So Many Hamans
Anti-Semitism can be scary for children.
But parents can help by being comforting
and urging respect for others.
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"Serving the community for 39 years"
t's 9 a.m. on the Sunday before
Purim. A mother and son are
having a delightful, sticky
time making hamantashen.
Suddenly their happy mood is
shattered by a radio broadcast.
Another bus has been blown up
by Hamas terrorists in
Jerusalem. At least 19 Jews are
dead in the third attack in a sin-
Tears of anguish and anger fall
on the hamantashen. In an in-
stant, the questions and mes-
sages of Purim have come to life.
"Why do they want to stamp out
the Jews?" asks the child. Why
has it repeatedly been so during
The Talmud says, "When [the
Hebrew month of] Adar arrives,
we increase our joy" because
Purim is coming (Ta-anit 29a).
But how can we celebrate our
survival as a people with total joy
when me are still under attack?
Driving home this question, a
fourth bombing, this time in Tel
Aviv, occurs the very next day.
"So many Hamans, but just
one Purim," goes a Yiddish
proverb. Does this mean that our
sense of vulnerability and perse-
cution weighs as the heaviest el-
ement of our Jewish identity? Is
this a message we want to give
our children? How does the
awareness of anti-Semitism af-
fect a young child's sense of se-
curity and positive identification
with the Jewish people?
Hatred of Jews is a reality we
can't hide from children. We are
affected by terrorist attacks on
our fellow Jews in Israel or any-
where in the world. Even ele-
mentary school-age children hear
about these events on the news,
listen to adults discussing them,
and observe their parents' reac-
tions. In addition, they are be-
ginning to learn about the
Holocaust and other tragic chap-
ters ofJewish history in Hebrew
What about when children are
directly and personally touched
by anti-Semitism? Although
American Jewry today is more
secure than Diaspora Jewry has
ever been, the Anti-Defamation
League still logged 1,843 anti-Se-
mitic incidents in this country in
Beth Land Hecht is director of the
Jewish Outreach Network in
Gail Lipsitz is Baltimore Jewish
Family Service director of
We have been spared the kind
of brutal terrorism to which Is-
raelis are subjected. Instead, anti-
Semitism in America takes the
forms of harassment, threats and
assaults; anti-Jewish and anti-
Zionist writing and rhetoric; and
vandalism ofJewish institutions.
A young child may first expe-
rience anti-Semitism by seeing
her synagogue defaced by a face-
less perpetrator. Or she may hear
an adult make a derogatory re-
mark about Jews. Perhaps it's a
teacher who says, "What? You're
missing another day of school for
one of those Jewish holidays?"
Some children encounter teasing
or taunts from other children in
the neighborhood or at school.
"The idea that people hate you
just because you're Jewish is a
scary thing for little children,"
says Marsha Tishler, coordina-
tor of Holocaust Programs for the
Baltimore Jewish Council.
AP PH OTO BY BRYAN M CLELLAN
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Haman's genocidal plot against
the Jews of Persia was hatched
in response to Mordechai's re-
fusal to bow down to a human.
"It is discomforting to be sin-
gled out for being different — for
any reason ... For young children
who are still struggling to feel se-
cure in the world of others, per-
secution is an evil that is truly
terrifying," writes Rabbi Steven
M. Rosman, co-author, with Ker-
ry M. Olitzky and David P.
Kasakove, of When Your Jewish
Child Asks Why.