Let me tell you a story about my days at the Rodeph Sholom Day School.
When I was in first grade, my mom used to draw a whale on my brown paper lunch bag — a reference to the fact that my name is Jonah (my brother Josh got a trumpet). It was a cute little whale. It had a little water spout coming out of its back and it was usually smiling. When I got to school, I would put my lunch bag in with all the others in a corner of the room. At lunchtime, designated kids took turns distributing the bags and lunchboxes to their rightful owners. It was always clear that mine was the one with the whale on it, even when my name wasn’t there. The other kids thought it was cool and so did I.
And therein lay the problem.
The school called in my mom for a meeting and asked her if she could please stop putting the whale on my lunch bag because this was unfair to kids with less pictogram-friendly names. Sure, the little Irvings and Bens could have drawings on their bags too, but a little froggy would have so much less meaning for Irving Greenberg than my whale did for me. And besides, a little frog didn’t clarify whose lunch it was — anyone can have a frog — and that wouldn’t get little Irv his cold knish any quicker.
In the self-esteem arms race (where arms are definitely for hugging) I had an unfair advantage in that my whale made me more special than the other kids. The school felt it would be best for everyone’s self-esteem if I were to sacrifice a little of my own. Momma Goldberg quickly weighed the pros and cons of the situation and immediately responded: “The Goldberg family whale policy shall continue. Tell the other kids to get over it.”
Well, it now looks like Rodeph Sholom has finally gotten some payback. They’ve cancelled Mother’s Day. Andrea Peyser of the New York Post reports that last Friday, Rodeph Sholom’s Hebraic munchkins came home with an unusual note for their parents.
“I am writing this letter to inform you that after much thought and discussion this past year, we will not be celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day,” wrote Cindi Samson, director of the school’s lower elementary division.
“At this time, these holidays are not needed to enhance our writing and arts programs,” the letter continued. “Second, families in our society are now diverse and varied. We are a school with many different family makeups, and we need to recognize the emotional well-being of all the children in our school. Holidays that serve no educational purpose and are not vital to the children’s education need to be evaluated in terms of their importance in a school setting, as the recognition of these holidays in a social setting may not be a positive experience for all children.”
Twenty-five years ago, it was unfair that my mom put a little whaley on my lunch bag. Today, it’s unfair to have a mom at all.
Rodeph Sholom is a liberal and increasingly expensive reform-Jewish day school (it now costs $15,000 for pre-Kindergarten and up to $20K for sixth grade — a lot more than when I was a kid, including inflation). The parents are overwhelmingly Upper West Side Manhattan Jewish liberals. In other words, this is the place where they implant the microchip that forces you to take everything the New York Times says at face value (my Dad had mine removed).
“The reasoning was several-fold,” Samson explained to the Post. “One is, it didn’t serve an academic and educational need. Number two, families are changing. Some children were very uncomfortable.”
First, this is simply a farce. As Andrea Peyser wonders, whatever happened to the solidly Jewish imperative found in the Old Testament to “Honor thy Father and Mother”? Presumably, the Fourth Commandment can be squeezed into some notion of a Jewish “education”?
Also, why wait until now? There were surely at least a few kids whose mothers had died before this ban went into effect. Isn’t it far crueler to celebrate Mother’s Day when only one kid is left out? And, besides, couldn’t kids with two Daddies make up for their non-mommy status by having twice as much fun on Father’s Day and vice versa?
More seriously, this exposes much of what’s wrong not only with a certain brand of Jewish liberalism, but with self-esteem secularism more generally. My colleague at National Review Online, John Derbyshire, has written that, “in a civilized modern society, majorities owe a debt of tolerance to harmless minorities. But minorities also owe something to the majority: a decent respect for its tastes and opinions, and careful restraint in challenging them.”
These days it seems everyone agrees that the majority owes the minority tolerance, but it’s thought to be a bizarre idea that minorities should owe anybody anything. Some Jewish ACLU liberals have adopted the idea that any “exclusive” religious public activity is inherently immoral. They say Christians shouldn’t “impose” their religion on others. I agree. But secular humanists, atheists, and religious minorities shouldn’t impose their anti-majority biases on everybody else either.
The same analogy holds true for gays. Why ruin Mother’s Day for everyone else? Besides, no one’s doing the children of gay and lesbian couples any favors by teaching them that Mother’s Day doesn’t exist or that it’s a mean, non-inclusive holiday. (We all know it’s a scheme hatched by the international greeting-card cartel). Their self-esteem may suffer a fraction of a fraction of a percentage point as they watch a bunch of kids draw cards for their mommies. But, understanding they’re different from the majority is a lesson they’re going to have to learn no matter what, as the children of gays — and as Jews.
Just as Jewish kids do far better in life when they have a healthy respect for Christianity, the children of homosexuals — and homosexuals themselves — would be well-served if they showed others a little respect too. Denying Mother’s Day will not change the fact that most people have mothers. And if that hurts some kids’ self-esteem, as Momma Goldberg would say, “get over it.”