Brooklyn Jews Boycott Schools!


Last month, Mississippi passed a law that lets public school students lead prayers over public address systems. The ACLU promised a lawsuit. Sound familiar? It must: this type of mishegas has been going on for over a century. One of the most notable but seldom-discussed clashes started in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in 1905.

It began when an elementary school principal urged students at a Christmas assembly to “have the feeling of Christ in you.”

The overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood erupted in protest. Parents appealed to the Board of Education, which eventually chastised the principal.

Not content with that opprobrium, an Orthodox group asked the board to ban all Christmas observances. The board demurred, ruling that secular observances were acceptable, just not overtly religious ones. Unhappy parents organized a massive boycott, and nearly 25,000 students skipped school the following Christmas Eve.

Their action made history but did little good. Santa and Christmas trees stayed, and 107 years later, the struggle for religion-free public schools continues – and not just in Mississippi.

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