We May Need to Switch to a Jewish Preschool – Kveller
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We May Need to Switch to a Jewish Preschool

I love my daughter’s preschool. It’s gentle, the director is an expert at firmly getting kids to do their best while encouraging them to be themselves, and I seriously get a huge charge out of being on-site one afternoon a week to help in the classroom. I get to watch my daughter in action with her friends, and enjoy the cheerful cacophony of a roomful of kids being amazing, curious little creatures.

But the runup to Christmas seriously threw me off, and I don’t know if I’ve done her a disservice by not putting her in the Chabad-run day school nearby.

We’re Reform. Compared to my parents, we’re pretty religious, but compared to Chabad, we’re barely on the radar. Still, their school is beautiful, fun, and well-run. Many families that send their kids there aren’t even Jewish. It’s mostly just a school that has, you know, Shabbat on Fridays and a baracha here and there.

Our school is completely unreligious and, in fact, pretty crunchy-hippie-granola. Our dance teacher is a Burning Man aficionado, we only offer organic snacks, and the kids help us rotate the compost bin. But holy crap, people. In the 24-day runup to Christmas, every single art project, every single story read at story-time, and every single CD played during open-play was Christmas, Santa, Christmas.

Wait, not EVERY one. One time, after like 3 Christmas CDs in a row, the music switched to an awful, shrieking dirge that was, of course, the omnipresent “Oh Hanukkah.” Why does it sound so freaking ominous when they sing “and while we… are playing … the candles are burning low,” as if what we really meant was that while we were playing, bodies are rotting in the shed and the moon is about to crash into the North Pole?

“What the hell is that,” the afternoon teacher muttered. “Oh. I guess someone put the Hanukkah CD in.”

Yes. Well. Thanks for that. I’ll be sure to only expose my kids to the utterly terrifying “Hark How The Bells” song and tell them that’s Christmas for ya.

Look. We’re the only Jewish family in the school, or at least the only Jewish family that isn’t blended and celebrating both. We thought about celebrating Christmas just so our kids wouldn’t feel weird, but it seemed inauthentic, forced, and gave us a gross feeling. We couldn’t do it.

Plus, there’s a sizeable movement to “put the Christ back in Christmas,” which is a perfectly reasonable request, and impossible to do if a bunch of Yids are going to be putting up Tannenbaums rife with blue lights and topped with six-pointed stars. I’m not about to get in the way of that mess.

So I don’t expect them to make a big deal about Hanukkah. I’d prefer they didn’t, actually. There’s a ton of Hanukkah activity around our house already, and I think school should be a place where they can be free of the constant holiday media messages.

I don’t even expect them to ignore Christmas. Of course it’s a big deal! Sure, tinsel is really pretty! But I mean, can’t we just keep it to SOME of the activities? Can’t SOME art projects be felt snowflakes instead of Christmas trees, jingling bells instead of making ornaments, sleds instead of Santas?

Did I raise this at the time? Eh, sort of. I mentioned it to a fellow mom, a pretty blonde hippie, thinking she would be simpatico because she’s so into alternative spiritual things like yoga and Native American rituals. “Oh, but the kids love it,” she said, dismissing me with a wave of her elegantly manicured hand.

Well. They love Oreos, too, but we don’t serve them at school, is what I’m saying. And if we did have them, they wouldn’t be all there was to eat for every stinkin’ meal.

Penelope came home asking when Santa was coming. Not wanting to echo Adam Sandler’s proposed solution–wagging his finger at his daughters and scolding “No no no, that’s not fuh you!”–I finally conceded that Santa only comes to our house on Hanukkah. And I didn’t pretend the presents came from anyone but who they came from, so Santa remained as mythical as Peter Pan, and I wasn’t backed into any truth-evading contortions about why he couldn’t bring a $90 doll.

I know this is going to be a thing eventually, but I had hoped that my daughter and I wouldn’t be treated like freaks this early. I am making the rounds at other schools, not just because of this issue–it would be great to have her in a school that feeds into a local kindergarten, if such a thing exists, which it might not–but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this issue left me cold. I just don’t think Santa belongs at school. And if we end up making Easter eggs, too… well, it might be a fun learning experience, but frankly, it’s also inappropriate in a school setting.

Isn’t it? Or am I just expecting too much?

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