Why I Wrote This Post
I normally do not write deeply personal experiences in my blog post. However, after the attack on the United States Capital building, my broken heart felt a need to share my thoughts.
I am grateful that I have never been physically harmed by actions of Antisemitism. However, the Antisemitism I have experienced was emotionally painful and left an indelible marks in my heart and brain!
I have been writing and editing this post for 2 days and I have found the process most cathartic. I hope my experiences will help others understand what Antisemitism feels like and look like, and say, “No to Antisemitism! Enough is Enough!”
I Am A Jewess
As a Jewess, I was horrified by the nightmare at the capital on Wednesday and continue to feel horrified. Watching the attack on the capital, reminded me of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, the pogrom against Jews carried out by the SA (Storm Detachment), which was the Nazi Party‘s original paramilitary wing forces, and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on November 9th and 10th in 1938.
It was frightening to see the Proud Boys’ tee shirts that read “6MWE”, which is code for“6 Million Wasn’t Enough”, the sweatshirts on the Pro-Trump rioter that state “Camp Auschwitz”, and fear, chaos, and damage the thugs created inside and outside our beautiful Capital building.
My Experiences with Antisemitism
I have experienced Antisemitism all my life. I was a red haired, blue eyed, freckle-faced girl. People thought I was Irish because of my appearance and my name. When people asked me if I were Irish, I would reply, “No, I am not Irish, I am Jewish.” Like my mother and grandmother, we did not fit many people’s perception, which they had been taught about a Jewish people, who had dark hair, dark skin, and large noses, who were Christ Killers, and who used baby’s blood to bake matzoh for Passover.
My parents selected a home in River Forest, Illinois that did not have a large population of Jewish people to teach me how to live in a world with people, whose religious beliefs were different than mine. My parents helped to build West Suburban Temple Har Zion, where I was a Bat Mitzvah, married, and named both our sons. They also were instrumental in building Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, in memory of a Jewish family. Most importantly, my parents taught me to be proud and knowledgeable of my Jewish religion and heritage and how to handle Antisemitism by standing up for myself and our Jewish community.
In grammar school, I used to go swimming at the River Forest Tennis Club with my neighbors. One day, I remember asking my mother if we could join the club because we all had so much fun together.
My mother’s answer was a simple one. “Sheila, we cannot join the River Forest Tennis Cub because it is restricted and we are Jewish.”
Restricted was the code word for “no Jews allowed.” Knowing that information, I continued to play and walk to school with my neighbors. However, I decided I would not accept future swimming invitation because I would never feel comfortable swimming at their club, ever again.
Lincoln Junior High School
In 7th grade at Lincoln Junior High School (now Roosevelt Middle School), Walter Gordon, I will never forget his name, asked me to a school dance. However, two days later he told me he could not take me to the dance.
I was surprised and asked, “Why can’t you take me to the dance?”
He replied, “My mother told me you were Jewish.”
I know he was shocked when I replied, “My religion has nothing to do with how I dance. Your mother is not a nice lady!”
Then I walked away. After that incident, Walter always turned around and walked the other way whenever he saw me in the halls of our junior high and high school.
Oak Park River Forest High School
One day in my senior year, I was called to my high school dean’s office. When I opened the door to his office, I was surprised to see my mother seated across from his desk.
I immediately asked my mother, “Is something wrong with Daddy?” I was frightened because my father suffered from heart disease.
“Daddy is fine. Dean Cady just wanted me to be here when he spoke with you.” My mother replied.
Dean Cady asked me to sit down next to my mother. Then he said, “Sheila, I want you to know that you were accepted to Northwestern University. However, you cannot go because they filled their Jewish quota.”
I was disappointed, but not shocked.
Ohio State University
In college, I was able to join Sigma Delta Tau sorority, which was one of the three Jewish sororities on the campus of the Ohio State University. There was an unspoken rule that Jewish students only belonged to Jewish sororities and fraternities.
There were many times when I heard Antisemitic remarks from fellow students, who had no idea I was Jewish. Many came from individuals who lived in small Ohio communities and had never seen a Jewish person. I had to explain to them how inappropriate and offensive their remarks, such as “Jew you down” were.
Teaching 3rd Grade
At the beginning of my first of year teaching 3rd grade at Washington Elementary School in Park Ridge, Illinois, I scheduled a meeting with Dr. Plimpton, the superintendent of school, to request an extra personal day to attend Yom Kippur services with my family. I had used both my personal days to attend Rosh Hashanah services.
I told Dr. Plimpton, “I would be happy to come into school and work during Christmas vacation.”
He replied, “You cannot do that because the school is closed for the holiday.” Then he added, “Why don’t you just call in sick, Mrs. Glazov.”
I quickly replied, “Dr. Plimpton, you are asking me to lie and on the holiest day of my religion.”
He did not reply, and I walked out of his office.
The following week, Yom Kippur day was deducted from my paycheck. Our district did not have a union, so I had no recourse.
The following year, the school district scheduled an all-district teacher in-service programs on Yom Kippur. I represented the 5 other Jewish teachers in my school. We referred to our school as “The Washington Ghetto” because all the Jewish teachers in the district, except one, was teaching at Washington School. Again, I scheduled a meeting with Dr. Plimpton to ask him to change the date so all the Jewish teacher could attend the programs, which would be a tremendous benefit to us and our students. Again, Dr. refused my request, and I did not have any recourse.
I always explained to my 3rd grade student why I would not be at school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the 1960’s I was able to teach my students life-long lessons about respecting and appreciating differences. In December, we had a Christmas tree, a menorah, and holiday decorations in our classroom. We shared Christmas and Chanukah cookies and I made potato latkes, in my electric fry pan. In January, we celebrated the Chinese New Year.
It was my last year at Washington School, when I explained to my students that I would not be in class because of the Jewish High Holidays. 50 years later, I still remember one little boy’s, exact words: “But Mrs. Glazov, my mommy said that all Jews have dark hair, dark skin, big noses and horns on their heads.”
I responded, “You see that I have red hair, light skin with freckles , and a small nose. Wait a moment and I will push my belly button to see if my horns come out of my head.”
I pushed on my stomach and said, “You see I do not have horns that protrude from my head. When you go home tell you mother that she is wrong, and she can come to school to see for herself.
My student’s mother never came to school, not even for teacher her parent conferences.
Mammoth Lakes, California
As an adult, I continued to experience Antisemitism. However, there were Antisemitic experiences that effected my husband, our sons, and I when we were living in Mammoth Lakes, California, a town of 2,500 residents in 1980-89, in the Eastern Sierra Mountains.
We had moved to Mammoth for quiet small-town living. Jordan and I were very active in the community. Everyone knew we were the founders of our Eastern Sierra Jewish Community, which held services for the Jewish residents and their families, who lived in Mono and Inyo Counties, and for the second homeowners who came up to Mammoth from Los Angeles.
Jordan and I had been working on a project to develop a hotel and golf course at the Mammoth Airport. We had gone through copious public hearings to explain the project. However, there people in the community who were against the project, even though all the studies that were required, approved of our project. We received hate mail with Antisemitic slurs in our personal and business mailboxes at the Mammoth Post Office. Student harassed our sons with Antisemitic remarks.
While living in Mammoth we observed our Jewish traditions and made sure both of our sons had a Bar Mitzvah. I always told Joshua and Noah to remember the wisdom of the French Rothschild banking family’s matriarch. I taught them that Jewish people became bankers in Europe because they were not allowed to own property or become citizen of the country. However, they could travel to other countries and were able to read and write Yiddish. These skills enabled them to communicate and trade with other Jewish merchants.
When one of Madame Rothschild’s sons was leaving France, to start the banking business in England, she told him, “My son, never forget who you are.”
Her son replied, “Don’t worry, Mother. They will never let me forget who I am.”
You Have To Be Carefully Taught
A perfect example that demonstrates how people develop prejudice against others is the controversial musical South Pacific South Pacific, which was composed by Richard Rodgers and the lyrics were written by Oscar Hammerstein II. Both Jewish men created a very controversial Broadway production about race in 1949. Listen to the word of the song that are sadly true today, as they were in 1949. You Have to Be Carefully Taught
I Am A Proud Jewish Woman
These were only a few examples of the Antisemitism I experienced in my childhood and adult life. I am a daughter of a proud Jewish parents and the mother of a proud Jewish family. As I wrote this blog post I thought about the essay my father wrote in 1938, before the horrors of the Holocaust and Hitler’s systematic “Final Solution” (1933-1945). I included the essay in my blog post: “I am a Hebrew” written by my father Alexander I. Newman (of blessed memory) – Sheila Glazov.
My father’s words ring true today, as they have for thousands of years.
“Ivre Anoche”—”I am a Hebrew.” We acknowledge with pride such a noble heritage—a heritage carried down thru the ages, thru eons of toil and persecution, and thru centuries of starvation and despair. A heritage that has resisted destruction and survived the diabolic and sinister schemes of kings, emperors, despots, autocrats, and dictators.”
And now a President of the United States of America.
How can we mitigate the misunderstanding and prejudice that exists; the dissemination of falsehoods? How can we belie the disparaging remarks… the criticism of the intolerant, and the discrimination of society?
All of this can be accomplished by a concerted action, with the promotion of better understanding… and the inculcation of the precepts of benevolence, brother love, and harmony.
…can you sit complacently by and say, “It’s not my problem.”?…
But it is our problem! In reference to the Holocaust, people say, “It can never happen in the United States.” However, the behavior inside and outside the United States Capital building, on Wednesday, proves it can happen again!
How you educate yourself, your family members, friends, and colleagues to stand up to and say “No” to hatred, bigotry, antisemitism, and racial, religious, and/or gender prejudice?
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