Snippets from memories.
My bay window smashed – often. Walking in the forest behind my house – and being surrounded by six or seven older kids. More than once – way more than once. A neighbour – Joe – across the street – who came over to help – often. One of the few to stand up to these practices. A friend – with a funny sounding name (it sounded Italian, but he was a Spanish Marano) – who did not want me to tell others about him. They didn’t know he really was Jewish, too.
New York suburbs – yes, that New York – where you find yourself the only family among hundreds (almost thousands) – that is Jewish. Everyone else – Roman Catholic, Irish or Italian, who, with very few exceptions, go to private school, too. And, are taught that you killed their god, and, that you are their enemy.
I won’t go into the theological concept of how a god can die (unless you want to believe in mythology). I’m sorry if this offends you, but it has always been a major question to me. And, why folks who hate me so much forget that this person they adore was probably the very first Reform Jew. Whose followers, like the practice of another religion, converted him (and probably made up great stories) after he was dead.
Those facts molded me. I was faced with these instances every single day of my life from when I was a little more than 2 until I was a few months shy of my bar mitzvah. When Long Island changed from being comprised of a few big towns and small villages in Nassau County with potato farms in Suffolk County, that was converted to defense establishment heaven (long before these high-tech activities moved to Silicon Valley and the two beltways (metro DC and Boston) and changing the face of the area.
Where the Nazi party reigned supreme (finally disappearing by the mid-1950’s). Where a putsch hall was taken over and converted to a synagogue in 1951. The synagogue of my youth.
It also solidified my beliefs. If they hated me so much for what they thought I thought – shouldn’t I be positive in what it is for which I stand? Should I not affirm these beliefs each and every day? (If they plan to hurt/kill me for them, whats the point if I don’t live those ideals in the first place?).
It’s also why I know – in every fiber of my body – the anguish of the dispossessed, the discriminated. It’s why I knew that Civil Rights were a critical issue. Which in the 50’s and 60’s was the issue of Jews AND Blacks. Together. Until it wasn’t.
Why two Jewish guys decided to model their ideal world using Jewish themes. Which roots most folks never understood. The Daily Planet (examine the original N.Y. Daily News headquarters). Smallville (I know it was supposed to be middle America – but that was Long Island in the 30’s and 40’s.) Kal-El, Jor-El – all Jewish names. Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I grew up believing that they were synonymous. Justice, Justice, you SHALL pursue. Two witnesses – not one. Help the poor, the weak, the invalid. It’s not an eye FOR an eye, but an eye in place of an eye – that’s financial compensation.
Now, I know there are many who try to subvert that. Try to keep things as follows:
Truth for the rich, Justice for those with money to pay for it, and the American Way is to extend and expand those truths. Unless people like me – and you – stop them. And, not just America – but for the world.
That has to be our mission. No matter what our religion.
The beauty of difference is that we can all be different – yet work together for the common goal – to make this a better world for all of us.
This post comes to you from Roy Ackerman.
Read more from The Beauty of Difference series: