In conversation one day with an older gentleman, I had to caution him before he went any further.
“ You know how the Jews are…”he started to say.
I jumped in quickly. “Gary. I need to…”
“Oh shit. I was afraid of that,” he said. “You’re Jewish.”
“Yes, yes I am.” After seventy years of this sort of thing, especially after growing up in a blue-collar Italian/Irish/Greek/Polish neighborhood as the only Jewish kid, I’m pretty immune to the slights.
“I’m not anti-Semitic,” Gary says, “I hate everybody.”
Our conversation led us both backwards, his as a bullied, effeminate gay child and me as a slightly pudgy Jewish kid on our respective playgrounds of the 1950’s.
“Things are better for us now,” he says. “But they are getting worse again for you.”
“Who would have imagined?” I don’t go in to detail how terrified I am.
“I’m really sorry,” Gary says.
It’s the day before Rosh Ha’Shana 2020. New research is just out that there is a significant lack of knowledge among young adults aged 18-39 in America about the Holocaust and 15-20% think it’s either overblown or a hoax (The Forward). According to the ADL, acts of Anti-Semitism are the fastest growing hate crimes internationally.
We are in a drought so I figure I won’t bother with either of the waterfalls where I usually do my Tashlich ritual of casting crumbs from my pocket into the rushing water, because there is no rushing water. I don’t belong to a synagogue but sometimes go to the one in Montpelier and keep thinking I should join, but this year it’s closed. My family is far away and they don’t celebrate. And my husband is an atheist. He’d enjoy a braised chicken and a sweet treat for dessert, but won’t go out of his way.
One person this year has wished me L’ Shana Tova.
He said, “I don’t even know what it is, but Happy Rosh Ha’Shana.”
“Thanks so much, Gary,” and I mean it. “Happy New Year.”
Dam across the road, also dry