July 19, 2024
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A Child’s Pledge: Fortifying Your Children Against the Fear of Antisemitism

Years ago, while leading my schools in the Salute to Israel Parade, I watched with pride as my students marched with purpose and confidence. During those years, minimal thought was given to issues of security or safety. We always felt that we were seen as the “good guys.” A palpable sense of pride carried the day.

Having retired from my role as yeshiva elementary principal after several decades, I recall how my students would respond to the news of attacks against fellow Jews or the State of Israel. There were many times during the ’70s and ’80s that my students joined hundreds of fellow students on the streets of Manhattan as we demonstrated against these injustices. When news of a particular outrage occurred, students would often eagerly ask me what kind of assembly I would present in response. I remember once informing my students who were outraged by a particularly heinous attack on Israelis that there were about 13 million Jews in the world but the number of people that express hatred for us reaches into the billions. “We can’t fight them all,” I said. That was when many people still saw the Jews as the aggrieved party. It was essential to teach children to have a sense of pride and confidence in who they are.

Things, however, have certainly changed. The notion that Jews are ultimately the righteous victims has evaporated. I find it difficult to imagine how I would explain the current worldwide hatred towards our people and to the students, who themselves are intended targets. In fact, for the past few years I have been relieved that I would no longer be challenged to explain to children why Jews are frequently the targets of inexplicable street assaults or vilified on university campuses and at the United Nations.

Even more troublesome is how children sometimes learn about such frequent and increasingly violent acts of antisemitism. Ideally, children should hear about these events in a calm and supportive manner. Yet adults, understandably upset when discussing these events among themselves, often succumb to their own frustrations and anxieties. This can sometimes result in dinner table conversation that leaves the adults visibly upset and the children confused, frightened and feeling helpless. Photos and details on social media just make matters worse.

Yet I occasionally imagine, “What if once again I was a school principal, or a parent of young children?” Recently I came up with the following thought that I wish to share with my readers.

Despite the overwhelming challenge of ceaseless and unrelenting antisemitism, we might offer our children a spiritual “safe haven” that would also strengthen their personal sense of Jewish security and pride. When we hear of a new assault against our brethren anywhere in the world, rather than focus on the events themselves, parents and educators might consider teaching children at school gatherings and at home a variation of the following pledge. (The age is up to the parent or educator.) It might help children remember that they are not always helpless, and that Hashem runs the world:

I am honored and grateful that Hashem has made me a Jew. I will do whatever I can to help and support my fellow Jews whenever I can.


Stanley Fischman is proud to have been a yeshiva educator, principal and head of school for over 50 years. He is the author of “Seven Steps to Mentschhood—How to Help Your Child Become a Mentsch.”

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