I had another essay in mind for my second blog entry but since life is what happens despite, not because of, my plans, another pressing and timely topic has intruded. The holiday season is approaching and it has begun generating all kind of emotions, questions, and confusion in my nearly seven year old daughter. She’s in first grade it’s the first year she is seeing the unequal weight being given to different religious holidays. You can’t live in America and miss Christmas. Winter break from school is really Christmas vacation despite the fact that it is no longer called that. She asked me, “Why don’t I get the eight days of Hanukah off instead?” She doesn’t understand that the default American culture is Christianity. Sure there’s political correctness and such these days but in the end it is majority rule. Not that it should be any other way. If it were up to me I would change Hanukah’s dates to coincide with Christmas vacation then there wouldn’t be an issue. But not only is it not up to me, apparently that would destroy the meaning of Hanukah. Or so I am told. Anyway, in the end I am left trying to explain ‘being different,’ being a minority, to a seven-year old. SO I DID. Here’s my attempt. Oh, and the other reason I decided to preempt my regularly scheduled entry was that the following piece generated conversations on my Facebook site which really impressed me. The ideas and questions spanned from Buddhism to fundamentalism, from football to chess. Enough said, here’s the poem I wrote for my daughter and the conversation we had around it.
The only Jew: I wrote this for you!
When you’re the only Jew be proud not blue.
Gone are the days when you couldn’t be true.
Share, you’re like me and I am like you.
We like what we like and we do what we do.
Celebrating our holidays our family our friends, going to school,
Isn’t that cool?
Our similarities are high, our differences few.
But I am I, A Proud Beautiful, Jew.
Gabrielle (my 7 yr old) came home from school in a huff. “Claudia said Jews don’t get presents for Hanukah. I told her they do.”
“I want to take that off from the refrigerator.” Gabrielle was pointing to her Jewish summer camp group photo.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I don’t know what to say about it. My friends always ask about it.”
“Just tell them it’s Jew Camp I said.”
“I did, and they ask me what’s Jew camp.”
“Tell them it’s like any camp, art projects, cool trips, and your dad came and volunteered.”
“Why am I the only Jew in my class? There not gonna celebrate Hanukah at school.”
“Gabrielle, what if everyone was exactly the same?”
Gabrielle looked at me in wonder. “We wouldn’t be able to recognize our parents. When we got off the bus all the houses would be exactly the same. We wouldn’t be able to find home. All our toys, everyone’s, would be exactly the same. That would be boring.” “Dad, can you read me the poem again?”
-Dr. Brilliant Cliché