Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Every year at Passover I am confronted by the fact that my relatives
are bigots. This despite that we’re a family of immigrants. The story
should be a cautionary tale: both sides of the family escaped Nazi
Germany in 1939, with the assistance of my father who had emigrated
a few years earlier. They worked amazingly hard their whole lives so
we kids had it easier. I live a life of privilege compared to the rest of
the planet so do all my family. So why should I have to sit without
speaking up at a ritual that’s supposedly about liberation from slavery
and hear my aunts and uncles say words my first-graders aren’t
allowed to us about people trying to immigrate here now. My parents
give me the eye-rolling looks that say I am not supposed to cause a
scene and confront anyone with their hypocrisy. How can I educate my
relatives that the door did not slam shut on America right after our
meshpochah landed?


Dear Liberal:

Some families have rules forbidding discussion of politics at
gatherings, especially holidays. Others indulge in free-for- alls. While
it’s always possible that one or more are talking that way to annoy or
provoke you, the more possible truth, and sadly embarrassing
knowledge, is that they probably don’t realize how bigoted and
hypocritical their language is.

Given that it’s after the Seder, I’d send a follow-up email to the
offenders, or even to the family as a whole. Say very simply what you
tell your students when they use inappropriate language: that it is
dehumanizing and cruel, and reflects more poorly on the speaker than
the spoken of. Draw the obvious parallels between your family and
current immigrants, and ask some open-ended questions to spark a
dialogue. You might or might not have an impact, but at least you’ll
have served notice that you’re not going to be quelled from expressing
your own views. At a minimum, they’ll have to listen.