Some Jewish Moms Are Mad at Ms. Rachel. I'm Not One of Them. – Kveller
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Some Jewish Moms Are Mad at Ms. Rachel. I’m Not One of Them.

The children's entertainer was attacked after launching a fundraiser for children in need of emergency aid, including in Gaza.


Via YouTube

There’s something particularly heart-wrenching about watching Ms. Rachel cry.

For those of you not familiar with Ms. Rachel (though at this point, that’s bound to be very few), the children’s entertainer who wears a signature pink hairband, t-shirt and denim overalls — a very comfortable mom uniform, I can attest — has gained immense popularity for her YouTube videos aimed at babies and toddlers. With the goal to help kids learn important speech and developmental skills, Rachel Griffin Accurso’s videos use delightful prompts, uttered in an intentionally high-pitched, saccharine voice, and incorporate songs, movement, puppets and props. In my particular house, we love Ms. Rachel, mostly for helping us in those early sleepless mornings, and for her excellent rainbow song (we love a rainbow, oh-oh-oh-oh!). Ms. Rachel has been there for me through some pretty tough times, and if you’re a parent of young kids, she may have been there for you, too.

And yet recently, I’ve seen many of my fellow Jewish moms in Facebook groups and beyond talk about how we’ve “lost” Ms. Rachel. The reason? Last week, she launched a fundraising campaign for Save the Children, Emergency Fund, which helps kids in war zones across the world, including Sudan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and, yes, Gaza.

That last one drew ire from some Jewish and Israeli moms, who lamented that Ms. Rachel did not mention or raise funds for Israeli kids — two of whom, Ariel and Kfir Bibas, are still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza, and many of whom are experiencing displacement and psychological trauma due to the war.

“I feel that it’s lovely — and I want to emphasize this: I think it’s lovely for an educator to try to bring light to children in Gaza or in Sudan or in Congo or in Ukraine — but I don’t understand why it’s a deliberate attempt by her and her team and Save the Children to never mention Israeli children,” Moran Gold, a Jewish speech therapist, told Kveller’s partner site JTA. “And that includes Arab children, Jewish children, Druze children, Christian children and all other children that live in Israel.”

It was that kind of response from Gold and many others who felt that Ms. Rachel didn’t care for Israeli children that made the YouTube star cry.

“The bullying is bad, it’s so bad. It’s so bad, but I can handle this,” Griffin Accurso says in a new Instagram video filmed in a dark room, through tears. “Saying I don’t care about all kids, it just hurts so bad, but imagining for one second what a mom is going through, unable to feed her child or give her child clean water or keep her child safe… I can do this.”

“I care deeply for all children. Palestinian children, Israeli children, children in the US — Muslim, Jewish, Christian children — all children, in every country,” she wrote in the caption to her two million followers on Instagram. “Not one is excluded. think part of why people respond to the show is they feel that care – I see every child as I see my own. I love every neighbor. Any child suffering is on my heart. To do a fundraiser for children who are currently starving — who have no food or water — who are being killed — is human.” She turned off comments on that post, but on other recent posts, amid the criticisms, you can also find comments from Jewish mothers thanking her for doing the campaign.

So have we as Jews really “lost” Ms. Rachel?

I understand that it feels like the entire world has devolved into an either/or situation. You are either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, it seems. It’s a false reality that we see on social media and college campuses, and in discourse everywhere. And so I also understand how seeing Ms. Rachel, who has mostly kept quiet on the Israel-Hamas War, mention Gaza alone can feel like she has chosen a side, at the expense of ignoring the suffering of the other. Many have pointed out that she hasn’t referred to Israeli children before that crying video. I see how that feels so personal.

For what it’s worth, Save the Children does not operate in Israel, but their homepage links to a page in which they talk about how they care for the wellbeing of Israeli children, and links to organizations in Israel that help children in crisis. Their agenda, and Ms. Rachel’s agenda, seem to be one in the the same — to protect children — and that page on their website reads, “Like children everywhere, children in Israel must be protected.” The organization has also been advocating for an immediate and definitive ceasefire, which it believes needs to happen to maintain the wellbeing of the children of Gaza.

And helping kids in Gaza — and not just Gaza, but other crisis zones the organization operates in, which includes war zones and places hit by climate crisis — is a noble thing to do. As Jews, we care for all children, not just our own. Just because something isn’t said doesn’t mean it’s not true. I for one can very easily take Ms. Rachel at her word — that she cares for all children. I see it in the way she’s devoted her life to helping them learn, communicate and grow. And whatever you may or may not believe about this current war, I think we can all agree that anything that makes children safer and better cared for, no matter who or where they are, is a good thing. I also think we can all agree that watching kids suffering in Gaza — where more than 7,000 children have lost their lives since October 7, according to U.N., where many are facing food instability and have no access to clean water, where schools have been closed since the war started and where the majority of people are displaced — is devastating, especially as a parent.

Being a child in Israel is also terrifying right now; many children from communities hit by the war are displaced, many are suffering the trauma of barrages of rockets being fired at them, and many have lost their parents, siblings and other family members to the October 7 attack and the ongoing war.

All of these things can be true at once.

“Making Ms. Rachel cry is not a good look,” one friend mused to me, though she was mad that the child entertainer seemed to wade into a topic she didn’t feel she has expertise on (Accurso also helps advocate for more funding for educational programming and childcare in New York and across the country). “It’s not something that is going to help garner more sympathy for Israeli kids,” she added.

Gold is still encouraging people to tag Ms. Rachel in comments, maintaining that she wants to have a respectful dialogue, to connect her to Jewish leaders, and to make sure she better incorporates Jewish and Israeli children in her activism.

Personally, I believe that no one can be everything for everyone. No child entertainer, no actor, no writer, no politician, can be perfectly aligned with us in every way. Ms. Rachel is not a political figure, and I don’t expect her to be. She uses her platform to help children, including my own. I, for one, am OK with keeping her.

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