Friday, June 09, 2006

Goldfish & Sensitivity

My older daughter goes to a Chabad nursery school with a little girl named "Michal" whom I have written about in the past. On Tuesday night at dinner, my daughter told my wife, "Michal brought Goldfish for lunch. They are kosher. You can buy them now Mommy."

Instead of responding, my wife and I just looked at each other with a knowing look. The nursery school's policy clearly states that a child can only bring kosher food, and we are aware that Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are not kosher. If we called the teacher and reported this infraction of the rules this would infuriate Michal's mother who does not like sending her daughter to a "religious" school in the first place. We also did not respond to our daughter's request by telling her that Goldfish were not kosher because we knew she would tell this to Michal the next day, thus alienating Michael in front her classmates.

Obviously, this is a matter that needs to be handled with sensitivity. So, what do you think we should do?

(Picture courtesy of Pepperidge Farm)


At June 9, 2006 at 7:08:00 AM EDT, Blogger Tamara said...

I agree that contacting the school is not a good idea. Besides, it's the school's responsability to enforce their kashrus policy. Who knows, maybe the teachers have noticed the goldfish, but have chosen to remain silent for one reason or another.

As for what you tell your daughter, you may just have to explain that families have different ways of doing things. Perhaps you can tell her that your Rabbi doesn't recommend goldfish, so you don't buy them.

I'm sure your other readers can come up with some good ideas for handling this.

At June 9, 2006 at 7:56:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Other kids in the school might be offered these goldfish. We ought to consider how to protect them.

At June 9, 2006 at 8:04:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Bob: What would you suggest?

At June 9, 2006 at 9:17:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Perhaps they are kosher version . . .
Speak to a rav, and see what he says.

At June 9, 2006 at 10:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger alice said...

I am Bnai Noach so this may be irrelevant, but my suggestion would be: talk to the teachers without mentioning any names. Say that you have reason to believe that parents might need remining about the rules, and request that they send out a letter to that effect.

At June 9, 2006 at 10:39:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you for the suggestion, Alice.

At June 9, 2006 at 10:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

There are Kosher imitation "goldfish" so you have to be certain this isn't what Michal is bringing to school, but referring to them by the popular brand name. But yes, one has to avoid the problem of her sharing the "possible un-Kosher" ones with peers.
I would ask one of the rabbeim from the school, without naming names, and ask him how to handle the problem. It's his jurisdiction and hopefully he'd act with sensitivity towards the child and her family to find out if it is indeed the real brand.

At June 9, 2006 at 11:06:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Mottel & Pearl: It seems you have identical thoughts. I have asked my wife if she was 100% sure since she had mentioned this before. My wife says they definitely are not the kosher variety.

The problem with asking one of the rabbis is that there are very few students and that it might be obvious which one we were talking about.

At June 9, 2006 at 11:12:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Alice has the best action item so far.

The heads-up to parents can make the distinction between kosher versions and the well-known non-kosher brands of munchies in general, not only goldfish.

At June 9, 2006 at 11:12:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Your blog ROCKS!
Great question!
You can buy WHALES at most grocery stores.

We've had similar issues for the past 7 1/2 years. The community we formerly lived in had a population of 30 shmoer shabbos families. The day school has 175 students, of which 20% we from orthodox homes. My kids are 6 1/2 and almost 4yrs. We had plenty of issues with people driving on Shabbos, kipah and tzizis, kashrus at classmates' homes, etc. I got great advice via a friend who asked a similar question to Rabbi Moshe Weinberger (Woodmere, NY). His advice was tell your kids that "in family this is what we do".
Let your daughter know that in your family you don't eat Goldfish.

We just moved to Chicago and have different issues. My wife was told by a parent in the day school that there are "kashrus issues in the school." My wife was shocked!! in a school of 700 kids of which every family is Shomer Shabbos there are issues?
"You have issues?" my wife said.
The other parent replied, "Sometimes all the snack are not Cholav Yisroel or Yoshon."
My wife smilled. This lady had no clue what some families deal with.

Have a great Shabbos!

At June 9, 2006 at 11:18:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Neil: I always appreciate the compliments and I appreciate you sharing you experience and advice with me.

At June 9, 2006 at 12:16:00 PM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

This is tough, even tougher because at a young age children may share or trade, putting your child's personal kashrus at risk, and further you now know about a risk to other children.

As you state, there's a corresponding risk to the education of that the child who brought.

Since you state that it's a Chabad school, they should be comfortable dealing with such an issue. For example, they could put and enforce a very strict DON'T SHARE FOOD policy, thereby targeting no one yet avoiding such a problem (many schools that have a diverse population, whether it's obvervant and less so or various levels of frumkeit, and have to deal with kosher/non-kosher or chalav yisroel / yoshan / specific shechita).

I think you have an obligation to bring the matter up with the administration, given the kashrus risk to your daughter and the other students. You don't need to identify the source, and you should strongly mention your concern of alienating a less committed parent who might make such a mistake.

At June 9, 2006 at 12:18:00 PM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

Addition - there's also a key point in emphasizing the assumption that this is a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, even those with an intense committement to kashrus.

So the question becomes, how to we improve guarding our children against a classmate kashrus mistake?

At June 9, 2006 at 12:20:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you for your excellent advice, Akiva.

At June 9, 2006 at 12:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

There are also non-kashruth reasons not to allow sharing food in school:

1. Sharing food can expose a child to something they're allergic to.

2. Sharing food can spread illness. Against school policy, many parents send their kids to school with fevers or infections, because of ignorance, because neither spouse is at home, or whatever.

At June 9, 2006 at 12:36:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Sharing is not allowed so it is not a problem at the school.

At June 9, 2006 at 1:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jewish Thinker said...

This is a great opportunity to explain to your daughter that different people do things differently, and that we dont always do what everybody else does. As an aside consider that there are other parents in the school who may be upse by this. I am sure that people in the school administration are aware of the childs circumstances, and may consider a means to broach it if it comes up. They can offer to provide snacks for the child for example... I do think it is a disservice to other parents to have the food in the school.

At June 9, 2006 at 6:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Neshama said...

ASJ, maybe I can find you something similar in Brooklyn.
I'd be happy to send them to your little precious.

I would write to Pepperidge Farm and let them know there is a young consumer in your house, and perhaps many, many more little connoisoirs who would be able to boost their "goldfish" sales if they would consider obtaining a kosher certification.This may be an opportunity in disguise for them, because many companies are going Kosher because of the HUGE market. Maybe the Star K might be able to see it through.

In the meantime, you could say that there is (if it's so) artificial coloring (or some other valid ingredient) in the little fishies and therefore Mommy or daddy does not eat them and won't buy them. And explain that each family decides for themselves what they will or will not eat. Just because something is 'kosher' doesn't mean that we buy it and eat it. Food is for nourishing the mind and body. We eat to grow strong bones, shiny hair, protect against viruses, etc. This may be a good time to explain how some foods are healthy and some are not. You could put this together to suit your own tastes.

Some children grow up thinking that everything in the supermarket is good to eat (because it looks pretty or otherwise_______, you fill in the missing word). As we mature we know otherwise. (Remember your coffee blog, and the black coke temptation?)

Let us know what happens.

At June 10, 2006 at 9:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Gavriela said...

Have you or your wife considered talking with the girl's mother?

I'd suggest that rather than making it a talk about school policy or kashruth, you tell her about the conversation with your daughter and the position you are in as a parent and ask her if there is a way you can work together on a solution.

Shavua tov

At June 11, 2006 at 12:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rabbi Seinfeld said...

I admire your sensitivity.

No doubt the teacher is already aware of the problem. I agree with the comment that "in our family, we don't eat them". But you might gain more by using the opportunity to teach your daughter to think critically:

"That's very exciting. But how do you know they're kosher now?"
"Well, Michal had them, etc"
"Is it possible that she had a special kosher brand, or that there was a mistke? Do you think we should check the package first before we buy them? Maybe she had special kosher goldfish from Israel." etc.

At June 11, 2006 at 10:24:00 AM EDT, Blogger NeshamaSearcher said...

This is a tough issue. I remember when I was in dayschool we had many newly immigrated russian students in our class. My school was a Reform day school and thus the kashrut rules were pretty basic: no pig, no shellfish, and no mixing milk and meat. Without fail though at every lunch period Stan or Roman would pull out a cheese and ham sandwich. We use to harrass them about this. 15 years later, after much formal education on the former soviet union, I still have guilt about how we treated our Russian classmates in the lunch room. I think its important to explain to your daughter, if you do choose to tell her that goldfish are not kosher, that knowledge is a gift and the fact that she understands that goldfish are not kosher and the significance kashrut, and her friend may not yet, is a privlage. Let her feel special, but humbled, for not having goldfish.

At June 11, 2006 at 3:14:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Jewish Thinker: Interesting thoughts.

Neshama: I certainly will let you know what happens.

Gavriela: I appreciate your advice. I am still undecided how to handle it.

Rabbi Seinfeld: Thanks for commenting and giving me another option to consider.

Neshamasearcher: It is stories like the one you shared which make me not rush into reacting.

At June 11, 2006 at 9:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Interesting dilemma, always things to ponder never to be bored.

At June 12, 2006 at 4:20:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Yosef D said...

Fascinating discussion!

Here's my two cents:

I work in secular pre-schools as a Special Education Teacher and I can tell you that although the teachers tell the kids not to share their lunches, and are standing nearby to try to enforce the rule, the children ignore it every day and make a game out of sharing their food while evading the spying eyes of the teachers.

I believe that unless the children think there is a real strong reason not to share (beyond "It's a class rule") most kids will do it.

Yosef D.

At June 12, 2006 at 6:14:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

socialworker/frustrated mom: I agree.

Yosef D: Thanks for your two cents ;)

At June 13, 2006 at 12:00:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Morah said...

I teach pre-schoolers in a school that has a situation like you described. We have a strict no sharing rule. I think (hope) that the children take it more seriously then let's say "No eating off the floor", simply because when it almost happened the look on my face was very horrified. The children though don't really understand different levels of Kashrus. They do know that one food can be kosher for one person but not enough for the next.
To explain my point, the children were having a discussion during snack time. One child said "We can't share food because my food is only kosher for me". Another added in (she was eating green peppers) "Right, my snack is not Kosher for you."

At June 13, 2006 at 6:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Morah: It looks like you know where I am coming from.

At June 13, 2006 at 11:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger Bagel Blogger said...

A very difficult issue.
I think Rabbi Seinfeld has good advice.

It would not be the first time, an item was kosher despite apparent 'hearsay' contrary evidence. What happens if it is a kosher 'gold fish'? Your daughter may see all goldfish shaped biscuits as 'those goldfish'.

I'm sure your right, but the consequences if some one makes a mistake?

My wife and I often make things that are 'copies' of non kosher food so our girls don't feel a Kosher diet is about 'missing out'.

I like Rabbi Seinfeld's advice:
makes a potentially negative event a positive one and provides learning and insight with out harm.

regards Aaron

At June 13, 2006 at 12:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

And if not now, when?: I agree

At June 15, 2006 at 11:18:00 AM EDT, Anonymous hmmm said...

Dear Simple, from first hand knowledge, most Chabad nurseries who cater to someone who is not religious have at least one Shliach involved who would be sensitive to the issue of the mother not being alienated while her daughter learns about Yiddishkeit, and hopefully innocently brings it into the home.

Let's not focus on the rule, focus on the goal of the rule: That Jewish kinderlach should eat kosher! You aren't bringing it to someone's attention for the infraction to be punished, you are bringing it to their attention so that they can focus more energy on this family's acceptance of kashrus.

At June 15, 2006 at 2:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Hmmm: You wrote about the "family's acceptance of kashrus". This might be difficult since the father is not Jewish.

At October 19, 2016 at 3:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Maxine said...

you should sue


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