December 1, 2005
The Swastika in My Binder
I am sitting in physiology class. The teacher assigns a lab report and I open my planner. I see something doodled on the page.
I have a swastika in my planner.
I turn the page, write down the assignment, and close the planner.
And I forget about it until later that day.
I do not know who drew the swastika in my planner. I do not know why. I choose to believe that it was done by a bored kid, looking to vandalize someone else's forgotten things, that it is harmless.
And I choose to forget about the swastika.
It is not until later that week I tell someone, a Jewish friend of mine. He wants to see it. I show him and he flips through the pages. He sees that there is more.
Another swastika. Also written is "I love bagels," "zig heil" (meaning to salute Hitler) and "you suck."
My friend is outraged, and he tells me I should turn it in to the office. It's a hate crime, he says. But I am not outraged. I don't know why. I try to forget. And I can't.
My issue is not that it's written, but why. Who did it? Did they know? Know that I am Jewish? And if so, how? Because I am an officer of the campus Jewish club? Because I wear shirts from my Jewish camp? Because I have a Jewish star around my neck?
Because I have Jewish holidays written in my planner? And I think to myself who cares why?
Again, I choose to forget about it.
A few days later, I get into a discussion with two classmates. They think it is ridiculous that some Jews refuse to buy German-made automobiles.
I tell them that my mom is one of those people. I say those companies profited from and contributed to the murder of millions. I also say that it's a choice that is private and up to each person.
One of the girls says to me, "The Holocaust was more than 50 years ago. It didn't personally affect this generation. They should get over it and buy the cars."
And now I am finally outraged.
Yes, the Holocaust was 60 years ago. But it is not true that it doesn't affect individuals today. It forever changed the lives of families with murdered relatives and also those with survivors. For them, 60 years ago seems like yesterday.
I am lucky that my immediate family is free from the marks of the Holocaust, but my larger family is not. Six million people died in my family.
And now, residual hatred of Jews has reached into my life. I have a swastika in my planner. And since then, two more swastikas were found on the restroom wall, and one carved into a tree.
I understand why I was outraged by the girl's comments. She told me and the entire Jewish people to forget. And I realized that that's what I had been doing. I chose to forget. I chose to ignore the hateful things directed at me. I chose. And now I know that hate is about choices. Choose to hate, choose to ignore hate, choose to deny hate, choose not to hate, choose to stand up in the face of hate.
So now I am choosing not to forget; I am choosing to remember.
I remember by talking about this to my English class, and now they too are outraged. I remember by turning my planner in to the administration, so they can find and deal with the hateful vandal.
I remember by taking notice of all of the hateful things I hear on campus and in my community. Before, I ignored these things. Now, I choose to acknowledge that hate exists.
I choose to remember.
Elizabeth Chase is a junior at Agoura High School. She is secretary of her campus Jewish club, run by the Jewish Student Union (JSU), and JSU's regional treasurer.
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