To the editor:
When I was little, yes I do remember, not what I had for breakfast lately or where I put my phone, but the time of my youth.
I grew up in low-income city housing, the Queensbridge projects, a cacophony of immigrants all striving for a better life. We wore dog tags had had hankies pinned to our dresses.
I am Jewish. I was Jewish then. I so recall being called “Christ killer” over and over by the Scanlons and the Tinsleys, neighbors across the hall, neighbors whose homes smelled of fish on Friday, and who — to my envy — had Christmas trees.
I didn’t know who Christ was, and I didn’t care then. But I knew that being called that name would resonate for the rest of my life.
I am 75. I remember.
These same neighbors told me that Arbor Day and May Day — things we celebrated then — were for Jews. I didn’t know why, I only knew it hurt and made me feel different.
The Jews were different in many ways, and they were leaving the projects. My family would, too, but it took a little longer. They’ve move to a middle-income housing development in the mid-‘50s where there were more Jews who were striving for a better life, and would leave there, too, when they could.
We would, too. That’s the way it was.
I am sure it was enviable to those who had to stay, to make the best of it. And it fueled their anti-Semitism.
I was one of the few kids in the ‘40s and ‘50s who was absent from school for the Jewish holidays — now everyone has a day or so off. I was one of the kids who didn’t eat ham, who didn’t have milk and meat with her school lunch.
This singled me out even more.
I didn’t really get it, the name-callers didn’t really get it. But it happened. And I got stronger because of it.
I stayed away from them. That singled me out even more.
My own children did not grow up with this stigma. They were lucky. But now we all live in such a hateful time.
I still don’t get it. We witness killings of Jews and other “family” at prayer. We see devastation in all parts of the world.
It is not a kind world. It never was. But we have become complacent until something happens and rouses our demons.
I cannot understand this climate. I surely cannot understand our government. I thought each time I moved away, the world would change, and be kinder and gentler.
I am still moving, but it hasn’t.