THE INFAMOUS “SPEECH EXAM”
Deborah Dash Moore’s review of Ruth Jacknow Markowitz’s My Daughter the Teacher mentions anti-Semitism as one force which drove teachers out of the public school system. It also prevented Jews from even becoming teachers. The infamous “speech exam,” required at Brooklyn College before one was allowed to do student teaching, sidetracked me and many others. Any kind of regionalism in one’s speech was okay as long as it was not recognizable as a “New York accent.”
Instead of becoming a high school teacher, I became a graduate student. My life would have been quite different if I had passed the “speech test.”
Ida Cohen Selavan, Ph.D. Cincinnati, OH
JEWISH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
During certain scenes in the film Schindler’s List I could not help being reminded of abuse I suffered as a Jewish child at the hands of Jewish relatives, who seemed to me to behave just like the Nazis in this film.
For example, during one scene, a Jewish female concentration camp inmate is taken in by a Nazi camp guard who seduces her; when he notices that she is frightened to death and will never have feelings for him, he beats her. This is a scenario similar to what I experienced from the age of about three to six at the hands of my grandfather and uncle.
There are probably many reasons why we try to label problems like sexual abuse as ills of the “goyish” (non-Jewish) society. As Rachel Bat Or explains in the book The Courage to Heal: “Because we have to protect our religion from being criticized, we ignore whatever happens in our family. If there are any problems, it’s the whole religion that gets looked on, not just our family.” As Jews, we instead often focus on “what those Nazis did to us!”
By focusing on the horror of the Holocaust, we can divert our attention from the painful problems that plague Jews together with the rest of society. In doing so, we create an idealistic view of the Jewish people and protect our religion at the expense of our families and children. Of course it is important to forever remember the six million and to keep retelling stories of Holocaust atrocities. But we must not pretend that the Nazis are the only perpetrators of evil while numerous Jewish children are being severely abused in their own homes.
BAT MITZVAH, DIFFERENTLY
Our community’s parent resource guide about bar/bat mitzvah was written entirely by mothers and fathers at Hillel Day School in Farmingtonn Hills, Michigan, [see “Bat/Bar Mitzvah…” Fall 1994] and contains many inspiring accounts of what individual families have done to elevate the spiritual meaning of their children’s b’nai/b’not mitzvah celebrations. To order one, contact Vivian Friedman, Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit, 32260 Middlebelt Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334, (810)851-3220, FAX (810)851-5295.
Nancy Kaplan Southfield, MI
TIRED OF CHECKING OFF “OTHER”
Thank you for Robin Beth Schaer’s “I’m Tired of Checking Off ‘Other'” [Summer J 993]. As a liberal Jew who came of age in the ’60’s, I am opposed to any ideology that is based on lineage and race. As Schaer rightly points out, in the politically correct ’90’s, there are two groups: “either you are a person of color or you are white.” Being a person of color is good; being a white person, especially a Jew, is bad. Blatant racism under the guise of being liberal!
Carol Kort Brookline, MA
Your articles on Jewish identity in the face of multiculturalism written by your interns touch on an issue which is getting ready to explode. I work with Jews on developing positive Jewish identity, and I find that for many it is an issue that is highly conflicted.
Jewish studies programs are not given the same priority as African-, Asian-, or Latino-American studies programs because they are defined as “European” culture. The irony is that during the thousands of years that Jews lived in Europe, the Europeans did not consider us European. All of a sudden we come to America and we are “European-American” or “white.” What we wanted was to be treated like everyone else. But does that necessitate paying the price of being invisible as Jews? No wonder we’re struggling with our identity.
Claire Silver San Francisco, CA
I am a writer, journalist and a widow. I don’t appreciate being told my status is a “nightmare.” [“Our Nightmares: Facing Widowhood” Spring 1994]. Since I was single for most of my adult life, I also don’t appreciate the implication that my life without a husband was a waste or unimportant. My husband’s death was a nightmare, because it was sudden and only months after our marriage. But my singleness is my life, not someone else’s bad dream.
Bryna Taubman New York, NY
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