Sunday, March 26, 2017

Jewish Anti-Semitism?

So the kid who made the bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers is himself Jewish. That is a surprise but not a completely unprecedented one. American history is full of anecdotes about Jews who started Neo-Nazi groups. One of the most famous is the saga of Dan Burros who was a prominent member of the American Nazi Party. He committed suicide in 1965 after someone discovered and leaked the truth about his heritage.

Here is an article from Southern Poverty Law Center, "Exploring What is Behind the Rare Phenomenon of Jewish Anti-Semites." that tackles this occurrence. Ralphael Ezekial author of "The racist mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen puts it this way: "If you live next door to a cement factory, then inevitably cement dust gets into your body," says Ezekiel, who in recent years has worked as a senior research scientist and visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. "And the same goes for anti-Semitism and other prejudices. Everyone who grows up in a culture gets impacted by those beliefs that are deeply held, including the members of endangered groups."

This seems like a no-brainer. We all were raised on this planet. The myriad of prejudices and assumptions we learn growing up become part of our zeitgeist, our milieu, our environment. And just because you happen to possess one of the derogatorily-framed identities, does not imply that you are free of prejudicial notions concerning your own people. It does mean that you must do the work to unlearn what you have been taught, in much the same way you do for other groups. 

A story that became family lore in my Ohio, Jewish household during the fifties went as follows. My father was crossing a street in Cleveland when the driver of the waiting car yelled, "Move it, you dirty Jew," or something to that effect. My father who was a track star and an ice hockey player with anger management issues proceeded to pull the man out of his car and pound the shit out of him. The guy, screaming and putting his hand over his face yelled, "Stop, stop, I'm Jewish too!" Which, actually turned out to be true.

What advice did I take away from this poignant, unusual tale? I guess mostly that life is complicated and things are not always what they seem!