It was small stuff, but it bothered me.
At 3:45 PM, I was waiting for the bus, hoping I wouldn’t be late for work. It was Sunday afternoon, sunny out—I couldn’t find my ipod before I left my apartment so the wait was killing me. You know, playing tetris on my phone, texting people I don’t really talk to, trying to kill time.
Anyway I was sitting on the bench, and on the other side of the bench, there was this guy on a cell phone. Picture the Citizen from Ulysses, on some German American Bund status, blond football player look. He had on a green buttondown shirt with a pink tie, expensive shoes. He probably went from the frat house to his dad’s investment firm. You got the visual?
So he was on his phone, talking, I wasn’t trying to listen but he was loud and I didn’t have anything going on.
“Yeah, dad’s giving me less now, he says I have to pay for half on the condo…I know bro…just because I move up a tax bracket.”
At this point I was trying not to laugh, that this guy was complaining that his dad gave him less money ever since he “moved up a tax bracket”. We should all be so lucky. Then he dropped the bomb.
“Yeah, he’s jewing me.”
I jerked up, I couldn’t believe he said that. In public. My first thought was, jump him, let him know he can’t say that stuff about Jews, we aren’t skinny diaspora nebbishes anymore, but I couldn’t. Physically, and logistically. I had to get to work. So I started thinking about what I could say.
“Hey man, you’re going to hell.” Too apocalyptic.
“You’re a bad person.” On point but weak.
“You spoiled, rich, racist, pathetic” Getting there.
But I didn’t say anything. Why bother? He’d just say something nasty back and laugh. He knew he was a jerk, but he had a rich dad. Nothing I could say would change that. He’d still be privileged, and I’d still be waiting for the bus. I should have said something, he crossed several lines, how could I let strangers say antisemitic crap and not call them on it? I’d feel better if I said something, there’s so much I could say. But I didn’t say anything.
So there I was, waiting for the bus, staring at my feet, feeling like a minority. A minute or two later he walked away. I tried not to trip. It was just one thing. But then I started thinking, about the BDS posters at the felafel place, about the time the guy at the corner store said “you must have a lot of money” when I was dressed as a Chassid for halloween, about how there were three churches, four halal restaurants, and no kosher places in my neighborhood. And now this. It was a little thing, but it bothered me.
When was the last time you experienced antisemitism? What did you do?
PS: I’m pleased to announce that over the summer I will be blogging for HipsterJew. Big ups to those hipster jews.