Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Day in yeshivos

So what will your kids learn in yeshiva today about the meaning of diversity? I can hear the laughter even asI write this. I'm not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination, but why not devote a day to the topic? The reality is that until most of our kids enter the workforce (and only then if they do so outside the local community) their exposure to African Americans is limited to the janitor in school, the bus driver, the guy who fixes their car or woman who cleans their home, and others they see "out there" but have no real contact with. This inevitably creates stereotyped images. I'm well aware of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons out there that are not exactly friends of the Jewish community, but politics can be left for others to fight over while we take away the good lessons to be learned.

11 comments:

  1. good point. my suggestion for part of the syllabus here.

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  2. Actually, all of my kids learned about MLK Jr in school last week. Quite nice messages, actually. I was impressed.

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  3. kishnevi10:47 PM

    Given the amount of anti-Semitism I've encountered from blacks--almost endemic, if my experiences are a good indicator-- I'm more concerned about black kids being exposed to Jews, so they don't succumb to the Jesse and Al view of Jews.
    (Although the child of the rural South who surreptiously inpsected me to see if I had horns or cloven hooves when he became my college roommate was white, not black.)

    Does your son's school periodically advertise, like a mesivta here in Miami, that it does not discriminate based on race, color, etc. in admitting students, to meet requirements for federal funds?

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  4. Anonymous5:10 AM

    Exactly which value should we be learning from MLK? Is it the value of diversity, or more likely the value of fairness?

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  5. Anonymous5:11 AM

    Exactly which value should we be learning from MLK? Is it the value of diversity, or more likely the value of fairness?

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  6. >>>Does your son's school periodically advertise, like a mesivta here in Miami, that it does not discriminate based on race, color, etc. in admitting students, to meet requirements for federal funds?

    I have not noticed, but most schools usually do these things and bury it on the back pages of some obscure paper.

    Anonymous, instead of answering your question I would say that is exactly the type topic a teacher might want to discuss on MLK day.

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  7. It is very sad how far behind the orthodox Jewish community is in terms of racism. I have witnessed far too much racism amongst 7-12th graders as well as students in yeshiva gedolas as well as adults.

    I try to remind people (when I have the opportunity) who make these racist remarks that racist remarks are almost always the same no matter who they are directed at and that racism is not only morally wrong it is irrational.

    Racism is based on an irrational fear of the "other" and is rooted in peoples' insecurities about their own "superiority". It is interesting to note that almost every racist slur is rooted in attributing animal like qualities to the "other". For example, people will say the "other" has a large nose; does not bathe or is dirty or smelly or doesn't wear deodorant; is stupid; eats strange food; etc.

    I have seen this racism expressed against many groups: 1) Ashkenazim against Sephardim; 2) Americans against Israelis; 3) Whites against Blacks.

    When I challenge people on their racism in almost every case their first response is, "but it is true". How sad.

    One example: I overheard a yeshiva bochur complaining about a black neighborhood. The problem that he described was that there were so many of them just hanging around on the street. I wondered if he had ever been to Boro Park or Williamsburg or Flatbush and seen all the Jews wearing strange clothes just hanging around on the street. Unfortunately, I was bentching and didn't have a chance to ask him.

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  8. Yehuda R1:33 PM

    In lieu of there being another Yehuda posting on this blog henceforth I will post as Yehuda R.
    There most definitly is a value of children learning to respect all types of people nonjews included.The reason there is such 'racism' by some in the frum community is probally caused primarlly by having had multiple personal bad experiances with members of certain ethnicties which a diversty class won't help in the case of children.

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  9. >>>The reason there is such 'racism' by some in the frum community is probally caused primarlly by having had multiple personal bad experiances with members of certain ethnicties

    By your reasoning, I guess anti-semitism abounds because of all the bad experiences people have with Jews?

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  10. yehuda R12:51 PM

    I don't believe for a second that the average neonazi was bullied, taunted,mugged or physicly accosted by jews when he was a kid.Almost everyone I know who grew up in certain urban areas endured at least one of the above more then once from members of certain ethnic groups.That doesn't justify isdisrimintly disliking all of them but it does explain certain atitudes towards them.

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  11. Does that explain ashkenazim against sefardim? BTW, thank you for accommodating my name.

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