How Arm Our Children Against Anti-Semitism?
A Psychologist's Advice to Jewish Parents
BEHIND much of the effort to build up a Jewish cultural life in this country- the establishment of schools, synagogues, and community centers, as well as the production of Jewish books, music, and art-we often find one supreme motivation: a desire to armor the Jewish child against anti-Semitism, to prevent, if possible, the ill effects on his psyche of anti-Semitic experience.
This is doubtless something of a simplification, but it requires only plain and scrupulous observation to see how close it lies to the heart of the matter. Why does a new community of Jews suddenly decide it needs a Sunday school, or a congregation, or a community center? Usually because, as almost any of its members will tell us, its children must be given the knowledge that will pre- pare them to face the attacks of the anti-Semite. Knowledge of the Jewish past will supply the child with inner security in the face of hostility; participation in community ceremonies and observances will effectively cancel out any future experiences of exclusion from the non-Jewish world-so it is asserted. Jewish institutional life in this country is fair on its way to becoming a vast system of psychological fortifications behind which it is hoped that Jews will live out their lives without incurring psychological scars. For a first-hand report in detail of this process in operation, one may read Herbert Gans’s article, “Park Forest: Birth of a Jewish Community,” in the April 1951 COMMENTARY.
About the Author