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Jan 28 2011

Weekly News Roundup: E-mail Gaffs, Facebook Feeders, and the Name Game

By at 1:01 pm

All the Jewish parenting news you probably missed this week.

- The father of a 3rd grader on the Upper East Side sent an e-mail to the public school’s e-mail list recommending a book called Debating the Holocaust, which he exclaimed was, “rocking my world!” Turns out he meant to send it to the other mass e-mail list he belongs to. You know, the one for people who debate whether the Holocaust was really as bad as they say it was. I’d recommend him and his son get the hell out of New York City. (NYT)

– Speaking of that thing that definitely did happen, Marjorie Ingall questions where the tastefulness/tastelessness line falls when it comes to children’s books about the Holocaust. Benno and the Night of Broken Glass may have a cute cat protagonist, but can young children really handle the brunt horror of Kristallnacht? (Tablet)

– Science weighs in on the breastfeeding debate and declares that it’s no debate at all: breastfed babies are smarter babies. And luckily, those mothers who are unable to nurse but would still like a brainier baby can head over to Facebook (if they aren’t on there already) to join their local Eats on Feets group and easily connect with other mothers interested in milk-sharing. (NPR)

– America may be a Christian-majority nation, but Jewish names have been dominating the most popular baby name lists for some time. For the tenth year in a row, Jacob was the most popular name for newborn boys in America, and the rest of the top 10 include Ethan, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Noah. (CNN)

– The roar of the Tiger Mom is still being heard around the world, and JTA has a nice round-up of the different responses Jewish parents have thrown into the mix, from one notoriously opinionated group of parents to another. We won’t even hold it against them that they forgot to include Kveller’s own response. (JTA)

Jan 21 2011

An Open Letter to Amy Chua

By at 3:09 pm

Amy Chua with husband, Jed Rubenfeld, and daughters Lulu and Sophia.

Dear Amy:

We’ve never met, but the person you list in the New York Times as your closest friend was in my high school class and rode the very same van I did every day for four years. So as the friend of a friend, I want to take this opportunity to give you and your husband some Jewish parenting tips, since you are already an expert at Chinese parenting and you’ve stated that you are raising your daughters as Jews.

I think we have similar values in terms of education; I, like you, would like my kids to go to Ivy League schools, though I don’t see your parenting style as the only way to get them there. Or that having an Ivy League degree is the only measure of anyone’s success or self-worth. Here, then, are some Jewish parenting themes for you:

1)      The first thing any Jewish parent should be aware of is that each individual is uniquely created in the image of God, b’tzelem Elokim, and deserves dignity, understanding, and respect. I am horrified to hear of any divine creation being called “garbage” as you claim to have done in the Wall Street Journal article excerpt.  Treating anyone created in the divine image like garbage is contrary to Jewish teaching. As a parent, I try to keep in mind that I have been privileged to have the responsibility for another life entrusted to me and that I have a chance to raise a person who has an opportunity to do good in the world and be a unique human being.

2)      The second credo of Jewish parenting, I believe, is rooted in Haggadah. There are four children: wise, wicked, simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. And we are commanded to teach each of them differently. Though the goal for all at the Passover seder is the same, a need to “see oneself as though he personally has gone forth out of Egypt,” the teaching methods for each of them are not. Your strict parenting style may have worked with one child, but it did not work as well with another. As parents, we can certainly push our children to excel. I have no problem with that. But we also need to be aware of the best ways to teach each child and to help them learn what is necessary, while showing them compassion and sensitivity.

A simple child can’t be expected to learn in the same way that a wise child does. Actually, you are aware of this in writing about your youngest sister who has Down syndrome. “My youngest sister, Cindy, has Down syndrome, and I remember my mother spending hours and hours with her, teaching her to tie her shoelaces on her own, drilling multiplication tables with Cindy, practicing piano every day with her. No one expected Cindy to get a PhD! But my mom wanted her to be the best she could be, within her limits.” However, you don’t make the leap that I would, to say that a Down syndrome child is no less valuable than any other.

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