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Tznius (Modesty) – Part III

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In the last two articles, I discussed some of the issues of tznius and how it affected two children of chronically ill parents. I wrote about how infractions of the rules are being handled in some of our schools and gave some suggestions on how the concept of tznius might be approached in a way that raises self-esteem and becomes an aspiration to our daughters instead of a burden. One other thing mentioned in the past articles was the tendency of some parents to not want their children to attend school with children from different backgrounds or children from homes where standards are different than theirs.  Many times over the last school year, parents and teachers have told me this same story. The story came from different schools, different cities, and even different countries yet, was eerily the same. A child, sometimes as young as three or as old as twelve, telling his or her classmates that they wouldn’t play with them or let them come to their home because they didn’t keep cholov yisroel.  Even more frightening, the teachers told me, was the tone used by the child.  A tone, which clearly reflected the feeling of superiority of the child speaking over the child he was speaking to. In two of these cases, when the parents became involved, the teachers discovered that though these families kept cholov yisroel themselves, they had never expressed to their children that they could not be friends with children who didn’t.  In fact, they saw nothing wrong with these children or families.  However, they could not convince their child of this. Their children had some how heard a different message.                    


I cannot help but wonder if in our attempt to save our children from unwanted influences and protect them from practices we don’t value, even those that are clearly within the bounds of Halacha, we are setting up a hierarchy which inadvertently teaches sinas chinam.  Though we may tell ourselves we are protecting our children from behaviors or life styles we want them to avoid and not placing a negative value on that opposing lifestyle, this is not the message we may be giving our children. In reality, when we do not let another Jew (even if he is frum) into our schools aren’t we really saying, “I am better than you and I have a right to tell you I’m better than you by rejecting you. Further, I do not want my child associating with your child. He is simply not good enough.” Even if you are convinced that that is not your intent, what is your child learning from this segregation? Clearly it is not ahavas yisroel (love of every Jew) or the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha.       

        

I have had the opportunity to speak to many parents of now adult children who grew up “out of town.” Circumstance forced them to have their children in schools with a very eclectic student body, ones as diverse as our Jewish communities are. These former students and their parents felt that their children had truly learned the meaning of ahavas yisroel and continued to interact, even years later, with every type of Jew, never seeing one group superior to another. They attribute this directly to going to school with many children from many different backgrounds and practices. Few, if any of these graduates, would select a segregated school for their children.      

 

Though in today’s fearful world, I can understand a parents’ desire to segregate their children, keeping them only with children who will reinforce the values they see in their home and not expose them to anything different. It makes parenting easier and gives the illusion of safety. But what happens the first time the child is confronted with something different, something foreign to what they have seen at home and at school? Will they have the skills to deal with it, to examine it and to evaluate it? Or will it put their whole belief system in question? Or worse still, will they dismiss it as unworthy and see the people who believe this way as inferior to them? And, is this not sinas chinam?


 


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

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