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My Kid's Preschool Dissed Hanukkah!

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At my kid's school, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas -- and NOTHING else.


Guest blogger Mom De Plume: Every time I pick my daughter up from preschool, I can't help noticing that her little classroom has turned into a winter wonderland. And not just any winter wonderland: a Christmas wonderland. On every available space, there are drawings of Christmas trees, Santas and reindeer. A Christmas tree stands in the corner, covered with angel and elf decorations.

As a Jew living in a mostly Christian society, I'm used to the pervasiveness of Christmas and the disparity of how much "face time" Hanukkah gets in schools. But it really hit me the other day when I noticed, at the far, far end of my daughter's classroom, a couple of store-bought menorah pictures taped haphazardly to a door. That's it?! Kind of insulting. Couldn't they at least try to celebrate the holiday?

I've also been told there will be a Christmas program wherein the tiny tots will belt out "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I get it: Those songs are fun to sing. But what about "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"? It's a nice ditty, too. And it's about a toy!! And CLAY. Super fun!

To be fair, there is no baby Jesus hanging around the class. But is it too much to ask that my religion not be shoved into a corner?

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27 comments so far | Post a comment now
Leah December 2, 2010, 5:19 AM

THANK YOU!! I live in a community with a larger Jewish population but while we are criticized for not recognizing Christmas enough (HELLO - not my holiday) Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashannah, EVERY Jewish Holy Day gets completely dissed.

Mom December 2, 2010, 7:27 AM

It is easier if you live near a large city. People are more inclusive. That being said, I understand your feelings, but isn’t Hannukah a minor holiday that has been talked up due to is proximity to Christmas? If they had drawings on the door, at least it was a nod to the festival. Why not volunteer to teach the kids the dreidel song? It isn’t really well known outside the Jewish community.

Sara December 2, 2010, 9:02 AM

Christmas is actually a holiday that was made up to assimilate Pagans and Jews. If Jesus existed, he was born in the spring. The church choose the date of the 25th, taken from the Jewish Hanukkah start date, the 25th of Kislev and the tree comes from the Pagans celebration of winter solstice and their tradition of lighting the tree. Therefore, Christmas would actually be the more minor holiday talked up to obscure others.

If any religious holiday is in a school then ALL need to be EQUALLY represented.

michelle December 2, 2010, 9:08 AM

We’re Jewish and this post strikes me as completely ridiculous. Hanukkah is a very minor holiday and I would never think to demand equal “face time” with Christmas. What would that even mean? Are we competing against Christianity in the religion Olympics? Making others (reluctantly) acknowledge my holiday is not going to do anything to validate my own family’s and community’s more-meaningful observances. If what’s going on at your kids’ preschool bothers you, maybe it’s a sign that you should be (a) creating your own Hanukkah family traditions at home and/or getting more involved in your synagogue’s celebrations/observances, and (b) sending your kids to the local JCC for preschool, or at least somewhere a little more diverse.

Sara December 2, 2010, 9:30 AM

Does the teacher know that she has a Jewish child? If I’ve had Jewish children in class I’ll add a Hanukkah or Hebrew song but otherwise I stick with traditional carols and songs that have been sung for decades or centuries and should be passed down (like the other songs we sing in class). Many Hanukkah and “other winter holiday” songs are badly written songs composed by the textbook makers and not traditional songs that have stood the test of time.

Lucy December 2, 2010, 10:14 AM

Still bitter? I read this same article last year. Christmas trees, Rudolph and Santa Claus are not religious symbols. You, yourself, said there was no Baby Jesus tacked up anywhere. So why is your religion being shoved in the corner, you ask? At least it gets the corner. There’s nothing religious about the Christmas decorations you mentioned.

Diana December 2, 2010, 10:20 AM

Ok mom’s, no excuses, but, usually it is because the school does not know how to secularize the holiday. Does you school have a PTA? Go to your school with these ideas and show them how to include your holiday without including the bible in any way! That is the problem. With separation of church and state they CANNOT mention God the bible or any type of religion. So the reason you might be getting short shrift is they just don’t know how to include it and be politically correct and not get sued by the ACLU. COme up with a way and they will incorporate it. But you must be very careful. At least your candle is allowed, our creche is not!

Leanne December 2, 2010, 10:22 AM

“otherwise I stick with traditional carols and songs that have been sung for decades or centuries and should be passed down (like the other songs we sing in class)”

Um, pretty sad that people don’t understand the HANUKKAH has been a tradition FAR FAR FAR longer than Christmas.

Agree with the poster who stated that if ANY religious aspect is brought up then ALL religions need to be focused on equally.

I also find it equally sad, that as a Christian, I WANT my children to know about Hanukkah and other holidays - my religion is no more valid or real than any other. And actually, as a Christian I feel like we should be honest. Christmas doesn’t really celebrate the birth of Christ anymore. Unless you’re spending it in church, you’re celebrating Santa.

Asha December 2, 2010, 10:23 AM

I find it funny that an obviously non-Jew has the nerve to say “still bitter”. Um, yes, after thousands of years of discrimination and hate crimes I think we have the right to be bitter about paying the same amount for pre-school as you and having our holidays completely ignored.

LizPW December 2, 2010, 11:54 AM

I’m Jewish. My Son’s preschool is not. So about a month ago I went to the school and said “if you need any help with decorations, crafts, stories or songs for Chanukah, I’d be happy to provide them to you. Chanukah comes early this year and I wanted to make sue you had what you need.”

This has resulted in many Chanukah projects, songs and inclusion. They might not know what you need or want unless you tell them.

Worked for me.

Sammi December 2, 2010, 12:31 PM

I’m Jewish - my children’s pre-school was prepping for Christmas activities and I pointed out that in my son’s class alone there were 3 Jewish children and what could we do to include their holiday. I was told they were celebrating the “Santa” aspect, not the “Jesus” part. I explained the 2 are the same to Jewish children since we explain Santa doesn’t come to Jewish homes. After I clarified they were a little more inclusive, but they did act like they were doing me a favor.

I’m currently looking for a new school, needless to say, but I do agree. Jewish holidays are usually ignored.

Selmada December 2, 2010, 1:25 PM

We’re athiest. I intend to teach my toddlers about the various aspects, origins and religions surrounding the season, without any bias towards or against any.
We celebrate what it looks like they have done in that class, decorating trees, santa clause etc.
It doesn’t sound like the school is trying to teach anything at all about the religion side. Should they? That always brings up contention, but I think it wont hurt for the class to have a discussion of different ways they celebrate the season, even including those who don’t celebrate anything in December. If religion is discussed, it must be inclusive of everyone in the class and non-biased. But be prepared for parents to complain if it happens.

Anonymous December 2, 2010, 1:52 PM

How about talking to the teacher and asking if you can do a presentation for the class on Hanakkuh? Plan some kind of fun activity and song for them and give them some chocolate gelt.

nutmac December 2, 2010, 2:09 PM

One of the posters has summarized the history of Christmas (that it does not have anything to do with Jesus), so I am not going to repeat. The bottom line is, Christmas is not a religious holiday. Although Christians do celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday within their church, with nativity scene and all, most don’t take Christmas all that seriously. Unless the school insists on building nativity scene and sing Christian songs, just accept it as a commercialized American tradition.

noa December 2, 2010, 3:56 PM

Sheesh and here I was wondering how to get my kid early out of secular school on fridays in time for shabbat… I thought I had problems.
I was really starting to think: well since judaism is important to me, instead of making my life harder, why not MOVE to a place where I can offer my child (who happens to be the most important thing in my life and only goal) a good education (including about judaism). hmmm
Because yes, giving your child a good jewish education is a mitzvah…. much older then hanukka.

Anonymous December 3, 2010, 5:39 PM

So the only religious symbol in the classroom was a Jewish one? Is that fair?

Anonymous December 3, 2010, 5:46 PM

“my religion is no more valid or real than any other” that’s got to be one of the incomprehensible sentiments I hear on the topic of religion from believers. Because it fundamentally conflicts with what the religious books say. The one true God, no other god etc. How can all religions be valid if only one can be true? - Before anyone attacks, that doesn’t mean people aren’t entitled to believe what they choose or should be treated poorly about it. It’s a question of can another religion be valid if the religion you believe in says all other ways are wrong?

Carly December 5, 2010, 6:43 AM

The last two Anonymous comments are spot on. Couldn’t agree more!

depressionen December 6, 2010, 2:21 AM

We have to be more considerate about each others religion. Me as a Roman Catholic, respect the people’s religion may it catholic, jew, islam, or any other religion. Christmas is just a celebration. We have to remember that it is the spirit of giving that makes christmas a wonderful season. It is not exclusive to the christians. It is for everyone.

Shane December 6, 2010, 1:02 PM

I know, for the most part, that many teachers simply aren’t aware of other traditions or their meanings. As a parent, in my opinion, you have to be a little proactive as opposed to having expectations that might not be met. If you would like to help with activities and sharing traditions, most teachers are happy to include you. That’s what I’ve found.
I would think you wouldn’t want a non-Jewish teacher trying to explain things.
In my family, we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. Many Jewish families I know have Christmas trees. It’s not anything to do with religion, but the “season”. I have a Jewish friend in New York who says this is the most beautiful time of the year with all the lights and garlands and decorations. It doesn’t offend him. It’s the season for it.
I just think if you want more of Hanukkah in your child’s class, then offer to bring it. Offer to teach the dreidel song, show them how to play the game and bring in latkes.
People can’t understand what they don’t know.
Rudolph, Santa, and Frosty the Snowman aren’t religiously based.
They are seasonally traditional in my opinion.
I remember my kids bringing home crafts about “In like a lion, out like a lamb”, “The dog days of summer”. These are little things about life children need to know and I feel the same way about St. Patrick’s or St. Valentine’s Day. These things go on in the world around us and whether we celebrate them or not, kids should have an understanding.
Like I said, be proactive. Use things as an opportunity to share.

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