SJ Arieh Selig
Seeking a better way.

Antisemitism Then and Now

When I was at school growing up in Belfast, there were probably about 20 Jews max in the school I went to, Belfast Royal Academy.

Traditionally more Jews probably attended BRA than any other school in Northern Ireland.

In general I did not suffer Antisemitism, there were episodes of it though, perhaps 3 or 4 in 7 years that I was there.

One involved an actual fight, the guy who fought me was punished I was not, basically got a talking too, but I didn’t really consider it a punishment.

Another time was during a school cruise on the SS Uganda Education cruise ship.

There were kids from all over Northern Ireland and Scotland on that cruise, and probably a good number of Celtic football club supporters, as I was about to find out.

I was standing at a juke box looking at the records, this was 1976 and when I turned around there were 4 rather mean Scottish guys blocking my exit.

Well this was unexpected and I have no idea what I said in response to their mean looks.
However within minutes 4 or 5 older lads from my school appeared, and stood behind the Scottish lads.

When they realised this they made an ugly face and walked away and didn’t lay a hand on me.

Another time I had returned to our cabin dorm on the ship, and luckily for me there were 2 friends from my year who stopped me from going further, my bunk was further away from the entrance.

They said an older pupil was bad mouthing about me and Jews in general to other kids.

We could hear him.

I decided not to do anything.

I actually remember his name and he was a good table tennis player.

There was a Table Tennis tournament on the ship and we both took part, and we met in the final and I beat him 3 games to zero, and he was FURIOUS, HUMILIATED.

How could this little Jew beat me attitude.

After I went up to him and said I would shake your hand but I don’t shake hands with antisemitic pigs!

He looked embarrassed and ashamed.

So twice I had my non Jewish friends to thank.

Then in my final year, I hope I’m not sounding like a trouble maker, lol.. there was a pupil from Iraq called Ali.

He had his group of friends and I had mine and we tried to avoid each other, but when our paths crossed the tension was palpable.

This went on for weeks.

My parents were told and my Mother z”l was worried it would end up in a fight, so she contacted the school headmaster who was Louis Lord at the time.

Now Louis Lord was old school.

He would stand at the entrance to one of the school buildings at break times and he would call over pupils from first year (at this Grammar School) and learn their names.

There were 1200 pupils at this school and he wanted to know the name, and remember the name, of every single one of us.

So Ali and I entered his office, which looked huge and imposing to me.

Louis Lord always wore his black cloak, he was tall and lean and a face which said when I ask you to do something you do it!

Even if he was looking at something else while talking to you, you dare not take your eyes off him, because he would know when you’re not listening to him, he had great presence.

Indeed he was not looking at Ali and I but we looked at him.

He said “there are many problems in the world and many problems in the Middle East, but you both wear the uniform of Belfast Royal Academy, you are representatives of this great school and I will NOT have the Middle East conflict played out in MY SCHOOL, or anywhere else, is that understood??”

It was understood and Ali and I no longer needed to be called back to his imposing presence ever again.

Compared to what is going on today these were nothing!

I had friends who supported me, and teachers, REAL teachers who understood the difference between right and wrong.

Strict teachers, but in general teachers who listened, but all of them took very seriously, it was not just how you behaved in school, it was also important that we behave when not at school, especially if you were wearing the school uniform in the middle of town.

We had a school diary and at the back was a page called School Rules and we were expected to read them and adhere to them.

I would hate to be a Jewish student at school or university today, it must be incredibly difficult, stressful and distressing, what I dealt with was nothing in comparison to what happens today.

Where are the teachers like Louis Lord or even his deputy Mr Sillery who became Headmaster after him, they were superb teachers, & they even respected and expected us not to be at school during Jewish Festivals.

We would catch up later and we did.

When I heard that 100 professors, and I use that term very losely, of Columbia University signed a letter supporting those students who support Hamas, I find that horrifying!!

Why would anyone support a group capable of such barbarity it seems devoid of any humanity whatsoever.

If Columbia is representative of many colleges in the USA then I worry a lot about the future of the USA.

There were more flags of the United States of America at the pro Israel rally, than at any of the pro Palestine marches, in fact American flags were being taken down and thrown on the ground at these pro Palestinian marches!!

….& in UK a proPalestinian march on the Day of Remembrance is disgusting and insulting to anyone who understands the aims of WW2 and to those who fought and died in it.
They did not die so you could march and support terrorists!

Hell no!

All those Columbia professors are dangerous and should never teach anyone again.

About the Author
Northern Ireland born & bred. Made Aliya in 1990 just before the Gulf War. WUJS in Arad (World Union of Jewish Students) graduate. Worked and lived in Baka Jerusalem since 1992 I'm a Centrist by default, the distance between Left and Right is too great. Whether I write about the state of the world, politics, or a couple having a cuppa, my real aim is to close the gaps between us.