The Magen David Around My Neck
[post originally written on 12/22/12]
Today I sat in my office like every other day, but today the office super is quiet. It is 3 days before Christmas weekend and every office suite but my own has its door closed and my mood is mundane and exhausted.
The room across mine is “the resource room.” A room full of new computers, free printing, phone and fax a.k.a. paradise, which is open to community members regardless of income. I hear a voice come from the room and at first its background noise but I hear the word “Jewish” and my ear tunes in. The man’s tone was judgmental and angry, I try to make out his words but can’t. He continues speaking about the issue for several minutes, and my mood drastically changes. I walk over to the room and even though all I wanted to do was show him the Magen David hanging around my neck and tell him that the woman who has been helping him just a few feet away is Jewish, I calmly asked “Hey guys, can you keep it down in here.” I walk back to my desk, now with a sense of great unease.
Again they begin talking, and as per my request, more quietly. The conversation bears the same topic and tone, I hear the words “he a Jewish man“ and can no longer sit in my seat. I get up and stand just outside the room and listened to this man go on about how his Jewish dentist and insurance agency are in cahoots and are scuming him and how “that’s bullshit, I’m a poor homeless man, how’s he gonna charge me $2000 when I KNOW they only chargin’ him $200, that’s some bullshit.” The conversation continued and 3 times he reassured everyone in the room that in fact the evil dentist robbing this poor black man, was Jewish. Well, that was enough for me, but knowing I’d probs be so overcome with emotion and speak incoherently, I explained the situation co-worker who is one of the most emotionally and mentally evolved people I know to address the resource room. She walks in and explains our organizations policy, cooling the situation as I stand outside the door listening.
|Dr. Martin Luther King (left) and
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel (far right)
How and why did these few words bother me SO much? So much that its all I thought about for hours after. Am I the only one who is so effected by this? Is Anti-Semitism still seriously so f****ng alive? And by a black man who I would have assumed understood that his oppression and my peoples oppression is oppression none the less?
With MLK Day on Monday, I want to hold onto the power and sense of relatedness which existed between communities whom marched together. As Jews we marched then and we march now not just because its a “Mitzvah” but because we are Commanded to. Principles of justice, support of the fallen (somekh noflim) and community are the heart of Judaism.
“[History] gives confidence and hope bred of victories already won.” – William Hastie