Like lots of Jewish parents, my husband and I grappled with whether to keep our kids in a synagogue-run school or go public. We made the decision to try public kindergartenÂ after moving to an area where the nearest synagogue school was about half an hour away.
There were times that we worried our daughters would feel isolated in a school where most celebrate Christmas. Luckily, this is not the case. Instead something amazing occurred.
One of our daughters came home yesterday and told me that her teacher asked if she could tell the class about Chanukah. She danced around the table while her voice rose to a deafening shrill that only parents of young children tolerate,
â€œMommy, will you come help me teach the class about Chanukah?!?â€
I agreed and later emailed her teacher. I offered to accompany our daughter and bring some symbols of Chanukah like a menorah, a book, a stuffed animal that plays traditional Jewish songs and a Star of David.
To my surprise,Â her teacher was not only wildly supportive but informed me that the class is making a â€œHolidays Around the Worldâ€ book. She said the class is learningÂ about a different country each day and hasÂ childrens books on many religious holidays. She even added thatÂ the class has reserved one day toÂ cook latkas, make paper menorahs and play the dreidel game. She invited our family to visit and give a joint presentation on Chanukah along with our daughter.
Our other daughter’s kindergarten teacher emailed with the same sentiment. Her class is also celebrating â€œHolidays Around the Worldâ€ and she mentioned that she just read her class The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff (Flashlight Press, 2004). This book is a great asset to anyone’s library as it teaches kids that everyone is unique in some way. While it opens with a Jewish girl who starts â€œThe Only One Clubâ€ after learning she’sÂ the only Jewish kid inÂ her class, she quicklyÂ realizes that each student has a unique trait that qualifies them admittance into the same club. While this book is available on Amazon.com, I was surprised our daughter’s teacher had a copy sinceÂ IÂ received mineÂ from The PJ Library, a company dedicated to Jewish Children’s books.
Still, I am astounded at how multi-cultural Kindergarten has become. Wouldn’t it be nice if all countries in the world respected other countries’ religious practices? But we know they don’t. In fact, we know many Muslim countries teach their kidsÂ to hateÂ Jews and Israelis at a remarkably young age. I have blogged about Middle Eastern television showsÂ using a faux Mickey Mouse to instill hatred against Jews and Israelis. This is just another sad example of how many Islamic countries turn our culture against us.
It would be a huge relief if we didn’t have to worry about ongoing terrorism in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Darfur, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Syria and Turkey. But we do. We also have to agonize over occasional attacks in Europe and the US. No country is immune. In fact, we’re now realizing that the threat from within is stronger than we estimated.Â The recent terrorist attack at Ft. Hood, the largest military base in the US, isÂ just another exampleÂ ofÂ homegrown jihadists.
Daily sightings of terrorism, antisemitism and hate mongers only fuel a future that looks bleak. So what can we do? Well, one thing we can do is stop teaching hate. After seeing this video yesterday, I wondered how this man could call himself Christian (or for that matter charitable). From what I can see, he hates his Jewish neighbors.Â His hatred seems oddly misplaced and a tad ironic since Jesus was a Jew.
KnowingÂ our daughters are in classes that show appreciation for world religions goes a long way. Unlike kids that are smothered by hate and propaganda at an early age, I see hope when I gaze intoÂ our daughters’ eyes. I dream of a day where every land can live in peace. When every country can end civil war and take a cue from these kindergarteners.