How to explain to a child that their grandparents aren’t Jewish? |
Thanks for making this wonderful forum available.
I’m a gioret (convert) and my children are FFBs, as is my spouse. When my oldest, who is three, came home from Yeshiva saying something he learned about “Goyim”, I shuddered. As I was processing all this it dawned on me that I would have to explain to him one day that my parents (his grandparents) are not Jewish.
When and how should I go about explaining this to him? I’m also concerned he’ll be bullied because of my background, especially if he starts talking about it at his Yeshiva. What do you suggest?
Thanks in advance
First of all, allow me to express my admiration & respect for the choice you made.
And allow me to wish you luck…
The severity of your issue depends on where you live and the type of community you live in.
I find that some segments of religious community never moved out of pre-war Europe in their attitudes to the non-Jews and secular governments, most of which were antisemitic and made life extremely difficult for the Jews. Hence, all non-Jews, by default, are wicked, evil, and look to create troubles for the Jews as a part of their daily routines.
That being said, there are a few things you can do:
1. Approach the teacher(s) and the principal (if applicable) and explain that you have non-Jewish family who are wonderful people; and that statements such as “some non-Jews/goim are antisemitic, but some are not” would be appreciated and more appropriate. Specific examples of how wonderful your family is would help drive the point home.
2. Find a different school. Talk to your Rav / mentor about which school will respect your background.
3. You can do some damage control too: “Some goim are mean, but some are nice, like Grandma & Grandpa. Maybe your teacher never met nice goim.”
When your child will be older, you will be able to explain that historically, the Jews were more persecuted than not, and this has left a scar that didn’t heal, even in the land of the free.
As a baalas teshuva, I had to constantly deal with something similar:
“Goim drive on Shabbos, and so does my family and also other non-frum Jews because, unfortunately, they don’t realize how special Shabbos is.”
“Some Jewish men do not wear kippas because they don’t know about H’ ”
Though, unfortunately, our history shows that most (if not all) friends turn away from the Jews at the hardest times. It’s a balance which I haven’t found yet myself: most non-Jews aren’t evil people, and yet the Holocaust happened.
Hope this helps & hatzlacha!
It is very difficult for me to answer without knowing you personally.
I am surprised that your children have no idea that their grandparents are not Jewish.
In the my Shul there are many Converts as there are in so many Shuls nowadays.
I know in that in most neighborhoods (such as Passaic- where I live) – the notion of converts is understood and even if even a Rebbe makes an inappropriate comment-which of course will occur- it is easy to explain to your children that historically there were many issues with non-Jews; however, we all know that there are good and righteous Gentiles and bad ones.
Without knowing you or where you live, I would suggest that you find others in your neighborhood who are of the same background and support each other.
I would also suggest you tell you children sooner than later that their grandparents are not Jewish and you inform the school of your background.
All the best,