This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of speaking at Temple Israel’s Dorothee & Lewis Ryterband Lecture Series. Howie Beigelman, Executive Director of Ohio Jewish Communities, joined me as we discussed anti-Semitism in today’s world.
Unfortunately anti-Semitic incidents ~ including harassment, vandalism, and assaults ~ still plague our world today. Although anti-Semitism in its most horrific forms may not exist the same way today as it did in the past, it is still an enormous problem. Anti-Semitism lives in the minds of many people we encounter in our daily lives. Sometimes these people say extremely inappropriate things, not thinking about how their words are affecting those who are listening.
I experienced one such situation about 30 years ago. In the late 1980’s, I worked as a marketing director for Price Waterhouse. One of my responsibilities was to coordinate the alumni golf outing. My committee, which consisted of three accounting managers, was tasked with “testing” a golf course to ensure it was appropriate for the outing.
I was in a golf cart with a gentleman who I considered a great friend and colleague. We were having a wonderful time. Toward the end of the day, he shared with me that he had recently purchased a new vehicle. He stated he was able to “Jew them down” and got it for a great price. The nearly 100 degree weather turned to ice. I was speechless. The only thing I could do was continue on with the day, but his statement haunted me.
For the next month, we continued on with business as usual. His statement was still alive in the back of my mind, but I didn’t know how to address it. One day, my car was in the shop, and he offered to give me a ride home. As we pulled up to my house, he turned to me and said, “You know Cathy, I would like to tell you something…”
I knew where he was going. He apologized for what he realized later was a very inappropriate comment. I told him that prior to his comment I liked him and respected him. After his apology I liked him and respected him that much more. He was able to recognize his error, and apologize for his behavior.
Thankfully, many people have not encountered a situation like I did, or even worse. And wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to worry about facing anti-Semitism? Sadly, we do. However, we are fortunate to have organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federations of North America’s Secure Community Network protecting us and combating anti-Semitism every day. In addition, we see many examples of people in the non-Jewish community, including citizens and lawmakers, who have the Jewish community’s best interest at heart, and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect us from the hate and intolerance still seen today.