Jewish student

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by clynns, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. clynns

    clynns Companion

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    I recently found out that one of my students is Jewish. He is not allowed to participate in Halloween, Christmas, or Easter. There are things I've always done such as "The Elf on the Shelf". I want to do it this year but I know this child can't participate. What's the most respectful way to do it? I don't want to not do it but I know he isn't suppose to celebrate Christmas.
     
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  3. Lynnnn725

    Lynnnn725 Connoisseur

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    could it be a winter elf, instead of a christmas elf?
     
  4. Windy City

    Windy City Companion

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    I do the same thing with certain props. I try to make "permanent" items in the classroom as non-denominational as possible. However, if we are reading a story or whatnot, every student participates. Just because a student doesn't celebrate a certain holiday doesn't mean they can't hear a story about it. When I was with younger students, I used it as an opportunity to talk about how different religions celebrate different things. It was never just limited to Christmas and Hannukah. We read stories about Diwali, Kwanzaa, etc...

    I think that the key to the right balance is to not make it seem like a Christian and Jewish thing, but more like learning about the people of the world.
     
  5. 2inspire

    2inspire Companion

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    or check with his parents-I have a student who is a JW and she just has to leave the classroom when we do anything like that. I've been told her parents keep her home on party days and such so that she doesn't have to be as excluded
     
  6. bros

    bros Phenom

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    You could ask if the parents or someone could come in around Chanukah and teach the children about it and maybe bring in some stuff like chocolate coins or potato latkah
     
  7. MissJill

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    Do you guys still have Christmas parties and other types of celebrations?
     
  8. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I guess my thought would be why not skip that activity this year if you know he won't be able to participate?

    This strikes a chord with me because one of my best friends still remembers an assignment in elementary where they were required to write a story about Santa. Being Jewish, she couldn't write about Santa-the teacher made her write about the Hanukkah elves-which was just as ridiculous to her, but she did it anyway because it was required. Some 30 years later she still remembers the teacher's lack of respect for their traditions.

    I pretty much don't do big celebrations for the holidays-Halloween we do spiders and bats, Winter instead of Christmas-I just assume that there are differing traditions and would never want a child singled out or left out due to the beliefs of their parents. As for Easter, I always do a unit on eggs that week (there are surprisingly a lot of un-Easter related egg stories) and we do science experiments with them, etc. I do agree with the others, if you are comparing all traditions or can have the different families share theirs, it might more meaningful for all the kids. There are Gingerbread Man stories from all different cultures-that's what I do in December.
     
  9. CANteach

    CANteach Rookie

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    I think its important to talk about holidays but ALL holidays. I've had students share their own experiences with their own holidays and I try make any parties/activities non-denominational but we do read stories about holidays - I just try to read them about all holidays, even if no one in the class celebrates them etc. I would try not to make everything completely focused on Christmas, rather make it holidays and incorporate all. Its a tough one, I know in many places in Ontario and BC you can't have Halloween its "black and orange day" etc. I taught in Europe and kids were exposed to all religions - It produced some pretty amazing lessons seeing kids actually make connections between themselves and other religions.
     
  10. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

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    I don't have holiday parties. I do have a little celebration right before our breaks (Winter/Fall/Spring). I stay away from the typical holiday stuff because I have had at least one or two JW in my class every year. I don't like the idea of them having to leave the room or stay home, so I don't do holiday parties.
     
  11. Hartlepool

    Hartlepool Rookie

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    Being a Reformist Jew ( though I don't practice ) I was a wise man in our infant nativity play....I was 4! Did me no harm , in fact it's one of my treasured memories. I recall the journey to the local community centre (where the play was to be staged) and I was sat in the back of my headmistress's car dressed as a king and waving at all the passers by enroute !!!
     
  12. Lynnnn725

    Lynnnn725 Connoisseur

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    It is part of our curriculum to study all holidays. We read Santa books (some people celebrate with Santa), we read Kwanza books (some people celebrate Kwanza), we read books about Chinese New Year, and so on. It is okay (IMO) to read specific holiday books if you don't just read about one culture! Include many different takes on a holiday if possible.
     
  13. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    If you are taking a multicultural approach to holidays, I recommend the books Light the Lights and One Candle. They are wonderful looks at different ways that different families celebrate winter holidays. Though you may want to read One Candle with some tissues handy.
     
  14. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    In the part of the country I am in, we would NEVER do Christmas, Easter or any religious holiday! There is just too much religious diversity! I have had many students who were Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu.

    Anyway, I have lots of feelings on this. Be inclusive. Don't make him leave the room! This is 2009. Have a year without Christmas in your classroom. I mean, it's selfish and non-inclusive to do the holiday. Think of how he will feel... shame about his religion? left out? like he is BAD? like he is different? Like everyone gets to do something he can't???? Those are terrible feelings for a child to have.

    The KIDS won't know the difference... do snowmen and snow, hot chocolate and lots of things that celebrate winter. I have done winter holidays in general and covered many different holidays from other cultures.
     
  15. Yen

    Yen Rookie

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    I've had a JW child in my class every year. For fall time we do spiders/bats/pumpkins/apples.
    For winter I do a theme on gingerbread men and mittens/snow/etc.
    Since I've had a JW child in my class every year, I don't know what it would be like to be able to celebrate holidays in my classroom lol.
     
  16. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Jews aren't allowed to participate in Halloween??? (You've got a number of suburbs here that you need to talk to about that.)

    NEVER heard that one.
     
  17. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Maybe orthodox or Hasidic. They have another holiday that's sort of strangely similar to Halloween (costumed kids going around in groups to houses, but they drop off small gifts (such as candy) at the houses they visit, after going into the parlor and doing a kind of group dance. If focuses more on festive than spooky, though). Anyway, I could see where some might resist the traditional Halloween.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that the choice to teach in a public school brings with it the realization that you'll be teaching kids from a broad range of religious backgrounds. And that their right to be Jewish or Jehovah Witness or athiest or anything else is equal to your right to be Christian. I don't think that they should be excluded from classroom activities because of those beliefs. Rather, I think that the classroom teacher should try, as much as possible, to include all the kids in his or her class in everything being celebrated.

    I have a crucifix in my classroom and begin each class with a prayer. I have a Christmas tree-- every room in the building does. We say the Rosary as a class one day each October. We're a Catholic school, and every kid in the building, and all their parents, are OK with that fact. Part-- a big part-- of what we teach is our faith. I also make less money than many of my public school counterparts.

    But my kids attend public school with kids from a variety of other religious backgrounds. They celebrate winter instead of Christmas, and spring instead of Easter. They don't celebrate our faith in school, it's something we do at home instead. And that's fine-- it's what I signed up for when I chose to send them to public school.

    Very few choices in life come without some sort of compromise.
     
  19. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I think it depends on the family. I know MANY Christians that don't celebrate Halloween.
     
  20. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    And as Alice so elequently pointed out, teachers placement was a choice as well as the choice the child's parents made to be of a different religion.

    I have mixed heritage myself, and hesitated at sending my children to Catholic school so that they could "choose for themseves" as they grew. But I discovered that I had many issues with the teaching methods in my Public School. So for reasons not related to religion we began at the Catholic School. So although we aren't quite as devoted as the school---we will do it since that was MY CHOICE.

    I find sometimes teachers overlook the fact that they too have made a choice...in their placement.

    That is why I have a private, self managed, program. I am the boss and the clients all know what I am about.
     
  21. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    I teach in a private school but we're not religiously affiliated, so we also don't do Christmas. Instead, we do a variety of winter holidays and in January we look at all of the different cultures that celebrate the winter solstice.

    I agree that we have to put our own beliefs and views aside if we're not in a religious school and do something that appeals to a wide range of children. People in this world are no longer homogeneous, thankfully, and we as teachers need to model that for the children in our spaces.
     
  22. teach2read10

    teach2read10 Companion

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    Majority

    Unless your student is moving to Israel someday, he or she will always live in a country where the majority of residents will be something other than Jewish. This is a great chance to learn about other religions.
     
  23. backtoK

    backtoK Rookie

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    Were you specifically told by the parents that the child couldn't participate or are you assuming they child can't? The reason I am asking is maybe the parents don't mind the exposure to different traditions and holidays. If the child is orthodox or Hasidic they will more than likely not be in a public school.
     
  24. MissJill

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    great post!
     
  25. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I have a very diverse student population in my school. We don't 'CELEBRATE' religious holidays, but we do discuss traditions. I'm not sure if your student is of a conservative branch of the religion (in which case he probably wouldn't be in public school), but most Jewish kids generally participate in Halloween in the NYC metropolitan area....

    In general, I'd keep away from religion in public school settings. Why not instead share holiday traditions: spinning the dreidel, stuffing stockings, making and wrapping gifts for loved ones, a cookie exchange, a new years toast with sparkling cider....
     
  26. 2inspire

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    I'm more than slightly disturbed by the wide spread belief that activities involving Christmas Trees and Santa are synonymous with Chrisitanity. I've read the recount in each gospel it's recorded in and the forementioned tree and jolly man never made an appearance.

    While it is the right of any parent to exclude those activities that do not meet with their beliefs I wouldn't call them Christian activities by any means.
     
  27. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    You are thinking of the holiday of Purim. The costumes and masks are to symbolize the mistaken identities in the story of Purim. I particularly love Hamantaschen, the traditional 3 cornered cookies of Purim that my students often share with me. (I'm an equal opportunity eater!!)
     
  28. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Is this the same child who is not immunized because of religious reasons? You've raised the religion issue twice recently- please view this student as you would any other child in your room- one who needs to be taught and treated with respect and made to feel connected, capable and contributing in your classroom.
     
  29. Hartlepool

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    Mind you I was in Israel in feb this year (am reformist Jewish) and I felt a bit "alien" to the whole place...despite having the "Right of return". The Israeli army lasses were cute like !!! Jerusalem felt utterly beyond my "European horizon" though Tel-Aviv was fun !
     
  30. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Evergreen trees, it's true, can be associated with Druid practices as well as they can with Christianity, but the link between Santa and Christmas is much more immediate, via Bishop Nicholas of Myra: the name "Santa Claus" is based on "Saint Nicholas" via the Dutch "Sinter Klaas".
     
  31. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    I have had one Jewish student before- or one who didn't celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, anyway. One girl besides him that year was both Christian and Jewish.

    I remember for Halloween, he did not attend school. He still participated in Pumpkinology, which went really well because it related to fall. For Christmas, he participated in some of the crafts, anyway- he wanted to, and his parents were all right with it. I remember addressing both holidays a lot that year, and he was fine with that. We had a holiday celebration that focused on the winter season as well as the two holidays to an extent. For Easter, we had an egg hunt with the kindergarten Book Buddies, which went well- he wanted to be there to help his B.B., so that wasn't a big deal, either.
     
  32. janney

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    If it's an activity that the child won't be able to participate in, be sent out of the room for, or be kept at home for I wouldn't do it. Growing up I had a classmate who wasn't allowed to celebrate Halloween. I can still remember the year that we were in the same class (2nd grade) and he had to leave because he couldn't be part of the party. The whole class was confused and didn't understand why our friend couldn't enjoy a party with us. I think we would have been fine doing something else at a different time if it meant that he would have been included.
     
  33. krysmorgsu

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    I don't see anything wrong with celebrating the seasons/times of year with this student. If you were to actively take a look at the variety of religious holidays, and expose the students to the variety of differences and the number of similarities with holidays, I think that's fine. However, I don't think that a "Christmas" party in a public school is acceptable. A "Winter" party, however, is. If you are extremely concerned with your holiday plans, and have already looked at them and made them non-religious, you can also communicate with the parents of this child. Explain that you neither want to offend him/them, nor have him feel or be excluded. Discuss with them your plans - is it okay to do pumpkins and bats and spiders and stuff around Halloween? If not, what is okay? Try to compromise - something that fulfills your desire for the students to have some sort of celebration, but which would be okay for him to participate in. If your school allows kids to dress up for Halloween, then you should discuss that too. You don't want him to feel left out being the only one not dressed up. For that, his parents may choose to keep him out the day, but perhaps they will allow him to dress up if they can see it as more of a day when costumes are allowed and can be assured that you will make it as non-religious as possible. For the Christmas season, you could have all the kids share their family traditions. Even though a majority of your class may be Christians of some sort, I'm betting that they don't all have the exact same traditions - some may do a Christmas tree and mass and all, while some may just go to Grandma X's for dinner. I found last year that when I asked my students what they did over winter break, though many were Christian, each family had very varied holiday traditions - traditions that were within the family, and not even necessarily religious.

    To the person that commented about her friend being made to write a story about Hanukkah elves...my boyfriend was raised Jewish. His family always told him Hanukkah Harry was the one to visit little Jewish boys and girls. To this day, his mom and he still joke about how Hanukkah Harry never visited her! Then again, his grandparents and mom were a little more laid back - he went to a neighbor's house every year to help them decorate their Christmas tree!
     
  34. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Wow, I've rarely had a class that didn't have a Jewish child in it. And almost all of them celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, at least as far as gift-giving goes.

    As long as you are not endorsing a particular religion, it is fine to teach about religions and religious customs when they come up on the calendar. It is social studies, after all. You are never going to convince kids who've grown up in this country that our culture doesn't celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in December, and Easter and Passover in the spring. And why should you? That doesn't mean, though, that you have to 'celebrate' those customs at school. But, I also don't think you should have to be worried about saying the words associated with those holidays, as some people seem to be in the name of being PC. That's just ridiculous.
     
  35. yarnwoman

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    When I first taught I had preschoolers. I had many different cultures and religions in my class. I chose to focus on "light" because almost every religion has a festival that has light as part of it in Dec/Jan. Channukah has the oil and the candles that had to stay lit for 8 days, Christians have lights on the trees that symbolize Christ being the light of the world, Kwanzza - the lights(candles) symbolize the traits you are supposed to practice, etc..

    My second teaching position was in an Orthodox Jewish school and I used the story of Hershel and the Channukah goblins to build lessons and activities.

    I would talk with the students parents. Maybe there is something that is in their religion/culture that you can tie into your elf idea. otherwise I would say to not do it this year and find another activity.
     
  36. reverie

    reverie Companion

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    I've always heard that if you're going to talk about different religions, have them learn about three or more so they get a more diverse experience and it doesn't look like you are catering to one or two religions. I also like the idea (can't remember who said it) of possibly asking someone from the student's family to come in and talk to the class about Jewish traditions.

    You could also do a "winter holiday party" instead of just Christmas. You could make snowmen, snowflakes, etc.
     
  37. jday129

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    As a practicing Jew who teaches mostly Muslim students, i do teach the holidays (they're in my standards). please do not do a Hanukkah elf. Not sure you do with a shelf elf, but maybe provide 2 different options that day and let kids choose which one they do, or do a shelf elf and the next day do a desk dreidel and have all kids participate. dreidels happen to be an excellent math game.
     
  38. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    One year I had a menorah and we lit it each morning. The students who knew the prayers (sort of) recited them for the class. We made latkes, too. The same year I had a Christmas tree in the room. We read about traditions from both cultures. (I made sure not to let them think that Hanukkah was the Jewish Christmas.) There were no other religious affiliations among students, or significant holiday observances, or we would've shared them, too.

    I know parents have sent in goodies for teachers when they celebrated other religious observances at home. Nobody turned them down!
     

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