14 May 2006

Jewish Parent/Jewish Educator

When I am not being an attentive eema to 2 cool yiddishe maidels, I teach Hebrew and Judaics in a community afternoon school as well as working on my Master's degree in Jewish Education. I look at part of my job as keiruv work because our school is a prominent place for the kids to experience Judaism. In order to pay the operational expenses, we rent our shul space to a small Reform congregation. This has not been a great arrangement.

To start with, they make negative comments about our entire curriculum and our programming. However, as part of their rental agreement, we have exclusive school rights (unless they are enrolled in a day school). As long as they are renting our shul space, they cannot use our building for their own school. With me so far? Well, they have done nothing in the past two school years except throw accusations at us about being "too religious" (aside from myself and one other teacher, who was new this year, none of our staff is remotely frum). Our position in the community is that we teach Jewish concepts which are universal (holidays, stories from the Tanakh, Hebrew language and prayer, ahavat Yisrael). We do not require synagogue membership (in fact, a majority of our families are unaffiliated) and we have congregations, both Reform and Conservative, who use our school in place of setting up their own religious school.

I happen to know that their issues with the school have nothing to with polarization of the movements (even though they tirade about me "brainwashing" the students with my Orthodox "lifestyle"). [I wonder if they realize that this is the same logic that has been used to have gay teachers taken from the classroom.] The latest in this saga? They pulled their congregation's children out of a Shabbat program that all of my students essentially spent the year working on, as well as a lovely Mother's Day activity that their morot spent several weeks preparing for. They kept all the students in a classroom, segregated from the school.

When my boss confronted them about pulling out the students, the rabbi's response was that "they already do Mother's Day at school. It would be more appropriate to discuss the Holocaust with them." These are 5-7 year olds we are talking about here. The president of the congregation, who happens to be a teacher in the secular sector, agreed with the rabbi's comment and added that her own second grader is well aware of the Holocaust.

I find myself sitting on a narrow wall between being a Jewish parent and being a Jewish educator. Both elements involve giving proper chinukh to young children as well as a charge to passing on the mesorah (in whatever form). I do not think that it is at all appropriate to discuss the Holocaust with children that are under a certain age. However, if an individual parent wants his/her child to know about Bubbe's numbers on her arm, then it is okay for THAT PARENT to exercise discretion about the situation.I also do understand that there is no halakhic basis for a set day to honor your mother since it is in aseret ha-dibrot that we are to practice the mitzvah of kibbud av v'em daily. (Even cool yiddishe maidel's pre-school, MO with a religious Zionist slant, observed Mother's Day. She painted a flower pot, planted some flowers in it, the class made a book, and she made a card.)

It is my position, though, that parents need to understand that what is appropriate for child A is not necessarily for child B. For example, cool yiddishe maidel knows all the names for ALL the body parts and we discuss them quite openly. Al yad sheni, I have a friend that rather not use "clinical" words to discuss certain body parts, choosing instead to use "pee-pee", etc. [Friend, I know you read this blog and I hope I didn't make you mad for disclosing this. You can comment anon if I offended you. If I did so, I apologize.] Parents should make it their job to get to know their own children and learn what they can handle instead of demanding a school teach developmentally inappropriate topics to prove a point.


  1. So we are the Friends now? =-)

    It's very sad that those kids had to suffer so that the parents and temple could make whatever point they thought they had.

  2. [Friend, I know you read this blog and I hope I didn't make you mad for disclosing this. You can comment anon if I offended you. If I did so, I apologize.]

    If we actually knew each other, I would have thought you were talking about me. But, alas, we are friends once removed and you are talking about Esther. :)

    It is also sad that these parents are teaching such intolerance to their children. Maybe they should take the holocaust class themselves!

  3. Esther:

    You knew what I meant... eli7

  4. Anonymous16/5/06 16:07

    I teach in a Reform religious school which is esentially hebrew school. Because this community is so ignorant of Orthodoxy and majority never interacted with them, they find me intriguing and love that I am teaching kids more meaningful stuff than holocaust over and over. I think it largely depends on your community and parent body.

    I wonder what Reform and Conservative schools would talk about in religious school if the holocaust never happened...everything revolves around that and antisemitism.

  5. Anonymous16/5/06 16:10

    For the record I have been teaching my 7th grade kids:

    1. Parsha Hashavua (from the Orthodox calender/torah reading)

    2. Holidays (Meaning behind the symbolism)

    3. Music (Diaspora Yeshiva Band tunes and other rockin' groups)

    The principal likes my subject matter and the reports she is getting from the parents but doesn't like how I do things on the fly. I am an extreme right brainer and can't do organized curriculum. Oh well.

  6. Anonymous15/3/07 23:23

    Enjoyed a lot! »


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