On Equality in a Kindergarten

She wants to make the gan Reform,” she says to her assistant.

I feel my cheeks burn and I almost turn away.

But…I can’t leave my son this way…in a room where he is taught subtle discrimination and stereotypes.

So I speak up because this is where it starts…in this room with 3 and 4-year-olds running around an incompetent teacher who doesn’t understand me.

That was not my intention,” I say loud enough to assert myself and so that my son can hear.

I just don’t think the boys should always be the chazan [prayer leader].  There is nothing wrong with a chazanit.”

The assistant smiles.

You know my sister-in-law was a gannenet in a Reform gan.  I know what you’re talking about.”

I breathe deep and try to control the feelings rising up within me.

No.  You don’t understand.  My son told me that only boys can be the chazan.  And when I said a girl can be a chazanit, he laughed.  This is not about religion.  This is not even about prayer.  This is about my son believing that girls can’t be a chazanit.  This is about my son believing there are things girls cannot do just because they are girls.

Oh…I see.  You know you really are a unique mother that you think about this.

I almost lose it.

“I want you to know that if he were a girl…this conversation would have happened the first week of gan.  I want you to know that I am angry at myself it took so long for me to speak to you about this.  I want you to know that I believe in equality.  I want you to know that as much as I aim to empower my daughter, I aim to teach my son what it means to be equal in a world that sees him as something more because of his gender.  And it starts here.

She smiles.

“You know, I heard a segment on the radio about discrimination in the workplace.  They said that people are discriminated against all sorts of things.  The color of their skin…where they come from…their religion.  If I hadn’t heard that I wouldn’t understand you!

“Yes, but here is where you start!  Here is where you educate the children about equality!  In this room!”

She has this blank look on her face and I know that she thinks I’m some sort of crazy feminist burning bras and damning the man.

I look around the room.

The boys and girls are all mixed up together…and they come from different parts of the world…and in so many shades of skin-color…and they speak different languages at home…and they pray differently…and they love like equals…and they fight like equals…and they feel like equals.

I tell my son there will be a chazanit because everyone can lead a prayer to a God Who sees them as equal.  I say it loud enough to ensure that the gannenet and her assistant can hear me…and I walk out of the room, wondering who I was begging to be educated.

De-valuate

Today, we met with a panel of fierce-looking Israeli professional women with thick eyebrows.

They are going to decide what to do with our daughter.

They asked us to describe her.

We did.

They asked the gannenet to describe her.

She did.

And then they deliberated in front of us.

Bewildered is not enough of a word to convey the feeling I am left with, but it’s something along those lines.

Their decision was that they can’t make a decision.

So they’re going to be passing the decision stick to the next set of evaluators.

I wonder if they’ll be bothered to meet the subject of their discussion, or if it will be another panel of fierce-looking Israeli professional women with thick eyebrows and scribbled notes that make up my little girl.