47 years later, this question still haunts me.
I was 5 years old. My family had just moved from New York to Virginia. That’s when I met Keith. For those first few days after the move, Keith and I were inseparable – exploring my new neighborhood, riding Big Wheels, and playing games.
One day Keith heard that we were Jewish and asked to see my horns. The horns on my head. The ones the Devil put there. All Jews have them.
My mother tried to correct him, with no success. She even went to talk with his mother. That made it worse. Keith was not allowed to play with Jews. It is a tough lesson to learn at 5, or at any age. I did not understand what happened. I just knew I did not have my friend to play with.
This was one incident in my distant past. There was no violence. No real hatred; just profound ignorance and hurt. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that thrust upon someone every single day of their lives. Mistrusted, hated, abused, persecuted, for their religion or their skin color, or anything.
All these years later, while it has not been directed at me personally, the hatred and ignorance still exist. Even worse, hate crimes and anti-Semitism are on the rise. I am not a practicing Jew. I do not go to temple. I married outside my faith (or my grandparent’s faith. We never really lived it). It does not impact me directly, but I feel it personally.
For my friends of color and everyone in black and brown communities who feel this ignorance and hatred and persecution and fear every single day, my experience pales in comparison. I will never comprehend the reality you are living but I can listen, learn, empathize, and stand alongside you.
No one should live in fear because of the color of their skin or the religion they practice. No one should die for those reasons, either.
I share my story not for empathy or to make any type of equivalence, but to join in solidarity with those who have been marginalized, mistreated, and maligned for too long. While I cannot change the past for any of us, I can work with you to change our future.