CPE Challenge: For the Greater Good of Community

The author and his family

By Sandy Jesion
Co-Chair, Quebecers for Equal Rights to Subsidized Day Cares

My parents came from Poland where they were not able to freely practice their religion.  As a result of that, though my parents instilled in me a very strong sense of Jewish identity and values, they felt not fully equipped to teach me about our religion, traditions and customs.  I wanted to get back to the roots that my grandparents had of a religious Jewish household so I went to Hebrew Academy afternoon school and then continued my education at Herzliah.  While I’m not very observant myself, I wanted to pass on this knowledge to my daughter, Hannah.  When she turned three, we put Hannah into the CPE of the Hebrew Foundation so that she could learn the traditions, customs and values that are important to our family.

She loves it there.  To use the Yiddish term, my wife Bonnie and I are ‘kvelling’ when we see her lighting the candles for Shabbat, asking the four questions at Passover, starting to ask questions about the Jewish holidays.  These are things that are important to us and it makes us feel so proud to see her have some of that knowledge.

When I first heard about the directive, we looked into it and found out how stringent the rules are and how it’s really changing what Hannah is allowed to do in her daycare.  The little things like saying a bracha before she has a snack or being able to have her Shabbat – those are things that she is no longer permitted to do, and that’s awful and Hannah is devastated.  We told her she won’t be able to do her Shabbat program anymore and she doesn’t understand why.

Right now I have one daughter who is four and we are expecting a second daughter in three months and I know how important this is for me and my family, and I imagine how important it is for all other Quebecers.  I believe it’s a fight not just for me and my children, but for future generations as well.

The government has a subsidized daycare system in place. The Canadian Constitution and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms tell us that any government program has to be available to all and they can’t discriminate against any group.  With this directive, they discriminate against those who want some sort of religious education for their children.

Daycare really is an extension of family life.  These are our children’s formative years and how can we have a set of values and rules that we teach at home but then not be allowed to do the same at daycare?  How do you celebrate holidays at home with your family and then the next day in daycare, the children are not allowed to talk about what they’ve experienced?

Federation CJA has always been a group that helps support all Jews according to their needs.  The future leaders of our community are going to come from people who have these same Jewish core values and if you don’t let the kids learn these values, customs and traditions from an early age by talking about them at daycares today, they are not going to be around to be the leaders for tomorrow, and there won’t be a Federation to protect all our Jewish goals and beliefs.

It is important for us to make sure that we support causes that we believe in; but we also sometimes have to help support causes that might be a little harder to back. But if you believe they are for the greater good of the community, and this is one, it is important to realize that if we don’t do this, it’s going to take a real toll on community and that will be detrimental for all of us.

This is something that affects people of different ethnic backgrounds.  The reason that we’ve set this in motion is because we believe that everyone should have the freedom to have their beliefs and culture taught to their children during daycare, while parents are at work.  All the communities have come together to help in whatever way they can.  For some it’s getting signatures and petitions, and for others it’s in terms of raising dollars, but we’re all doing our part.  You have to do what’s best for the community as a whole and not just for now, but forever.

For more information and to learn what you can do to help, please click here.

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