The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1555  Tuesday, 5 August 2003

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 03 Aug 2003 12:55:11 +0000
Subject:        Censored Romeo and Juliet and Fired Jewish English Teacher

From a great LA Times story (Sunday, August 2) about a courageous young
Jewish English teacher fired by an orthodox Jewish middle school:

Lessons in Division: An enthusiastic young teacher finds an Orthodox
Jewish school full of moral purpose and wide-open debate. But then he
starts talking about the Middle East. . . .

Not all the parents appreciated Xander Maksik, though. Certain ones
objected to things he taught to "such impressionable youngsters." A few
called the school when Maksik wanted to teach "Romeo and Juliet." They
worried about its language, the love relationship, the suicide. Rabbi
Yehoshua Gabbai, the middle school's principal of Judaic studies,
decided Maksik shouldn't teach Shakespeare's play to seventh-graders. .
. .

In November 2001, Xander Maksik traveled to Baltimore to attend a
National Conference of Teachers of English convention. There he came
across a novel for young adults titled "Habibi," written by a noted
Palestinian American poet, Naomi Shihab Nye.

"Habibi" tells the story of a 14-year-old Arab American girl, Liyana,
whose father decides to move the family from St. Louis to Jerusalem,
where he had grown up. The novel chronicles Liyana's introduction to a
strange new Arab culture, and includes glimpses of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict through her eyes. At times, these glimpses
involve rough behavior by Israeli soldiers, and the humiliation of
Palestinians. Yet the story is as much about an adolescent girl's
interest in romance and a first kiss. Liyana meets a Jewish boy, Omer,
and they struggle to sustain their forbidden friendship. At its heart,
"Habibi" is a Romeo and Juliet story, set on the West Bank. Part of its
dedication is to "all the Arabs and Jews who would rather be cousins
than enemies. . . ."


The entire sad story about Xander Matsik (like a movie) is well worth

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