Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
I’ve always believed quite firmly that what is on our kids’ bookshelves, and what we, parents and children together, share at bedtime, makes them who they are. I was particularly excited to hear about the publication of a new children’s book, The Purim Superhero. This story of a little boy, and the Purim-costume dilemma he faces, along with the help of his fathers, feels like the children’s book I’ve been searching for a long time.
Books have fundamental power for our kids. Story time is a way to compellingly deliver the values we wish to instill in them. Books come alive, ideas flooding into minds, fueling connections and other ideas, feelings and sense memories. Expand the power of these books with the participation of a parent and children’s literature knows no bounds. And so I seek books that reflect and reinforce the reality and true diversity of my kids’ world, which we can share together. So, as I’ve written about in columns and blogs before, it’s always been important to me to have plenty of books about Jewish families and experiences. Then within that, we need winter scenes that involve palm trees and beach rather than snow, because, like other Jewish kids here in Florida, my kids don’t know from a white Chanukah and they do
barefoot on the beach.
A few years ago I looked for books that truly reflected our community, which happily has lots of LGBT families and single-parents-by-choice. I was frustrated back then by a lack of books with two moms or two dads. Those that did exist seemed more instructive and less story-driven. They were about what it means to have two moms, rather than a story about a kid who just happened to have two moms. I declared back then that this was outdated – that gay parenting is no longer such a novelty – and that a real need exists for kids’ books that feature kids with LGBT parents simply as a fact, not a lesson. These books weren’t showing my kids reality as it exists for them, and it wasn’t giving me a chance to help instill this basic value in them: our families look different from each other, and that’s not just not a problem – it’s a part of our lives, and a nice one, at that.
Which brings me back to Purim Superhero, a new book published by Kar-Ben Publishing, and the winner of Keshet’s national book-writing context. When I first heard of Keshet’s contest for a Jewish children’s book featuring a queer family, I was absolutely thrilled for all of the reasons above. Now that I see the finished product, all I want to do is celebrate it and get it into the hands of every Jewish family and school in the world, and I hope there are more to follow. [Editors note: Readers can donate a copy of the book via the Keshet website.]
In the book, main character Nate turns to his parents, Daddy and Abba, for unconditional love, support, and problem solving. Peer pressure dictates that he must be a superhero like his friends for Purim. But encouragement from, and the intellectual freedom of, his family teaches Nate that he can get creative with the social standards and define his own rules. Oh, and by the way, Abba and Daddy are both men, heading up a household together amid lots of other families at school and synagogue. For me another big plus here is that the book goes even further to abolish hetero-normative family structure and binary gender measures and roles as Daddy and Abba also seamlessly take on traditionally female roles of household sewing and being a teacher.
The Purim Superhero is refreshing and empowering and I look forward to more books like it.
Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.