Jews have been slurred as white oppressors by the current progressive narrative. My life-long experience as a Jew in America is a refutation of this wildly misconceived idea.
The most recent example occurred some months ago, in my work as a reporter for a New York community newspaper, living amongst a collection of Irish and Italian ethnics, in a classically white suburb.
I look a lot like Clark Kent, with horn-rimmed glasses, but without the super-strength, x-ray vision or circus tights underneath the khakis. I look like a typical, mild-mannered white guy, but I’m actually Jew-Man.
My publisher recently asked me to talk with a man who has a tiny nonprofit organization fighting climate change, a former tugboat captain.
I phoned the captain, whose name seemed to reveal that he was of Norwegian extraction. In the middle of the conversation about his work, the man blurted out, “Are you a Jew?”
“I am,” I said. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“You sound kind of defensive,” the captain said.
I just thought I was standing up for myself, mumbling something about this kind of thing happening before, just a few years previous, when I had been a New York City school teacher. A blond Christian teacher from Tennessee said roughly the same thing to me in my classroom one day.
“I used to smuggle gasoline for the Russian mob in Brooklyn,” the captain said, as if this was going to make me feel comfortable that the captain has relationships with Jewish gangsters, a criminal variation on the theme, “Some of my best friends are Jews.”
Then the guy started really tunneling into the pit he had commenced shoveling, using a pickaxe in the shape of a Star of David. “I thought about converting to Judaism,” he said. “I went to a Reconstructionist synagogue and attended services. But at the end, I didn’t do it.”
All I could think was, “How do I get out of this conversation?”
Then the captain finished the self-excavation by stating, “Pound for pound, the Jewish people are the most productive people on the face of the Earth.”
A day later, the captain wrote a follow up email to me and addressed me as “Herr Gold.”
A bomb exploded in my brain. I wrote the captain, “Why did you call me that? Our family isn’t German.”
I wondered if the captain was accusing me of being a Nazi. Or did he imply that I’m actually living in Germany, psychologically speaking, and the captain is my superior, reminding me that he’s Aryan and I’m just a little Jew?
I didn’t want to talk about Jews anymore. I just wanted to focus on climate change with the captain – it was safer.
The fact is, my supposed magic cloak of white invisibility has been pierced many times before, to reveal my real identify as Jew-Man. For many years I worked for public relations agencies promoting a collection of giant corporations, from DuPont to Owens-Corning. How much whiter can you get?
Yet, people kept stabbing at me with the Jew thing.
A senior colleague, of Hungarian descent, a former Newsweek writer, asked me one November 9th, in the bathroom of the public relations agency where we worked, “You’re going out to break some glass for Kristallnacht?”
Yeah, Ken, I’m going to have lots of fun doing that, as I contemplate this pogrom against the Jews, when Hitler directed Germans to smash their shops, homes and synagogues and then hauled 30,000 Jews off to concentration camps.
Ken later joked with me, “I’m a member of the Arrow Cross.” Roving Arrow Cross death squads killed at least 38,000 Hungarian Jews and the regime sent 80,000 more to slave labor and death camps.
Another colleague at the agency asked if I had a dual loyalty, implying that I would choose to be more loyal to Israel over America. The colleague’s family heritage was Dutch. I was shocked but said nothing. I should have asked the little Dutch boy if he would choose to fight on The Netherlands’ side if they ever got into a war with the United States.
My first college roommate told me during our first week of school, “I knew you were Jewish (from the roommate cards we received before freshman year), and it didn’t bother me, as long as you didn’t wear a funny hat and dance around the room all day.”
The roommate, who was Irish Catholic, played golf. I didn’t know from golf. Yet the golfer knew more than me about the Hasidim! I barely understood what a Hasidic man was at the time. My family wasn’t particularly religious, and I knew virtually no Hebrew. But I had been organized in the mind of my roommate with the Hasidim.
Upon reflection, the roommate was right. This isn’t about religion – it’s about how other people put you in categories before they even meet you. If you had one drop of Jewish blood, Hitler put you in the gas chamber. The Hasidim and I were going in there together.
The same golfing idiot once wrote me a note calling me a “Dumb Jew!” saying he was kidding. It didn’t seem very funny at the time. It’s still not funny.
Even in childhood, my desire to be an American took a hit. One of my Hebrew School classmates told a Christian friend my Hebrew name was Paltiel, a name straight out of the Bible. As I stood on the front porch of our suburban ranch home, that quintessential American residence, the Christian kid shouted out to me, “Paltiel!” and snickered. The memory of that still stings. The kid had made it clear who I really was. I was born a Jew and would go to the grave as a Jew. Forget being an American.
With these irregular reminders of my Jewishness, I had grown so paranoid that when I was sent to Germany for a client in 1989, to promote their products at a trade show and found bright yellow towels in the bathroom of my hotel room, my fevered brain wondered if the hotel management was targeting me because I was a Jew, because the Nazis forced the Jews to wear yellow stars.
Furious, I called the front desk, and asked, “Why did I get yellow towels?” The clerk answered, blandly, that all guests get the same color towels. This did not mollify me. My paranoia radar was on high alert throughout the trip.
Every incident of hatred towards Jews is unfortunately woven into the fabric of my mind, with stories from my father, Hebrew school, and the Internet. Before my family decided to move to America, one of my great uncles was beaten to death by a gang of thugs in Manchester, England. My father didn’t even have to tell me why.
My father, whose name was Harold, a name which was picked for him, I’m convinced, because it’s not Jewish, was, as a kid, once set upon in the streets of Queens by a bunch of Irish boys, who yelled that he was a Christ killer. My father threw a rock at the boys and hit one of them in the head. They ran off and never bothered him again — a proud moment for us, but also something that contributed to a legacy of deep, lasting paranoia within my father’s heart and our family’s memory.
In response to all the Jew-hatred spewed by celebrities from Kanye West to Donald Trump, as well as the ordinary people I have encountered, I have done a very Jewish thing. I’ve invented a comic book character to fight the bad guys.
My character is named, wait for it – The Jewvinator! The Jewvinator is six foot four inches tall, incredibly strong and has extremely fast reflexes. The Jewvinator can lift any man into the air and toss him twenty feet into a wall. He can punch a hole in a school bus and run down an antisemite in five seconds flat.
When I hear about an injustice against the Jews, I call up the Jewvinator, who lives in a dark basement apartment under the New York City subway, lifting weights and reading the Torah, particularly the parts which emphasize God’s desire for justice.
I contact the Jewvinator after I interview a young girl and her mother for my newspaper column, who tells me that a middle school classmate texted her, stating, “Let’s recreate the Holocaust. I’ll be Hitler and you be the Jews.”
The Jewvinator finds the boy one fine morning, living in his Nowheresville, New York suburb, before he walks on the school bus. The Jewvinator, smiling in a way that suggests both extreme confidence and incurable psychosis, asks the boy if he sent the Hitler texts to this poor girl. The boy, unnerved by the Jewvinator’s affect, bolts for the woods. The Jewvinator is too quick though, and he grabs the kid and picks him up, clean off the ground, and holds the boy by the back of his thin jacket.
“If you say another word about Hitler to that girl, or anyone else, ever again, I’ll hear about it,” the Jewvinator says. “I will come and find you and I will make you read The Talmud for the rest of your natural life. Now run along home to change your clothes. You’ve wet your pants.”
I read about someone who spray painted a swastika and “Hitler” on the high school tennis courts in another county just north of where I live. This is a surprise. I didn’t know Hitler played tennis.
I send the Jewvinator after that kid too. The Jewvinator grabs the boy and flies him to Auschwitz, where he can see the gas chambers, then the ovens where human beings were cremated and turned into ash.
After the tours, the Jewvinator tells the kid, “If you don’t clean up your act, I will come to your house and teach you the entire history of the Jews. And if you still don’t get it, I’ll make you take written tests.”
Other people who require a visit from the Jewvinator, are:
- David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan and Trump-lover
- Nick Fuentes, who praises Hitler on a regular basis and has called for a holy war against Jews, who has met with many prominent Republicans (what a guy!)
- Every person who marched in the white supremacist crypto-Klan/Nazi meeting of the haters in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, carrying tiki torches, shouting racist slogans and “The Jews Will Not Replace Us!,” concocting the conspiracy that Jews had somehow managed to do something nefarious with their evil superpowers – yet again! – namely, bring millions of immigrants of color to the US and cut Christian whites out of power – really nuanced, incisive thinking there, packed in those sharp minds.
The list can go on ad infinitum. The Jewvinator is getting a little tired. it would be nice for the Jewvinator if he could get a break, meet a girl, go to a romantic restaurant, with candles and mandolins.
Based on my experiences as a human being, I’m not confident that we will ever get over our tribalist impulses. The Jewvinator will need to stay in business for a very long time.
Reflecting on 2,000 years of persecution, pogroms, and mass slaughters of the Jewish people, it seems to me we have been very patient. It took two millenniums for the Christian world to convince a large portion of a bookish tribe of nonviolent people, devoted to religious study, contemplation, and verbal argument about the meaning of God and our relation to Him, to become fierce warriors who will do anything to defend their right to live in a nation of their own.
The world hates us for it. But even if we didn’t have Israel or Israel’s powerful military, they’d still hate us. So, go ahead, world, hate me. Just don’t call me white. I am Jew-Man.