Magical Moments

February 09, 2018

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

We experience so many magical moments each day at Beit Rabban- between teachers and students, between parents and staff, and among classmates. I wish they were all visible to our community. Our collective level of inspiration and optimism would undoubtedly increase. 

Instead of sharing a general overview or a number of different nuggets this week, I would like to share one email conversation between a parent and administrator that made me feel so honored to work at Beit Rabban and so grateful that my children are in school here. I hope you also find the exchange compelling and are inspired by this magical exchange. 

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,

Email from Parent to Administrator

Good morning, {Administrators}...

Friday morning before school, the girls were talking to me about the "punishment of creation," which they explained they learned about at school. They mentioned that the snake lost its legs and had to slither in the dirt. They mentioned that men had to do hard work. Then they told me that the punishment for women was to have a difficult pregnancy and be ruled over by Adam, and that men would rule over women.

I'm sure that this is NOT what is actually being taught as current or eternal truth at Beit Rabban, so I wanted to remind myself and us all that, if even only for a day and forgotten, there are kids who are interpreting their learning in different ways.

I think there is an opportunity here to discuss this further at home, and I welcome your advice. {Partner's Name} and I are working to give our daughters the confidence and tools they will need to determine their own course in life, and so you can see why their interpretation of what they learned last week inspired me to reach out for support.

It hasn't come up again, so perhaps there has been further discussion at school. Or, perhaps the girls saw my dismay at the conversation on Friday morning and don't want to talk to me about it further.

I'm happy to talk in person, on the phone or by email.

Many thanks in advance for your time.
-{Parent's Name}

Email from Administrator to Parent

Dear {Parent's Name}.
Thank you so much for reaching out about this and for your openness to exploring these questions with your children!
I appreciate your making the distinction between what's in the text of the Torah and what is current or eternal truth, and I want to reassure you that you're correct that we're most definitely not teaching the subjugation of women as current or eternal truth.
This is likely the first of many times that {Student Names} will encounter parts of the Torah that are morally challenging and that don't align with your or their values.  In general in these situations, I encourage conversation around the following questions:

  • Why is this statement in the Torah troubling or upsetting to us?  (This helps us to clarify our own values.)
  • Why do we think the Torah says this?  (This helps to clarify/understand the Torah's value system.)
  • How might we re-interpret the Torah to help us feel more comfortable?  (This is harder for younger kids and it's also tricky because we don't want to impose things on the Torah that aren't there, but I think it's helpful in trying to come to a resolution that allows us to hold our values and not dismiss the Torah.)

In this particular case of the curses/punishments in the Garden of Eden, I think these questions can lead to fruitful conversation.  It can be an opportunity for you and them to clarify your own values around women's rights and women's roles and also to talk about how women's rights and roles have changed over history.  It's also an opportunity to talk about about punishments and consequences (another area in which the Torah presents a value system that may be quite different from your own).
One final thought -- I've certainly experienced (in conversations with students and with my own children), that sometimes I'm much more troubled by something in the text than they are.  So I think it's important, in these conversations, for parents to ask questions of their children and also to share their own beliefs, but not to get too worried or try to persuade too much if children don't agree.  These are life-long conversations and we want our children to feel safe and comfortable to continue having them with us!
I hope that this was a helpful start, and I'm more than happy to continue the conversation in person or on the phone if you'd like.