June 7, 2024

Collected articles for concerned parents

Sapir curated the below selection of articles from our back issues as a resource for concerned parents. We hope you will find this helpful for conversations with your peers, your schools, and others. If you would like help collecting articles on a particular theme from our catalogue, please feel free to email us at info@sapirjournal.org. As a reminder, you can always browse our archive by issue or theme.

What We Get Wrong About Antisemitism: Editor-in-Chief Bret Stephens considers the misconceptions that often take our thinking about antisemitism in the wrong direction. Antisemitism is not a mysterious plague upon the Jews, nor is it quite like racism and ethnic bigotry. Education is not going to make it go away. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not actually our problem to solve. Instead, we must learn “how to thrive in the face of it,” keeping in mind that “thriving Jews” aren’t the same as “Jewish thriving.” Read here.

Your Hineni Moment: Felicia Herman exhorts readers to realize that wherever they are, they, too, are in this war – the moral war, against those who would blame Israel or “the conflict” for Hamas’s barbaric attacks. “If you’ve ever professed to care about the Jews, if you’re on the side of good and you condemn evil, now is the time to show it.” This is not about politics, history, or policy prescriptions. It is about naming and standing up to evil, and to those who demonstrate moral obtuseness, and not backing down. “Remember the Holocaust? The pogroms? The Inquisition? The massacres of Jews that accompanied the Crusades? Ever wondered how you’d have acted if you were around when those things were happening? This is your opportunity to answer that question.” This is everyone’s chance to answer the call: “Show up for the Jewish people or get out of the way.” Read here.

Whiter Than White: Pamela Paresky explores critical race theory on campus and beyond. “Race is the locus of power in the critical social justice worldview, which holds that the dominant group — white people — will, when it serves their interests, conditionally invite minority groups into “whiteness.” When people (such as “light-skinned Jews”) can “gain the benefits of whiteness by dropping ethnic markers of difference,” as California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum teaches, those people gain “conditional whiteness.”

“The above is from the lesson, “Jewish Americans: Identity, Intersectionality, and Complicating Ideas of Race,” which instructs students that, “to the present day,” Jews continue to change their names (in other words, drop ethnic markers) and benefit from whiteness. At a time when the moral imperative is to “be less white,” there is no identity more pernicious than that of a once powerless minority group that, rather than joining the struggle to dismantle whiteness, opted into it. In the critical social justice paradigm, that is how Jews are viewed. Jews, who have never been seen as white by those for whom being white is a moral good, are now seen as white by those for whom whiteness is an unmitigated evil. This reflects the nature of antisemitism: No matter the grievance or the identity of the aggrieved, Jews are held responsible. Critical race theory does not merely make it easy to demonize Jews using the language of social justice; it makes it difficult not to.” Read here.

Day Schools and DEI: Brandy Shufutinsky discusses what she considers misguided attempts by Jewish day schools to adopt DEI frameworks that are incompatible with the Jewish experience.  “Across America, many schools, whether public, private, or religious, have discovered that DEI has a disturbing way not of complementing the overall educational mission of schools, but of swallowing it whole. The chief mission of day schools is to instill Jewish values and inspire students to live purposeful lives. In the rush to adopt DEI programs, Jewish day schools risk losing sight of this mission. They adopt concepts that contain implicit anti-Jewish stereotypes, focus on the wrong aspects of Jewish diversity, and replace traditional Jewish pedagogy, which relies on discussion and disagreement, with an ideology that brooks no dissent.” Read here.

DEI in Private Schools: Andrew Gutmann has become a public critic of the adoption and promotion of DEI frameworks in America’s private schools after a letter he wrote to fellow Brearley parents went viral. “To understand why DEI poses a particular threat to Jews, one need only recognize that the characteristics of white-supremacy culture condemned by DEI practitioners are by and large the characteristics often considered to be typical components of Jewish culture. I have already mentioned capitalism, liberalism, and the nuclear family. Other purported features of white-supremacy culture include such things as perfectionism, punctuality, niceness, worship of the written word, intellectual rigor, individualism, meritocracy, a good work ethic, and respect for tradition.” Read here.

DEI Hurts Jews: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, head of the AMCHA Initiative, argues that DEI initiatives on college campuses don’t — and can’t — help Jewish students. “Many DEI staff harbor virulently anti-Israel sentiments,” and the White House’s recent National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism makes it easier for administrators to ignore anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism. Her simple and elegant solution: “affording all students equal protection from behavior that no student should have to endure.” Read here.

Working Within the System: Alyza D. Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, works with students experiencing antisemitism on U.S. college campuses. Her toolkit includes the rigorous application of laws already on the books to protect people from harassment and discrimination. Read here.

Woke Watchwords: Former Labor MK Einat Wilf discusses how analogies fall apart when Westerners attempt to map their own narratives onto Israel: “Drawing parallels to cast one side in the conflict as evil and the other as good might have the effect of marshalling support and resources for the side that one favors, but such a strategy is counterproductive, and even just plain stupid, if the goal is actually to engage with the real issues at hand, to solve the conflict and attain peace. “Evil” must always be fought and defeated — so to cast the conflict as a fight between good and evil is effectively to argue that no compromise can be made until the other side disappears or signs an unconditional surrender.” Read here.

Practicing What We Preach: Civil-liberties attorney Samantha Harris details the importance of defending free speech even for those sharing hateful ideas. “Students voicing support for Israel on campus are suffering mightily in the current environment, as the frequent targets of efforts to shut speech down. Rather than responding by engaging in similar tactics to prohibit anti-Israel speech, it is precisely these students who should be standing up for the principle of free speech. They, and we, must resist the hypocrisy of ‘free speech for me, but not for thee.’” Read here.

Jewish Homeschooling: Bethany Mandel shares the benefits of her family’s three-year foray into homeschooling. Initially a choice she and her husband made due to the high cost of Jewish day school tuition, homeschooling has transformed her family’s life and approach to learning: “We have totally reimagined what a true education is, as well as the purpose of school, which goes much further. My hope and belief is that my children are absorbing not just knowledge but a moral and civic sense, as well as an education in how to collaborate and how to navigate disputes — in short, good character and a healthy patriotism.” Read here.

Gap Year Refresh:  Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy reimagine what a universal gap year in Israel could do for every young Jew. “Many young Jews and their parents see a gap year as a needless detour from their cultivated career paths (which in some cases began with competition to get into the right nursery school!). Our effort will succeed only if American Jews recognize en masse that a gap year is, in fact, a not-to-be-missed opportunity that better prepares their children for college emotionally, intellectually, ideologically, even socially.”  Read here.