As an educator, I firmly believe that there is much more to an education than what happens inside a classroom. In fact, it has been proven time and again that our children learn more from our examples than from listening or reading. Our behavior is extremely important, they watch our every move and remember everything. They hear what we say, how we say it, what our accompanying body language is, and witness the response we receive. At a young age, they love us unconditionally and are fiercely loyal—we can do no wrong in their eyes.
If they see us cowering or avoiding making decisions, they learn not to stand up for themselves. We may feel that we maintain our safety by avoiding taking a stance, but our children learn to do the same. They learn to follow, not to lead. They learn to turn a blind eye rather than stand firm against injustice. They learn to laugh at a racist/sexist/bigoted joke just because everyone else is.
Unfortunately, we are currently living in a world where anti-Semitism is on the rise. As Jewish people we are once again becoming the focus of hate groups. We are being victimized and it is increasingly important for us to take a stand. We cannot turn away and pretend it’s not happening. We need to stand up and be counted, and our children need to witness this. They need to be proud to fight hatred and intolerance, whatever the cause. By watching their parents and those they love set the example, they learn that their voice matters. This way we can begin to change the world, to change the consciousness of the generations that follow us, to make this world a better place for everyone who lives in it. _
Sue Penn is a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.