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This and That

Embarrassing to be a Jew?

ASTRO TURF…you know who’s responsible for that? THE JEWS! This is a famous quote from George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld. While it’s funny to hear George utter the line, it’s not far from reality.

As Passover approaches, and one thinks about this horrible thing called the Coronavirus – Covid-19 – you can’t help but wonder if it might help to put some lamb’s blood on the door posts to ward off this awful plague.

In times of crisis, the good and the bad come to the surface. Seeing the communities coming together, supporting each other, helping each other, spreading the love has been a wonderful thing. That’s the good. The bad? The overt hate mongering that has reared its ugly head, especially on social media.

There was a story that was circulated on Facebook about an Orthodox Jewish community holding a wedding despite the warning about social gatherings. This story was taken from a Jewish news source about an event that occurred in the West Bank in Israel. However, the people on Facebook used it as an opportunity to bash the “Jews” of Lakewood, New Jersey.

I saw the threads on Facebook because I am “friends” with the people writing the comments. And some were people I am actually friends with in real life, some even the people that I consider my family. I was appalled.

While providing their wonderful, mindful insight about this particular gathering referenced in the story, there was one person who wrote: “Bet it fucking stinks in there. Like body odor, unwashed beard, shitty food and sadness.” Another person wrote: “They are disgusting people.” Yet another person wrote: “Just dig a big hole and bury them all in it. Assholes.” Those were just some of the milder comments.

The people making these horrible statements did not reference the Coronavirus parties broken up in Ewing or in Hoboken, or in Rumson. They did not pass judgment about the thousands of students on spring break crowding the beaches of South Florida and mugging for the cameras on national television that they did not fear the virus, and basically taunted the horrible menace. Instead, they focused on the people they already hate…the JEWS.

In a court of law, when you appear before the judge, you want to be on your absolute best behavior. Why? So that you don’t upset the judge and you will, hopefully, gain a favorable decision. Judges are human beings, and just because the law is on your side, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed a victory. If the judge views you in a bad light, sees you as defiant, you WILL suffer defeat. Think about it.

In this time when antisemitism is on the rise…the Hasidic community doesn’t appear to understand the concept of not bringing negative attention to oneself. Most recently, in 2017, 26 people from the Hasidic community in Lakewood were found to have defrauded the government to the tune of $2.6 million for social services by willfully and intentionally underreporting their family incomes for no other purpose than to get monies that they were not rightfully entitled to. And now, with this horrible affliction bringing sickness and death to the communities, many of the ultra-religious Jewish faith are ignoring the authorities and taunting the fast-spreading virus the same way those knucklehead kids did on the Florida beaches.

I was born Jewish. My mother and father were both raised in religious, kosher homes. My grandparents would be considered Conservadox in today’s world. Two of my great-grandfathers were rabbis. Growing up, we were not very religious, as my parents seemed to rebel against their parents’ strict rules and guidelines. Heck, my father would love to tell stories about how he and my Uncle Howie would hide and get Chinese food at the local restaurant and just hope one of the neighbors wouldn’t rat them out when they were teens.

When we moved from Staten Island to Sayreville, New Jersey, there weren’t many Jews in the small town. There was a young congregation in its infancy, operating in the basement of an old church. My father quickly got involved and, very soon, became president of the synagogue. Within two years, my father had worked to get a new synagogue built on the outskirts of town. His time was so consumed with temple business that there was a second phone line put into the house, hidden in the pantry, so that it wouldn’t interfere with any of us being able to get phone calls. Of course, this is long before everyone had their own cell phone. And I was there every step of the way with my dad, at his side, and partaking in every activity and service he attended. When he suddenly passed away at such a young age, that part of me went with him.

There are subjects that I normally TRY to stay away from – money, politics, and religion. My dad taught me that those subjects can often lead to discord and you can lose friends and relatives. I also learned, growing up in Sayreville, how it felt to be victimized by hate mongering, as I had swastikas painted on my locker in the Sayreville Junior High School. Also growing up in Sayreville, I remember my parents were told by people that we were “…one of the good ones…” Those same people who made those statements in the kitchen of my home…their children are now married to….Jews.

When I had my Bar Mitzvah, one of my dearest friends ended up sick and couldn’t show up. A few days later, we were in his aunt and uncle’s ice cream establishment and they congratulated me and told my dad how wonderful a Bar Mitzvah is. My father asked them how they even knew what it was. They said, “Well, truth be told, our family was Jewish.” When the Nazis overran Poland, Polish Jews were being helped to escape to a large Polish community in the United States. That Jewish community was Sayreville. Their surnames were altered and they were “hidden” and helped in the community by St. Stan’s Church. They blended into the community and practiced with the St. Stan’s community, never revealing themselves, for fear of being discovered by the Nazis. So for all of the people who are oblivious and make comments, just beware of who you just might be talking to. The person next to you just may be, guess what, a Jew.

While I enjoy the customs, especially Passover seders, the people who know me well, know that I am not religious by any means, but I am very spiritual and celebrate many religions. I also don’t tolerate ANY hate, bigotry, or bullying.

While I am still proud of my Jewish heritage, I am beginning to feel a strong sense of embarrassment, no different than being embarrassed as a Mets fan after all the silly things management does. In fact, I recently wrote how I am embarrassed by what Mets management does. And I am similarly embarrassed by what is done by some of the Jewish community. I have learned that there are people who cry out about how they are a victim, yet they are not really a victim as they would have you believe. In reality, it is their very own behaviors that are dictating how people are reacting to them.

In the latest example of poor behavior, a stockpile of supplies was seized in a Brooklyn auto body shop. Discovered were 192,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks and nearly 600,000 medical grade gloves. Authorities said they also had recovered surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.

To add insult to injury, the man who was charged with lying to federal agents, Baruch Feldheim, charged a doctor $12,000 last month for a large order of masks, gowns and hazmat gear at a 700 percent markup, according to the F.B.I.

Just wonderful. So with the entire country, the entire world, for that matter, looking on…what does someone do? Why not put a bull’s eye on the back of every Jew? It’s embarrassing.

Antisemitism is on the rise. Big time. You can’t complain about how you are treated when you, yourself, do something so bad, so stupid, so immoral, and so horrifying, that you invite the criticism. I will never forget a line in M*A*S*H from Hawkeye Pierce to Frank Burns. “You invite the abuse, Frank. It would be impolite not to accept it.”

With the holiday of Passover upon us, I strongly suggest that our people recall the scene in the Ten Commandments when Moses had come down from upon the holy mountain, after having received the Commandments, and told the people who were reveling that God was angry with them. And God punished them for being defiant by forcing them into the desert for 40 years until the generation was gone.

Think about it.

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