Interrupting Anti-Semitism

In a recent post, someone in a non-RC group I am part of mentioned her financial difficulties and wished that she had a “Jewish manager.”

I knew I wanted to interrupt it. I didn’t want to humiliate her in front of the group, but since she had posted it to the group, it had affected the group. I was almost positive she didn’t know I was Jewish, so I decided to keep that ambiguous. I thought that offering information without a trace of being personally wounded would be better heard.

The two leaders of the group are Jewish women. My guess is that this woman had had no idea they were Jewish. I think she had known there was something off [wrong] about her comment—she’d inserted two smiley faces after it, with the word “joke”—but had mostly been unaware of what she was doing or why.

I responded quickly. The more group members who read it without it being interrupted, the more it would fester.

After I interrupted it, one of the Jewish leaders wrote (to the group), “Your response is much appreciated.” Two non-Jewish members appreciated the information and asked for more. The woman in question wrote a long statement about her wonderful relationship with the Jewish community, and I am choosing not to respond to that. She feels bad and misunderstood, but that is okay—she has some new information and a bigger question mark in her mind about the comment.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear _____,

[Some initial positive comments about the woman and her work]

I know the comment about a Jewish manager was intended to be funny. The oppression of Jews is one of the most poorly understood [oppressions] and is used time and again to hold down people’s movements by creating division and fear.

Historically Jews were forbidden from owning land and engaging in certain types of work and were given jobs as tax collectors. This is the primary reason Jews became associated with money (there are other historical details, too). But Jews were collecting taxes for the governments that would kick them out at will when people started to protest the governments' oppressive policies. Jews were the scapegoat.

There is a lot more to understand, and I’m glad to offer more information if anyone wants it. I wanted to say something to the group, because comments like that slip in and change the space for everyone, whether they are part of the indicated group or not.

Tresa Elguera

New York, New York, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion listfor leaders of Jews.

(Present Time 191, April 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00