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September 5, 2012

Hate, Texting, Faith and Fear

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/hate_texting_faith_and_fear/

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This week I was witness to hate against someone I love very much.  She was humiliated because she is Jewish and it broke my heart.  I tried to stay calm but I was crying inside and I wanted to scream.  By scream of course I mean go to the person who hurt her and punch him in the face.  I was heartbroken by what happened and am still stunned.

My boyfriend’s oldest daughter is a wonderful young woman.  She is about to finish university and head off to Israel for Birthright before attending law school. She is gorgeous, brilliant, funny, and lovely. We are close and sometimes I forget she is my boyfriend’s daughter and not just my girlfriend.  We have a special relationship.

She was raised in a Jewish home, by Jewish parents, with Jewish values, in an area where there are not a lot of Jews.  She is proudly Jewish and her faith has influenced her worldview.  She has big dreams for herself, and hopes for the world.  Someone hurt her and I am struggling with letting her handle it on her own when I really want to step in.

She was at the home of a friend and they were eating.  She was having French fries when the brother of her friend, a young man she has known for years, said something about her “being such a Jew with the fries”.  He told her to stop being stingy.  She reminded him she was Jewish and told him he offended her. He laughed but did not apologize, so she left.

Their communication continued by text and more horrible things were said. Stereotypes about Jews and women that I won’t mention because I don’t want to perpetuate the hate.  He said things that are shocking to me.  It was cruel, unnecessary, ignorant, scary and ultimately said in order to deliberately hurt and humiliate another human being.

I was shocked and offended by what he said.  I was also sad and scared. Who raised this boy to think that this was okay? I spent many years working in Holocaust education and this is scary to me.  To hate a person because of their faith is devastating.  I am a woman of faith and I don’t believe anyone should be judged by how they choose to worship.

I like learning about religions, but it is faith that I find so powerful. Whether it be a faith in God, or simply faith in yourself, people of faith are interesting to me.  Was this boy raised with faith? What happened in his life that made him think this way?  Would his parents be mortified or proud by what he said to my friend?  Would they even care?

This wonderful young woman was hurt by the hateful words and she insisted that her father and I do nothing.  She wanted to handle it on her own and she did.  The idiot apologized to her, but here’s the thing, he apologized by text, which pisses me off just as much as what he said.  It is disrespectful and cowardly.  He needed to be a man not be passive aggressive.

I believe that he should have called her and told her he was sorry.  He should have also gone to her father and told him he was sorry for his hurtful words.  How dare he be so hateful and ignorant, then think that a text will make it okay. This kid needs to go to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and spend a day seeing what his words really mean.  Hate is taught.

My heart feels heavy for this young woman, who while intelligent and strong, was broken by the exchange.  She tried to make us think she was okay, but you could see that it was hard for her. She went from being a 22 year old adult, to a little girl, right  before our eyes.  Her dad and I are concerned about her because words like that stay with you.

How do you explain such a thing happening?  What do you say to a child who has been attacked for the faith you passed on to her, when you can’t understand it yourself?  I have raised my son to be proud to be a Jew and yet things like this make me want to tell him to keep quiet about it.  That is truly heartbreaking.   We are Jewish! Now shhhhhhh.

When I was working at The Shoah Foundation I would go home proud to be Jewish and dedicated to not letting the stories of the Holocaust go untold.  There were some days however, when I would drive home looking at my baby in the back seat and think I should never tell anyone we were Jewish so I could keep him safe from hate in a scary world.

I need some time to think about it all and let it settle in before I can really talk about how I feel.  That alone makes me feel bad.  I am angry and sad, and yet I am not sure what to do.  His apology is not enough for me, but it was for my friend, so must I let it go?  Can I really ever let it go if I am also guilty of hurtful words?  Words are so powerful.

I have called people names without a second thought.  Is that not the same thing?  It’s never about faith but it is about hate.  We live in a time when hate is spewed regularly, but people choose to not care.  As a Jew I am offended by anti-Semitic language, and as a human being I am offended if someone says something mean to me, ye my words are often mean.

I have used the words whore, stupid, idiot, douchebag, and ugly in my blogs.  Is that not hate? Using any derogatory word to describe someone, whether it is about faith, looks, or intellignece, is still hate and I never think twice about it.  This young man, who I am so angry with and have no respect for, has taught me a valuable lesson and forced me to look at how I write.

I am disappointed in this young man, and ultimately disappointed in myself.  I cannot pray for change in the world until I am willing to make a change within myself. What I think, and how I choose to write it must be thought about..  I am Jewish, I am proud, and I am a better person for seeing hate.  Change must stat with me so I am keeping the faith.

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