After more than forty years of marriage I thought I knew everything there was to know about my husband. I was wrong. This week I heard the story of how someone had thrown a rock through the window of his synagogue in Chicago on Purim night back when he was a teenager. The shul had been packed and the rabbi stood up and told the congregation not to worry. He assured them that everything was under a control. Looking backwards my husband wondered how the rabbi could have said such a thing. What if that rock had been a bomb? Now, of course, we know it wasn’t, but it clearly was an act of anti-Semitism.
Growing up my experience with anti-Semitism was far more benign. I had a seventh grade teacher who treated me unfairly but to this day I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the fact that I was Jewish or she just didn’t like me. In eighth grade a boy in my class made a disparaging comment about a “Jew-joint” and another classmate turned red and did her best to shut him up. He was totally oblivious to the fact his comment was offensive. Once working in my father’s store a potential costumer asked me if he could Jew me down. I just giggled in embarrassment. A friend had a similar experience and handled it much better. He looked the man in the eye and calmly stated, “You don’t need to do that. I’m already Jewish.”
I wonder if there was really less anti-Semitism in Kansas than Illinois or if I was just very oblivious. Now, sorrowfully, I know there’s hatred of Jews in every corner of America and almost every other country. How I wish my grandchildren could have the innocence I had as a child.
Next week Jews all over the world will be listening to Megillah Esther and booing Haman. He’s the archetype anti-Semite who inherited his loathing of Jews from his ancestor, Esav. Haman, in turn, bequeathed the desire to destroy us to many descendants. It is frightening to read all the headlines of anti-Semitic stories today. What happened to the peaceful oasis of time I grew up in?
|courtesy of richardsilverstein.com|
In the Megillah (third chapter, verse eight) Haman tells King Ahasuerus that there’s one people scattered and dispersed among the people in all of his lands. Haman is, of course, referring to the Jewish people. Our Rabbis teach that scattered and dispersed does not just mean geographical location. It also means that we are scattered and dispersed ideologically.
Until this day it’s true. How, I wonder, can we expect the rest of the world to like us when we don’t like each other? When will we start getting along with each other? I know we have the power to change the tide. First among our families, then our neighborhoods and our synagogues, our towns, our cities, the whole Jewish world. We can start giving the benefit of the doubt, looking for the positive in our fellow Jew instead of the negative, respecting each other, and truly loving one another. Then the rest of the world will stop hating us. It’s in our hands. We can make it happen.