How Do I Respond to Anti-Semitism in My Kids' Schools? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-25-2012, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We've just moved to a small town in the middle of the Bible Belt and my two oldest kids are in school after being homeschooled for 7 years.  My daughter is a freshman at the town high school (under 1000 students) and my son is a 3rd grader at the local Montessori (21 kids in his 3-5 class).  

 

We're Jewish (and my husband is Buddhist) and this town is predominately Baptist with a fair few Evangelicals and Presbyterians thrown in.  As far as I know there is only one other Jewish family with kids in the whole town.  

 

In the early weeks of school my daughter's so-called friends were calling her "Jew Girl" because the "forgot" her name.  I told my daughter that I found that really offensive but she said she didn't mind.  Figuring she's 14 and able to decide for herself what offends, I let it go at that.  She reports that they have now mostly stopped calling her "Jew Girl".  

 

Then yesterday my son came home from school and told me 2 of his classmates had declared "Jews are freaky".  He was upset by that and had told his teacher.  Teacher reportedly talked to the kids but my son doesn't know what was said.  I called and left a voicemail for the teacher right after school but as of 10am this morning I still haven't heard from her.  She is also the director of the school.  

 

The kids at my son's school are the children of people I've met recently and liked.  They are my husband's colleagues and this is a very small town, and his work community is even smaller.  I'm hesitant to make waves and alienate people, but....this really pisses me off!  I don't know the kids, or parents, who were calling my daughter "Jew Girl".

 

How would you handle this?  I'd love to be able to pack up and move to somewhere bigger and more diverse and open-minded but sadly that isn't an option!


“...there are two ways to meet life; you may refuse to care until indifference becomes a habit, a defensive armor, and you are safe - but bored. Or you can care greatly, live greatly, until life breaks you on its wheel. ” - Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 

 
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:04 AM
 
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We are an atheist family and so I certainly can empathize with being the "odd one out" in pretty much any situation. The assumptions made that everyone is of the majority faith can be highly annoying. The attention that comes from being different, uncomfortable. The comments, hurtful. The thing to remember is we all say stupid things until we know better.... we do.

 

To younger kids, they likely have little exposure to alternate beliefs. Being Jewish likely is "freaky" to them because they know nothing about it... or have only heard ridiculous things in passing. The only thing that will turn them around is to get to know your son as the great person I'm sure that he is. You have to forgive the ignorance of children. If you've liked their parents, you need to give them the benefit of the doubt. Lots of GREAT people say stupid things because they've never HAD to be careful about what they say. It's a transition for them and they need some time to go through it. Those boys that said that could still end up being friends to your son. They just haven't ever had to think about Jewish people as flesh and blood individuals and so it was easy to think they were weird.

 

The high schoolers? Well, that can be different. It's not uncommon for them to be a little irreverent. It's a time when many are questioning for themselves. Someone coming in different, isn't necessarily a pariah. Your DD might actually be somewhat "cool" at this point. I know that my DD and her friends would use "jew girl" as an endearment actually. There is a Catholic boy in DD's class that calls her "little heathen" even though he totally adores and respects her. He'd be the first to stick up for her. I've heard her tease him back by saying things like "have fun with Jesus" this weekend if he's leaving for church camp or something. Yes, it's irreverent and I'm sure surrounding adults are mortified but the level of respect and acceptance between them is actually very high.... high enough to rib each other (and shock the grown-ups which is always fun for a teenager too.) 


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Old 09-25-2012, 10:09 AM
 
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When I opened the thread, I realized I'd misinterpreted your subject. 

 

You are relating anti-semitism amongst the students in your kids' schools.  It sounds like the Montessori school has been responsive in dealing with the incident reported.  Give the teacher 24 hours to respond to you.  She dealt with it in class, which is the most important thing.  If she doesn't respond by the end of the day, then follow up in person. 

 

Your high school daughter didn't give the school an opportunity to respond because they don't know about it. 

 

You have resilient kids.  Your daughter was able to brush it off, while confident enough in all of this to report it to you.  Your son spoke up to a teacher.  Those are big. 

 

I'd recommend you keep a log of incidents of dates and times, along with a log of conversations, messages left for the school, etc.  Go to the principal & guidance councilor of the high school if this becomes a pattern.  I would ask them to talk to the kids about how to respect differences. 

 

Do you know the other family in town that has kids?  I wonder if you could get a sense of things how pervasive things are. 

 

It's always sad to hear that kids are still being raised to view children of different religions as others to be put down.
 

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Old 09-25-2012, 10:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much ladies!  

 

Your wise words have left me feeling much calmer and more hopeful.

 

The other Jewish family lives right behind us and their daughter is 2 years ahead of mine.  Turns out that they are in the same art class and when she heard the "Jew Girl" comment she introduced herself, saying, "Hey!  Another Jewish kid!"  Our families are getting together to break fast after Yom Kippor ends tomorrow night.  :)

 

There are a few other Jews in town, all with grown kids.  Those that I've talked to have all mentioned anti-Semitic incidents during their own kids' school years.  Perhaps not a pattern, per se, but a symptom of the larger culture of this place?  

 

I like the idea of making note of these incidents and approaching the schools if a pattern forms.  And I loved hearing about your DD's Catholic friend whatsnextmom!

 

Again, thanks to you both for the perspective and wisdom.

-Maggie


“...there are two ways to meet life; you may refuse to care until indifference becomes a habit, a defensive armor, and you are safe - but bored. Or you can care greatly, live greatly, until life breaks you on its wheel. ” - Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 

 
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by wagz View Post

 this town is predominately Baptist with a fair few Evangelicals and Presbyterians thrown in. 

If you're going to comment on the religious preferences of the others in the town, please make sure you're accurate. Almost all (save a few small denominations) Baptists are evangelicals. If you're truly in the Bible Belt, the white Baptists are almost exclusively Southern Baptists, and black Baptists are usually Missionary Baptists (roots of those going back to pre-Civil War times but still largely desegregated). Southern and Missionary Baptists are evangelical Christians. "Evangelical" is not its own denomination, and Presbyterians are pretty mild-mannered in general.

 

Where I grew up (in the heart of the Bible Belt), no one would have recognized or identified anyone as Jewish. It was so far outside the cultural norm (we had a single Jewish family in our town) that no one would have said "oh, your last name's Rubenstein; you must be Jewish!" or "look at that kid's curly hair - definitely a Jew!" The only time Judaism ever came up in school was when we talked about the Holocaust - not progressive, but it was my experience. I'm 32, so I cannot imagine it's changed much.

 

My point is that for elementary-schoolers in that environment to say "Jews are freaky" would be very...odd. They most certainly don't have any preconception of what Jews are - beyond "Jesus was a Jew" and "Jews are the Chosen people" - from their religious upbringing. Judaism simply doesn't come up in evangelical churches the way that Mormonism and Catholicism do. I would guess that for some reason, some child (your son?) brought up being a Jew or something related to Judaism, and the kids said "Jews are freaky" as a response because they didn't know what else to say.

 

That's not to say that I don't think it could/should be addressed, but I don't think it's "anti-Semitism" so much as "ooh, that's different from anything we know." They're problems that require different solutions, and I think speaking to the children and perhaps having you come in to talk about Jewish traditions or having your son share something with the class would be the better road than some sort of major campaign against anti-Semitism.


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Old 09-25-2012, 10:44 AM
 
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I wish I had some advice. I feel bad for your kids but it's great that the one school is responding to it and that your kids are able to keeping going with their days. This kind of thing happened at my high school. There were only a couple Jewish students and they were picked on for it. That was far from the bible belt but it still happened. We now live in the deep south and I've noticed that some of the fundamentalist Christians don't seem to have a good grasp of other religions. We're Catholic and it's odd to talk to people who don't think Catholics are Christian.

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Old 09-25-2012, 02:47 PM
 
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Your DD might actually be somewhat "cool" at this point. I know that my DD and her friends would use "jew girl" as an endearment actually. There is a Catholic boy in DD's class that calls her "little heathen" even though he totally adores and respects her. He'd be the first to stick up for her. I've heard her tease him back by saying things like "have fun with Jesus" this weekend if he's leaving for church camp or something. Yes, it's irreverent and I'm sure surrounding adults are mortified but the level of respect and acceptance between them is actually very high.... high enough to rib each other (and shock the grown-ups which is always fun for a teenager too.) 

 

 

I was wondering about this with the highschoolers, too. I was wondering if part of the reason it didn't bother your DD was that it wasn't said or intended in a mean way. It's possible that the reason that they stopped calling her "jew girl" is that they related to their parents that they had a new friend called "jew girl" and the parents freaked out at them and told them that wasn't appropriate. (sadly, I was once on the receiving end of parental lecture like this and felt really horrible about it after the fact bag.gif). 

 

The younger kids is a different deal, and it is something that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, it has already been addressed and will no longer be a problem.

 

We've lived all over for my DH's job and I have trouble with small towns in the midwest, too.  In your shoes, I would try to remain calm and see how things play out. Right now, you don't know if this is just some kids kinda screwing up a new situation, or something bigger.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 09-25-2012, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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VisionaryMom, I think your experience as a Christian from the Bible Belt is preventing you from seeing what non-Christians struggle with in this part of the country.  Your Christian faith affords you a privilege that perhaps you might want to examine.  

 

You're right, I don't know the nuances of different Christian denominations and I probably did make an error - perhaps instead I should have said "Baptists and OTHER Evangelicals".  There are other Christians who are Evangelical, besides Baptists, right?  Did I offend you by distinguishing between Baptists and Evangelicals?  If so, I'm sorry.  By using the term "evangelical" I meant to include churches like Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and so on.  

 

I think you're wrong to place the burden of educating the kids in my children's schools on us.  If Christians here are ignorant of other faiths, that is their own failing, and the fault of their parents, their schools, their culture.  As a religious minority it is not my responsibility to educate others about my faith so that my children and I may be safe from hurtful, ignorant comments, innocent or not.  

 

Are the schools going to invite a family of every faith and denomination to come in and share about their traditions?  Of course not!  Can you imagine how ridiculous that would be?  The kids would hardly have time to learn anything else besides the subtle distinctions between Free-Will Baptists and Primitive Free-Will Baptists, let alone all of those different Churches of Christ!  

 

Frankly, I'm sick of having to teach other people's children tolerance.  My kids may not know who is Evangelical and who is not but you can be certain that they know enough not to declare ANY faith "freaky" or to label a person based on their minority status.  (Can you imagine if my daughter's "friend" was calling an African American kid "Nigger Girl"?!)  

 

When Christians, well-meaning or not, invite me to come in and "share my traditions" they are othering and essentializing me.  They are setting me and my kids apart as different and implicitly demarcating the school/play group/etc as Christian - a place where I am a welcome guest, but not a place where I am an equal or where I have any ownership.  That sucks.  It hurts, it builds barriers and I am done being the "Good Jew" - keeping my mouth shut so as not to bother the Christians.  Because in the end we all know what happened to the "Good Jews".

 

Check your privilege. 


“...there are two ways to meet life; you may refuse to care until indifference becomes a habit, a defensive armor, and you are safe - but bored. Or you can care greatly, live greatly, until life breaks you on its wheel. ” - Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 

 
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:41 PM
 
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VisionaryMom, I think your experience as a Christian from the Bible Belt is preventing you from seeing what non-Christians struggle with in this part of the country.  Your Christian faith affords you a privilege that perhaps you might want to examine.  

 

You're right, I don't know the nuances of different Christian denominations and I probably did make an error - perhaps instead I should have said "Baptists and OTHER Evangelicals".  There are other Christians who are Evangelical, besides Baptists, right?  Did I offend you by distinguishing between Baptists and Evangelicals?  If so, I'm sorry.  By using the term "evangelical" I meant to include churches like Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and so on.  

 

I think you're wrong to place the burden of educating the kids in my children's schools on us.  If Christians here are ignorant of other faiths, that is their own failing, and the fault of their parents, their schools, their culture.  As a religious minority it is not my responsibility to educate others about my faith so that my children and I may be safe from hurtful, ignorant comments, innocent or not.  

 

Are the schools going to invite a family of every faith and denomination to come in and share about their traditions?  Of course not!  Can you imagine how ridiculous that would be?  The kids would hardly have time to learn anything else besides the subtle distinctions between Free-Will Baptists and Primitive Free-Will Baptists, let alone all of those different Churches of Christ!  

 

Frankly, I'm sick of having to teach other people's children tolerance.  My kids may not know who is Evangelical and who is not but you can be certain that they know enough not to declare ANY faith "freaky" or to label a person based on their minority status.  (Can you imagine if my daughter's "friend" was calling an African American kid "Nigger Girl"?!)  

 

When Christians, well-meaning or not, invite me to come in and "share my traditions" they are othering and essentializing me.  They are setting me and my kids apart as different and implicitly demarcating the school/play group/etc as Christian - a place where I am a welcome guest, but not a place where I am an equal or where I have any ownership.  That sucks.  It hurts, it builds barriers and I am done being the "Good Jew" - keeping my mouth shut so as not to bother the Christians.  Because in the end we all know what happened to the "Good Jews".

 

Check your privilege. 

 

I can see your angry and I understand it. I've been angry too. My youngest was bullied pretty badly for a few years due to our non-religion. Would those boys have bullied him if we were Christian? Yes, probably because they were nasty little boys with rotten parents pure and simple. Religion was just an easy target and one that actually earned the bullies more sympathy from adults (namely their parents) than had they targeted DS for being smart or some such thing. It's difficult when your child is rejected from organizations they would have probably liked (like Boy Scouts) because of the belief structure they are raised in. It is incredibly frustrating having to always be the better person because you know that if you falter once, even in a minor way, the opposing group will seize it and use it as proof of your corruption.... ignoring their own falters. You are absolutely right... it's not YOUR responsibility to educate everyone else's children in tolerance and basic manners. Reality? Well, it will continue to fall on you and your children to be the good example and hopefully make like a little better for someone else who follows you.

 

The positive? Well, for us, the experience has made my kids very compassionate (and I must say, we have never experienced discrimination and hatred from a non-christian religion largely because they actually understand what it is to be a religious minority in this country.) Being raised different has made them strong enough to stand up to their peers in all sorts of ways (like not going along with popular trends just because they are popular.) It has pushed them to succeed because so many have been waiting for them to fail and to reassure themselves of their own better choices. With so many negative examples (and certainly, not all christians are bad, not even most... only that with such a high population, they will statistically get the higher percentage of jerks,) our kids stand even firmer in the beliefs they are raised in. 

 

Anyway, I know it's hard. I know it's isolating. Just sending you a virtual hug. 


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Old 09-25-2012, 06:25 PM
 
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"The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander" book could be helpful.

 

You could also look into whether the school has a bullying prevention program (not one of those day "programs") like

Olweus Bullying Prevention.


"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:46 PM
 
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I wouldn't expect that your son knew what the teacher said to the boys because discipline isn't supposed to be a public thing, the teacher handled the one time issue and if it doesn't come up again then she handled it very well. If it does come up again then keep letting the teacher know. It may take many discussions before it is nipped in the bud. We didn't go to church and my dd had no.idea who God was until she started school and learned from her charming peers that she was going to burn in hell. This was a big problem that went on for almost two months and it got scary for my dd because the kids were intense. With a lit of individual discussions targeting specific scare tactics and a few large group ones about religion needing to stay at home things did get much better.

I wouldn't say that the kids were being deliberately mean though or that this was a sign of deeper issues, if they had been older then it would have been but with young kids everything is so black and white, rules are important and it is hard for them to understand that different world views are fine, it has got to be even harder in an area where there aren't many different views and when it comes to religion it is harder because some kids are taught that their friends are going to be burnt up for not believing what they believe which is scary for a five or six year old who doesn't realize this is just an opinion. It isn't fair when your child is the target and I definitely don't suggest sitting back and doing nothing, document and call for each instance you hear about but also understand that with young kids the teachers are often working to open their thinking up without getting in legal trouble for touching on religion in school and that is hard and takes time.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:43 AM
 
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((Hugs)). How hurtful, perhaps even more so during the High Holidays. I hope you have heard from the teacher/director by now. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wagz View Post

VisionaryMom, I think your experience as a Christian from the Bible Belt is preventing you from seeing what non-Christians struggle with in this part of the country.  Your Christian faith affords you a privilege that perhaps you might want to examine.  

 

You're right, I don't know the nuances of different Christian denominations and I probably did make an error - perhaps instead I should have said "Baptists and OTHER Evangelicals".  There are other Christians who are Evangelical, besides Baptists, right?  Did I offend you by distinguishing between Baptists and Evangelicals?  If so, I'm sorry.  By using the term "evangelical" I meant to include churches like Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and so on.  

 

I think you're wrong to place the burden of educating the kids in my children's schools on us.  If Christians here are ignorant of other faiths, that is their own failing, and the fault of their parents, their schools, their culture.  As a religious minority it is not my responsibility to educate others about my faith so that my children and I may be safe from hurtful, ignorant comments, innocent or not.  

 

Are the schools going to invite a family of every faith and denomination to come in and share about their traditions?  Of course not!  Can you imagine how ridiculous that would be?  The kids would hardly have time to learn anything else besides the subtle distinctions between Free-Will Baptists and Primitive Free-Will Baptists, let alone all of those different Churches of Christ!  

 

Frankly, I'm sick of having to teach other people's children tolerance.  My kids may not know who is Evangelical and who is not but you can be certain that they know enough not to declare ANY faith "freaky" or to label a person based on their minority status.  (Can you imagine if my daughter's "friend" was calling an African American kid "Nigger Girl"?!)  

 

When Christians, well-meaning or not, invite me to come in and "share my traditions" they are othering and essentializing me.  They are setting me and my kids apart as different and implicitly demarcating the school/play group/etc as Christian - a place where I am a welcome guest, but not a place where I am an equal or where I have any ownership.  That sucks.  It hurts, it builds barriers and I am done being the "Good Jew" - keeping my mouth shut so as not to bother the Christians.  Because in the end we all know what happened to the "Good Jews".

 

Check your privilege. 

 

You are correct. You shouldn't have to teach other people's children tolerance. I also understand what you are saying about other people taking responsibility to educate themselves and their children about different cultures and religions. You aren't wrong. 

 

You mention in your OP, though, that you wish you could move to a more diverse and open-minded area. We have been privileged to live in this kind of diverse locale. I do think that opportunities to explain and share -  i.e educate - each other about cultural and religious traditions happen fairly often in those kinds of areas. You question whether schools will invite a family of every faith and denomination to come in and share. That has actually happened, in one form or another, in a few schools that my kids have attended. 

 

For example, at one Montessori casa program (age 3 to 6), each child was given an extra-long poster-sized sheet of paper at the start of the school year. They described themselves, their families, the regions of the world their families immigrated from, the languages they spoke, religious traditions and festivals, and added some photos and drawings. The kids did presentations to the class, there was discussion facilitated by the teachers, the globe and maps were pulled out, and at the end, the posters were hung up in the hallway. Another school held a world cultural festival and invited the children to bring in food and games and traditional dress. The cultural curriculum is supposed to be a fundamental and essential component of the Montessori elementary program. I've heard of some wonderful programs in some schools that integrate visits from family members along with expeditions to community events, cultural centres and places of worship to allow sharing of knowledge and experiences. The suggestion to share and teach each other isn't a bad idea, although there are a lot of different methods and activities that don't place the entire focus and burden on one group or one family. If there truly is no diversity in family heritage and a personal approach isn't possible, then possibly different regions, cultures, traditions etc. could be assigned on a random basis for students to research and present to each other. There is definitely room in the cultural component of the Montessori curriculum for this kind of work and I wonder what the director has to say about it. 

 

PP have good advice to scrutinize the schools for bullying issues and to investigate the schools' anti-bullying programs.  

 

I hope otherwise you and your family have had a happy new year. 

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Old 09-26-2012, 07:24 PM
 
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Oy. I totally feel your pain. I was one of two Jewish girls my age in our school (there was one more a year younger than us). The basic rundown (I joke that I have a stand up comedy routine on my hometown):
"are all Jewish girls blonde?" because two of the three of us were.
"oh, you can't be Jewish. You look like such a Christmasy person."
The inevitable, "I just don't want you to burn in hell for all eternity." (thousands of times, in multiple thousands of iterations.)
My personal favorite, the 8 1/2 months pregnant guidance counselor, RUNNING down the hallway of my high school, yelling at the TOP OF HER LUNGS, "ami! Ami! We have a new Jew!!!" when another Jewish family moved to town.

The local country club didn't admit Jews until the late 1980s. When I was dating a guy on the golf team, he told me that men at the club asked "how's the little Jew you're dating?" not, "how's the blonde?" or "how's the cheerleader?" but "how's the Jew?"

The business next to my father's burned down, rumors it was the Klan bc the owners were Asian. Or, in local parlance, "Oriental."

There was a cross burning on the lawn of one of the (few) African American families in town when I was about 6. The Chinese restaurant was torched a few years later "but no proof that it was a bias incident." the standard of proof is pretty high, btw. You have to actually see the pointy white hoods or hear them yelling racial or anti-semitic epithets. And if it's just the target family that sees or hears those things,it doesn't count, because you were "clearly upset and probably misheard."

When the health teacher taught our health class that "Jews castrate their sons early. Around a week or so." the one (1) Jewish boy in the school pokes his finger practically THROUGH my shoulder, "c'mon ami, you gotta fix this one!"

So there are two categories here. (1) stupid things people say, and (2) destructive and dangerous things people do. In my experience, people don't say stupid things unless they hear other people saying those things with no consequences. They don't even think there's anything wrong with it, because everyone around them talks about "Jewing someone down." it's just "normal." the social circle of the girl who threw pennies down the hall at us didn't say anything against it, because it didn't appear wrong to them. These are subtle manifestations of anti-Semitism. The little stuff is accepted, and remains accepted, until something big happens to show them all exactly how bad it's gotten.

Now, I didn't grow up in the Bible Belt. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but as we know, there's Philadelphia in one corner and Pittsburgh in another, and the rest of the state is Alabama. I grew up in "Alabama." and fled screaming at 17. The one good thing I can say for growing up where I did is that our statistics for Jewish assimilation bucked all trends. The "other Jewish girl from my hometown" and I both married religiously observant men and are now sabbath observant. The one guy our age is not religious, but he married Jewish and is very involved in his Jewish community. It's the negative reason, of course. "Because they hate us" is a lousy argument for staying Jewish. My reasons for affiliating have nothing to do with "because they hate us," although they did when i was 16. Good luck.
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:52 AM
 
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I am so sorry you and your kids are having to go through this. I don't have any great advice for you, unfortunately. I am a little bit surprised by what's going on and I'm curious where you are. I grew up (in the 70s!) in a pretty non-progressive town/city in North Carolina and we had a good number of Jewish families in the community. I never saw anything like what you're describing. It wasn't as open as the area of NC where I am now, but several of the kids I went to school with and the families on my street were Jewish and I just thought of it as a non-issue. Judaism was a little different to me since I was raised as a Presbyterian (don't go to church now), but Catholicism was "different" there, too. I am so sorry that you have run into these backwards people. It's amazing that now, in this time, people are still being so hurtful and unaware. Where I am now in NC is very open and tolerant of all faiths and ethnicities, etc. 

 

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Frankly, I'm sick of having to teach other people's children tolerance.

...

When Christians, well-meaning or not, invite me to come in and "share my traditions" they are othering and essentializing me.  They are setting me and my kids apart as different and implicitly demarcating the school/play group/etc as Christian - a place where I am a welcome guest, but not a place where I am an equal or where I have any ownership.  

 

I, too, get tired of teaching other people's children tolerance (and kindness, etc), but I do think it is our job to step up and step in when it's needed whether it's about religious/cultural differences, or just bullying behavior or even just safety. It's not always comfortable, but if the kids are not getting it at home they need to hear the message somewhere.

 

Re "sharing traditions", I think this can be done beautifully as olly pointed out, but I can see if you're the ONLY one sharing that it would single you and your kids out. If your school can have a class-wide event of sharing traditions I think that can be less discriminatory.

 

We are not religious (Dh and I grew up going to church, but haven't gone willingly in years) and our background is we're just pretty boring white people who have been here for centuries and have little of anything unusual or different to bring to the table quite literally. Dd1 had a school project one year where the kids were supposed to cook/bake an "old family recipe" and bring it in to share. All her friends had unusual things like the boy who's grandma is Korean, or the Jewish families (there were many), or the German families, etc, etc. I felt a little stuck at coming up with something. I mean, an old family recipe from our families probably involves white bread and jello or a can of mushroom soup. I did find a sugar cookie recipe, but nothing really unusual. The interesting stuff was what all the other kids brought. It was a great way to learn a little about all the families' backgrounds.

 

At my dd2's public elementary school they have something similar, "A Taste of the town" where you share a family favorite dish. There's a lot of great Mexican food at these because dd2's school has a large Hispanic population. They also learned about all different kinds of holidays in December—Christmas, Hannukah, Eid (I think it was Eid—it was definitely a Muslim holiday), Solstice, Kwanzaa, and I think one or two others. 

 

So there's no option for a larger town/city with a more diverse population? Maybe you could offer the teachers and administrators some resources on teaching multiculturalism and diversity. There are lots of online resources. Here are a few:

 

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/multiculturalism-and-diversity

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/teachers.html

http://www.tolerance.org

http://www.diversitycouncil.org/elActivities.shtml

http://www.understandingprejudice.org/teach/elemtips.htm

 

I'm just really saddened that you're having to deal with all this. I thought we were further past it in the schools. Even my southern 86 yr old mother with dementia remarked the other day that she thought it was good for my kids to go to school with all different races and sorts of people so we can all learn to get along. (To tell you the truth, I was a little worried what she was going to say when she started talking about black people since her mind is going, but I was so happy that it was such a positive sentiment.)


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Old 10-02-2012, 02:21 AM
 
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Frankly, I'm sick of having to teach other people's children tolerance.  My kids may not know who is Evangelical and who is not but you can be certain that they know enough not to declare ANY faith "freaky" or to label a person based on their minority status.  (Can you imagine if my daughter's "friend" was calling an African American kid "Nigger Girl"?!)  

 

I honestly don't understand this statement.  Jew can be used in a derogative manner as can many descriptive terms, but it's not a full out pejorative term whereas the N word is. You can say Jews, Christians, Muslims when talking about practitioners of various religions.  The same is not true for the other term.  Generally when I've had to refer to the religious beliefs of someone, I find I might say a Jewish person and a Christian, but my friend actually corrected me on this because it was as if I was treating the word Jew as a bad one by not using it. So are you claiming that there is not a legitimate reason to use the word Jew?

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Old 10-02-2012, 08:13 PM
 
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I honestly don't understand this statement.  Jew can be used in a derogative manner as can many descriptive terms, but it's not a full out pejorative term whereas the N word is. You can say Jews, Christians, Muslims when talking about practitioners of various religions.  The same is not true for the other term.  Generally when I've had to refer to the religious beliefs of someone, I find I might say a Jewish person and a Christian, but my friend actually corrected me on this because it was as if I was treating the word Jew as a bad one by not using it. So are you claiming that there is not a legitimate reason to use the word Jew?

I hate to say it, but Jew can be used as pejorative.  Look at the section in the link under Antisemitism.  

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Old 10-03-2012, 06:25 PM
 
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I hate to say it, but Jew can be used as pejorative.  Look at the section in the link under Antisemitism.  

 

I don't think you should hate to say it, because you are saying something true.  However, my point was that although Jew can be used as a pejorative, just like any word that refers to a group of people who are in the minority can be used to express a bigoted viewpoint against that group of people, the word itself is not specifically an insult, it is the way it is used.  A person might refer to herself as a Jew, but feel that she is suffering a hostile attack if someone else calls her a Jew in a scornful way.  

 

But basically to come here and say that a black person is the N word, and how would she feel if someone called her the N word, well, I find that patently offensive.  So I guess what I am saying is please don't come and deliberately use a very offensive term for a group of people and think that because you are talking about discrimination, that it is perfectly acceptable to do this.  It is not.  A comparable example would have said what if they kept calling an African Amercian girl Black Girl.

 

In any event, I think this is something that should be brought up to the authorities at the school, as you did, but I am not sure what things they will do.  Ideally, I think that they would have some sort of dialogue about this kind of speech, but ostensibly schools are already doing it.  Unfortunately it just seems that most of them put up signs that say stop bullying, bullying hurts.

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Old 10-04-2012, 02:49 PM
 
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wagz i did not find either of the comments anti-Semitic.

 

if anything Jew girl is the same as saying black girl or asian girl. perhaps a quick way to refering to a person before one knows their name. which seems to be the case. 

 

freaky in K could mean different. 

 

what i would expect is a little lesson for the K class so that the kids are better informed and so that jews dont appear that freaky. esp. since your son was upset. perhaps you can volunteer that if you have time. that's why my dd's school teacher did when she was being teased about her 'asian food' in her lunch box. that made a difference to the teasing. one of the moms brought dreidel for each child and taught them the game to introduce the culture. 

 

however your post does not surprise me at all. if you are not from the dominant culture here - there is always some anti- something around. in fact on a field trip yesterday from my college so many of the students were talking about how segregated society really is. even in a diverse culture like california someone always faces something. dd and i are so used to racial slurs of some time - explicit or implicit that it is just part of life. 


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Old 10-04-2012, 04:11 PM
 
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wagz i did not find either of the comments anti-Semitic.

if anything Jew girl is the same as saying black girl or asian girl. perhaps a quick way to refering to a person before one knows their name. which seems to be the case. 

freaky in K could mean different. 

what i would expect is a little lesson for the K class so that the kids are better informed and so that jews dont appear that freaky. esp. since your son was upset. perhaps you can volunteer that if you have time. that's why my dd's school teacher did when she was being teased about her 'asian food' in her lunch box. that made a difference to the teasing. one of the moms brought dreidel for each child and taught them the game to introduce the culture. 

however your post does not surprise me at all. if you are not from the dominant culture here - there is always some anti- something around. in fact on a field trip yesterday from my college so many of the students were talking about how segregated society really is. even in a diverse culture like california someone always faces something. dd and i are so used to racial slurs of some time - explicit or implicit that it is just part of life. 

OMG. Seriously? You seriously don't think calling someone "Jew girl" is antisemitic?
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:38 PM
 
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OMG. Seriously? You seriously don't think calling someone "Jew girl" is antisemitic?

nope. not coming from a teenager. i hope they would have used 'jewish girl' but no i dont. if a teacher or adult said that - then yes of course. but a teenager - no. 

 

i hear those kind of comments all around me in college. the few people i know who use those comments - its more a description. like the covered girl. well they tried the girl who debates. when they couldnt figure out who it was they said 'covered girl' and immediately the other person knew who she was talking about. 

 

i hear a lot of high school speak. i have learnt to see them as non anti-xxx. 


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Old 10-04-2012, 11:58 PM
 
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nope. not coming from a teenager. i hope they would have used 'jewish girl' but no i dont. if a teacher or adult said that - then yes of course. but a teenager - no. 

 

 

agreed - esp if it is one friend to another.

 

I think it *could* be a slur depending on how it was said, but I wouldn't assume it was slur.


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Old 10-05-2012, 12:49 AM
 
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well her dd didnt mind it and now that they know her name they are not calling her that anymore.

 

so i figured the intent was not a slur. but just a teenage thing. 


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Old 10-05-2012, 05:47 AM
 
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Meemee-

All of the examples you give- black, Asian, covered- are all physical descriptions. So, what's the physical description of someone who is Jewish?

Do you see the difference?
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:21 AM
 
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I liked GeoFizz's suggestion of keeping track of incidents and then following up if warranted.

 

People - kids in particular - try to "fit" others into categories that are familiar to them. When there is something outside of the familiar, they can have trouble figuring out where that person belongs. And that can manifest itself in ways that come off poorly, as wagz's kids experienced. Yes, in an ideal world, the parents would educate their kids in these matters. But we don't live in an ideal world. So the option is to sit and stew over others' ignorance, or do something to change it yourself.

 

When I was coming up, in a very small town in the NE, pretty much everyone was Catholic or Lutheran. A few Baptists thrown in. And my brother and I. The sole first Gen Americans, and Russian Orthodox to boot. Sure, also Christian. But well out of the realm of experience of any of our peers (not to mention their parents). We heard lots of comments about us being commies (middle of the Cold War, after all), about our celebrating holidays like Christmas and Easter at different times than they did, about how weird our observance of Lent was. (Yeah - bringing sardine sandwiches for lunch for seven weeks provided a wealth of fodder...) My Mom chose to invite those kids to our home to learn about some of our traditions, whether it was having our home blessed, or preparing for the holidays, or just talking about the things we did differently vs what we did similarly. It helped all of us.

 

Interestingly enough, I had the opportunity to experience being in the minority during my first year of marriage. I was welcomed with open arms by all... until it came out that I was a Christian. Then the doors (and minds) closed. Yep, it was hurtful. And embarrassing. And left me wondering why people couldn't look past that one detail to get to know ME. Yes, a valuable experience - one that might go a long way to changing how majority people relate to one another if they had to experience it firsthand. Oh, the country I experienced this in? Israel.

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Old 10-05-2012, 10:46 AM
 
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Meemee-
All of the examples you give- black, Asian, covered- are all physical descriptions. So, what's the physical description of someone who is Jewish? Do you see the difference?

but isnt it the same thing? i am at a v. diverse place. i rarely hear anyone saying that muslim girl. instead they use covered girl. but the intent is the same. to choose a characteristic that is unique to that person. 

 

but again no matter what they use - Jew girl, or new girl, or girl with red hair, no matter what words they use (except of course outright racist terms like the N word) the intent is what matters doesnt it?!!!! for a region where one doesnt know much about a minority the minority aspect sticks out. esp. when otherwise she looks the same as everyone. whether that's a religion or race or disability. i have heard adults use what were to me eye popping terms about a person based on their mental disability in a small town store. i doubt they use it straight to their face though. but its an identifying factor when the other person doesnt really understand who they are talking about.  

 

my friend was called the atheist kid in high school inspite of his premature grey hair, because in a religious school his 'religion' or should i say lack of it stood out like a sore thumb instead of his grey ponytail. in fact his nickname in school was AK. 

 

mtiger my nephew phased that too in Israel. he is a bahaii. in a small town too. not in Tel Aviv. 


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Old 10-05-2012, 11:20 AM
 
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mtiger my nephew phased that too in Israel. he is a bahaii. in a small town too. not in Tel Aviv. 

 

We weren't in Tel Aviv. We were at the Weizmann, which is (in theory) a diverse community. But not. And it's okay that it wasn't. There were a handful of us who weren't Jewish, and we made do.

 

I'll admit that I was amused that I hosted Seders, etc. for single Jewish friends here, but we were never invited to share in the festivities there. People in the majority EVERYWHERE show bias. I really just is.

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Old 10-08-2012, 12:18 AM
 
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I don't think you should hate to say it, because you are saying something true.  However, my point was that although Jew can be used as a pejorative, just like any word that refers to a group of people who are in the minority can be used to express a bigoted viewpoint against that group of people, the word itself is not specifically an insult, it is the way it is used.  A person might refer to herself as a Jew, but feel that she is suffering a hostile attack if someone else calls her a Jew in a scornful way.  

 

But basically to come here and say that a black person is the N word, and how would she feel if someone called her the N word, well, I find that patently offensive.  So I guess what I am saying is please don't come and deliberately use a very offensive term for a group of people and think that because you are talking about discrimination, that it is perfectly acceptable to do this.  It is not.  A comparable example would have said what if they kept calling an African Amercian girl Black Girl.

 

"Jew girl" is offensive. "Jewish girl" is not necessarily. High schoolers are certainly capable of that distinction. But, Jewish is both a religious AND an ethnic distinction in most people's minds. They wouldn't say "Catholic girl" but I sure bet they'd say "Mexican girl". I have a really really hard time believing that it could have been meant in a "friendly" way. It was a deliberate attempt to call out her difference, not a celebration of diversity.

 

And given the history of rampant anti-Semitism in the US, ESPECIALLY in the Bible Belt, I think the comparison to nigger is very apt. The KKK was anti-Semitic too, and the did cross burnings and at least one lynching of a Jewish man that I remember reading about.

 

Personally, I'd raise hell with the school, and if it continued, I'd call the mainstream Protestant churches in town and ask them what they're doing these days for tolerance.


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Old 10-09-2012, 07:21 PM
 
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Jew Girl= offensive.

That black girl= offensive.

That covered girl= offensive.

 

 

WTF? Are we serious here? I would be pissed if my kid got called that- it's super important that teachers and parents are teaching their kids to look beyond race and religion to describe their peers. And no matter what the adjective is, adding "that" in front of anything is pretty offensive. I hate being called "that short girl". (not that it, in any way, compares to being called "jew girl." C'mon- these kids did not forget her name. They just found a nickname that is offensive.

 

And how is "Jew girl" any less offensive than the n word? I grew up in a culture where it was completely acceptable to say "that n-word lady at the grocery store...." and no one even blinked an eye. Jew is used in a derogatory sense all over this country.  I just cannot see how someone could think this isnt offensive.

 

 

OP. is there any update?


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Old 10-09-2012, 09:46 PM
 
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aaaaaaaaargh i feel like tearing my hair out now. 

 

i feel like i am not being heard. 

 

YES jew girl IS offensive for me. the N girl. the black girl - all offensive.

 

however in TEENAGE speech they mostly are NOT!!!!

 

in fact black teenage talk is peppered with the N word. THEY dont consider it offensive. another teen calling them the N word is not offensive. but you or me calling them the N word - yes very much so offensive and they would be pissed off. 

 

i think for those few years from high school to the first two years of college - the teens and young adults have a whole different vocabulary of what is offensive and what is not  - that is different from society. 

 

the reason why i wouldnt raise hell is coz OPs dd doesnt want that. she also noted that the name calling has stopped. or gone down. 

 

in a small town, a new girl, a minority too - i would NOT raise hell. i am sure she doesnt want to stand out and be THAT girl. 

 

if it continues - ABSOLUTELY yes. but if it doesnt then no. 

 

however it would be wonderful if the teacher had a talk/discussion in class on what society finds offensive. what communities find offensive. 


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Old 10-10-2012, 05:09 AM
 
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I just don't understand why teenagers (and apparently until they are TWENTY(?!?!) get a free pass to be offensive. That's absurd. If anything, teens should be called out immediately so that they DONT go to college doing stupid crap like calling people "that black girl" or "jew girl". If I had met someone my own age when I was twenty who said that, I'd have likely tore them a new one for it. Now days, Id just walk away, but my temper was a lot worse back then. 


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