It would be an accurate statement to say that most of American Jewry is aware of the growing anti-Semitic climate, and that our sense of safety has diminished. Whether it’s missionaries seeking to convert us, violent attacks, high profile politicians speaking against the Jewish state, not to mention the horrific shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway, we are being ambushed from all angles. Any person, any community could be hit next. No one is immune.
However, this article is not about that.
I live in a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania that you probably never heard of. The entire town is only a little over two miles, and contains a small Jewish population of about 60 observant families. The rest of the population is mostly pious Christians who deeply believe in their faith and love this country at the same time.
As the media primarily focuses on how the world is burning with Jew-hatred, I have also noticed a different trend brewing in this humble little corner of the world where I reside – the many wonderful people in this area who hold no prejudices, who are accepting of the Jewish people and our differences, and show their support for Israel.
Sure, I get those people who approach me at the farmer’s market, totally ignoring the homeless man sitting right there on the bench, in a winter coat in 90 degree weather, yet overlook him, and target me, the Jew. You betcha, my husband encountered a man with the word “skinhead” tattooed onto each finger. Unfortunately, there have been other incidences which required police intervention. I am in no way saying anti-Semitism is not real. But the many warm, accepting people living here by far outnumber the bad.
I think they deserve some recognition and a neighborly show of gratitude. 🙂
- The librarian who listened as my daughter was telling her about the holiday of Sukkot, told me that she loved hearing about other religions, and anytime my daughter wanted to share anything about Judaism she should feel free to do so;
- Our neighbor down the street who explained that he served in Lebanon in 1983, whose fellow soldiers died in the marines barracks bombing in Beirut, and is a big supporter of Israel;
- The familiar face I see jogging outside in the summer mornings, who stopped to share a few words in solidarity with the state of Israel;
- The police officers who have come to our rescue when we needed them, and are there for many of our outdoor holiday community events;
- The very special midwives who have taken the time to learn about Judaism and honor our customs surrounding pregnancy and birth;
- The doula who took it upon herself to research and ask us questions about Judaism, so she could be the most culturally competent as she supports our family during pregnancy, birth, and beyond. She also gave a presentation at the local hospital to the nurses about caring for Orthodox Jewish women postpartum;
- The moms I have met at the online charter school office that my daughter attends, who are always up for friendly discussions together;
- The elderly neighbor I have developed a warm friendship with;
- The neighbor across the street who helped us out so much when our newborn had high jaundice on Shabbat, and we had to take the baby to the hospital;
- The woman in the red car who pulled over while I was walking on Rosh Hashanah and said in the warmest voice, “I wish you a happy new year;”
- Another couple who stopped as I was walking on Rosh Hashanah to wish my family a happy new year;
- An elderly woman who struck a conversation with me in order to share her family’s story of how they hid Jews during the Holocaust;
- The random man walking through Walmart who said “Shalom” in a friendly tone, as if to say, I see that you are Jewish, and I want you to know that I like you.
- The neighbor next door who mentioned that he likes hearing the loud sounds of our children playing outside, because he feels that it is a sign of life. He also said to my husband that he really likes having Jewish neighbors because we are easy-going and honest.
The list has become exhaustive in my nine years living here. While I am not denying the fact that I do feel a tad less safe than in previous years, I cannot deny the fact that so many have expressed their solidarity and soft spot for Israel and the Jewish people. I am writing this article to express my gratitude and recognition to the many people, known and unknown, for their kindness, helpfulness, and support towards the Jewish community in this small town.