Friday, November 21, 2008

If it looks like a duck...

Yesterday, Sofia's nursery school class held their "Thankful Feast", a chance for family to come see the classroom and hear the kids sing some cute Thanksgiving songs. We had all been asked to make little photo collages of our family. So I walked in to find our collage hanging...

... on a fir tree.

I was taken aback. Sofia and I were the first ones in the room, so when the teacher arrived with the rest of the class, I gingerly asked "You have Christmas trees in the room?"

"Oh, no! Those are Family Trees, not Christmas Trees."

I spoke to the principal at pickup, who also assured me they were "Family Trees".

Come'on. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you can call it a fish, but it's still a duck.

They just didn't get it. To their credit, they did both make sure to let me know they in no way meant to offend anyone. They really really do see a little evergreen tree with decorations on it as something other than "Christmas'y".

Sigh. I can't wait for Sofia to go to the Day School.

My (non-Jewish) hairdresser didn't understand either. "Well, I could point to the stars on the wall in my son's class and say they were Jewish Stars, right?" (Uh, no, they were 5-pointed. Magen Davids have 6 points...)

Fortunately, all my Jewish friends "got it".

I do not begrudge anyone the celebration of their own religious customs. I don't even have a (big) problem with the Christmas displays in privately owned areas, like stores and offices.

But a public school is a public school. The minute some teacher says something about "our tree" or "well, what WE do for the winter holiday is....", my child is removed from the group. And that's not right.

I do think we should all learn a bit about each other's holidays. But not in public school. In public school, the content is not "controlled" by anyone. A well-meaning teacher, trying to teach the importance of Christmas-Kwanza-Hanukah, can easily mislead the kids into thinking that Hanukah is a major major event on the Jewish calendar.

It's not. When the principal, welcoming the parents, mentioned gearing up for "this busy holiday season", all I could think of was the past two months I just spent with my own busy holiday season. I'm not busy in December.

As an American, I celebrate Thanksgiving.

As a Jew, I celebrate Hanukah, by making sure I have enough candles for my rather large chanukiyah collection, and getting small gifties for the kids. We might even go to a party or two. There are a few additions to the regular liturgy for Shabbat and during the week.

But when I compare that to the enormous amount of time and energy spent on the activities surrounding Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, or I look forward to the preparations for Passover, Hanukah is a very very minor holiday.


Ok. Otherwise, it was an adorable little program, and it was really nice to meet the other parents from Sofia's class - all of whom apparently hear about Sofia daily from their own kids! I don't hear about any of them from Sofia, of course, but it was great to watch my little social butterfly flit from friend to friend.

Happy First Birthday to my darling niece Lilie (and my cousin Lily, too! They are 4 days apart!).


Anonymous said...

Okay - Here goes - see if this works... I, too, would have been a lot less than thrilled to see my family photo hanging on a fir tree in my child's classroom. Thankfully, we've had 6 1/2 years of public school with no such incidents.