Was this an anti-semitic incident?

(43 Posts)
Gizzle Wed 15-Jan-14 00:09:31

My son attends an inner city primary school and is in year 1. As I am Jewish, DH (who is not) and I are bringing him up in the faith, although only loosely. He is the only Jewish child in his school of 600 or so kids; which if I'm honest, does concern me a bit. During bathtime last night, he relayed to DH something that had taken place during a class discussion on religion earlier that day. My DS put up his hand to say that he is Jewish. A little girl subsequently put up her hand to say that her older brother had told her that Jews don't believe in God, which had obviously upset him a little. At first I brushed this aside as nothing, but DH's negative reaction caused me to reflect. I don't think the comment itself is so offensive, but given that the girl is from a devout Muslim background, I think it would be naive to think that there wasn't an anti-semitic sentiment behind it, coming from the girl's brother at least. DH, who works in education, ran it past a couple of heads who both confirmed that they would view it as a 'racist incident', and potentially involve the parents, but I'm not sure I would see that as helpful. I spoke to his class teacher who was sympathetic and didn't try to play down the incident, but said that they had little influence over what happens at home. Should I take this further; and if so, how? TBH, I don't want his Jewishness to become an issue at school.

Paintyfingers Wed 15-Jan-14 00:18:58

I totally understand what you are concerned about. I was from a family with one Jewish grandparent and I remember similar odd things being said by children (C of E children probably).

Did the teacher respond that Jews do believe in God? It seems like it could have been a great opportunity to explain that we all have different religious beliefs, some have none and that all these viewpoints are equally valid. Could you suggest to the teacher that they do some designs on religious festivals including a Jewish one so the children can find out more about judaism?

Looking on the optimistic side, the brother may just have told her other religions do not believe in Allah? However, I can see why you are worried.

Paintyfingers Wed 15-Jan-14 00:19:42

Designs ?? Sorry - phone scrambled it and designs was meant to be activities

Gizzle Wed 15-Jan-14 00:27:52

Hi Painty, the teacher handled it really well - pretty much as I had expected. She used it as an opportunity to talk about different beliefs and also tolerance; she's a terrific teacher. She also said it was great that DS is so open about his faith; although he said to DH privately that as he is only half Jewish, perhaps he could answer kids with his non-Jewish side from now on, when he's asked in school about his religion. sad I thought we'd moved on from there...

SamG76 Wed 15-Jan-14 12:11:56

The original incident is a theological matter and I wouldn't be upset, especially as the girl concerned is only 5 or 6. The teacher's response was far far worse than your DS's classmate's, in my view:

First, "half-Jewish" is a pretty offensive term in my book. Do you think the teacher would use the word "quadroon" as well?

Secondly, most teachers would be delighted to have someone Jewish in their class, as he would be able to explain festivals and the like. Is he assuming that the Muslims in the class will persecute your DS because he is Jewish? That is a fairly racist assumption as well.

I've a lot of experience in dealing with antisemitic incidents - feel free to pm me.

sonlypuppyfat Wed 15-Jan-14 12:17:25

Christians believe that Jesus is God could the child have been confused between God and Jesus.

I have a CD in exactly the same situation, although her DS isn't at school yet.

I'm certain she'd let the little girls comments go, but the teachers would make her angry.

Her DS is not 1/2 Jewish, he is circumcised and had a Jewish naming service. It is both his parents choice he follows her faith until he is old enough to decide.

No one calls DCs with one Christian and one atheist parent 1/2 Christian if they choose to baptize them, or if the child themselves chooses to believe in God and say so in RE.

In fact 1/2 atheist, 1/2 CofE DDs like mine are treated as Christian. Actually they are one agnostic and one atheist.

CD=DF stupid Kindle will never learn.

Gizzle Wed 15-Jan-14 17:27:46

Sorry, I think I confused matters. It wasn't the teacher who referred to DS as half-Jewish; he did so himself (he is only 5 after all). She says she is delighted to have him in his class as in her words "he is so open about his Jewish identity". Anyway, I feel more inclined not to make an issue of this at all now; but ironically, two headteacher friends have said that would have regarded it as a serious matter.

mellicauli Wed 15-Jan-14 17:40:39

I garee you should leave it. I can see how this could happen quite innocently - a 5 year old wouldn't understand the difference between "Jewish people don't believe in Allah" and "Jewish people don't believe in God"?

Avalon Wed 15-Jan-14 17:49:15

Given that it's a class discussion on religion, I don't understand how the girl's view could be seen as racist. Isn't that the point of discussion, to hear different viewpoints and to challenge wrong assumptions?

Avalon Wed 15-Jan-14 17:51:11

Sorry, meant to add - especially as the girl is also 5/6 and obviously still learning.

Rooners Wed 15-Jan-14 17:55:11

Answer with his non Jewish side? She really said that? shock

EducatingNora Wed 15-Jan-14 17:55:41

Isn't the point of school that kids are there to learn stuff. It sounds like the kid just needed to be given factually accurate info. She'd been told something inaccurate or she had misunderstood something. This has now been corrected. Stuff like that happens 100 times a day in school in every area of the curriculum. Regarding this comment as a racist incident would seem utterly bizarre to me unless there was considerable more background that we don't know about.

He said that Rooners, I think.

HarderToKidnap Wed 15-Jan-14 18:01:58

DH and I are both are both Jewish, and bringing DS up firmly within the faith. I wouldn't think this is a racist incident. Children pick up funny things, and will put their hands up and say all sorts of stuff! It's the teachers job to gently correct and explain, which she did. I'm sure if they were discussing Islam, your child may have some incorrect assumptions which might surprise even you! I wouldn't take this any further.

I WOULD have an issue with the teachers comment about half Jewish. Seems like she could do with some education about what makes a person halachically Jewish and the suggestion to keep your sons Jewishness under wraps would have me fucking OUTRAGED.

Rooners Wed 15-Jan-14 18:02:40

No, Antoinette I think I read correctly. I think the teacher suggested it.

Rooners Wed 15-Jan-14 18:03:47

Oh no you're right - sorry - I think it was the oP's boy who said it.

Gizzle Wed 15-Jan-14 18:05:33

No the teacher most definitely did not say anything about being half-Jewish, or answering with his Jewish side - he said it himself! And the reason he said that was because he is feeling - or being made to feel - uncomfortable - about being Jewish. He meant that he would answer the question about his religion with his non-Jewish side, therefore being able to deny his Jewishness. He is only 5 so his logic is a little skewed, but it upsets me to think that in 2014, he feels this way at school.

In answer to other posters I agree that the original comment from the little girl was innocuous. However, I'm more concerned about what might - and I stress might - be behind that statement. I think that it's a valid concern that there might be kids at school who are exposed to dangerous, racist thinking at home and my question is, what do you do if you believe this to be the case?

Rooners Wed 15-Jan-14 18:07:10

Oh no that is so sad that he said that.

I'm afraid I have nothing useful to contribute really but that kind of made me feel for you all.

Boreoff456 Wed 15-Jan-14 18:08:42

The teacher did say anything about being half Jewish or his none Jewish side.

Religion is complicated. As a pp said it may be that she was told that Jewish people do not believe in Allah. She has interpreted that ina different way than what her brothers may have meant.

The teacher handled it correctly imo. So I wouldn't take it further. The girl has expressed what she thought and was explained to that that wasn't correct. At her age I don't think there is reason to make more of an issue of this.

If the same child kept starling similar statements, then perhaps. But from one incident (which could have been a miscommunication)i would leave it.

Boreoff456 Wed 15-Jan-14 18:11:30

Unfortunately you can only

Boreoff456 Wed 15-Jan-14 18:13:15

Sorry

You will only know if this comment is a signal of racism at home if it happens again.

Maybe the teacher should explain to him how impressed she is. Maybe that will make him happier.

Gizzle Wed 15-Jan-14 18:14:02

Incidentally, an assistant Head and Headteacher of other similar London schools who are colleagues of DH, did say that they would have regarded it as a serious matter, had it occurred within their school.

Boreoff456 Wed 15-Jan-14 18:14:23

If you do believe this to be the case you need to discuss it with the head teacher. And go from there.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now