Monday, 20 February 2012

Out with the Pied Piper . . .

Those who have been following this blog know I have a thing for stickers. This is a small portion of our kids' library at home. The non-board books (i.e. books with paper rather than cardboard insides) are organized in alphabetical order by title. They are labelled using the stickers made for files in doctor's offices. This way it's very easy for me to quickly find a book, since especially with paperbacks the titles are not always visible on the cover. So, before you think I am off my rocker, my disclaimer: My work involves helping children develop language/literacy skills, and pretty much revolves around children's books. I also happen to love children's books, and books in general. 

I recently met someone whose family literally practiced "literary kashrut". (I joked about it here, but it actually does happen! . . . albeit in (a hopefully small) very select portion of the UO community) Literary kashrut (my term) is the censorship of literature containing treif animals. This practice was advocated by the Lubavitcher Rabbi - aka The Rebbe, who felt children should not unnecessarily be exposed to treif animals be it through story books, room decor or teddy bears. The author of the blog Rationalist Judaism, Rabbi Slifkin (aka  The Zoo Rabbi) writes about this in a book exerpt, here. There is also a long justification of the Rebbe's view on this blog by a different Rabbi. I'll give you a snippet. Here's a quote from The Rebbe: 

When one has to give [a child]  . . . an animal toy, for whatever reason . . .  one should choose a toy shaped in the form of a kosher animal, bird, fish, or the like.

So, too, when the child becomes older and needs to be taught the form of the letters . . . The image of the cat should be removed, and a kosher animal, bird, or fish should be inserted instead.

With all due respect to the late Rebbe: And I was worried you'd think I was off my rocker! I'd venture a conservative guess that around 90% of our children's books are treif. Anyway, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite pals who would be banished according to the Rebbe's chumras (strictures). 

 Little Oink is a piglet who loves nothing more than to keep his room neat and tidy. However, for reasons obvious to the Rebbe and his followers, this book is clearly treif. With a name like Krouse-Rosenthal, the author should be ashamed of herself for such Chillul Hashem. Muslim readers please note, this book may also not meet standards of Literary Halal. Please consult your Imam. 

 In this book, Timothy Pope is at the park with his dad. He sees only part of the picture when looking at the world through his telescope. But when there's a real shark in the park, who will save the day? First of all, the main character in this book has the last name Pope. I'm not sure if that's kosher. Kosher fish must have both fins and scales. Sharks do not meet this criteria, and are out. There is also a cat in this book, and a crow. Both kosher no nos. Out.

 This story suggests the message (not unlike the Aha Moment of the Hasidic woman on Oprah): that greed begets greed. It is about a treif animal that eats many other treif animals, who are then saved by a different treif animal. That is just treif on too many levels. Out. 

Mice: not kosher. The cheese may contain rennet. Out. 

 Owls are one of the few birds that are actually specifically named as treif. Children will have to play Peek-a-Boo in a less blasphemous manner. Out. 

 A classic. If you haven't heard of it, perhaps you were raised in an isolated Lubavich sect? Anyway, though some locusts are kosher, caterpillars are not. So this book about a ravenous multipede just would't make the cut. 

We have lots more. Must stop now because it is way past my bedtime. 



  1. At first I thought you were going to talk about censorship. This is a whole ‘nother level of crazy. I’ve heard about the Lubavitch aversion to non-kosher animals as toys, but I didn’t know it extended to literary characters.

    You know, people aren’t kosher either…

  2. I read through the post you linked to. Even within the framework of traditional Orthodox Judaism, it’s complete nonsense. It seems the Lubavitcher Rebbe somehow got it into his head to expand the ramifications of kashrus, then quote-mined traditional sources and twisted the out-of-context quotes to support his view. Even then, he still can’t quite make the quoted sources say what he wants them to say.

  3. G*3: I just added a link to the post with Rabbi's Slifkin's discussion on this . . .

  4. p.s, Thanks for the comments . . Agreed - totally a whole 'nother level of crazy.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...