Shver Zu Zein Ein Yid (It’s Hard to be A Jew)
Everything here is different.
Or, at least, it seems that way. At times. To all five of us.
December is proving to be particularly difficult for Poppyseed. It wasn’t that Christmas was ignored back in California. In fact, it certainly seems as though it was everywhere. If only we had known…
When I was a congregational rabbi, parents would often ask me what to do about the overwhelming number of Christmas songs in the annual “Holiday” concert. Or wonder if I was going into my kids’ classrooms to teach about Chanukah. I had my own beliefs about how to handle the “December Dilemma” as a Jewish family and felt secure with our choices.
But Poppyseed is right; things are different here. There is Christmas music playing in the lobby of Poppyseed’s elementary school. And on the daily morning announcement.? And in the classrooms. Christmas trees are all over the school. Yeah, we had them in high school. But Poppyseed is only in the third grade.
Now Poppyseed wants me to ask the teacher if there can be a menorah put next to the tree. And I so desperately want to say, “no.” No, we cannot ask for a menorah to be placed in the room because religious symbols do not belong in the public schools. And just because the United States Supreme Court has determined that neither the tree nor the menorah are religious objects when placed in a predominently secular setting, doesn’t mean that they aren’t religious. No, we cannot try and create parity where there is none just because we are feeling as though everyone was invited to THE party…except for us. No, because our Festival of Lights commemorates the belief that we are different and have been willing to sacrifice our lives to protect our right to be different.
And then I look in her tear-filled eyes. The pressure of being one of the few Jews in a new school, in a new town, and without a spiritual home is weighing her down. She didn’t ask to be removed from the warmth of our former community. Or to be brought to what must feel to her like galut.
What happens to my principles if I am willing to push them aside, albeit reluctantly, for the sake of my child? Not to save her life, but to make her feel more comfortable? What am I teaching her by standing my ground?