The Time I Declared Dr Zhivago a Jewish Novel — And Got Away With It

Bais Yaakov standards extend into affiliated summer camps, leading to such fun things like the “Camp Shira skirt” — a skirt that conforms to all the tznius regulations of Camp Shira, and has to be specifically made by Jewish clothing companies, because it wouldn’t otherwise exist. (The Shira Skirt conforms to all the tznius requirements I listed in this post but is allowed to be denim.) 
In some ways, by being far from home, camps can wield even more power, because you have to purposefully pack every item you bring. By forbidding certain items, summer camps can isolate you in a bubble of their own creation for a month or two. 
In this story, a friend of mine dared to bring contraband to summer camp — and got away with it. 
When I went to camp, they had a rule that they didn’t allow non-Jewish books. Regardless, before I headed to the mountains, I took out a few books from the library to read during downtime, including a copy of one of my mother’s favorite books, Dr. Zhivago.
One day, I decided to read it at the pool. As I’m lounging there, I feel a shadow creep over me. I look up to see one of the head counselors. She asked me what I was reading, and I told her. (Granted, in her defense, the cover art did show a couple embracing.)
She fumed, “is this a Jewish book?”
“Why yes, Boris Pasternak was a Russian Jew.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone turn nearly as purple as she did when she processed how wrong-but-right I was. She couldn’t argue that I was defying camp rules, because technically I wasn’t. However, she did tell me that when I got back to my bunk that I “should hide it under under under” all of my things in my cubby and that I could not read it in public.
The Time I Declared Dr Zhivago a Jewish Novel — And Got Away With It

One thought on “The Time I Declared Dr Zhivago a Jewish Novel — And Got Away With It

  1. That’s a great story.

    When I was in high school, “Jewish book” meant that it had been published by a Jewish publishing company. Anything else we had to hide. Sometimes I wonder if I forgot any, if there are still any library books in the space between the joists that you could only get to from inside the closet…


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