Tear Down The Walls of Prejudice. With Your Bare Hands.

A 5th grade class in California has a novel way of attacking the problems of racism and prejudice in its school. They have the students write down incidents of prejudice or intolerance that happen to them, and post them on a wall.
Over the course of a month or two, the wall “builds up”, and the children, after the wall is full, ceremoniously “tear down the wall of intolerance.”
You can read this heartwarming story at thisisbabylon.net.
Diversity education in Jewish schools is already long overdue. A program like this implemented into Jewish schools — not as a mussar subject, but to tackle prejudice as a real issue in the Jewish community — would not only lead to a decrease in disunity and fragmentation within the communities, but would also lead to generally improved relations with the world at large. Were intolerance effectively stigmatized — and noted as forbidden, which it almost always is — the Jewish day school student would be loath to speak derogatorily about “the goyim.” This could, in turn, lead to a decrease in interpersonal anti-Semitism and perhaps even hate crime (though, sadly, anti-Semitic institutions would remain unaffected, many people’s daily lives could be positively impacted).
I fail to understand the reason for not implementing such things in every school.
But as far as Jewish schools are concerned, I think the added benefit of a potential decrease in anti-Semitism and an increase in community unity makes such a thing almost imperative.

5 thoughts on “Tear Down The Walls of Prejudice. With Your Bare Hands.

  1. To the extent “goyim” is used in a derrogatory manner, it should be stopeed. But does anyone really believe that such usage, if it exists, causes even 1% of antisemitism?

  2. incorrect, while usage of the term “goyim” may not be the root cause of antisemitism, it surely goes a long way toward perpetuating it. Using purely unscientific methods (ie, my own anecdotal experience), I have noticed that the more “religious” the community, the more you’ll hear words like “schvartze” and “goyim” thrown about. Jews who aren’t as religious are “sheygitzes”. There exists an insular us vs. them mindset, where it’ okay to quietly hate your neighbors.
    I once walked home with two young daughters of a Chabad shaliach. A couple of Black women were holding a tag sale, and we stopped for a second to look. The women were very friendly and we had a very nice conversation- they told me about how they’d worked as Shabbos Goys when they were children- and we laughed about how no one around here did that anymore- talk about uncomfortable…
    As we walked away, the girls were intrigued- did I know those women? I said no. “Then why did you talk to them? Weren’t you afraid?” I asked if they’d been afraid. No, they replied. It’s just that…
    Another story- a couple of Purim’s ago, I was at a haredi Purim party when a teen-aged girl walked in in blackface. My husband and I blanched, although hardly anyone else thought it was a big deal.
    Is it surprising that people in that community love to trade storis of perceived anti-Semitic incidents? It seems to make them happy, validated.
    While my Conservative-affiliated shul may have its issues, this is not one of them.
    Yitz- had a blast on Sunday. My kids loved meeting you and have already worn a ridge in the mixtapes.

  3. Frankly this project sounds like Yawn City. “Let’s write about how we’ve all been victimized. Wow, great job! You are such great victims of our hateful society!” No thanks.
    As for spreading “diversity” “education” to more Jewish schools: nonsense. The Jewish tradition contains ample discussion on this issue which most certainly should be taught as an issue of mussar (character development) since wanton racism/derision is usually an issue of immature or decrepit character, and because it falls squarely into the category of sinat ha’briyot — wanton hatred of human beings, one of the things that Pirkei Avot tells us actually extracts a person out of the world. (Also please remember: just because somebody isn’t as sensitive (or hypersensitive) to the issue as you does not mean that that person is automatically evil or racist. That’s also something that might be taught in “diversity” class.)
    Also, what examples of antisemitic institutions can we even point to in the US today?

  4. While there is a significant mussar aspect, don’t get me wrong — erasure of hatred from within oneself is extolled from time immemorial — this is something which deserves to be examined in its own right.
    To me, the first and foremost issues are halachic — when a Jew is insulted, numerous Scriptural prohibitions can be transgressed (and after multiple generations of intermarriage and conversion, it is my personal opinion that one can no more tell visually who a Jew is than who a Democrat is, so the possibility of said transgression exists with insulting any person — the main Nazi from my high school found out about his Jewish lineage before his 10-year reunion), and things which cause eivah – hatred between Jews and non-Jews — are spoken of horribly in the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch (e.g., why it is not forbidden to do business with non-Jews during the week before Xmas).
    Second of all, if kids cling to an idea of gradations of ethnic identity (which usually means Ashkenazi over Sephardi over Mizrachi over Temani over Ethiopian), how can we hope to instill in them an ideal of achdut Yisra’el? And, if it is not “intrinsically tov to be non-racist/non-ethnocentric”, then how far of an extension is it to draw lines based on tradition, political ideology, or class?

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