I had one glass of wine Tuesday evening, but I think I'm not the only one who felt hungover on Wednesday.
At a 9 AM meeting, colleagues - rabbis, educators, communal professionals - processed the election, the often toxic campaign and the final results. We supported one another and discussed how we support our community moving forward. The election is over and life and work go on.
Throughout the day I heard from parents and educators concerned about how to best support their kids. Below, are some links and strategies that can be helpful.
1. Managing difficult conversations
- Check your own feelings - if you are feeling anger, fear, confusion, you will likely transmit those feelings, consciously or unconsciously. Be aware of your distress. Be mindful of your words and your tone to engage in a developmentally appropriate conversation.
- Listen - children have been watching and listening to extraordinary things throughout this campaign. They've drawn their own conclusions and need to share their perspectives and their fears. Be prepared to listen and give them space to talk and to share their feelings.
- Safety - I'm not big on sugar-coating reality or hiding the truth. And yet, I hear adults talking in ways that could convey an exaggerated sense of danger to young ears. Children need to understand that they are safe and that the adults in their life will offer protection and security.
2. Jewish values
A school head whom I admire said: "I told my teachers to double-down on the values we cherish - no bullying; we treat one another with respect."
Our world is replete with teaching moments. Now as much as ever educators (and parents) can focus on Jewish values and use opportunities to hold up examples that illuminate, uphold, or violate those values.
If you feel that Jewish values and teachings are under assault - your work as an educator and as a parent is more important than ever. Opportunities abound for children (and others) to learn Jewish values such as
(each human is created in the image of God) and
3. Judaism and masculinity
"Who is mighty? The one who conquers his desire, as it says, 'slowness to anger is better than a mighty person and one who rules over his spirit [mightier] than a conqueror of a city.'"
(Ben Zoma/Pirkei Avot & Proverbs)
Every boy grows up asking - "What does it mean to be a man?"
If we believe our culture is putting forward negative messages on this question - all the more important and urgent for us to put forward the right ones.
Our Jewish wisdom tradition has lots to say on this subject; unfortunately, we have not seen a wealth of educational resources yet (we hope to change that). One useful source is Moving Traditions, whose
program aims at engaging adolescent boys.
Every father and every male teacher has the opportunity (and obligation) to teach and model positive messages to boys about how to be (and how NOT to be) a man.
A few resources for educators and parents:
- aggregated resources for educators and parents from the Southern Poverty Law Center
Many of us (including children) are grappling with what to make of it all. The grappling will continue (it is the human condition). As Jewish educators, we can offer a Jewish lens that can help our students and ourselves make sense of the wider world in which we live. May we obtain the strength and skill to do so and in doing so, help to repair that which is broken.