Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
I want my little Jewish baby to celebrate Black History Month. As a parent, I think of appropriately acknowledging this month as an almost-sacred obligation… especially these days. But just how should we celebrate?
As a religious minority in this country, there is a certain feeling of solidarity with all other marginalized groups. But it’s complicated: You don’t want to appropriate anyone else’s story, or blend them together in a way that erases the nuance of any of our histories, or imply that “solidarity” means “same-experience”; it doesn’t.
You do, however, want to support your friends and family members of color. You want to celebrate the achievements and mourn the tragedies that have befallen Black Americans. You want to be an ally, and continue educating yourself in what that means—and instill in your daughter a commitment to always care, always help, always be interested, always be respectful.
Of course, my daughter is also only seven months old. So with ALL OF THAT in mind, how do you celebrate Black History Month with your tiny Jewish girl?
You read her books like new favorite Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee’s Please Baby Please and classics like Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day (and as she gets older, you keep adding more books with characters of color into her little library). You also take her to story-time at the public library this month, where she can celebrate with the diverse community of children in her neighborhood as they listen to librarians read books selected specifically for Black History Month.
You also keep interacting with your diverse community; you take her to marches and community meetings and vigils, and show her that you are committed to all of your neighbors’ well-being.
You put up signs in your window, and point out neighbors’ signs to her, and remind her that “hate has no home here” (the print now hanging in our front window, and in many of the nearby homes’ front windows), and black lives do indeed matter— and love is love, and do unto others, and everything else you want her to internalize now and forever.
You put Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech on in the background and let her jump around in her bouncer to the magnificent sound of his voice. Bonus: Jewish kids even get a shout-out from that glorious Christian pastor! (Side note, funny but true… when you put “I have a” into Google, the first result returned finishes the sentence with “dream” and the second one you get is, I kid you not, “little dreidel.”)
You start right now, today, even though she’s too little to fully comprehend the complicated concepts you’re preparing her to wrestle with down the road. There will be time later to tell her about Mississippi Freedom Summer, and young activists like Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. For now, you simply model honoring all people, and you model resisting injustice, and you do it all knowing that the conversations will get more complex as she gets older, but by starting now, you’ll be ready to have them when the time comes… and so will she.