Nathan Englander has written an op-ed in the New York Times today about his memories growing up Jewish in Long Island and all the anti-Semitism and hatred that he faced. I too have such memories but I grew up in London, England.
I have the memories of being spat at; and of being cursed as a smelly Jew; of having ice-creams hurled at my brother and I as we walked home on Shabbat in our ‘Sunday-best’; of running for my life down the alleyways near our shul; of the constant slurs directed my way at school; of our German German language teacher caning me; of the classroom gang attacks against William Stillman and myself. “Bloody Jew-boy!”
My response, besides hitting back, was to leave a country that obviously didn’t want me and that I couldn’t call ‘home’ and come to the country that is home even though it doesn’t always feel like it.
And, like Nathan, when I tell my stories to my English nephews and nieces they look at me as if I am crazy, as if I am relating a childhood lived on another planet: “Come on uncle, you’re exaggerating. Nothing like that could have happened at the City of London School” or wherever. But it did and I carry the scars to prove it.
I often wonder how my father z”l, a Holocaust survivor, felt whenever there were anti-Semitic incidences. For him it must have been horrific: “Will it never end? Will no one ever learn?” This was a major impetus for him to talk and lecture about his experiences, especially to young people. I am glad he is no longer around to see what is happening in Charlottesville, in America today.