The Failure of Kerry’s High School English Teacher



Secretary of State John Kerry’s English teacher in high school must have simply been incompetent.  How else to explain the Secretary’s abhorrent statement earlier this week that Israel runs the risk of becoming an apartheid state if the peace process fails?  Is he serious?  Does he even understand the meaning of the word?  Has he ever lived in an apartheid state?

Well, actually he has.  Certainly not at the level of South Africa in its worst days but he is more or less my age and grew up in America in the 40s, 50s and 60s but perhaps he forgot what it was like there, so let me remind him.

I recall my parents making a telephone reservation for a vacation at a Cape Cod resort followed up with a check for the deposit on the rooms.  A week later the check was returned with a note that said, quite directly, “Persons of your faith are not welcome at our resort.”  I presume when they saw the name and the return address in the Bronx, they put two and two together.

Or my experience as a paid summer engineering intern in 1961 at Procter & Gamble in St Louis, during my graduate work at the University of Illinois. Generally summer engineering interns were ultimately offered permanent positions if their review was positive.  But early in my brief sojourn there when I mentioned that to one of the managers he responded, “Sherwin, they won’t hire you as the company never hires Jews in management track positions.”  And he was right, although I was brought to Cincinnati for an interview, I was not offered a position.

How about in 1959 when 16 of us, all ROTC Cadets at NYU went to Fort Gordon, Georgia for what was euphemistically called “summer camp?”  We got there a day early and wanted to go to one of the local hotels for R&R before the army got a hold of us and made our lives miserable.  We went up to the front desk of the BelAir hotel and asked about rooms, which were available, at which point the clerk pointed to the 8 African-Americans who were part of the group and said “but we don’t let THEM in here.”

And what about my college interview at Syracuse University in 1956, one of many schools that had a restrictive policy towards Jews at the time, when the interviewer asked me to tell him how I spent my Saturdays?

No doubt he has erased all of this from his memory.

Secretary Kerry should spend some real time here outside diplomatic circles and see the full integration of all communities in Israel at universities, hospitals, stores, supermarkets, and most work places as well, certainly in those locations that abut centers of the Arab population of Israel.  If he would do that he would realize that he should go back to the high school English class and repeat his junior year.

I know, he apologized later for using that term but, as my father of blessed memory used to remind me all the time, saying you’re sorry is like taking a nail out of a board.  You removed the nail but the hole remains forever.


About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.