Persecuting Jews in America?

From the Jerusalem Post comes (this) article where Judy Maltz complains of persecution of Jews in America's Public schools.

I tried to post a response on the JPost's talkback section under the article. However since I have not had much luck getting the JPost to publish comments from me, I decided I would take up the issue here.

A few years back, when I lived in a different neighborhood here in my city, I regularly commuted past one of my city's parks. This park has one of the few hills in town, and up on this hill, over the holiday season, they would put up displays for the public enjoyment. From a "Christian" perspective were secular displays like Santa and holiday lights (even atheists put Santa in their yard and a Christmas tree up in their homes) and from a Jewish perspective was a huge Menorah.

What I found interesting about this display, is that while a Christian religious display like a nativity scene would never be allowed, a Jewish religious symbol like a Menorah was tolerated. I guess no one complained, and I was not offended myself. After all, there really is no such thing as a Hanukkah Bush.

I am not certain if this display continues today, as it would not surprise me if someone eventually complained. What intrigued me is that this display was even allowed to occur at all. You see, I live in Virginia Beach, which is home to Pat Robertson (go google him if you unfamiliar with him). I found it interesting that in this city overtly Jewish religious displays were tolerated even while overtly Christian displays were denied the Christian majority.

Perhaps in some sections of America Jews really are persecuted. However in my corner of the USA people seem to be willing to bend over backwards to be tolerant.

Are some Christian preachers intolerant of Jews? Yeah. But then these kind are also rather intolerant of fellow Christians and will preach from their pulpits against Catholics, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and any other denomination that disagrees with them.

I would imagine there are entire communities that Jews would not feel comfortable, but that goes for the rest of us Americans as well. For example, most Americans do not have any problem with someone cracking open a Budweiser now and again, but down south there are entire counties that are "dry" and where it is illegal to sell alcohol. Those of us who do not want to deal with this inconvenience just do not move into these counties.

By the way, I have noted that while several new comments were included under the JPost talkback, my comments still were not included. Do I detect some intolerance?


Blogger Little David said...


My comments were included in the JPost talkback.

12/25/2005 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Frankly, it does somewhat annoys me that some people take their religion so damn seriously.

I'm an atheist, and I generally have no problems with Christmas carols. If anything, it's my way of "getting back at Christians", secularising an otherwise religious song. Surely a multicultural society like the US (and certainly in Australia) can comprehend the subtlety of appreciating a cultural holiday song (with some degree of religiosity) for its value as art and music? I don't accept the religious messages in carols either, but I certainly don't mind listening to them once a year.

I wonder if the Jewish family described in that article would "cringe" at visiting the Louvre museum in Paris and complain if they saw paintings from the classical masters with non-Jewish religious allegories?

I would not have thought that being "Jewish" would prelude them from learning about other religions. Having a tolerant multicultural society is first about learning and understanding other cultures, not expecting having everyone to bow down and tolerate yours. If you do the first, the second comes naturally.

Michael Tam

12/25/2005 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Boy From The Bronx said...

Your post interested me because of its provincial tone. I am 59 year old non-observant jewish male who has lived in the United States all my life; so has my wife, my children and my in-laws on both sides. My family has been in this country for over 125 years and I live in a city with the largest jewish population. I was a chaplains' assistant in the army and set up for all religious services, worked with all the Chaplains and was the administrator of the Protestant Sunday School and keep the books for all the Chaplains' Funds (I got that job because I had six credits of accounting and being Jewish, Iwould be good with money- their comment, not mine). I won't go into all the insults i endured in the army because that is not the reason for me writing. My first job after college was the a major department store as the assistant buyer of trim-a-tree for Xmas. From myself up the the president of the company were all jews. All our major suppliers of lights, trees, oraments and such were owned and run by jews. Even today the three major supplies of these items in the NYC area are jews. I'ved for some of them. I do acting on the side and my last show I had the lead in a Xmas revue.I had a good time doing it.
I am as mainsteam as any American can be.

My son is a stand-up comic. I few years ago he was appearing north of Philadelphia, PA; he mentioned that he was Jewish and was booed from the audience. My daughter who just graduated college was called on the Jewsih New Years to come to a job interview that very day and when she said that it was a holiday that inteview was withdrawn. After 9/11 in one of her classes she was amazed at how many students thought it was done by jews and that we informed each other not to go to The World Trade Center that day. Two weeks ago, when I was doing the Xmas show, two of the members of the church where that theatre group rents space some remarks were made to me that were uncalled for. I just chalked it up to another goy being stupid.
When I was in Middle School, for graduation we had to sing the Lord's Prayer or not attend. This was before Supreme Court ruling and in a school that was 2/3 jewish and the staff 3/4 jewish (this ruling came from the board of ed.
It works both ways when my daughter was in 4th grade her teacher wanted to put on the Passover Story (Exodus). The school was half jewish and half christian, I went and put a stop to it. The principal who was jewish understood whar the point was (unlike the principal in your story).

I agree that people should lighten up, but religious songs don't belong in any activity run by the school even it is after hours. For the principal to say be quiet or people will point fingers at you, is really an insult to the people involved and to the Constitution of the United States.

I'm sure that "The Jewish Family" would enjoy non-jewish are or even art of a christian nature as long as the choice was theirs. I know I did when I was in Paris

You seem well meaning, but walk a mile in my shoes.

Also the courts have ruled thst the Menorah is not a religious symbol, I happen to disagree.


12/30/2005 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

@ boy from the bronx: Growing up as a Chinese boy in the outer suburbs (i.e., predominantly Anglo-Saxon) of Sydney, I am no stranger to racism, both hidden and overt.

IMHO, it is futile, if not counter-productive to be antagonistic to those otherwise kind and genuine people who are "unwittingly" racist.

I agree with you: I do not believe that religious songs and symbols for the purposes of worship have any place within the public education system.

However, context, as always, is important. I do not believe that the school (or principle) thought that their actions were offensive to some. Arrogance perhaps? Yes, but non-intentional.

Was any attempt made perhaps to agree to Christmas songs of a more secular nature, or at least those without overt religiosity? Or perhaps, arrange the program so that more "Christian" elements were in an optional latter half of the program?

One can be overly dogmatic about these matters as well. Religion is a part of society and culture and I do not think that it is appropriate to "sanitise" schools from all aspects of religion. Religious education, religious bias and religious promotion is certainly out of bounds. However, there should be some tolerance of religion (any religion) within bounds of culture at schools.

For example, I would think that learning about the major world religions and their impact on current world and social affairs (again, in a non-biased and non-promotional manner) in school as part of social studies/science would do much to promote religious understanding and tolerance in Western countries.

Let me remind you that I am an affirmed atheist.

1/01/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Boy From The Bronx said...

I pretty much agree with you. Common sense is the key. It would be nice if there was a universal agreement on that. As for using social studies as a place for academic exploration is fine as long as he does't become a feel good course for every group. That is what multi-cultural courses have become in NYC; more of dividing people than bringing them together. It also has taken much time away from the basics - reading, writing and math.

1/01/2006 06:12:00 PM  

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