Saturday, April 7, 2012

Nag like a Jew

            Beet salad, marinated sardines, and boiled cow tongue. Perfect appetizers for a Friday night get-together with your Russian relatives. I sit next to Sonya, my cousin and childhood companion of about the same age, as we playfully flip a piece of tongue between our plates, trying to see who’s brave enough to take a bite.
            Suddenly, a fist slams on the table. The wine glasses do a dance and the sardine plate loses a bit of oil. From across the table, my great-uncle exclaims, “OBAMA IS A F*CKING LUNACTIC!” I shoot a quick glance at the vodka bottle. Half empty. Yup, they’re just drunk enough to start talking politics.  
By the time the main course, baked mustard lamb with potato slices, is served, the conversation has gone from Obama’s healthcare plan to his wife’s garden at the White House (grandfather tells joke about black president in the White House) to how great the apples were back in Russia and how Americans are fat because they don’t eat enough cabbage. But just as Sonya and I lose interest and start heading to my room, my mom, of course, brings up the topic I’d prayed they would skip: college.     
“Those bastards at Rice rejected her”, says my mom.
“Screw em’,” says my grandfather, “they barely take anyone.”
“But she was a perfect candidate! I bet they didn’t take her because she listed herself as ‘Jewish’!”
“That’s right!” chimes in my grandmother. “They were one of the last colleges to accept Jews. They’ve had a quota for Jews until recently, but I’m sure its still there.”

            Sonya rolls her eyes and motions to my room, but I hold my ground.

“All colleges hate Jews,” my uncle says as he tilts back for another shot. “F*ckin’ anti-Semites. Haven’t our people been victimized enough already? I thought we left the Nazis back in Europe!”

I can’t take it anymore. I quickly cross over to the table and, leaning on my mom’s chair back, slowly say,
“Just so ya’ll know, many of my Jewish friends have been accepted to Rice, and my not getting in has nothing to do with our religion. I don’t understand why ya’ll constantly feel the need to group every annoyance or misfortune that befalls you as anti-Semitism. It’s getting really annoying.”

            As I speedily strut off to my room with Sonya, I hear my grandmother’s voice behind me inquire,    “Has she become a Democrat?”

            For the past 6 years of Hebrew school (that I'm guilt-tripped into attending every year), we have studied and restudied the Holocaust. I can now recite the dates of Kristallnacht and the Dachau camp liberation in my sleep. However, as bitter as I sound about it, I’m grateful that it's been hammered into my subconscious.
Although I doubt that my mom would drop the same comment about Rice’s anti-Semitism anywhere but our intoxicated family dinners, it is still important to know where such topics are applicable to avoid spreading misinformation. To me, the most valid instance in which Jews, or anyone else for that matter, can bring up the Holocaust is to remind ourselves that it can just as easily happen again, and that we must never fall under the illusion that we are truly safe from another such atrocity.

Rebuttal: But we live in a modern era! It won’t happen again! And even if it does, none of the world powers would let it go on for long!
Response: Ever heard of Darfur?

Germany in the 1930’s was a society no less civilized than present America. Jews lived among the gentiles as peacefully as they do in Houston in 2012, never suspecting the fate that awaited them. It’s amazing the effect that high inflation can have.

Rebuttal: But that was then and this is now!
Response: Sure, but with the right combination of economic and social factors, it can happen again, anywhere, at any time, and target anyone.
The tragic history of the 40’s should be remembered and well documented to ensure that history isn’t repeated, but people should be more careful of where and when they bring up such an aggressive theme. So instead of calling out every opinionated critic of Israel as a Nazi, we should focus our attention on keeping a watchful eye on countries going through challenging times and ensure that no nation’s anger and frustration ever manifests itself in hatred and aggression toward one people again.
Therefore, it is nonetheless important to zahor*, to remember, to remember the 11 million killed in cold blood, to remember the evil that took place those 70 years ago, and, most importantly, to remember that as long as we are human, we must never forget.

*Hebrew word for ‘remember’


My name is Julia. I come from a family of pessimistic Russian Jews, and I love debating about social issues. Thanks for reading. If you liked it, leave a comment, share the blog with friends and all that jazz :)


  1. very interesting read. i agree. wholeheartedly.

  2. Aadil you are a faggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg