Shalom Life | March 09, 2014

Religion vs LGBT Rights Debate Spawned Over Children's Book

"The Purim Superhero” by Elisabeth Kushner, published last year by Kar-Ben Publishing, is only available upon request via PJ Library, which LGBT group Keshet says is 'demeaning'

By: Daniel Koren

Published: March 8th, 2014 in News » World

Last year, Kar-Ben Publishing put out a new children's book from author Elisabeth Kushner entitled The Purim Superhero.

The manuscript for the novel won a contest that searched for promising Jewish-themed texts that include LGBT characters, which sponsored by Jewish LGBT group, Keshet.

The Purim Superhero follows its protagonist, a young boy, who asks his two fathers for advice after his classmates ridicule him for wanting to dress up as an alien for Purim. Many themes are addressed throughout the book, mostly identity, overcoming obstacles, and believing in one's self.

This month, PJ Library, a program that provides free Jewish books to children in the Diaspora and beyond, selected it as its featured book of the month, in anticipation of Purim, which is next week.

However, unlike other selected books, The Purim Superhero had to be requested by those parents looking to read it with their children, which some have argued is because it would offend the Orthodox Jewish community for depicting an average two-father family. PJ Library, it seems, underestimated the demand such a unique story would have; all 2,200 copies the Library had purchased were gone within 36 hours, says the Boston Globe.

Via the PJ Library blog, a trustee of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the program's founder stated that The Purim Superhero was available only by request 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.”

He added that "a certain subject is taboo" and that those parents should be able to withhold or discuss the matter with their children, “based on their sincerely held religious belief.”

Keshet, actively involved in the publication of the book, have since spoken out about the selective screening process given to the LGBT-friendly Jewish children's book. While Executive Director Idit Klein did say the book was a "positive step" towards accepting LGBT rights in the Jewish community, she was not entirely pleased that the book was only available 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 said to the Globe.

Currently, the Conservative, Reform and Recronstructionist Jewish movements recognize same-sex marriage. A recent study on the matter via the 2013 American Jewish Committee Survey of American Jewish Opinion finds that 71 percent of American Jews believe that same-sex marriage should be legal "across the country."

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