A few years ago, my second-grader came home practicing a song for the upcoming winter program at school. She was so cute about it, it felt like a scene from a Hallmark card ad—until I focused in on the words and heard her trill about kneeling down to pray to the baby in the manger. Cut to black. This one needed a change of character, stat. Switch out the Jewish moppet; cue the altar girl.
The next day I called the music teacher to explain that not every parent appreciates their child singing a paean to the Christian savior. Couldn't they stick to "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bell Rock"? No, I was told. A church organist and choir director in her off hours, the music teacher thought the tune appropriate for the kids, as it reflected a historical time period and wasn't explicitly urging them to embrace Christianity. Anyway, she said, that carol would be balanced out by the dreidel song. I told her she had just compared the birth of Christ to a toy.
Unmoved, she replied that if I didn't like it, my 7-year-old could stand silently to the side of the stage apart from her classmates as they belted out the tune. Good solution, I thought! Could we also get a spotlight shining down on her? Perhaps a big sign with the word "Jew!" in neon?
I called the principal.
He took a more conciliatory stance, saying that he hadn't recognized the overtly religious tone of the song when he first approved it, but now agreed that it probably wasn't appropriate in a public school setting. But it was only a week or so before the performance, and too late to pull the song. So I started weighing my options.
I thought about how, when I was a bridesmaid for a Catholic friend, I didn't suddenly start believing in Christ after all that kneeling, candle-lighting and prayers to Mary during the wedding ceremony. But that was a church. Of course Jesus should be heralded there and in other Christian-based settings. Heck, I even nod to the painting of Jesus when I walk into the YMCA to exercise. All these thoughts just made me feel more conflicted.
In the end, I decided my daughter wouldn't even understand what she was singing about, so I let her join in, figuring she probably would be more scarred by being separated from her fellow tunesmiths than singing about Jesus.