Anxiously Sending Little Jews to School

I continuously marvel at the double standards many Jews practice when it comes to emasculating (when not demonizing) white Christian culture and identity while they openly wave (and navel-gaze) about their own ethnocentric identity and culture.

One can routinely scan sites like Tablet (“A New Read on Jewish Life”) for op-eds like “Anxiously Sending Little Jews to School” by Marjorie Ingall. “For the first time,” she writes, “I’m concerned about my kids’ Jewishness as I send them off in the morning.”

Ummm, say what?

Living in a diverse world is complicated for kids as well as grownups. I’ve written about my Jewish-day-school-vs.-public-school ambivalence. And I’m delighted that my kids’ experience of the world is broader and deeper than mine was at their age.

I went to an Orthodox-run Jewish day school until 8th grade. I prayed behind a mechitza and listened to my male classmates thank God for not making them women. My Conservative Jewish mother made sure I was exposed to feminism, but my world was nevertheless almost exclusively white and Jewish. Maxie’s elementary school, on the other hand, is majority non-white (though this is changing rapidly as the East Village gentrifies) and there are only a handful of Jews. My kids go to shul, Hebrew school, and Jewish overnight camp, but their daily experience is as a distinct minority.

Fortunately, we live in New York City, where a certain cluefulness about different faiths and skin colors and languages and cultures is as much of a given as traffic on the FDR…

After kvetching about daughter Maxine’s experiences in school, Ingall proudly describes those times she herself has successfully crushed even the slightest insinuation of a hint of a depiction of Christianity at her daughter’s school:

Last year, Maxie’s teacher emailed parents asking if anyone would mind if he read The Polar Express to the class, pointing out that even though it has Santa Claus in it, it’s not a Christian book. I was the fun-sucker who wrote back that uh, yes it is. Santa Claus is a Christian dude. Just because he’s become associated with nebulous free-form wintertime “Happy Holidays” gift-bringing “spiritual but not religious” good-will-to-all-men cheer doesn’t mean everyone sits on his lap. And I still remember one of Josie’s classmates in 2nd grade exclaiming, “You’re Jewish? I thought you were normal!”

So yeah, Santa feels exclusionary to us. I want no religion at all—no menorah, no electric-nosed reindeer, no Kwanzaa kinara candles—in public school. Thomas Jefferson is my homeboy.

Thankfully, Maxie’s teacher immediately backed off. He did not pull the clueless routine of the teacher in the middle-grade novel Penina Levine Is A Hard-Boiled Egg, who insists that the Easter Bunny is not a goyish symbol, and therefore Penina has to do the Easter-Bunny-themed assignment or get a zero. (I adore this book, by the way. The question of how much Jews should go along to get along in a secular world is a good one, and not every Jew in Rebecca O’Connell’s novel agrees with Penina’s decision to dig in her heels. It’s a great conversation-starter with your kids when Passover and Easter roll around.)

Santa Claus “is a Christian dude”… and that “feels exclusionary to us”.

The Easter Bunny is a “goyish symbol”.


And then there’s the ‘evolution’ of her position on Israel:

I very publicly have struggled with my own ambivalence about Israel. Our people are pretty divided about Israel ourselves. Yesterday, I unfollowed two Jewish acquaintances on Facebook: one who only posted things demonizing Israel, and one who only posted cheerleader-y Israel-is-awesome things demonizing everyone who criticizes Israel. And in the past, I wrote that the word “Zionist” made me skittish. It doesn’t anymore. I understand now that Zionism merely means “believing that Jews should have a homeland” in the way that feminism means “believing that women are people.” Being a Zionist doesn’t mean you hate Palestinians, just as being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men.

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