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Jewish Journal

The 1937 game

by Peter Himmelman

August 4, 2014 | 9:56 am

Image via Shutterstock.com

I was a peculiar kid, no question about it. One of the stranger games I used to play in junior high was called 1937. The game’s concept was simple – it consisted of me (I always played alone) looking at the actions of kids and teachers and making determinations as to how I believed they would have behaved, had they lived in Germany in those years just before the war.

There was Mr. Winstead, the shop teacher, who seemed to me to be dripping with disdain for the Jewish kids, especially those who had no interest or aptitude for ball peen hammers or band saws – (which in effect, was every Jewish kid.) Mr. Winstead, according to the rules of my game, would have not only been a Nazi sympathizer, he would have been among the first to join the SS. Then there was the hockey playing threesome of: Stuey Nyburg, Nelson Olson and Skip Lutzman. In the game (as in real life) these kids were active young Jew-haters. I saw them taking out their animus against random Jews – ramming them into lockers, whipping them in the privates with towels and punching them in the cramped confines of the school bus. In the game, they would have been first in line to join the Hitler Youth.

The Jews were also part of the game. There were a few that stood their ground against the threats, to fight back, or to take a grammatically correct petition to the principal, but mostly, they were the capitulators, the cowards, and the assimilators. When Nelson Olson would “compliment” one of them by saying: “Hey Goldstein, you’re actually pretty cool for a Jew” that cowardly Jew felt he was on the receiving end of something nice. In the game 1937, these Jews were the ones who got out of Europe too late. Sad.

As a grown man I still play 1937. In fact, these days, when reading reports from Europe and from several cities in America with tidbits like: Hitler was rightGas the Jews, the Jews are the new Nazis, and simply: Die Jew die, it’s hard not to play. Let’s put aside the neo Nazis and the Arabs and the somewhere-on-the anti-Semitic-spectrum- Euro-Jew-haters for the time being. We know where they stand. Today, one day before Tisha B’av, the Jewish national day of mourning, let’s play the game with just the Jews.

You’ve heard by now that there are many Jews who play important roles in entertainment, government, science, and literature and in the media (that’s sardonic by the way.) If you haven’t, I suggest you go online and find a quaint little site called Jew Watch. It’s basically an endless list of Jews and all the prominent roles they play in society. Since Jew Watch is a creation of a Neo Nazi-like, white supremacist organization, you can pretty well rest assured that those folks don’t mean it as flattery. They mean it as – “these f^&ing Jews are taking over the world!” Although, Jew Watch is also like some strange Rorschach test, where you can see two totally different perspectives at once, you will also see the enormity of the Jewish contributions to – everything -- and so it’s pretty hard not to be just a little flattered.

So now you have your list of Jews. Play the game with me. Let’s compare the thousands of names of prominent Jews on that list to the Jews who have stood up in recent weeks for Israel (btw: Israel means Jews –when people say. “Destroy Israel”, they are saying -- destroy the Jews. Please for God’s sake, can we all please understand that already.) I won’t name names here, but there have been less than a dozen by my count. A pathetically, mind-bogglingly small number of prominent Jews who’ve given public voice to the issue of standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, a fascist, fanatical blood cult, whose sworn mission is the death of every single Jew not only every Israeli (as if there were a difference.) Now, according to the rules of the my game, let’s think about who was who in 1937.

How very pathetic and sadly apropos, that on the day before Tisha b’av, when Jews the world over will be fasting for history’s many attempts to destroy us, when Jews around the world are yet again, threatened with the sort of violence and obscene language that we haven’t seen since – well, 1937 – there has been so little outcry from prominent Jews.

I won’t deign to list the reasons for their silence, but I will say that the sorrow and fear that it engenders in me will make my Tisha b’av particularly meaningful this year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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In addition to being a Grammy and Emmy nominated songwriter and composer, Peter Himmelman is a visual artist, writer and founder of Big Muse—an organization dedicated to...

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