You guys have only been around for 70 years

“You guys have only been around for 70 years.” This is just one of the nasty comments that were made to me at my workplace. I won’t name the exact place for privacy reasons. But all I will say is that I work in New York City, and I’m telling you this to make a point. 

It started out because one of the girls saw me talking to one of the clients who came in, which she didn’t like.  Long story short, this girl started talking about Israel all of a sudden, after I was trying to make a point about the client.  She was asking me who wants to be from Israel. She said, “What do you guys have, a Kibbutz?” She not only said this in front of my boss, who wasn’t Jewish, she said this in front of everyone. The only thing my boss told her was that he doesn’t want to hear such pettiness, and to take it somewhere else. I told her that she was being anti-Semitic and racist. It got worse when she got other girls in my workplace to hate me. And nobody cared about her anti-Semitic remarks going on. She repeated herself, “What do you guys have, a Kibbutz? That’s all you have,” she rambled with an evil smile. I didn’t make any comments back to her at the time. This girl I’m talking about is from England.  I won’t name her ethnicity, because it doesn’t matter.

Please hear me out. I’m not racist at all. I have Jewish and non-Jewish friends. And I’ll explain shortly why I made the comment back to her that I did. This girl just kept on using my ethnicity to hurt me, instead of judging me as an individual. Every time I would walk by her, she would say something like, “Stay away from England, Israel.”  This isn’t even the worst anti-Semitic remark she’s made to me at my workplace, but the others are too offensive to be repeated.

So, at any rate, this girl is from England, but isn’t ethnically English. The reason I say this is because if she hasn’t experienced racism herself, then her ancestors have. I took the courage to finally ask her, not to be racist, but to make a point, “Are you genetically from England?” I told her that because I wanted her to feel what it’s like to be excluded because of your ethnicity. It was finally a reflective moment for her, but not in the way I hoped it would be. As soon as I said that, she got up, angrily, and told everyone how racist I was. My boss called me down to the office. He told me to go home and come back the next business day. Again, I didn’t ask if she was genetically from England to be racist. It was only after she was talking about my ethnicity for a long time, and I’d had it.

What does my ethnicity have to do with what happened with this client? Nothing, it has nothing to do with it. Even though everyone, including my boss, heard her saying anti-Semitic remarks, no-one took it seriously. No-one cared. As my boss mentioned, it was just pettiness that had to be taken somewhere else.

I’m the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who suffered anti-Semitism in Europe. But that’s not the point. This is just part of the reason I was hurt by her comments. I live in New York City, probably the place that accepts the most Jews in the world, after Israel. If this could happen here, what do Jews in other parts of the world experience?  No-one bothered to send this person home when she made anti-Semitic comments. People laughed and ignored it. But, when I made one comment back, I was sent home.  I guess its still considered politically correct to hate Jews, to hate us for who we are.

About the Author
Anat Ghelber was born in Israel and moved to Texas when she was 13. She experienced anti-Semitism in public schools there. She moved to New York City when she was 20, and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. She started submitting articles to the Jewish Voice two years ago. In her free time enjoys writing poems. She's also a certified Yoga teacher with 200 hours of training who teaches in a donation-based studio called Yoga to the People in New York City.
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