How to Talk to Children About Anti-Semitism

Let's face it, no one wants to have to tell their child that there are nasty people in the world who will try to hurt them just for being themselves. We raise our kids to be good people, mensches, to help and accept others, and to do the best they can to treat those around them fairly and with respect.

Research shows that one of the best ways that we can help prepare our children to cope with discrimination and intolerance is by being open about it. When we show our children that these topics, though tough, are not taboo, we let them know that they can always come to us with questions or thoughts about life's scary situations.

Part of growing up and getting older will mean that our kids come face to face with some of the ugliness of the world. Given recent events, like a rise in anti-Semitic acts and bias crimes, as well as waves of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, we may have to have these conversations sooner than we'd like.

We've pulled together a short list of links and resources that parents may find helpful in discussions with their children. This can be used as a starting point along with our post, How to Talk to Your Kids About Scary Situations.

Talking to Your Kids

Many sources recommend being direct with kids about difficult topics. The American Psychological Association stresses that for children in groups that are likely to be targets of discrimination, it's vital for parents to have ongoing, honest, discussions with their children rather than shying away from the subject. The APA also recommends:
 
  • Let the discussion be ongoing.
  • Keep talking. Yes, even--and especially--when it gets hard.
  • It's also ok to say "I don't know."
  • Be age appropriate. Keep things basic. Young children especially need simple information balanced with reassurance.
  • Encourage your children to ask questions.
  • Help kids learn how to deal with being the potential target of discrimination.
  • Develop healthy comebacks or responses to hurtful discriminatory statements. For example: “What an unkind thing to say.” “Excuse me? Could you repeat that?” “I disagree with you, and here’s why…”
  • If you catch your child using insensitive language, use the moment as a teaching example.
  • Model good behavior for your child.
     

More:

Books And Stories Can Help

The Bible features many stories about the Jewish people facing oppression and persecution, especially as a minority group. The important theme in stories like Exodus, the Purim story, and the Hanukkah story, though are that small groups of brave individuals band together to triumph over adversity. If you are looking for age-appropriate versions of these stories, you can visit our Books section, or click the links below.
 

Books About Overcoming Adversity

The characters in these stories face intolerance and discrimination but triumph nonetheless.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson
Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher by Laurel Snyder
Jumping Jenny by Ellen Bari
The Legend of Freedom Hill by Linda Jacobs Altman
The Littlest Pair by Sylvia Rouss
The Mysterious Guests by Eric A. Kimmel
The Wise Shoemaker of Studena by Syd Lieberman
 

The following PJ Our Way titles deal with anti-semitism and discrimination head-on:

The Time Tunnel 2: The Dreyfus Affair by Galia Ron-Feder-Amit
Penina Levine is a Hard Boiled Egg by Rebecca O'Connell
Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 by Gail Langer Karwoski
OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
 

Books About Standing Up For What Is Right


A Time to Be Brave by Joan Betty Stuchner
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America by Susan Goldman Rubin
Like a Maccabee by Barbara Bietz
Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Goldman Gelman
 

Books About The Holocaust

While PJ Library does not send books about the Holocaust, we have compiled a list of high-quality children's books that address the subject in an age-appropriate fashion. View the list here.

As PJ Our Way is geared towards older children, ages 9-11, some of the selections do involve storylines and themes associated with the Holocaust. For older children, ready for the material, we recommend the title, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. You can learn more about individual titles on the PJ Our Way Parent's Blog.

More

Confronting Anti-Semitism: If I Don't Respond, Who Will? via Interfaithfamily.com
Our Kids and Anti-Semitism via St. Louis Jewish Light
Discrimination: What it is, and How to Cope via The American Psychological Association
Why I'm Teaching My Kids That Anti-Semitism is Not the New Normal via kveller.com

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