Do you send your children to Yeshivas? If so, do you feel they get enough education about how to think about and interact with people who are different from them- religiously, socio-economically, and racially? I’m not asking because I know for sure whether they do- schools are all different and have their own priorities. I’m asking because as parents, I think it’s an important question to consider.
Once again, more disturbing incidents have re-sparked the ongoing national dialogue around racism. I won’t replay the details of these particular events because they are part of a broader issue.
One of the opportunities we have, especially now as parents, to examine and supplement our kids’ education, is to look at the issue of racism. Just because someone is a respected teacher, administrator, or religious leader, does not mean he or she doesn’t say things that are racist. I know this, unfortunately, from multiple firsthand experiences. (To be clear: many schools and educators do a phenomenal job teaching and modeling respect for others. I’m raising the issue of the ones that don’t, or those that contribute to the problem by using racist language.)
On Shavuos, we read the story of Ruth. Ruth was a new immigrant from a foreign land- she probably looked different, spoke with an accent, and was impoverished – relying on charity for her very food. She was sincere and humble, but confident enough to approach the gadol hador, the leader of the nation, for marriage. Her conversion eligibility itself was questioned by many other leaders, based on where she came from. But Boaz (whose name literally means: in him, boldness) put aside public opinion and THANKED her for being willing to be with him, as an older man. Together, they became the progenitors of the entire royal Davidic dynasty. They both looked beyond background, age, ethnicity, and peer pressure, to do what they believed was right and good and holy. They were rewarded richly, and this is what we read when celebrating our heritage.
This Shavuos, I hope to have a conversation with my family about the difference between racism and Rus-im. Racism says: we discriminate against people on the basis of color, ethnicity, gender, or other differences. Rus-ism says we accept and hnor people for who they are, fellow children of G-d, we celebrate differences and integrate goodness to create greatness.
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Elisheva Liss, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice. Her book, Find Your Horizon of Healthy Thinking, is available on Amazon.com. She can be reached for sessions or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org More of her content can be found at ElishevaLiss.com