Forward Thinking

Battle Over Purim Children's Book With Two Dads

By Julie Wiener

  • Print
  • Share Share

(JTA) — The line between respecting diverse religious beliefs and violating the rights and dignity of gays and lesbians is at the center of a debate between gay advocates and the PJ Library over a children’s picture book featuring a family with two fathers.

“The Purim Superhero,” by Elisabeth Kushner, was published by Kar-Ben Publishing last year after the manuscript won a contest for Jewish-themed books with LGBT characters sponsored by Keshet, a Jewish LGBT advocacy group. It’s about a boy who turns to his two fathers for advice after his Hebrew school classmates tell him he can’t dress up as an alien for Purim.

PJ Library, the popular program that distributes free Jewish children’s books in North America and beyond, selected it as one of its featured books this month, but as an extra book distributed only to those who requested it — which, apparently, many parents did: All 2,200 copies PJ had purchased were requested within 36 hours, according to an article in The Boston Globe.

On the PJ Library blog, a trustee of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the program’s founder and largest funder, explained that the decision to make “The Purim Superhero” by request only was made because, “like it or not, parents in our community have differing opinions about same-sex marriage and how or when it is discussed with children.”

The blog post likened distributing “The Purim Superhero” without parents first requesting it to visiting a family whose parents, “based on their sincerely held religious belief” have “made clear that a certain subject is taboo” and then bringing their child a gift that touches on the subject.

Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, sees it differently and has told reporters that while offering the book was a “positive step,” she was also disappointed that it was by request only.

“I told [PJ Library] that this is demeaning to same-sex couples and their families — that there’s something so threatening and wrong about our families that children can only see them in a book if a parent requests it,” she told the Globe.

While the PJ Library blog post didn’t identify which members of the Jewish community might be offended by “The Purim Superhero,” the program was presumably concerned about offending Orthodox Jews, the only segment of the American Jewish community in which the traditional, homosexual-activity-is-wrong perspective remains strong.

The Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements all recognize same-sex marriage and allow openly gay men and women to be ordained as clergy. The 2013 American Jewish Committee Survey of American Jewish Opinion found overwhelming support for same-sex marriage: 71 percent of American Jews believe same-sex marriage should be “legal across the country,” 11 percent believe it should be “banned across the country” and 18 percent believe each state should decide for itself.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: purim superhero, pj library, lgbt, keshet, gay, elisabeth kushner, children's book

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.