Being hated – then and now

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.

About the Author
Michael Kagan is the author of the Holistic Haggadah (Urim), God’s Prayer (Albion-Andalus) and The King’s Messenger (Albion-Andalus Books). He is a scientist, entrepreneur, film-maker and teacher of Holistic Judaism. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan.
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