Standing Silent is Not an Option

As a Jew of Eastern European decent, and complexion-wise, arguably one of the whitest people I know, I can “pass” as a white Christian Anglo every single day. Non-Jews assume my last name is German. If they ask, “Is your name German,” I have always answered “no, Hungarian”.

I was taught not to make waves. Ssshhh. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

So, it is not surprising that I have heard acquaintances, colleagues, and clients say horrible anti-Semitic statements in my presence. Some, maybe most, have no idea that I’m Jewish. Some do. What I’ve learned is that some people will say terribly bigoted and racist things and they don’t care that what they are saying is not acceptable.

It’s difficult to know what to say in response, or even when is it appropriate to respond to an anti-Semitic comment.

On two occasions, a group of women I considered friends made anti-Semitic comments in conversation in my presence. One comment was in reference to a son’s girlfriend as a “JAP” or “Jewish American Princess”. A JAP is a pejorative meaning that a girl or woman is pampered and selfish and only likes the finer things. In this instance, the girlfriend wasn’t Jewish, but the mother said that her son’s girlfriend acted like a JAP. Not too long after, one of the women was explaining how she “jewed down” a car salesman to get a better deal.

So I privately told one of the women involved that as a friend, the comments, especially the comment “I jewed him down,” were hurtful to me. She told others what I said. One of the women told me “we don’t even think of you as being Jewish”. I have no fucking idea what that even means. I can only surmise that they meant it as a compliment, which of course, is an insult. Another of the women told me that people just talk that way and that I needed to grow a thicker skin. I don’t talk to those people anymore.  I don’t think they notice my absence or care that I bowed out.

I’ve realized that I cannot stay silent in the face of bigotry and racism. I grew up in a mixed race/religion neighborhood in NYC. It was a wonderful childhood in the 1960s and 1970s. I thought, apparently wrongly, we were beyond this. I thought we were better than this.

Since this last election cycle, there have been so many incidents of anti-Semitism, and other bigotry, and racism, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve started using my social media presence to call out certain of these incidences because I believe that I have to point it out.

I was told that being so outspoken about my politics was hurting my business (it hasn’t. I’ve been busier than ever). When I expressed that all these incidents made me fearful, I was told I have nothing worry about. I have had difficult expressing why I am so fearful. I’ve taken the admonition to not be so vocal as a call to action with regard to anti-Semitism.

We cannot act like this doesn’t happen with “love and light” blinders. Sometimes “turn the other cheek” just doesn’t work because these bigoted, anti-Semitic, and racist people think that your silence means you agree with them.

Well I don’t agree with them and I’m no longer going to stand silent. I don’t see this as negative because sometimes you have to walk in the darkness to appreciate the light.

And anyone that doesn’t like it can kiss my tuchas.

 

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Prayer in Public

Since the election, there has been even more about the issue of prayer in school on my social media feeds.

Here’s my viewpoint on this.

When I moved to Texas in my junior year of HS (January 1978), I had my first taste of prayer in school and it has left a lifelong bad taste in my mouth for any sort of public prayer.

The school used to do the prayer over the loudspeaker every day. Every day it was “in the name of Jesus”. I had never experienced this in my 17 years. We never had prayer in school in New York City. Not ever. We did salute the flag every day. But prayer? No. Never.

Every day in an Arlington, Texas, public high school, however, the Jewish girl that I am was subjected to a Christian prayer. Every single day I felt dirty and ashamed. I only told my mom about this for the first time last week. This was almost 40 years ago and I didn’t want to talk about it until recently.

Now when I’m asked in public meetings and events to bow my head, I don’t. (I only ever bow in Temple for those prayers that call for the bend of the knee and the bowing of the entire upper body.)

And during that public prayer, I wait for it — that “in Jesus’s name”. And I get that clench in my stomach and the tightness in my jaw because I know it’s coming. And I’m surprised on the rare occasions that it doesn’t. But that awful feeling, even as a 55 year old adult never leaves me.

Over the years I’ve tried to rationalize it. “They don’t mean to be exclusive.” “They don’t know better.” “I just ignore the ‘in Jesus’ part and remind myself that I believe in God.” Or in those instances where the leader just says “In his name” I  say to myself that it doesn’t really mean “Jesus” when they say “his” but the truth is, they are saying”in His name” and they do, indeed, mean “Jesus”.

All of my rationalizations don’t help. The lack of understanding of how that prayer is not my prayer; that I don’t want to pray in the name of Jesus. That I am sitting in a public meeting and don’t want to have to even make myself rationalize my feelings to make this situation palatable. Hey, if I was sitting in a church or a private club meeting, or someone’s private home, sure! I expect the prayer and I just sit quietly and take everyone’s hands as asked and be respectful as respectful can be.

But in a public meeting, and in the instances when I’m a member of a non-religious organization that insists on having prayer before the meeting or meal, it takes everything I have to stay quiet anymore. Because let me state this unequivocally — I am a Jew. I am not Christian. I do not believe that Jesus is God and I sure as heck don’t want to pray to Jesus. That you do is okay. It’s your religion — believe what you want to believe. Just don’t make me follow.

 

My Thoughts 2 Days After the Election

I do not agree with Hillary Clinton that we need to cooperate with our new president-elect. I had to think about this because I do not want to see our country fail. I want to see our country prosper. But I don’t want to see our people in pain and failing. I do not want our president-elect to fulfill certain campaign promises made.

If Muslims are going to be rounded up and deported simply for being Muslim, or if American Muslims are going to be attacked simply for being Muslim, then I do not want any part of that.

If people of color (all colors that are not white) are going to be attacked simply for not being white, I want no part of it.

If the anti-Semitism that I’ve been seeing thus far continues to grow ,  I want no part of it, and as a Jew, I am personally frightened by it.

If the LGBTQ community continues to feel frightened because of the increasing hatred against them, and if my friends and family find their marriages annulled or revoked by new federal legislation overturning Obergefell v. Hodges, I want no part of it.

If millions of people, myself included, lose their health insurance because of the dismantling of Obamacare, I want no part of it.

I will be a vocal opposition.

Make no mistake, I am not going to be a party to a “party of NO” or condone a “party of NO” like we’ve seen with our Congress over the last 8 years. The obstructionism that was the last 8 years was appalling.  For example, if our president-elect and our Congress can agree on things like fixing our failing (falling apart) infrastructure, I’m all for it. This isn’t about my candidate losing the election per se. It’s about Donald Trump’s campaign of hate becoming legislation. I will not stand for racist, fascist, or bigot-tinged legislature of any type and will continue to speak loudly against any such action. I don’t care if 1/2 of America is for it, if it’s wrong, I don’t want any part of it. I’m not going to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with anyone that is for any such legislation.

As the Dixie Chicks said years ago, “I’m not ready to make nice”. I will be part of an opposition that will hold our president-elect, and our Congress, to promises  that they will be representative of our entire country. I am watching our local Virginia delegates to insure they represent all of us and will be vocal if they don’t.

While I respect the office of President, Donald Trump? Not so much. He’s more than a mere asshole. Unfortunately ,  his hate-filled, misogynistic ,  bigoted, racist rhetoric thus far makes it so that I doubt I will ever respect the man. Leopards don’t change their spots and putting the mantle of “President ” on him won’t change his hate filled heart.

Additionally ,  I take back anything I’ve said about wanting the Electoral College to remain intact.  There have been  5 times in our country’s history that the vote and the Electoral College were not in-sync and the last two have occurred in the last 16 years. This year because Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote; and in 2000 when Al Gore actually had over 500, 000 more votes than George W. Bush but still lost the election because of the College. According to the Washington Post, a vote to abolish the College, and send the vote to the states, failed in the Senate by just 2 votes back in 1934. Yes it will take a constitutional amendment but I think that it will be worth it to become “one person, one vote” and make the USA a true democracy.