A Southern Gentile’s Year-Long Odyssey Teaching at an Orthodox School in New York

June 27 2019

Upon finishing her graduate degree in education, Caroline Drew, a Methodist from Alabama, was happy to have been offered a job teaching English at an Orthodox girls’ school in New York City. Recounting a variety of cultural adjustments—ranging from wondering whether she, too, should wear a wig, to daily prayers, to the befuddling Jewish calendar, to learning the phrase barukh hashem (“Thank God!”)—she reflects on the experience with sensitivity and humor. She describes chaperoning a class trip to Washington, DC thus:

Our final excursion on the trip is to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Ladies,” [the other teacher] says before we get off the bus, “it will be obvious to everyone else there who we are.” She is saying that [the students’ visible] Jewishness will act as a spotlight. However they behave, people will look and think, “That must be how Jews feels about this history.” I try to imagine the weight of this expectation. I try to remember the aching almost-ness of seventeen. These girls (these almost-women) understand the tragedy of the Holocaust, but these girls (these almost-children) might have a moment, just a moment, when they slip into immaturity. One moment and strangers’ eyes will not likely see a seventeen-year-old girl. They will see a Jew disrespecting the massacre of her people.

I wish I could take this weight from them. But it’s not mine to take. I’ve been to the Holocaust museum in Washington before. While living in the Czech Republic, I visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp and countless other Holocaust memorials around Central Europe. Like others brought up in the American public-school system, I was taught Holocaust novels from third grade on. But none of this prepared me for the museum that day.

My girls—the laughing, singing, picture-snapping, coffee-chugging girls—are silent. Some walk through the exhibits with a friend or two, some alone. They read the plaques. They watch the videos. They listen to the interviews. Nothing is rushed. The longer we are there, the more I find myself watching them. I don’t want to look away. It’s as if, in my mind, their aliveness will counterattack the history behind the glass cases. . . . When I start to cry, I brush the tears away. Whatever I’m feeling, this is not my weight. It is theirs and they bear it with grace.

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Read more at Writing Teacher, Teaching Writing

More about: American Judaism, Holocaust, Jewish education, Jewish-Christian relations, Orthodoxy

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media