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Dec 5 2011

How is a Racist Kentucky Church like a Conservative Synagogue?

By at 1:45 pm

Stella Harville / AP via TIME. The Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, voted to ban interracial couples after this couple sang a song there.

This past week, a pastor from a Baptist church in Pike County, Kentucky instituted a ban against interracial couples from either joining his congregation or taking part in select church activities.

And I’m okay with that.

(I know, easy for me to say. I live a few hundred miles away in New York City, and, at this time, have no interest in ever joining a Baptist church, either with my African-American husband, or without him.)

Like Evelyn Beatrice Hall (and not Voltaire; although it’s a common misattribution) wrote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” I heartily and wholly disapprove of the sentiment – but I insist that the pastor had the right to express it.

A church is a private organization, and a private organization can pick and choose its membership based on any criteria they desire. It is then up to the current members to decide if this is an organization with which they can, should, and will continue to identify. (They can also, presumably, vote to change those aspects with which they do not agree – if the association is structured in such a manner, and current news reports suggest that may soon be the case in Pike County, either from the general membership or from higher-up in the church’s hierarchy.)

Obviously, my husband and I would not – even if we could – remain members of a church which did not allow White/Black (or any other combination) of couples.

On the other hand – before anybody gets to feeling too superior – we are currently members of a Conservative Jewish congregation which allows us to pay the family membership rate – but does not consider my non-Jewish husband a member, and does not extend him voting rights.

When we got married 13 years ago, there were rabbis who refused to perform the wedding ceremony. And when we had our first son (and our second), there were mohels who similarly would not do the bris.

And I was – still am – okay with that. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 20 2011

It’s Not Just About The Borscht

By at 9:38 am

russia and brooklyn

I live in one of the most family friendly neighborhoods in New York City. So domestic that one website blamed it for the semi-recent breakup of Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal (MOT!) because they just weren’t ready for the pregnancy/baby/dog-loving vibe.

So I’m used to seeing playgroups, music classes, baby swim lessons, baby yoga, mommy yoga, mommy and baby yoga, toddler yoga…anything that you can dream up for a child, it exists here in Park Slope. And I hear about all of it on what some call the Brooklyn Mafia, the Park Slope Parents listserv. But I hadn’t seen this yet. Starting on Sunday, January 23, there’s a Mommy & Me class for Russian-speaking Jewish parents called TotTussovka. Personally, I’ve always been really intrigued by Russian Jewry. My great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the early 1900’s, and I grew up in the era of campaigns to support Soviet Jewry. The band Safam wrote a song called Leaving Mother Russia and I used to blast this anthem (on tape) in my room. (Yes, I am a Jewish dork. If you, unlike me, were less dorky in the 80’s, you can find everything you need to know about the Soviet Jewry movement in Gal Beckerman’s book, When They Come For Us We’ll Be Gone).

Though I’m not really into borscht. Strange, I know.

Anyway, the point is, I’m totally excited about these classes. It seems that there’s a huge Russian Jewish population here in brownstone Brooklyn, and they want their kids to have a high-quality program focused on arts and culture. TotTussovka is sponsored by the Jewish Community House of Brooklyn and the UJA-Federation of New York.

Here’s what they have to say about it: “Instill a love for Russian language and Jewish traditions in your child through interactive play in a fun and imaginative environment. Each sixty minute program is led by a bilingual musician/educator who sings and plays an instrument.  You and your child will love our Russian sing along, storytelling time, imaginative play, language activities, dancing, and games.”

They had an event a couple of months ago with a famous Russian artist named Zhenya Plechkina, and they plan to do additional holiday programs throughout the spring. They want you to pre-register, because space is limited.

I kind of really wish I spoke Russian.

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