I think one of the first times I experienced anti-Jewish bigotry was around second grade. A pair known as “the Mulligan twins” discovered I was Jewish after I came back from a Jewish holiday after having missed school. (We’ll call them Violet and Vivian.)
Their eyes widened as they looked at each and mouthed, She’s JEWISH?
They looked back at me, one smirking and one smiling with incredulity.
“Uh, Myrtle…” said one. “You’re really Jewish?”
“Yes,” I said, increasingly perplexed as to why this was such a big deal.
They looked at each other again as if to say, “Oh…my…gosh…”
Then they looked back at me and one took a deep breath and said, “If you’re Jewish, then don’t you know you’re going to Hell?”
No, I’d no idea, actually!
They stared at me with smiles of anticipation, but I was flummoxed for an answer. I’d heard of Hell, of course. It was featured in cartoons, along with devils and pitchforks. And I knew it was meant for bad people.
But I didn’t know what that all had to do with being Jewish.
And knowing that being Jewish wasn’t bad (which is what Hell is for), I finally said, “No, I’m not going to Hell.”
They couldn’t believe I was denying my ultimate destination and gleefully insisted I was indeed going to Hell.
A couple of other classmates gathered around, but as far memory serves, they didn’t have anything meaningful to add toward either side of the debate.
In addition to being my first encounter with bigotry, it was also the first time I encountered Christian glee about those damned to Hell. No, of course not all Christians feel that way, but I certainly ran into that smirky glee several times throughout my life.
Others who’ve left Christianity for secularism or Judaism often commented that this self-righteous glee was one of the big turn-offs that chased them away from Christianity.
Anyway, I later asked my parents about the whole thing and my dad laughed, then explained that some Christians believed that, but they were really stupid. “We don’t even believe in Hell!” he declared.
I felt much relieved about that.
However, it is once again a sign of the Movement for Conservative (actually, pathetically progressive) Judaism’s massive failure to acknowledge and pass on core tenets of authentic Judaism. Life is definitely more permissive and guilt-free without negative consequences in the Next World, so bye-bye Gehinnom!
In other words, I don’t blame my dad for that blunder. He merely believed what he’d been taught by people he respected as “rabbis.”
(So many innocent victims of this Conservative-Progressive “Judaism.” Sigh.)
In 4th grade, a boy in my class discovered I was Jewish and proceeded to mock me every time he saw me. Unfortunately, Ryan sat right behind me in math class and used the entire 45-minute period to whisper his anti-Jewish sentiments with great relish.
Shocked and feeling helpless, my heart raged so that I could barely see or hear.
I went to my main teacher (who was not my math teacher) to complain, but she just looked disgruntled and turned away from me with a sigh and said, “Well, I’ll talk to him…”
I don’t think she responded this way from bigotry, BTW. She was just the pits at handling bullying in general and I witnessed her handle other bullying in ways that made the bullying much worse.
To my surprise, my parents had little comfort or advice to offer me. I don’t blame them because they never learned to deal with Jew-hatred on their own or to resolve things in their own minds and hearts, so they honestly had nothing to offer me. Again, this is due to the Torah-twisting Jewish leadership that cannot offer anything real except for platitudes and circular discussions that lead nowhere (but temporarily make everyone feel superficially better).
At one point, my dad told me that he has firmly told Jew-haters: “You have your religion and I have mine” – and then walked away.
But I didn’t see how such a statement could shut up anybody. You’d have to be bigger and scarier than them in order for such a statement to work. Also, while I figured that my nemesis’s bigotry came from Christianity (nearly all my classmates were church-going even if their families weren’t so religious), I didn’t recall him saying anything religion-based. So I couldn't use my dad's "You have your religion..." because Ryan didn't seem to be come from a specifically religious angle (unlike the Mulligan twins). He just seemed to enjoy tormenting a Jew.
Furthermore, I couldn’t utter any kind of statement and then just walk away from him because we were seated right near each other.
My parents suggested I request that the teacher change our places.
But as a shy child, it had been hard enough for me to get up the guts to tattle to my first teacher in the first place. I just didn’t have it within me to try again with another teacher, especially since there was no sign that the first teacher had done anything about it, which meant that she either spoke to him in vain or just hadn’t bothered speaking to him at all.
There just didn't seem to be any solution at all, except to just suffer.
If you’re wondering why my parents didn’t just intervene, it’s a good question because usually, they were proactive parents who intervened quite readily. I think that because they did not know how to handle Jew-hatred when faced with it themselves and because it just seemed like a part of life you couldn’t prevent and therefore needed to adjust to, they weren’t able to do anything in this case.
You just run into Jew-haters sometimes and you can't do anything to change their minds, so why bother? Unless you can and want to take them to court about it, what can you do if someone hates you for being Jewish? Might as well learn to deal with it when you're young.
So I think that's where they were coming from. And anyway, outside of Torah, there's no framework for understanding or dealing with Jew-hatred inside yourself. Frum people don't always get the Torah understanding either, but at least it's there for them to access if they want it. Jews living outside a Torah framework don't have anything at all.
Without Torah Judaism and Chazal, there really is no framework for understanding Jew-hatred. It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of it because it’s also ultimately so frightening. With terrible atrocities committed against Jews throughout history, what keilim do secular Jews have to understand or deal with Jew-hatred? It just seems to rise up for little or no reason and attack with unparalleled savagery and expanse.
Anyway, I sat there seething in math class for I’m not sure how long. Weeks or months, something like that.
To this day, I can’t remember anything he said, just his sheer pleasure at grating on me.
And I can’t remember exactly how it stopped. I think that at one point, I just exploded and turned to him screaming at him to just shut up, probably in a fit of tears too.
And that stopped it in the classroom. Or maybe the teacher switched our places after my explosion?
But I still had to listen to his gleeful poison if I passed him in the hallway.
I just remember how his eyes were all lit up and his ear-to-ear grin as he jeered at me.
(Sorry, I know that's not a satisfying ending to the story, but I honestly can't remember what happened.)
Then in fifth grade, I was walking around the baseball field at school with a “friend” whom we’ll call Harriet. I’m not sure why we were friends because she wasn’t a very nice person (and we ended up drifting away from each in junior high).
Anyway, a tough scrawny 6th-grader named Carrie was up to bat and suddenly, Harriet's face twisted into a sneer and started chanting, “Carrie can’t hit! Carrie can’t hit!”
I couldn’t believe Harriet was doing that. What for? It was so mean. And by association, it swept me into a confrontation I didn’t want.
Carrie swung around with the bat in hand and demanded, “Who said that?”
Then a tall, hefty 6th-grade boy said, “That Jewish girl there said it.”
I looked at him in shock. But he just smirked.
Now Carrie whipped around to face me and I found myself facing this angry older girl with a bat, along with other teammates standing there watching.
Speechless at this unfair and threatening scenario I unexpectedly found myself in, I turned my open-mouthed self to look at Harriet. She’d started it, and she obviously felt no fear about jeering for no reason at a bad-tempered 6th-grader holding a bat—why didn’t she at least say something in my defense if she is so bold and mouthy? Why doesn't she take responsibility for her behavior?
But she just looked petulant.
So I turned back to Carrie and said, “I didn’t say it—SHE did!” and pointed to Harriet.
I felt like a toad. I knew it looked bad and it was disloyal to rat out a "friend" like that, but I felt like I had no other choice, being outnumbered by older and bigger kids and betrayed myself by this same “friend.”
Carrie looked from Harriet to me and said something nasty that I can’t remember. I got myself and Harriet out of there as fast as possible, then rounded on Harriet.
“Why did you say that?” I said. “Did Carrie do something to you?”
“No,” she said, obviously resentful that I was confronting her.
“Are you angry at her? Did something happen?”
“No,” said Harriet turning away with her nose in the air and shrugging.
“Do you know Carrie at all?”
“No,” Harriet sniffed.
“So why did you say that?” I said, my voice getting high-pitched. “Why did you do that?”
“I just felt like it,” said Harriet, her nose still in the air.
My jaw dropped. “You just felt like it? But you almost got us into serious trouble with the sixth-graders! And I was going to take the blame for it!”
Harriet wrinkled her nose and curled her upper lip. “I really don’t care,” she said. “Stop making such a big deal about it.”
Another aspect that really disconcerted me about the whole thing was how the smirky boy (Justin) knew I was Jewish? We didn’t know each other and I didn’t think he even knew my name or had ever noticed me. I felt like a walking target whose snipers hid in the shadows, but I wasn’t sure why it was like that.
I started reading everything I could about antisemitism. I read the little non-fiction and novels available on the topic, but received no guidance or comfort from anything I read.
I decided that when I grew up, I wouldn't be Jewish anymore.
It just wasn't worth the pain and the torment. Being Jewish was scary.
But then I thought, How can I give up something that is so much a part of me?
So I decided to be a Reform Jew and the most tepid Reform Jew possible, but then that didn't satisfy me either. A Reform Jew was still a Jew and still vulnerable to persecution. And anyway, I didn't like the little I'd tasted of the Reform movement. Even the assimilated teenage congregants made fun of how church-like their Reform temple was.
Anyway, I suffered here and there from Justin throughout high school and junior high. He became tall and muscular on the football team and I avoided him if I saw him.
But then I realized he had no influence. Most people thought he was kind of a jerk and he was looked down on for intentionally choosing one girl from each high school in our district to impregnate and then bragging about this “achievement.”
In sixth grade, I passed by a Christian neighbor on my way home from school.
I didn't like her much because I knew that she took “spare the rod” literally and regularly used a wooden spatula, not only on her children but on the child of a working mother in her care whose mother couldn’t afford professional babysitting, so placed her child with this woman who agreed to do so out of Christian charity. (And as I said, the wooden spatula was part of this Christian charity.)
I knew about the wooden spatula because the 4th-grade daughter gleefully told me when it got broken over her older brother.
Anyway, she asked me about an unusual cookie I’d shared with her daughter. I didn’t know what she meant for a moment, then I realized she meant a hamentaschen.
Even though our families were friends and it was common for friends and classmates to share their goodies together, she was looking at me with a tight-lipped smile that made me feel like I’d done something wrong, but I didn’t know what.
So I tried to pleasantly explain to her what a hamentaschen was.
She just glared at me.
Gulping, I stammered into explaining that Purim celebrated the Scroll of Esther.
As her hostility bore into me, I thought maybe I wasn’t explaining things well. (I didn’t have another explanation for why she seemed to hate me so much all of the sudden.)
“Uh, see, there was this queen name Esther who, uh—”
“I know who Queen Esther is!” she snapped.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said. “Um, it’s just that a lot of people don’t, so I didn’t realize…”
“It’s true that a lot of people don’t know,” she said. “But I do.”
And as much I mulled it over later, I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong to make her so upset with me.
In 7th-grade, a long-haired scruffy boy wearing a heavy metal T-shirt good-naturedly said, “Oh, you’re Jewish? Hey, don’t you guys worship Satan?”
“Uh, no,” I said. “That’s definitely not us. That’s the, uh, Satanists. We only worship God. Just One God. Uh, no one else.”
Also in 7th grade, I got on the schoolbus one day to see a very shy black girl there. Many times, we shyly asked each other if we could sit next to each other and we always told each other yes. Her name was Valerie and I really liked her and we became good friends.
One day, Valerie’s school bag got stuck between the underside of the seat and the metal leg and the seat in front of us. She kept pulling on the bag while turning to apologize to the line of kids she was blocking from getting off the bus. Still sitting, I was bent over to see if I could dislodge the bag from that position. Valerie was obviously embarrassed.
Suddenly, the haughtier of the Mulligan twins (yes, them again!) called out, “Move it, you black [female dog]!”
Valerie shot up straight and looked at Violet Mulligan with narrowed eyes and lips set in a straight line.
Without even thinking, I heard myself saying, “Violet! How can you say that to Valerie? That’s RACIST! Anyway, it’s not her fault her bag got stuck!”
Valerie finally got her bag unstuck, but Violet found it hard to turn the other cheek when being publicly reprimanded by a future denizen of Hell.
She told everyone what I’d said and I found myself confronted throughout the week by students I didn’t know well who would just appear in front of my face smirking and declaring, “Violet’s not racist. You can’t say that about her.”
Sometimes, Violet accompanied them and helped them confront me.
I was rattled about these sudden confrontations. I didn’t understand what was going on.
Also, to me, it was clear that using the term “black [female dog]” was blatantly racist. What else could it be?
And as far as I understood, racists were often proud of being racists; they didn’t think that racism was wrong. So why was Violet denying her racism? And why was “black [female dog]” NOT considered racist?
It was so confusing.
When I tried to defend myself, I was accused of lying, of maligning Violet, who apparently never said such a thing—or if she did, she didn’t mean it in a racist manner.
But other people had been there and witnessed the whole thing. Where were they? Why did people automatically believe Violet? Why didn’t anyone want to find out what really happened?
Again, like with Ryan, they just enjoyed picking on someone.
I felt so miserable, persecuted, and helpless that I resolved never to stand up for anyone again. It just wasn’t worth it.
Fortunately, it died down in a week or two.
Interestingly, several months later in Home Ec class, a tough blonde girl with a wolfish face and narrow blue eyes found out I was Jewish and declared: “What? But you guys killed Jesus!”
Everyone in the class turned to look at me.
(I don’t remember where the teacher was.)
It was scary because even if people aren’t particularly religious Christians, I still had this feeling that they could get riled up over this ludicrous issue of deicide.
Fortunately, I knew what to say because somewhere at Hebrew school or home, I’d been taught that it was the Romans who executed their founder and not us.”
So after I got over my initial shock (WHY did these incidents keep coming completely unexpected out of left field???), I stammered, “No. It wasn’t us. It was the Romans.”
Yeah, it was the Romans! Go find a Roman to pick on, Tina!
But she just took a step toward me and smirked, “MY pastor said it was the Jews who killed Jesus.”
Just then, Valerie came to the rescue.
“It was too the Romans who killed Jesus!” she spat at Tina.
Tina smile went crooked and her eyebrows arched as she looked from me to Valerie. I didn’t like unexpected attacks out of nowhere, but Tina clearly found them enjoyable.
“No,” said Tina. “My pastor said it was the Jews. You don’t know your bible.”
“Well, MY pastor said it was the Romans,” Valerie shot back. “So you don’t know YOUR bible!”
And at that point, I started to quietly back out of the room. I’m not proud of it because it’s neither brave nor loyal, but I’m just telling you honestly what happened even if it makes me look bad, not justifying it. Also, I sensed that nothing bad would happen to Valerie because she was a fellow church-goer—meaning, I felt myself in danger as a Jew, but not Valerie.
Anyway, she argued with more vehemence than Tina and clearly gained the upper hand.
I waited for Valerie outside the classroom and when she saw me, she said, “Hey, where did you go?”
Feeling like a toad, I mumbled some answer and Valerie started giving me mussar about how I don’t need to care about what such people say or think, and how I need to learn to stand up for myself and not be afraid of such pathetic people.
I didn’t mind so much because she was obviously coming from a place of caring and also
I felt she was mostly right. But what she didn’t understand was that she felt she just stood up to one girl, and I felt like I had the whole class against me.
Also, I just want to make it clear that Valerie wasn’t standing up for me because I’d stood up for her. She would’ve stood up against Jew-hatred whether I’d stood up for her or not. It was just her value system.
In fact, a lot of black Christians used to be very pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. It devastated me to learn later that some of the most prominent black Christian leaders are Jew-hating anti-Israel race baiters because all the black Christians I’d met were so sympathetic and appreciative of Jews.
But these are the types of leaders secular white Leftists want black people to follow, so that's who they promote in the media.
The Lessons Learned:
If I’d had God, a solid relationship with God, and some kind of a framework with which to understand nisayon in general and Jew-hatred specifically, it would have helped me so much.
I could have been more courageous and not felt so weak and helpless within myself. Outside of self-confidence platitudes and innate personality traits (like innately bold, confident, or feisty people), you really can’t handle Jew-hatred without a Torah framework.
At the time, the above experiences were so traumatic, but now I feel nothing when recalling them. I suppose that having a framework—a framework of Truth with its accompanying depth and complexity—in which to understand and deal with these things has helped immensely.
I Don't Belong There
I was pretty darn secular the first time I came to Eretz Yisrael. And after everything I'd experienced, I cannot tell you how healing it was to see so many Jews with fully automatic machine guns.
But pretty quickly, this initial joy at the vision of potential self-defense deepened into something more spiritual. I went to the Kotel for the first time and found both God and myself. I'd come Home.
And despite missiles, wars, terrorism, the occasional Yishmaelite passive-aggression when you deal with them day-to-day or in the hospitals and stuff, plus the big non-Jewish Russian influx and the anti-Torah Leftists, I feel at Home here more than I ever did in my physical birth place. And this is my family and worth trying to get along with. There is no point in dealing with the descendants of Esav, like Ryan, the Mulligan twins, Justin, and their copycats.
Inoculated Against Trinity
Despite having been surrounded by another religion, a religion that promotes itself enthusiastically and sometimes aggressively, despite having badly wanted a tree as a child and to decorate our home with colored lights, despite the enjoyment of singing carols with non-Jewish friends, there was never a snowball's chance in Death Valley that I would ever join that religion after all I suffered from them and even the other strange stuff I saw by them.
I mean, sure, we eventually got anti-missionary training at Hebrew school, but most of us didn't really need it because dealing with the types had already inured us to their influence.
And despite the heroes that have stepped forward from that religion (like Sister Marie of La Providence who protected Jewish children during the Shoah and did not withhold them afterward from returning to the Jewish people), they acted despite the gospels and not because of them. (Meaning, they acted according to their own heart's conscience and according to the values they imbibed from our Tanach, found in their bible.)
So I knew who I wasn't and never could be, baruch Hashem.
Edomites are very smirky. Esav is very smirky.
Remember, he’s analogized to the totally treif pig who stretches forth is split hoof to show himself as perfectly kosher. But he hides his inner reality and his utter lack of cud-chewing. Smirk, smirk.
As Chazal and David Hamelech’s Tehillim repeatedly remind us, bad people can only look unified.
Real unity escapes them.
In high school, the relationship between the Mulligan twins started cracking apart.
Eventually, they became each other’s enemies, with Vivian wanting a less religious life and Violet constantly reporting Vivian’s infractions to their parents.
You see this everywhere in every group of bad people.
For example, despite their fake demonstrations of support, the Obamas and the Clintons actually despise each other.
Communist leaders all over Eastern Europe and China constantly targeted each other and lived in fear of each other.
When the Nazis took over Germany, they went after the very group of dedicated supporters who’d helped them achieve victory: the Brownshirts, AKA the Storm Troopers or the SA, killing hundreds of them.
What escaped me at the time was that Hashem was actively pushing me away from so many false ideas and making room for the truth to trickle into my heart.
My experiences with Jew-hatred, some of which were traumatic to me at the time, are peanuts compared to what Jews experienced in Europe prior to the end of WWII. And even compared to some of my Jewish contemporaries, my experiences were not nearly as bad as they could have been.
For example, a very nice vivacious Jewish girl I knew got grabbed by the neck by a neo-Nazi skinhead who then put a knife to her throat and in very foul language told her he wanted to kill her because she was a Jew.
So Hashem gave me experiences that were enough to firmly point me in the right direction, but not so bad that I'd be traumatized for life.
These and other experiences also taught me the big lie about American society, that you can rely on authorities for help and that the system works. It sometimes does, but often doesn't. Also, people like to perceive themselves as good decent caring people without actually caring about others.
In America, things look nice on the outside but you only need to dig down a few layers to get to all the rot.
And if you're defenseless, you only have Hashem to turn to because it's unlikely that anyone in Edom will care enough to help.
It felt so bad and overwhelming and crushing at the time, but it was really all so good.
It was Hashem's Way of pulling me into His Embrace. (Sometimes, I guess He needs to yank rather than gently reel you in. So I guess I need to be yanked!)
I always saved a seat next to me on the schoolbus for Valerie. And even though there were plenty of empty seats, Violet Mulligan used to stop by my seat and demand in a snooty way, "Can I sit here!"
After looking around to see whether she had no other place to sit (and there were plenty of empty spots), I'd politely explain that I'm saving a place for Valerie. Then she'd retort, "No, you're not! Now MOVE."
One rainy day, I got the idea to sit near the window and place my sopping umbrella on the aisle seat next to me, knowing that the seats indented easily (conducive to making puddles on the seats).
As expected, Violet planted herself in front of me and demanded, "Can I sit here!"
As usual, I politely said, "Well, I'm saving it for Valerie."
"No, you're not!" she huffed and knocked my umbrella to the floor with her schoolbag.
Then she plopped right down onto the rainwater puddled on the seat.
Making sure I looked innocent, I watched her face out of the corner of my eye and quite enjoyed her facial transition from smirky triumph to shocked discomfort.
She squirmed a bit and glanced at me, while I quickly looked away as if I had no idea what was going on.
She swallowed and squirmed some more. "It's wet here," she commented with a frown.
"Mmm," I said in fake sympathy.
But she never tried to take Valerie's place again.
And see? I can be smirky and gleeful too.
But only when absolutely justified - and not because I've been brainwashed by ludicrous falsehoods propagated by deluded hate-mongers.