I saw this list of secular books for Jewish children ( http://savvima.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/4552B_a_00663_book_list_with_comments_and_cover1.pdf ) and it says this as part of its rationale: "Some books focus on the unfortunate realities of the Western world, which we may not want to expose our children to, eg: drugs, homelessness, abuse, alcoholism, cults, etc. We note this in the comments section so that parents/teachers can make informed decisions."

Personally I find a lot of value in not reading books or watching films etc. with glorified violence; non-tznius; secular, magical, or other-religious values or imagery, and such... but I'd like a clearer perspective about why a list like this would find a problem with even the non-glorified portrayal of these kinds of things. It makes some sense to me but I would appreciate a clear perspective of the pros and cons found by different parts of the Jewish community. (I'd also like to know the reasons people might bring if deciding differently for kids and adults.)

  • +1. Note by the way that closure of a question is not forever: you could have edited your previous question and it could have been reopened, instead of deleting it and starting over. But no harm done. – msh210 Oct 13 '13 at 4:25
  • Okay! Thanks for the advice on it, it does make the question better for good answers. – Annelise Oct 13 '13 at 4:34
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    IMO yes. I hope you get some! – msh210 Oct 13 '13 at 4:49

A personal view.

I do not want to expose my Jewish child to any knowledge of the particular ills of today's society except in order to warn them against such things and to educate them in the Jewish way.

So in my education of my child, I would teach about drugs and alcoholism in the context of the commandment Kedoshim Tihiyu [You shall be holy] (Vayikra 19:1-2). According to Ramban this is referring to perfectly permissible activities. The concept is "sanctify yourself by withdrawing from that which is permissible to you". Without such self-limitation, the Ramban declares, a person can be a 'naval b'rshus haTorah' [a glutton 'sanctioned' by the Torah]. The level of sanctity required by this pasuk [verse] is that achieved by restraining oneself somewhat from even those physical pleasures that the Torah permits. (I am not suggesting drugs are permissible at all.)

I would teach about homelessness when I spoke about Chessed, about abuse when I taught the Torah's views on relationships and about cults under Avodoh Zoroh.

Even nursery rhymes are considered by some to be problematic see here. Yaffa Leba Gottlieb says,

There is no such thing as a “meaningless” nursery rhyme. If it is nonsensical, it fills a child’s mind up with nonsense. Many, however, are violent, foolish or misleading. That which enters semiconsciously into the young mind (or any mind) will emerge later in actions.

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    Is this your own quirk or do you think that Jewish sources would recommend such a technique? – Double AA Oct 13 '13 at 19:27
  • I don't have any sources but I believe it is a Jewish approach. – Avrohom Yitzchok Oct 13 '13 at 20:25
  • Thanks Avrohom, what you're saying does make sense. I know that some Jews would disagree though, drawing the barriers in different places or for different reasons… Do you know of any contexts or writers from which you've learnt these principles and their reasons, and could maybe articulate it more? I would like to know why people choose one way and not another. – Annelise Oct 14 '13 at 13:13

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