Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Everyone is Special

A few weeks ago, I was at a popular yeshiva day school in the tri-state area. While I was there, the school was holding a “parade” to celebrate the boys’ hockey team recent victory in their league’s championship. The whole school came out to cheer the team on, as the boys were loaded onto the back of the pick-up truck. The truck was then preceded by a police officer on a motorcycle, and the team waved gleefully as “We Are The Champions” played on the loud speakers.
I completely understand the benefits of such a parade. The parade, very clearly, promoted an amazing amount of school spirit that both the team and the spectators could partake in. It was almost palpable. Winning first place is a huge triumph and the school should be proud. I can only imagine was the 3-year-olds were thinking as their own boys hockey team was paraded around by a police officer. I’m sure it made them feel proud for going to such a day school, especially at such a young age.
However, as someone who is merely sensitive to minorities within the orthodox community – what about the boys who don’t like sports? And perhaps get bullied for it? What about the few gay children who go to this school? Who might not like sports and are uncomfortable with that?
By putting the hockey boys on a pedestal, the school and community are automatically making hockey, and sports in general, elitist. Which is fine! Sports are an important facet of our society, especially within the orthodox community.
But if the model UN team won the “championship” – would they get a parade, too? If a talented, artistic student won an award for their “Best 8th Grade Painting,” would he or she be recognized as much as the hockey team was? This, of course, is just hypothetical rhetoric.
I have absolutely no problem – and in fact, I support – the hockey team’s parade. They worked hard, and the school and team deserve to bask in their pride and glory. School spirit is an important thing, and this definitely creates that feeling.
The only thing that is troublesome to me is the message this parade sends, school spirit aside. Is hockey really the only thing you can be good at to get a parade? Are sports the most elite thing you can be successful at within the orthodox community?
I recently saw the movie "Bully," which is a moving documentary currently in theaters that depicts bullying in American schools. If a child does not like sports and is uninterested in involving him/herself in them, what if he/she wants to become a thespian? Or an artist? Or the team’s manager? Not only will their successes (seemingly) not be as recognized as much as other students’ success in hockey or sports in general, but also: they are more at risk at getting bullied.
I have no proof of correlation between the parade, bullying, and un-sporty children. I only have my observations and thoughts. I’m just nervous for the future, unpopular kids; I’m nervous their achievements won’t be as recognized as those students who are recognized for their athletic talent, and I am nervous that this could, potentially, perpetuate harassment, depression, and in extreme cases (as mentioned in the film and in the media recently) – suicide.
Maybe some school administrators, one day, can think about these things, too, and help to make everyone at school feel comfortable, safe, and special – regardless of what their interests and talents are. 


  1. "What about the few gay children who go to this school? Who might not like sports and are uncomfortable with that?"

    Isn't this antithetical to everything you espouse on this blog? You are often one to assume that people try to stereotype and here you are assuming the same about the gay student body. The rest of the post was well thought out and a valid opinion, but this sentence seems to undermine your very point. The issue here is not a gay rights issue, but more of a liberal arts issue as a whole.

    Additionally I would add, that its not an orthodox day school paradigm, I think sports are dominant in most elementary, high school and colleges.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Anon8:57. I do hate stereotypes, yes, but they do exist for a reason. Plenty of gay kids do love sports, but many do not. And, if you want to play semantics - I did right in my post "[gay kids] who MIGHT not like sports" - insinuating that it is merely a possibility.

      And yes, it's more of an "equality for all" rather than a specifically gay issue, but one that completely includes a gay issue - and, as a gay Jew myself, one that I identify with closely.

      And yes (again) - it is an issue in all schooling, not just orthodox ones - but just know that sports play a huge role in orthodox circles, too.

  2. Firstly, there have been popular and not as popular kids in schools in the US (and beyond) for centuries. It is only as of recently that bullying took on a completely new identity. I'm not saying the war on bullying should stop, I'm just saying that the not-so-popular ones have made it successfully in this world, regardless of a parade.

    Secondly, I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your feelings. Not many are able to do so. With that said, I think it would be a great twist on this blog for you to provide suggestions or opportunities for change. I think its very interesting that you've found ways to see issue around different communities when it comes to minorities, especially the gay community. Additionally, its great to hear you articulate the issues and complaints. However, I find that when I read your blog, I am always looking for more than just your observation/frustration. It is really valuable that you are viewing the world in a new light, but I think for any reader who may be in your previous position or even just looking to learn - some form of suggestion instead of just a kvetch (for lack of a better term) would be helpful.

  3. I skimmed through your articles and coments, and I have seen hints towards my question but nobody asked it outright, and i haven't seen any place where you address it. How do you justify being a gay orthodox Jew when in the torah it clearly states our laws as Jews towards homosexuality? Please don't think I'm attacking you in any way, it's just a question that I haven't seen answered.

  4. @Anon: Good question. Do you have an answer? I don't think anyone does. Lawfully -as you said - no one can be completely gay and completely orthodox, as the torah/bible explicitly states. This blog was created for me to share my thoughts, and to start conversation amongst readers. There is no correct answer. It is a constant and daily struggle for many an orthodox, gay Jew, since being gay and being orthodox are such conflicting lifestyles. In my experience, the best answer is balance.