An Anti-Semitic Encounter in Kew Gardens

The history of anti-Semitism stretches back many years and has existed more or less just as long as the Jewish people have existed. Our own holy scriptures are replete with stories of our people being persecuted for attempting to live their lives as Jews and it is a story that has repeated itself over and over again — year after year, decade after decade, century after century. Empire after empire, regime after regime have attempted to annihilate the entirety of the Jewish people and failed miserably in their efforts.

One of the more recent groups of people that failed to exterminate the Jewish people from the earth was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as the Nazi party that took control of Germany by popular vote and erected numerous death camps around Europe for the express purpose of murdering millions of people who did not fit into their ideal master race, or Aryan race — this included but was not exclusive to Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Soviet Russians, and people with physical or other handicaps that made them, in the view of the Nazis, imperfect. They tried but failed to kill the Jewish people and were so sure of their own longevity that they documented everything meticulously, a fact that makes the existence of Holocaust deniers laughable and perceivable of being anti-Semitic themselves.

Elizabeth, Chaim, and I were reminded that we are still vulnerable to attacks even in the beautifully Jewish community of Kew Gardens. We were walking one Friday in the early evening toward the home of a friend at whose table we would be dining. An SUV stopped at a four way stop intersection and we waved them through — seemed like the polite thing to do. As we walked across the street in the crosswalk, the SUV seemed to slow down just a little bit and a teenage boy popped his head out through the window just long enough to yell, “Heil Hitler!”

My immediate reaction was shock and revulsion. I was the Dunhill Jew all over again. There wasn’t enough time to respond as the SUV drove away as I stood there with my jaw open, dumbfounded. I’m not sure I would have said anything to the person even if I could have done so because a fight (verbal or otherwise) was the last thing we needed on this otherwise peaceful evening. Then I thought of something and I nearly laughed — and I would have had I not been so upset. This boy, who probably knew nothing of the real history of the Nazi party, was sending his respect to a man who was a complete failure. He not only failed to kill the Jewish people but he failed in any long term success and ultimately killed himself rather than be taken.

Elizabeth had a relatively subdued reaction, all things considered. She said, “Is that guy serious?” I told her that unfortunately, he most likely was quite serious — even if he didn’t genuinely know what he was saying. I looked down at Chaim, sleeping peacefully in the wrap my wife was wearing, and wondered what we would ever tell him about this event. We certainly couldn’t just pretend that it didn’t happen. Rather, we would have to — one day when he will be old enough — tell him about it so that he will know that there are people out there who will hate him just for being Jewish.

As you may know, my wife Elizabeth was not born Jewish. However, she has spent the bulk of her life, starting with her childhood, being fascinated by stories of the Holocaust — she was reading dozens of story books about the Holocaust as a child and, at the age of twelve, begged her mother to take her to see Schindler’s List at the local movie theater. When she found out that her family was partially German she asked her Great Aunt if they had any role in the Holocaust and was relieved to find out that her family had been in the United States for many years. Having a strong connection to the Jewish people has always been with Elizabeth — it was certainly one of the things that attracted me to her. I imagine that if something like this were to happen to our young Chaim thirty years hence that his reaction might be a mixture between that of his mother and father. He will live his whole life as a Jew but he will also know that it is possible to not be Jewish and still feel a tie to the people.

We cannot rest easy and think that we are completely safe because it is clear that there is still plenty of hate for the Jewish people and it seems as though there will be hate for the Jewish people for many years to come.

14 comments

  • This is an alarming story, Gordon. You’d think the once place you’d be safe from that sort of hate would be in a community like Kew Gardens. I told Janna your story and she just sat there, unbelieving, that someone would have sort of vileness in them that they then needed to spread on your family from a car window.

    I know there are disillusioned haters out there who believe Hitler was successful in “ridding the planet” of six million Jews. He just wasn’t able to “finish the job.” So the jerks like you encountered use that previous “success” as a verbal cudgel to remind you there is no safe place. Ugly!

    I think the best thing you can tell Chaim is that his mother became Jewish so she could give birth to him. That answers all arguments and defeats any hatred. His life defiantly rises from the ashes.

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  • That’s terrible. It’s always sad to be reminded of how much hate and ignorance is in the world.

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  • I showed your item to my partner in our legal office, he is Jewish with parents originally from Morocco. We do cases both here in Gibraltar (Britain) and in Spain (accredited to the region bordering Gibraltar and the two enclaves in the coast of Morocco) and we successfully prosecuted two cases of Anti-Semitism which is a crime in Spain (but actually not in Britain but can be charged under other laws). A month ago, we were informed of a case in Casablanca, Morocco about the first prosecution and punishment of anti-Semitism in that country which is actually a law but was never implemented until recently. A large private company owner refused to employ a Jew who was chosen amogst almost 300 candidates before they discovered he was Jewish and told him they changed their mind. The result was six months fixed period in prison and payment of two years of wages to the victim. Morocco, as I am told from my friend, has actually now a growing Jewish community with return-immigrant families coming from France, Spain and even Israel adding to the existing and rather active community. I, as I think most non-Jewish Europeans, ignorantly assumed there was no Jews left in that country! I humbly bow my head to both the stead-fastness of that community and the changes to the country that suprises me each time I visit.

    D Charles QC
    Gibraltar
    (usually resonding to comments on the WordPunk blog)

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    • Mr. Charles (May I call you that?)

      Brilliant comment as always. I never would have guessed that Morocco’s community would be growing. I like the story of the fine — you can’t discriminate and expect it to be ignored!

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  • Yes Charles is my surname.

    As far as I am aware there was always a rather strong and to a degree influencial Jewish community that remained in Morocco. In addition, as am told that though they have strong connections to the expat Moroccan Jews abroad (mostly in France and Israel) they do criticize those that left as turning their back on both them and the country. Until recently the most senior royal advisor was a Jew who I met in his new position with the Mediteranian Council. A large number of the Casablanca business community is Jewish and I guess the best sign is that Moroccan accepts tourists from Israel and that there are three Shephardic (excuse the spelling I understand there are other ways to write it) piligrimages that are even televised by the Moroccan State television service. I do remember the bombings in Casablanca that targetted a Jewish-Spanish resteraunt and the tens of thousands of protestors in the streets over the following months that simply said “hands off our country” and said that there is only us Moroccans. It was that event that caught my eye.

    Now having said that, anti-Israeli sentiment and pro-Palestinian and the Jerusalem issue is strong there. That is the result mostly of pan-Arab media and that the Moroccan King is the chairman of the “Al Qods Committee” which is the Arab name for Jersualem, the committe is responsible for the care and funding of the Mosques and Dome there. I am told it is the second most sacred place to Muslims.

    I am Catholic and am half-Spanish (also very Catholic) so for me I still use the old-nomenclature and call the place The Holy Land and franky avoid concentration on the politics and religous battles there because one can lose oneself entirely in it and my last trip to New York at a Cross-Border Extradition Policy Confrence last November was next to a demonstration by far-right anti-Islam activists that ranted on about everything from the 9/11 Mosque, Hamas, halting immigration from Muslim countries to a call for the eviction of all Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan and declaring some greater Zion. I was grabbed in the street by someone to ask my view and I just told them that more people are dying and there is more loss of money, threats to lives and your children’s future from the War against Drugs in Mexico – and it was closer.

    I am sure the issues are huge, the emotions are even more so but also are the interest groups and frankly speaking, I have enough on my plate and I am not part of any of the interest groups except when they are in my zone and are breaking the law.

    Excuse the long bit, thought it was time to express my “non view”.

    Gordon, your surname appears to be Eastern Balkan/Romanian? My colleague’s wife is Romanian Jewish in origin with the family name of Iocabescu. He wanted to point that out, not great deal though. They were immigrants to Leeds in England were they met and married.

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    • Appreciate your lengthy comment, sir! My name is in fact Romanian in origin. My parents are both from Romania. I do not know many who are Romanian in origin, Jewish, and I’m the only one I know who tries to keep kosher and observe the laws of Shabbos!

      I was grabbed in the street by someone to ask my view and I just told them that more people are dying and there is more loss of money, threats to lives and your children’s future from the War against Drugs in Mexico – and it was closer.

      The war against drugs in the United States is its own threat to lives! Most people don’t agree with that, however.

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  • excuse the spelling and such, in a cafe, it is raining as well…… I incorrectly said that there are a large number of Jews in the Casablanca business community, that would be numerically impossible – it was to say that a significantly high proportion of Casablanca business leaders are Jewish.

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    • That makes sense. Looking at the list of people who have won Nobel prizes, it too has a high proportion of Jews. No real secret there as much as a tradition of parents who generally tell their children to strive to be their best no matter what — and how important school is for them.

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