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Teaching the Christian Kids to Gamble

posted Wednesday December 8th, 2010

I was out for a walk early this morning when an old man in an I Heart Jesus baseball cap tried to hand me some propaganda.

From the Things-I’m-Not-Particularly-Proud-Of category, I’ll admit that I wasn’t very nice. “I am SO NOT INTERESTED,” I huffed (and puffed), rushing past him. “Stop bothering people!”

I was in a hurry. In a hurry because I had to get home and get ready to teach Sophie’s second grade class how to play dreidel.

As I neared my house, turning off Queen and wrapping the cord around the Shuffle, it occurred to me, as it often does, that I’m quite a hypocrite. I won’t take this sweet (he looked sweet) man’s pamphlet, but I expect two dozen 7 year olds to sit rapt while I tell them the story of my own religion’s holiday? (And then teach them all to gamble — go Jews!)

I’m not sure if I rationalized it or if I’m right, but by the time I pulled up to school I’d decided not to feel guilty. This is different. This is simply educating the other kids about how Sophie is different from them (oy — for once not how she’s different in that way) without trying to get them to convert.

Of course, chocolate coins can be quite convincing, even if you don’t mean them to. My mother came along and after dreidel she put on some Hanukkah music and everyone danced. It was a lot of fun.

And it was important. To me, anyway. There are very few Jewish kids at our school. Even fewer than I grew up with. I’m sure I’ve told you this story before, but before Annabelle was born, Ray and I had a talk about her Jewish education. Ray’s a fallen Catholic and I’m a shaky Jew, and he’s pretty down on organized religion in general, but he announced over pizza that night that he wanted our kids to know they were Jewish.

“Better they know than someone else tell them,” he explained. I knew exactly what he meant, and it’s stuck with me ever since. So even though we don’t go to temple (much — okay, not at all in the last year), I go to school and teach the other kids about Hanukkah. It’s something to be proud of.

What does that have in common with the I Heart Jesus guy? I don’t know. I think part of what bugged me so much about him was that he was standing near the huge Chabad electric menorah on ASU’s campus, lit for the seventh night of Hanukkah, one of the few signs of Judaism you ever see in a part of this town where it’s impossible to find matzoh meal at Safeway, and where no one’s bought up the frozen latkes at Trader Joe’s.

What I wanted to say to the old guy was, “Can’t you just give us eight days a year? Do you have to get in the way today?”

Instead, I shook my head and kept walking.

Happy Hanukkah.

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Tags: Filed under: culture, family, religion, Uncategorized by Amysilverman

5 Responses to “Teaching the Christian Kids to Gamble”

  1. I spent one day last week making latkes with all of the kids at one of the campuses of Brennan, Sophie, and Abby’s school. This Monday & Tuesday I went in and talked about Hanukkah and taught dreidel to the preschool and kindergarten kids at both campuses. All because I’m hoping that these kids will grow up and not schedule events on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or the first nights of Hanukkah and Passover. A girl can dream…

  2. I think that you are right on the button. Don’t fall for those sweet looking little old guys handing out pamphlets – he might belong to some wacky group in disguise- I’m cynical!

  3. Although I try not to snap at strangers in the street, I believe that anyone who approaches me uninvited AND says or does something that I wouldn’t accept from a loved one ought to be able to roll with what they get — I might not be proud of myself after, but I would certainly cut myself some slack.

  4. Well, trying to teach someone about your religion is not the same as trying to convert someone, right? Very different energies I think. Anyway, I think it is great that you go and share your religious culture with Sophie’s class. I still remember when Sam , in my first grade class, taught our class about Hanukkah. I loved everything about it and went home and asked my mom if we could be Jewish. I thought it was something you could sign up for, like swim lessons. To this day (and I am now 51 years-old) I remember my disappointment when she explained that we didn’t celebrate Hanukkah because we were Catholic.

  5. My son is the only Jew in his class, and so far (he’s only in 2nd grade) has been the only Jew in his grade every year. When he was in Kinder, I went in and spent a whole day talking about Hannukah, playing dreidel, singing songs and eating latkes. Every year, we do something similar so that his holidays are represented in the classroom festivites, too. He has a blast. His classmates have a blast, too. There’s no propaganda, no preaching, just sharing. fun and food. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If holidays are going to be celebrated in school, everyone in the room should be celebrated.

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