What some people think of Jews
Growing up I don’t remember experiencing antisemitism, yet my parents always warned me and my sisters about it. I remember when I was twelve we went on a family vacation road trip to Florida. My parents wanted us to experience as many states as possible, so we drove.
I was aware that my father had his concerns back in 1972 about driving through Georgia to get to Florida, because our car’s license plate was from the North and we had a city sticker that said Skokie (which was known as a Jewish suburb of Chicago).
I remember my father explaining to my sisters and I that there were people in the south that didn’t like Jews. He also talked about the civil rights movement. We were aware of the challenges of blacks, since it was on the news every night, yet it was around that time I started to understand there were just as many folks that didn’t like Jews too.
A part of our journey to Florida took us through Georgia. At one point my sisters and I noticed we were not far from the Alabama border. My sisters and I begged my dad to take a detour so we could add Alabama to the list of states we’ve been to. My father complied, even though his gut said no. We got to the border, stopped at the sign that said “Welcome to Alabama”, piled out of the car so my father could take a picture of us by the sign, and quickly jumped back into the car and were off. I remember being aware that my father felt safer in Georgia than Alabama.
Like just about every other person who’s Jewish, throughout my life I’ve been faced with antisemitism, yet I’m going to share an experience that was different.
This experience occurred while I was in college. My best friend Yvette was from Ecuador. We were always together. Yvette was from a large family and they made me feel like I was one of them. Yvette’s mother lived in Quito, and once or twice a year she would come to Chicago to visit her seven children.
Every time Yvette’s mom came to town she always hugged me hello, yet at times it felt funny because she was always touching my arm. I brushed it off because she was from Latin America and customs there were different than the US.
One year when Yvette’s mom came to town with one of her friends. Her mom’s friend was doing the same thing. Just touching me a little too much.
Once Yvette and I left one of her sister’s home I said something to her about it. Yvette said she noticed her mother always touching me in the past too, so she said she was going to ask her mom about it.
About an hour later Yvette called me laughing, hardly being able to speak. Once Yvette stopped laughing she explained to me that her mother told her that “since Jesus was Jewish, and that I was like Jesus, that it was good luck to touch a Jew.” We both started laughing. I was like a leprechaun. I remember joking at the time that if ever there was a holocaust in the United States all Jews should move to Ecuador.
With the increase of antisemitism in the United States coming from the MAGA Republicans, I’ve been weighing all my options just in case. I think that’s why I started remembering this experience that occurred over thirty years ago.