Growing up on Long Island, NY I was privileged as far as racism/antisemitism goes. We are half Middle Eastern and half Eastern European. My parents did something right, they shielded my brothers and I from any type of systematic oppression. I grew up in a town with a high Jewish population. I went to a nearby synagogue. I learned about the Holocaust but was under the impression this type of oppression was in the past. I was wrong.
Introduction to Antisemitism
In May of 1998, a swastika was burned in the grass of my High School’s foot ball field. Half my school was Jewish and half was Catholic.
I remember hearing about this incident. I was 17 years old. I was shocked and scared. I stared to have nightmares about being the target of an anti-Semitic attack. Later that year, the Rabbi centered his sermon on Yom Kippur around this incident. He talked about Tikkun Olam. This means repairing the world. Instead of being angry, he was talking about how it is our job to repair the world. Because of this incident, I chose to participate in the March of the Living.
First Holiday Season in the Mountains
I went to college in Upstate New York. So far upstate, it took less time to go to Canada than to see my childhood home. Around the time of the winter holidays, there was a student from the Christian group on campus. He was putting coal by the doors of every Jewish student affiliated with Hillel. There was no way to know who exactly was Jewish but there was a list of students in different clubs and organizations on campus. I had to be told exactly what this meant.
Going to the Grocery Store in the Mountains Ends with Racism
When going to different stores to buy different things I needed, I was often mistaken as hispanic. Sometimes I was recognized as being from the Middle East. This incident I was recognized as someone from the Middle East.
One day I was going to Aldi’s to buy groceries and someone was yelling at me. A white woman screamed,”Go HOME! Your kind is not welcome here!”
Being the smartass that I am. I answered,”Home is down the road. I will go there when I am good and ready.”
She answered by screaming that I am a terrorist and I was there to burn down the Catholic church. This was shortly after my husband and I met.
Being Jewish Going to a Catholic Funeral
Shortly after I met my husband, his great uncle had passed. We had to drive 3 hours to get to the funeral. This was no big deal. We transported his family in my friend’s van. We traded vehicles for the weekend to make it easier. We drove the three hours and we found the Church. We all exited the vehicle and walked in the church as a family. I did not know what to expect as I had never been to a Catholic Church before.
We were a little bit late but when we walked in, the priest said “All Jews must die.”
This was a few weeks after we visited my husband’s uncle. After the service, his uncle told the priest exactly why this was wrong. I got lucky during this incident. My husband’s family has the attitude that Jews and Italians have similar values so we are compatible. I happen to agree with this.
Working at Walmart When the Manager is a Nazi
My husband and I were both hired at a job fair at the local Walmart. I did not know much about the history of the company. We lived in a small town and we needed jobs. We were both hired for different departments but worked similar hours. It was good for the first 10 months. It came to the winter holidays and I asked the manager if we could put of Chanukah decorations too. I had no idea that he was affiliated with the Nazi party. I did some research on him after this incident. He kept on finding reasons to write me up and eventually fired me for calling out for having bronchitis. We know what the real reason is.
New York State Troopers Racial Profile Me with a bonus of Ableism
When my husband and I were driving home, we were pulled over. I was in the drivers seat. The officer tried to speak in Spanish to me. I do not know Spanish. He shined a bright light in my face and I was disoriented. After that was established, he decided to have me get out of the car.
He stated I was swerving, but I was not. I mentioned that I am hard of hearing. He tried to have me walk a straight line. My inner ear is damaged. It was physically impossible. Then he told me to balance on one foot, close my eyes and count backwards. I counted in ASL and he was yelling at me.
Luckily another officer stopped. He assessed the situation and sent me home. This could have gone so much worse than it did.
After all these incidents, my husband and I decided to move to South Florida with a larger Jewish population. This was not the only determining factor but it definitely did contribute. We have not experienced any antisemitism since which is good. I do get mistaken as Hispanic a lot. I get pulled over when racially profiled but does not happen nearly as much since there is also a large Hispanic population here as well.