This is what the parents of my friends told my father when we were living in the highly Jewish-populated city of Scottsdale, AZ.
People seem to take for granted the large and prosperous Jewish population in the US and assume that there is no anti-Semitism, but this is not completely accurate. True, it is not as bad as many places in Europe, including France: a friend of mine in Lyon expresses her frustration and constantly tells me about her negative experiences with anti-Semitism. They are frightening. I am happy to share more information in a private message or email if any of you lovelies are interested. Although I have never experienced what she has, and I am lucky enough to have enjoyed many Israeli and Jewish themed parties and activities on every holiday and Shabbat, I still have painful memories from growing up. They are not trivial and I feel the need to share them, especially because people always assume that they donâ€™t exist.
Not only was I shunned in 3rd grade while living in Arizona for being â€œtoo Jewishâ€, but my oldest brother (the nicest and most decent guy around, ladies) was pushed around during high school for being Jewish. He, unlike his baby sister, has something called self-control; while he was bullied day after day, he maintained his composure and ignored his cruel peers … but everyone, even the nicest, calmest and strongest of individuals, has a limit. My shy and quiet brother eventually pushed back. The results? He got suspended, and the others got nothing. Mind you, this was after they egged him on for days, weeks and months. This was after they called him names and harassed him. This was after they drew swastikas on his homework assignments. Eventually, enough was enough and my family moved to Southern California (and as a going away gift, we had our house, garage and car egged). I must say, it was much more fun growing up ten minutes from Malibu, than living with the snakes and scorpions of Scottsdale.
In Los Angeles, I had many Jewish friends, and later when I discovered my Israeli-ness, I became friendly with the Israeli community. This was very different from the life I had known before, but the anti-Semitism didnâ€™t disappear even in such a diverse, liberal, â€œchillâ€ place as LA. Friends from the town just west of mine had swastikas drawn on their driveway. This in a town that seemingly has more Jews than Christians, a town considered a very safe and well-off place to live. Even under such circumstances, this type of hate crime exists.
People often make excuses: â€œOh, they are just kids who donâ€™t really know what it means.â€ This exact same response was given to me in Italy. I traveled there alone at age 18 and was shocked to see the swastikas and anti-Jewish, anti-Israel graffiti all over the country. People repeated word for word the same excuses that I heard in Los Angeles. While traveling in Ireland, I saw extremely discouraging, depressing and deeply insulting anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli paintings and posts. For pictures, please contact me privately.
Even at Pierce College in Los Angeles, where I started my educational adventure, a professor once said the Holocaust never happened. He made this outrageous statement in a class full of African American students. I wondered if he also believed that slavery never happened. Even if he did, he wouldnâ€™t say it, unless he was feeling suicidal that evening.
Personally, I find it an absolute honor and privilege to be Jewish and Israeli. This pride has been growing and developing, and only strengthens as I become older, more aware, and more knowledgeable. That being said, I donâ€™t think I am better than any non-Jew and am blessed to have friends from all backgrounds.
Good thing I currently reside in Tel Aviv, where the only people who call me â€œtoo Jewishâ€ are the secular Jews … who make up a minute 99% of the people I know here… oh well.