very committed to raising the girls Jewishly, and began experimenting with observing the high holidays long before we were officially making a home together (like the year he secretly tried out fasting and didnâ€™t tell me until the grumpy 3-oâ€™clock hour rolled around). But for years we have hit a snafu in September. In the weeks before the holidays, we talk about our plans for them. Eric looks forward to services and family meals and the like. When the actual day of the holiday approaches, however, he realizes he has key a deadline the day after Rosh Hashanah, or an essential meeting the day of Yom Kippur, and he forgot about the conflicting dates. He scrambles last minute for what to do, sometimes giving his boss poor warning of his need to miss work and other times missing synagogue.
I inevitably get irked, disappointed, and say something unfair.
I used to blame his forgetting the date on his not caring about the holiday, or just not getting how important it was. Over time, though, Iâ€™ve come to understand that thatâ€™s not the story. It is a classic situation where the big things â€“ whether or not we want to celebrate a holiday together â€“ arenâ€™t whatâ€™s tripping us up â€“ itâ€™s the little things. The little thing here is that for over 30 years Eric didnâ€™t have to stay on top of an ever-changing lunar calendar to figure out when his holidays were. He didnâ€™t need to step out of â€śregularâ€ť life every fall for the holidays. His forgetting was never that he didnâ€™t want to, it was just that he never cultivated the habit. If we were going to be Jewish together, I needed to help him â€“ to let him know as soon as I saw the dates, and to remind him once or twice (or thrice).
As an American Jew, the high holidays have always felt a little more sacred to me because even though â€śregularâ€ť life is going on all around us, we are required to stop and do something different. It is a profound time to sit in the quiet space of silent prayer in the synagogue, or by the water outside, and think about being Jewish, about how to be better people, and about the miracle of God. I was never going to win a perfect attendance award at school, but I was going to get a few extra days with family, and a few extra shots at reflecting on how to be a better me. So I donâ€™t want Ruthie to have a year without that, even if sheâ€™s not old enough to truly get teshuvah (repentance). And I look forward to hanging that paper shofar up on refrigerator next to her first school art project.
My kids attend a Jewish daycare/preschool program full-time, and they’ve blossomed under the Jewish instruction. Also, I’ve come to appreciate the support it gives me as a parent trying to raise Jewish children. There are Shabbat songs and Israeli folk dances and Shavuot art projects that are unknown to me because I converted as an adult. I like that my kids have something to add to our observance; when we sing songs for Friday night dinner, I love that they teach me about a shabbat dinosaur knocking on the door.
Since Eli will begin Kindergarten in the fall, our local Hebrew day school has started its sell on why our son would be a great fit for their school. In many ways, he is a perfect fit. But we won’t be sending him to the Hebrew day school, and instead he will attend a secular private day school. One that doesn’t teach about Shabbat dinosaurs knocking on the door.
I hadn’t really thought about how public our decision would be, until friends, day school staff, and congregants began to call us on the phone or cornered us in hallways and asked us to consider the Hebrew day school. Suddenly I’ve felt defensive about my decision, and I didn’t know how to respond without it sounding like I was saying, “My child is too good for this school.”
So my husband and I put our heads together and formulated a response that focuses on Eli’s best interests and stays far away from discussing why the Hebrew day school is NOT in his best interests. Hopefully people won’t believe that this is an indictment of the Hebrew day school. I don’t know if it will work. People are sensitive to these issues.
We are not turning our backs on Judaism or our local community, nor do we discount all we have learned from the past 3 years at a Jewish daycare. Still… I know it feels like a betrayal to some people, even though our decision was never meant to be.
Shalom. I struggled with that salutation — Iâ€™m a Jew by choice and converted 4 and a half years ago, and the language can still feel clunky at times. I should be able to write that salutation without it raising the hair on my neck, but it does make me feel like an impostor sometimes.
My son, Oliver, is also 4 and a half, and my daughter, Esther, is 2 and a half. They attend a preschool/daycare program at a Jewish Community Center, and last week one of the teachers asked if we were Jewish or not. To be fair, not that many of the kids who attend our JCC seem to be Jewish. So it was kind of the teacher to ask rather than assume. However, I suspected the teacher had made an assumption that we werenâ€™t Jewish becauseâ€¦ well, I could come up with a list of reasons why my family of four is not passing as Jews. But most of those reasons have less to do with other peopleâ€™s perceptions than with my own struggle to assert my place in this faith.
The reason Iâ€™ve decided to become a blogger on the InterfaithFamily Parenting Blog is because I felt confidant in my Jewish faith, in my Jewish marriage, in my Jewish parenting, and in my Jewish practice until my kids started becoming talkative Jewish know-a-lots. Then I realized that there is a major difference between converting to a faith as an adult and being raised in it. That shouldnâ€™t be some huge revelation, I realize, and if my beit dein (rabbinic court) had asked me, â€śWhatâ€™s the difference between converting to a faith and being raised in it?â€ť before my mikveh, I probably could have responded confidently. But as with most things, children make you question a lot of your assumptions, and they keep you honest. This morning my kids were chasing each other around the breakfast table singing the motzi (blessing over bread) at the top of their lungs. In that moment I realized (1) their Jewish experience is going to be different from mine, and (2) we are not imposters. Iâ€™m excited by all the things Iâ€™m learning from these little Jewish know-a-lots, and Iâ€™m glad youâ€™ll come along with me on this journey. Shalom.
It is that time of year again.Â The leaves havenâ€™t fallen off the trees.Â Â Halloween pumpkins are still un-carved.Â Thanksgiving seems like a million years away.Â But the conversation about Christmas has already started.Â Like the ornaments and holiday music in the stores, it seems that I start the conversation about December, earlier and earlier with my kidâ€™s public school teachers.
In October, our temple does a program for teachers about religious sensitivity.Â They talk about how Christmas-themed everything is sort of insensitive to kids that arenâ€™t Christian.Â That kids that arenâ€™t Christian have to suck it up every year because it is being done in a fun festive spirit.Â Â Â I send the letter out to the kidsâ€™ teachers and say, hey, if you want to go to this you not only get continuing education credits, but I will pay for it.Â (It is only $10 so it isnâ€™t like I am breaking the bank, but I want to leave no stone unturned.)
Usually, I get no response.Â This year, my letter seemed to trigger something in one of my sonâ€™s teachers.Â She emailed me and told me about a project that they do every year.Â The parents send in $5 and the kids make Christmas trees out of foam and fabric.Â I remember this from when my older son was in 4th grade.Â What they end up with is cute, BUT, you cannot imagine how irritating it is to have my money go towards something that is religiously insensitive.
I understand the Supreme Court ruling that states that Christmas Trees are secular.Â I understand that technically what they are doing isnâ€™t illegal.Â But, logically it is nonsensical to make a Jewish kid give his parents a Christmas Tree for Hanukah.Â What about the Muslim kids?Â Yes, my kids have an out, they can always give it to Grandma. Â But somewhere, deep in my heart, it bothers me.Â Why do we have to do this?Â I can think of about eleventy billion other projects that the kids could do that are cute, easy and NOT a Christmas Tree.Â Heck, I just saw a very cute snowman doorstop made out of a key shaped paver.
So, I havenâ€™t even bought Halloween candy yet, and already I am having the conversation about Christmas with my kidâ€™s teachers.Â I used to get fired up about it.Â Stand solidly on my soap box and denounce all the religion in the schools.Â But, I have gotten exactly nowhere with that.Â I guess I am tired of trying.Â Or maybe this year I am taking the chicken exit, but we are just not going to go to school for a week and I have asked all the teachers to hold off on the Christmas stuff till we skedaddle out of town.
There are many reasons why we are leaving town when we are leaving town, and the stuff at school isnâ€™t the driving force, but I would be lying to you if I didnâ€™t tell you I am relieved to not have to worry about it this year.Â (Something in my head says that those are famous last words and that Christmas is still going to rear its ugly head, but hopefully I will be on the beach by the time it happens.)