Saturday, March 14, 2009

More on: On Being Jewish

My friend continued:

The second reason I'm upset when non-Jews talk about my Jewishness is that I've been subjected to anti-Semitism, especially when I was a kid.

* Coming home from college in NY, on a bus, I sat next to a drunk who subjected me to a long tirade against Jews. We were too clannish. I sat there and said nothing. People around us expressed their unhappiness. I should have changed seats. These days, I'm not so meek--and would have said something back.

*Working at the NY Stock Exchange, I regularly encountered a stockbroker--or worker -- who ranted against Jews. Angrily. No one said anything. Not even the Jews. I still have fantasies of punching him in the mouth.

"Going to or coming home from a Hebrew school in New Jersey, I tried to hide my Hebrew books--so the non-Jewish boys who saw me and saw that I was Jewish wouldn't taunt me and chase me.

*I applied for a job at an employment agency. The man interviewed before me was treated with infinite courtesy. I was given the bum's rush. The interviewer was filled with hostility--her eyes burned with hatred. My cousin Roberta later told me that that agency was notorious for its anti-Semitism.

*In Hawaii, I was having drinks with a nice couple I had just met. Where do you go to church? The man asked. I go to a synagogue, I said. Without a word, he abruptly put his drinks away and he and his wife left. The wife looked unhappy.

*As a kid, I went to a YMCA summer camp. Full of anti-Semitism. This was in the 1940s. When a new kid came to camp, and was friendly toward me, I knew the friendship would end when he learned I was Jewish. Overt anti-Semitism. I was always being challenged to fights. My older brother was forever defending me--and fighting the Christian kids during Friday night fights. (Lots of public anti-Semitism in the 1940s.)

*A neighbor, a child named Dorner, and I were arguing. She said No Jew is going to talk to me like that! And slapped me across the face. On the few occasions I saw her after that, she looked at me ashamed.

*My parents were buying a summer house. The builder kept making anti-Semitic remarks. My parents said nothing to him, but talked about it among themselves.

*A friend of my brother's was tryin to get into medical school--unsuccessfully. This was in the 1940s. He changed his name from Solomon to something very Christian--Jones, for instance. He complained that new medical-school applications now asked, if you changed your name, what was it before? He never became a doctor.

I could go on. But my point is: When other people bring up my Jewishness, I expect the worst.

To be continued.

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