Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the case of former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy is argued before the court, April 25, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Win McNamee-Getty Images
Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the case of former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy is argued before the court, April 25, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Win McNamee-Getty Images

Coach Kennedy being allowed to pray at the 50-yard line is not good for Jews

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The romanticized view of teacher-led school prayer presented in a recent Forward opinion column bears little resemblance to the real lives of hundreds of thousands of Jewish public-school students across the United States.

For those children and their families, last week’s Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton is a blow to their ability to navigate the daily challenges inherent in being minority-faith students in Christian-dominated public-school districts.

Generations of American Jews, especially in regions with smaller, more dispersed Jewish populations, have endured routine indignities and outright discriminatory practices in public school systems that should be models of pluralism and civic responsibility. From the daily Christian prayers of the 1950s and 1960s to annual “December dilemmas” in which Jewish students feel compelled to participate in Christmas concerts, fundraisers, and other activities, Jewish children learn early on the meaning of “going along to get along.”

The cost of resisting the overt Christian messaging in some public schools can range from social ostracism to punitive treatment by teachers and coaches.

These incidents are not a relic of years gone by. Last December Jewish parents in Northern Virginia reached out to my organization, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, for assistance when a music teacher included in her kindergarten-first grade holiday curriculum a song about “baby Jesus.” 

Guila Franklin Siegel
Guila Franklin Siegel

Guila Franklin Siegel is associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, D.C. She can be contacted at [email protected].

Forward

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