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When being a Jew is not kosher and telling a Christian story is heresy

By Donna Jacobs Sife - posted Friday, 31 March 2006

This is the story of an incident that occurred after I was accredited by the Department of Education and Training as a performing artist.

A professional storyteller for many years now, I decided to branch out a little, get an agent and work in the public school system. I spoke to my friend, Moses Aaron, a leading storyteller in Australia - "What will you wear?" he asked, "How old will the children be?", "What is your program?"

I told him that I planned to tell a personal story about me when I was little, then a Japanese version of The Fisherman and His Wife. I would follow that with an African tale about the spider Anansi, and how he got his little head. No problems so far.


It was when I said that I would tell the story of David and Goliath that Moses said emphatically, "Don't".


"They hate Bible stories," said Moses.

"They love them," I argued. But he was not speaking of the children: he was referring to the Department of Education.

Of course Moses was being far too sensitive: it simply wasn't possible that Bible stories were not acceptable. Not tell Noah? Or the story of Jonah? Besides, the program was so multicultural - how could they possibly object?

I added two more stories to the program, a story called Something from Nothing, which was a Jewish folktale, but had no reference to anything Jewish, and finally a story about an apple tree. The focus of the stories was personal development, and I sent follow up notes, lessons and activities for the teachers.


The performance went well. Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from the department to say that I had the accreditation, but they were concerned about the Jewish aspect of the show. I held the phone to my ear and fished through the papers on my desk to reassure myself of what I had told. Had Elijah slipped in without my noticing? Had I forgotten myself and said "Oy vey" instead of "good heavens"? I asked her what she meant.

"All the Jewish stories" she said matter-of-factly.

I was getting confused. "You know," I slowly began, "I only told one Bible story".

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First published in Shalom, Pax, Salam in March 2006.

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About the Author

Donna Jacobs Sife is an award winning storyteller, educator and writer. She is skilled in drama, creative writing and does a lot of inter-religious work - interpreting ancient ideas into a relevant shape for a contemporary world.

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