Feed on


I’m having a very un-PC laugh over here. For all of my lessons to Simon that you can’t tell a book by a cover, to be followed by discussions about the harms of stereotyping, sometimes, well… sometimes we do in fact act according to type.

Five children from Keneseth Israel Preschool have applied to Brandeis, the elementary school math/science/technology magnet we listed first: two from the  4s and three from kindergarten.* I’m not going to use names here, but I am going to note that of these five (5) children, two (2) are of Indian descent, two (2) are of Jewish or half-Jewish extraction, and one is the child of Russian immigrants. And before you say the Jewish part isn’t notable because the school is Jewish, let me just say: Au contraire! Of the 28 children in the two 4s classes, only 6 are Jewish or part-Jewish.

It’s funny, right? Even funnier is the horrifically un-PC conversation I had with one of the other applicant’s dad today.  We ended up chatting at a child’s birthday party. The first speaker is me:

“Oh, so you applied to Brandeis, too? We thought we were the only ones from the 4s.”

“Oh yes, ____’s sister goes there now.”

“She does? What grade?”


“My nephew is in third grade there. Do you recognize the name Ben Goldstein by any chance?”

“Ben, no… no… But I know other Goldsteins there. It’s a very common name, yes?”

“Uh, not really. It’s a common Jewish name, but there aren’t so many Jews in Louisville.”

“Oh, I see. But there are many Jewish students at Brandeis I think. Jews work very hard and want their children to be doctors, lawyers, and engineers.”

This would be news to my brother Perry, who I’m pretty sure felt growing up that “engineer” did not make the short list of desired professions. We won’t even discuss my own place in the hierarchy. Based on aptitude, I should have filled the “lawyer” slot, but my third-generation status** got the better of me and I ended up going a less practical route instead.

Anyway, what do you say to that? I could think of no polite, 21st-century response, so I gave back as good as I got and just hoped no one could overhear me.

“Maybe. But Indians are the Jews of Asia, right?”

Have I mentioned that this man’s first name is Srinivasa? He laughed out loud. I blushed. Did I really say that?

I did. But I did not leave the pool party without being somewhat one-upped myself. In a conversation with yet another parent, the subject of the Russian School of Mathematics of Louisville came up. It was recommended to me by a derivatives analyst (a Jewish guy with kids at Brandeis, fyi), and this parent, K, has enrolled her daughter (K is from Kentucky, but her husband is Belarusian) in it. Matt and I are seriously considering sending Simon there for weekly sessions this summer because all he wants to do is play the drums, play basketball, play soccer, swim, play baseball, and talk about math.

I’m dead serious about this last bit, but that’s a subject for another post. For now, the important bit is that we think Simon would love spending an hour a week playing math games with his old Itsy Bitsy teacher, and I told K that we might sign Simon up this summer.

“That would be great!” she enthused. “You know what’s funny, though? All the teachers are Russian, but the kids are mostly Indian. I think there’s maybe one other Russian kid and one or two Jewish kids in ____’s class. Then again, I guess that makes sense. Who else would send their kid to a Russian math school? I know when V [her husband] was looking at preschools, he told me straight up he’d only consider Jewish or Indian ones.”

To laugh or to cry?that is the question. The other is whether, in light of these conversations, Simon’s uber-WASPy last name might just make him a minority applicant at Brandeis? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

*The kindergarteners at KIP are applying for first grade at Brandeis. And if you were wondering why KIP was not on the table for Simon next year, the answer is not enough boys. Simon’s only got two other boys in his class, and there has never been more than 6 total in his age group. I can’t explain it, but I think for social reasons he needs to be where the boys are next year.

** Here’s the simplified but kind of true aphorism about immigrants and their children: “First generation: businessman. Second generation: professional. Third generation: poet.” Which is to say, immigrants come to the US and launch businesses as their ticket to the middle classes. Their kids then go on to college and professional schools, disproportionately entering fields such as medicine, law, engineering, and finance. And their kids? The All-American ones? That’s where you get the writers, artists, and maybe even a few wannabe ancient history professors. Echem.


2 Responses to “Pigeon-holed”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    That first generation had no choice. They came over here as adults with children or at the very least older teens and young twenties and had no time to get an education. They had to find a way to support themselves immediately. Since most of them spoke little to no English, private business was really their only option.

  2. Amanda says:

    Rita: or hard labor. My people ended up in steel mills in Youngstown. Although one side of the family had a brewery in Louisville, not sure which one though.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.