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Louisiana Jew

Louisiana Jew

A troubled Jew's apology.

by

There are not many Jews in my part of Louisiana. In fact, I'm the first (openly) Jewish person most of my friends had ever met. Even most of my own family denounced their Judaism for the sake of "safety and social status" after moving here from Austria and Germany.

I refused. My mother, who passed away when I was 16, didn't raise me that way. So ever since grade school, I've worn a Star of David around my neck, regardless of what threats and rumors were circulating. And circulate they did; my first religious fight was in the first grade. She was on the "good side" as a Christian, and I was the "bad side" as a Jew.

I was not a popular kid among students or teachers. In our heavily southern-Baptist town, wearing a star of any kind is not the way to gain popularity. By the time sixth grade rolled around, my peers started pulling sick rumors about the "baby-microwaving, Jesus-murdering Satanic Jewish girl."

I was frazzled by the illogic of it all. Where would a 12-year-old get a supply of babies to be microwaving on a regular basis? Christ killer? I wasn't even alive 2,000 years ago. And I have yet to meet a Satanic Jew.

My teachers participated in the crusade by drawing crosses on my test papers, with a note saying "Jesus loves you." I figured it was illegal to write such a thing on a students paper, but I didn't know what to do.

So I hardened.

I became angry and sullen. Puberty was hitting me like a ton of bricks, my mother was sick with lung disease, and hereditary manic depression was setting in. I developed eating disorders. I self-injured. It's a long story. I was getting into fights and getting suspended.

My Jewish self became the innocent bystander in a troubled teen's body. I became a pariah, unable to separate the facts of my being psychotic and the innocent reality of being Jewish.

My belief in God is the only thing that kept me going (even though the other kids said I didn't believe in Him and that I was going to Hell).

I now realize I was the victim of good ol' anti-Semitism. The bullying started way before I was an angry teen, and it continues even to this day.

Now, at the ripe old age of 18, I wish I had handled things differently. I’m the only Jew these kids ever came in contact with, and maybe ever will. Whenever the word "Jew" is heard by their ignorant ears, they'll think of messed up me, with the Star of David dangling around my neck.

For all this, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry to the other Southern Jews. I am sorry to the American Jewish community. And I am sorry to the Jews in Israel. In the big picture, my impact on this small town may not matter much, but leaving anyone with a bad impression of Jews is the last thing we need.

So anger, imperfections and all, I will try harder. To be special, to shine the light.

That’s the way my mother raised me.

Published: July 3, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 128

(123) Beverly Kurtin, November 25, 2013 8:34 PM

Empathy

Believe me, I empathize 100% because I was "the Jew" in my school in Connecticut. When other kids would hit me or pull my hair, the teachers "didn't see." But the instant "I" retaliated, the teachers were on my like white on rice. The teachers were just as filled with Jew hate as the kids.
Looking back some 67 years, I realize that when I started school in 1946 many fathers did not return from the war and they knew that the Jews had something to do with it. The Nuremberg Trials were going full tilt and apparently the kids heard their parent(s) talking about it.
Looking back some 67 years, I can understand their frame of mind, but when I was getting hit every day, it wasn't all that easy to try to understand.
I live in Texas now and things, believe it or not, are a LOT better. Yes, there are still Jew haters around, but for the most part we are left alone.
Occasionally, I teach Judaism in churches and show them videos concerning Israel and teach them the truth. Surprisingly to me, for the most part the churches I teach in are quite open to learning and exceptionally positive towards Israel.
Things may be getting better, but it doesn't take very much for a population to turn against us, which is why we've always got to be attentive to the winds of Jew hate and be ready to extinguish it however we can.
I'll end with this true story. I was traveling in Oklahoma, selling text books. Some books appealed to Christian schools which meant I had to go into Christian book stores from time-to-time. In one store, I ran into a woman who had never met a Jew in her entire life. She told me that I was "funning" with her, she knew I wasn't a REAL Jew...I didn't have horns!

(122) Anonymous, October 21, 2013 3:28 AM

recovery

Please don't give yourself such a hard time.-It seems that you tried the best you could. Perhaps you should see a therapist , but also you should validate yourself. And move to a place with more positive attitudes towards Jews. I, too, grew up in Louisiana (New Orleans),but I did not experience any anti-semitism there, thank G-d. My first real experience of anti-semitism was actually in New York,at Columbia University, when a waspish , clean cut student, a complete stranger,started yelling insults at me. Guess I look Jewish.

(121) Anonymous, October 20, 2013 4:30 PM

I am sorry

As a gentile I would like to say that I am so sorry. I do not know what to think. I have never been around anti-Semitism myself but have Jewish friends who have experienced it in their life. It is a horrible thing.

(120) Anonymous, July 29, 2013 3:19 PM

I suffered as a child in Brooklyn, with Catholic neighbors

Openly hostile and crude hatred wasn't as pervasive out of my immediate neighborhood, but I was afraid for years, and grew up with "dirty Jew" and just 'Jew' used as a catcall and a pejorative- I never felt I belongedhere, felt less American even though mnany of my neighbors were recent immigrants whose parents didn't speak English. I never quite shook the cringe. Nor the fear. Still in Brooklyn. I don't hate but don't respect Catholics as a group because of the mindless, primitive hate they brought with them from the fields and alleys of Europe. Seeded the New World-we still reap that crop today.

(119) JB Silver, May 30, 2013 4:48 PM

Jessi, you've nothing to apologise for.

Dear Jessi,
I want you to know, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO APOLOGISE FOR.
In your situation, I pray to G-D I would do as well as you have done.
Now, you do have a place to go - ISRAEL.
I moved there 40 years ago with my family from Toronto, and though it is not perfect, it is home for all Jews.
I was 16, and with my two sisters, 18 and 14 1/2 at the time, we pressured my parents into coming with us.
My older brother, in university at the time, stayed, and still lives in Toronto, but keeps a home in Jerusalem, and comes often.
Come home.
Best,

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