Posts Tagged ‘Personal story of prejudice’

Anti-Semitism Gets Personal

It had been many years since I had experienced any direct anti-Semitism – all the way back to high school in fact. But on the way home from sitting shiva with Audrey’s family after her father’s funeral, it became very real once again. Our flight into Atlanta was very delayed because of cross winds shutting down the runway in Providence, where our flight originated. Once we took off I realized making the connecting flight in Atlanta would be a very tight squeeze, no more than a 20 minute window. Fortunately, our gate at landing was in the same concourse that our flight to Tallahassee was to leave from, albeit at the complete opposite end of the concourse. My Delta app on my phone would not bring up the boarding pass, as it listed our next flight as already boarding. When we got off the plane it was 15 minutes until the next flight was scheduled to leave.

So I ran ahead of Audrey to get to the desk at the departure gate and have our boarding passes printed. Approaching the desk I saw boarding was just about to begin, so I thought we would be OK. I went to the desk, started to explain to the attendant about our late flight and having to print the boarding passes. He motioned me to the end of the desk, where the boarding passes are scanned as you get on the plane. There, a sweet looking young African American woman was waving to me to come over, flashing a big, warm smile. I went up to her station. There was a young man, perhaps in his late 20’s. The Delta attendant asked me my name. As I gave it, standing next to the young man, he turned to me and said, “I know you are a Jew, but take a deep breath man.” I was stunned. Thinking the young woman might have been asking his name and I had butted in front of him I asked her, “Were you asking for MY name?” She said yes, she was. I turned to the young man and said, “You better think about what you are saying.” That set off a stream of invectives laced with the constant phrase, “You’re a Jew.” Finally, out of anger I yelled back at him a very non-rabbinic reply, “You’re an a__hole!”

The young Delta attendant was clearly distressed. She printed our boarding passes and sweetly told me not to worry. As Audrey and I boarded the plane, we saw what we thought was a plain clothes agent taking the young man aside to talk to him. When we were in our seats we were dumfounded by the incident. A number of thoughts went through my head. First, I was embarrassed over losing my cool and yelling back at the young man. Second, I thought about the young African American Delta attendant who was trying so hard to make things right. I realized that she, as well as so many of my African American friends, must face circumstances that can make them angry almost every day.

Prejudice is still very real, constantly burning. I live in a bubble mostly protected from it. But there are many who live with it as a constant reality. They must be unbelievably skilled at anger management. I could not control myself over one small incident. How do others handle constant prejudice? The only conclusion is to resolve never to lose our vigilance in trying to educate to prevent prejudice. We must never stop opposing it in all its forms – racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia – the list seems endless.

On April 16 the Jewish community will note Yom Hashoah, the commemoration of the Holocaust, the most horrifying result of anti-Semitism in world history. More than ever it must stand as a reminder that the work of combating prejudice is far from over.

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