The other day, Kveller’s partner site MyJewishLearning.com posted on their Facebook page about a new children’s book coming out that focuses on Purim. According to the write-up, Elisabeth Kushner’s The Purim Superhero is “the sweet story of a boy named Nate who has a Purim dilemma: he loves aliens and really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes, and he wants to fit in. With the help of his two dads, he makes a surprising decision.”
My first thought? This sounds great; my superhero-loving son will totally dig this story, and I really hope it becomes a PJ Library book! My second thought? How wonderful to see some much needed diversity when it comes to children’s books (especially Jewish ones)! It’s nice to see books that pattern real life, and it sounds like The Purim Superhero is just one of those.
Here’s our reality: In my son’s kindergarten classroom at his super awesome Schechter school, almost a third of his classmates come from LGBT homes. A third. We also happen to live in an area where many of his friends outside of school have two moms or two dads. My son isn’t aware of the politics surrounding same-sex marriages, but he fully comprehends that there is no one right way to make a family.
So when a Jewish book about Purim can include a child from a two-dad household? I think that’s pretty darn amazing. It reflects the reality of many Jewish children who are growing up in a household with two moms or two dads, and provides them with a feeling of inclusion. However, not everyone seems to be as enthused with The Purim Superhero as I am.
When MyJewishLearning first posted about the book to their Facebook page, it was met with a mixed reaction. Some folks expressed their excitement over the book, but a few heated commenters started spewing some hateful and hurtful words about this Jewish book that has an LGBT family at the center of it. The bigoted remarks were eventually moderated by MyJewishLearning, but before they were deleted, I had a chance to read them.
I’m not here to debate being gay and Jewish. If you want to learn more about being Jewish and LGBT, head on over to Keshet, a fabulous organization that provides both thoughtful resources and much-needed support around this topic. Instead, I wanted to discuss my disappointment in my fellow Jews when I read some of their more intolerant comments on the internet.
For me, Judaism is a religion that has stood up to a history of oppression and intolerance. It is also one that is welcoming of others, starting all the way back when Abraham welcomed strangers into his home and showed them true hospitality in the story of Genesis. So, it makes perfect sense to welcome Jewish families with open arms, even when they may not look like the “average” family (and to be honest, does any family look like the stereotypical nuclear family anymore?).
When random people on the internet spew hatred and ill thought out tracts of Judaism in the name of that hatred? That’s not my brand of Judaism. Instead, I prefer to stick with a religion that promotes tolerance, peace, acceptance, and the message of v’ahavtah l’raeacha, ka’mocha: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. One way to do this is to proudly include all the different types of Jewish families that are out there.
What I really love about The Purim Superhero is that with this story, more people are being exposed to the reality that many Jews are living. Not only is a book like this helpful in including LGBT families in the larger Jewish story, but it also helps to normalize these families for those who may not have much exposure to the LGBT community. Nate’s family doesn’t exist in a bubble, and different versions of it certainly exist out in the world… I only need to head on down to my son’s kindergarten classroom to know this for a fact.