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Oct 23 2013

The One Thing I Didn’t Expect My Son to be Surprised By

By at 10:13 am

kippa

Sometimes I forget that we live in a particular sort of liberal bubble here in our “Happy Valley.” And there are other times when it couldn’t be clearer.

The other day I turned on the television so my son could watch an episode of his beloved Wild Kratts. But, since it takes our sort-of-old TV a few seconds to actually turn on once you press the button (and since I’m horribly impatient), I popped into the kitchen to grab a snack while my son waited eagerly on the couch.

When I came back into the living room I found my son engrossed in whatever he was playing. I crossed my fingers that it was mildly appropriate, but with two other adults living in the house (my husband and my brother) it’s always a crapshoot as to what channel was last viewed. Upon a first, quick glance, it didn’t seem to be anything too offensive. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is a comedy starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. I haven’t watched the whole thing but the general plot is that these two firefighter buddies end up getting married for insurance benefits (OK, so actually kind of offensive).

However, without knowing the whole plot of the movie, the scene we were watching seemed innocuous enough and it definitely caught my son’s attention.

“Wait! Leave it Ima. It’s a wedding!” my son pleaded.

I relented, allowing him to watch it for a minute before I switched it to Wild Kratts. As we watched, I could tell my son had a question brewing inside.

“Ima. Are they….” he started pointing to the two men on the screen, “Jewish?!”

I barked out a laugh. Of all the things for him to notice: the awful, racist portrayal of an Asian clergyman by Rob Schneider, the fact that it was two men getting married; the one thing he zeroed in on was the fact that these two men were Jewish, as noted by their kippot and tallitot.

And it dawned on me. In our progressive town it’s almost common for him to see and know families with two parents of the same sex. In fact, his grade at school is made up of almost equal amounts of kids from queer families and heterosexual families. Our town’s pride parade is the biggest parade of the year and pretty much every school and house of worship has a contingency there walking in it. My son knows that he can grow up and fall in love with whoever he wants and that’s just the way it is.

Yet, representations of Judaism in our little liberal enclave don’t come as easy. While issues of LGBT equality are seamlessly woven into the fabric of our community, Judaism isn’t, and it takes a little bit of effort. Despite going to a Jewish day school, my son still sees the disconnect between his Judaism and the rest of the world. In light of the recent Pew Report on the status of American Jews, this makes me just a little bit anxious. He’s already attending a Schechter school, we celebrate Shabbat every week, he’s learning Hebrew, and yet, there’s still that slight disconnect that made him genuinely exclaim over seeing Jewish people on television.

So, we talked about it and I told him that there are probably lots of Jewish people on television, but that they don’t always wear kippahs and it might not be that easy to notice. And, yes, it does feel neat to see somebody obviously Jewish up there on the screen.

While some kids might have questioned their parents over the fact that two men could get married, my son squealed in delight to see somebody wearing a kippah on television. The irony is not lost on me.

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