Antisemitism, or prejudice and discrimination against Jews, has unfortunately been present in societies around the world for centuries. I grew up in Co-op City which held one of the largest Jewish populations based on people migrating from lower Manhattan and other areas of the Bronx. At one time, the Bronx had a Jewish community which amounted to about 50% of the whole borough. The 1930’s had seen expansion of Jewish communities in many areas of New York. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s saw an influx of people coming into the Bronx from other areas. Many black people moved from the south and started settling in New York and more specifically Co-op. Starting in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Co-op surged with new groups of people. For me, growing up in Co-op, I was generally oblivious to what was going on outside of this area. Co-op was a complex melting pot of many cultures. As I grew older, I started to see antisemitism, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know the history of hate other than what I had heard about from the holocaust. We were told to “never forget” but it didn’t translate into understanding what we should or could do about antisemitic behavior in our time.
What many people (including myself) at the time didn’t know about was anger and frustration between Jews and black communities. In the latter part of the 1980’s, Jewish people started the great mass exodus from Co-op. Many moved North or into other areas of the Bronx, like Riverdale. The Bronx started changing rapidly and with this change, conflicts became more common.
I can only reflect while looking back at the people I met who had survived the holocaust and lived in my building. The people that escaped from Russia / Poland and came to the states before the holocaust and had family that had taken root in NY in the 1800’s. Hateful speech and issues started to become more prevalent to me starting about fifth grade. Again, mostly oblivious because at the time Co-op was very separate from the rest of the world. As I got older, I would hear things or have some issues more often. I have written about these in older posts about growing up in Co-op. In my teens, I started to learn about a deep seeded hate between some specific black groups and Jews. As time passed and I got older, it only got worse. More people moved out of Co-op and the human landscape of Co-op changed to the extent that Synagogues were going away, and Churches were replacing them. I didn’t have a problem with it until it became personal.
I left Co-op in 1989, I hated it there. I had enough of it. The crime rate increased, it started to look and feel like the rest of the Bronx, which in my perspective was horrible. Was there antisemitism? You know it. Did people talk about it? NOPE.
When I joined the Navy, I didn’t think about or expect antisemitic behavior. I honestly didn’t have a clue about what people thought about Jews and I wasn’t concerned about it. Was there antisemitic behavior?
The United States Navy was and is no exception, and there have been instances of antisemitism within the organization throughout its history.
One example of antisemitism in the Navy occurred in the early 20th century, when Jews were often denied entry into the naval academy and faced discrimination and prejudice within the ranks. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy implemented quotas limiting the number of Jews who could serve, and Jewish sailors were often assigned to menial tasks and discriminated against in promotions and assignments.
During World War II, the Navy began to integrate and make efforts to combat discrimination, but antisemitism persisted. In the 1950s and 1960s, Jewish sailors continued to face discrimination and prejudice, and there were instances of antisemitic graffiti and slurs being used against them.
In more recent years, the Navy has made efforts to address and combat antisemitism within its ranks. The Navy has implemented diversity and inclusion training programs and has established a task force to address hate crimes, including antisemitism. Additionally, the Navy has a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes and discrimination and has implemented policies and procedures to prevent and respond to incidents of antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.
However, despite these efforts, instances of antisemitism in the Navy have continued to be reported. In 2019, a Navy SEAL was discharged from the service after being found guilty of using a slur against a Jewish colleague. And in 2020, the Navy launched an investigation into a group of sailors who were found to have posted antisemitic and white supremacist material online. The only reason this was an issue was because it was publicized. The Navy was full of hate and it wasn’t just the Navy.
It is clear that antisemitism remains a problem within the Navy, and it is important for the organization to continue to make efforts to combat it. This includes educating sailors about the dangers of prejudice and discrimination and implementing policies and procedures to prevent and respond to incidents of antisemitism.
I now have a long history of personally being harassed or attacked for being WHAT I am not for being WHO I am. I have complained over the years to many people about being targeted but nothing was ever done about it. Most people did NOT care.
The Jewish community globally has been historically targeted for many reasons. This new wave of realization about antisemitism is frankly surprising to me. Initially, Jews were not considered white. They are in many ways considered their own race. I realize there isn’t a check box on the forms for “JEW” but there sure is “other” and I use that. Jews are a global minority. Last I checked, Jews are one of the smallest populations at a mere 0.19% of all peoples globally. Jews mostly live in two countries, the US or Israel. We don’t get the highest holiest days off from work as a holiday. Is someone waking up to this now?
My children don’t get special consideration for university. Historically speaking, when it came to stand up for people in other groups, pick your group, there are many Jews standing there with a sign and a loud voice for fair treatment of these groups. My children are confused about fairness when it comes to this subject.
I considered all the reasons why I should NOT write about this subject but for them, I decided to say something. Why? Because “never forget” is not enough. We need to “always remember” which means we have to be conscious, awake at the wheel. We aren’t victims of Amercian society, we are champions of the Amercian way. The reason Jews are hated is because we get involved, we ask questions, we build things, we do things to make the world better. If any group wants to align with the Jews to build a better world, they normally get an open door and a hug welcoming them. Should we be sad that this isn’t a fair world? No, we should understand what the world is and make it so that we represent more than .19% of it.
When we see in the paper that antisematic attacks are up by a certain percentage, I consider these are up only because someone was made aware of them. In other words, this isn’t a new problem and let us not pretend it is. The difference is that Jews just press through it, they figure out how to thrive in difficult situations and they overcome the challenges and aim to make a better world. The woke nation can make a stink about it but antisemitism is here, was here and will be here as long as a Jew exists, there will be someone to hate them.
It doesn’t matter.. because Jews will be around as long as human beings exist.
One thought on “Our Old Friend Antisemitism”
The World is Full of Maple Streets
I would never seek to diminish another’s experience by implying that mine was worse or that I know exactly what their experience feels like, because I don’t. In my ignorance, or maybe naivete, I was never able to understand what was at the root of anti-Semitism.
Living in Brooklyn in predominantly Irish-Italian neighborhoods, kids, adults, everyone would see my brown face coming from a mile away. Walking alone in the streets as a tiny little brown girl in pig-tails, and believe me…I was tiny, I would see gangs of boys and sometimes even other girls coming towards me and would preemptively cross the street. I would hear them shout, “yeah you’d BETTER cross the street” and various other assorted contentious “suggestions.” From grades 1 thru 8, I was surrounded by nuns who professed the love of Jesus and that, as nuns, they were brides of Christ. The nuns were pretty much equal opportunity terrorists but being mostly Irish, they clearly favored the other little lads and lasses. For the most part, I was surrounded by patches of pumpkin-colored hair with freckle-laden-upturned noses during my formative years. I sang my heart out at all the St. Patrick’s Day festivals and took all of the mean-spirited joking or thinly veiled threats, the rest of the year.
As a youngster I remember picking The Diary of Anne Frank, and Potok’s, The Chosen, as my 8th grade summer reading assignments and Man’s Search for Meaning as a high school freshman. To say that these books touched my heart is an understatement. When I was 16 my parents took me throughout Europe and I remember going to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and to the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Seeing video footage or photos of concentration camp prisoners always seems surreal. It’s difficult to wrap my head around that degree of inhumanity. The depths of how cruel human beings can be to each other is unfathomable. It seems as though, when given the chance, human beings will jump at the chance of making themselves feel superior or falsely secure by subjugation of a group or person that appears to be lower on the pecking order. If there is no other group around, they will subjugate people of their own race and culture because they were born in a different village or belong to a different class or at its worst…a lower caste.
I have often wondered if there are cultural systemic underlying resentments and envy towards Jews because the Jewish culture, from what I see as an outsider, remains intact after so much persecution when there is so much fragmentation of African culture as a result of their persecution. But perhaps that’s just a simplistic way of trying to make sense of something that makes no sense to me. In this country (and other countries if the truth be told) there is still quite a bit of infighting among people of African descent about those who have lighter skin or “better” hair…although there is definitely no such thing. In African countries, genocide among blacks is still occurring. Perhaps it might feel safe to attack a group that has been attacked for centuries. All I know is that it saddens me to read this post or to hear about anti-Semitic attacks or attacks of Asians, or other groups. I know it doesn’t do any good or change anything to be sad about it, but it affects me emotionally, psychologically and in other ways that definitely trigger me.
Knowing you, what is a head-scratcher for me is that, regardless of whether you’re the professional leader, or being humorous, or pensive or goofy, or all of the above it would take the average person 5 minutes or less to see that you are someone worth knowing. But I guess that wouldn’t be possible unless there is some sort of interaction involved. One of the first supervisors I had out of college would say to me, “to know you is to love you.” That applies to you. You’ve talked about being authentic in previous posts. Your authenticity, compassion and pride of your culture are just some of the legacies that you can leave to your children.
~ The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes and prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children and the children of the yet unborn.
~ Rod Serling.
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