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Chanukah Bush & Rabbi Rabbit – How Cultural Competency Matters

One of the few early childhood memories I have is walking into our home and seeing a Christmas tree. Now for the majority of Americans, that would be a typical sight in the winter months. However…we were Jewish. I know that my parents got us a tree out of a profound desire for us to not feel different in a new neighborhood where all the children we played with were Christians. My parents I vividly remember saying to my parents, “but we’re Jewish.” I recall going to temple and seeing “Rabbi Rabbit” who gave gifts to all the kids at Chanukah as a furrier substitute for Santa.

For many parents, the urge for their child to not stand out as an outcast is strong. Many times the pressures to assimilate or acculturate to the operant culture wins over cultural integrity. It often starts small, from changing a name to a more acceptable nickname, sending children to school with socially acceptable foods instead of culturally based nutrition, westernized clothes and styles. The snowball effect builds, with the child growing up feeling caught between two worlds, often having to choose to lose cultural identity to fit in.

I understood from that young age that we were different. For me, it was a source of pride instead of concern. I was lucky – I enjoyed being different, but many do not have that sense of agency at such as young age. My family is rife with stories of family members who were obliged to change to become closer to the American ideal. Two that stand out speak to the immigrant experience, my Grandfather Herman who was left-handed in a time that did not accept lefties and my Grandfather Bill who anglicized his name to make it more palatable to American ears. The push for assimilation and acculturation has shaped my life and those who came before me.

While researching my workshop Culturally Competent Play Therapy During the Holidays, I was able to delve deeper into the startling array of events that occur during the winter months. Some were ancient, with long traditions shaped by the countries they came from, other were contemporary, created to help a people not lose sight of their ancestry and beliefs. Rather than looking down on these “created” holidays, I fell in love with the rationale for their inception. From Kwanzaa to Pancha Ganapati to Chanukah (yes, you read that correctly!), each had their own purpose for the individual, family and community to grow closer together.

Join me on December 11th to learn more about the importance of Cultural Compentency and add dozens of activities to your therapeutic toolbox!


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