Lesléa Newman: What Happened When I Was Uninvited to a Yeshiva

Originally posted on the Nerdy Book Club.

I have been invited to hundreds of schools as a visiting author over the last several decades. And there are hundreds (thousands!) of schools who haven’t invited me. But I have never been uninvited to a school. Until now.

Here’s what happened: my publisher set up several days worth of school visits at a few yeshivas (Jewish day schools) in Brooklyn, the city of my birth. I was excited to discuss with students my newest picture book, Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story. Based on my own family history, the book tells how nine-year-old Gittel travels from Europe to America alone in the early 1900’s to escape pogroms and have a better life. It is a story infused with Jewish culture (Gittel’s mother gives Gittel her treasured Shabbos candlesticks to bring to the new world) and Jewish values (Gittel’s mother tells her, “This is God’s plan. God will take care of you.”) I imagined that the students might have their own family immigration stories to share and I was eager to hear them.

One comment on “Lesléa Newman: What Happened When I Was Uninvited to a Yeshiva

  1. melvideoandphoto on

    Leslea, I went to an Orthodox Yeshiva K-12 but always felt like a “black sheep” because I wanted to do art which was considered “narishkiet.” I was kept safe in this bubble but totally unprepared for the real world. I guiltily pursued my art studies on Shabbos. I was shown films about the Holocaust when people who did not fit the mold that was dictated were murdered. How can Jews say “Never Again” from one side of their mouth and “not that kind of Jew in my school” from the other side? No moral “mashal” or lesson learned there! To get to where you are today, you have always been respectful to others while being real to yourself. I wish you had been invited to my school to receive hugs. Definitely, their “shanda” and disgrace to not honor their commitment to you. They owe you an apology and a sincere invitation for their children’s sake and especially to dispel any of their homophobic prejudices and misconceptions!

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