How to Deal With Anti Semitism (Or Not As The Case May Be)

My poor kids! Just as they’re enjoying a tranquil walk home synagogue on Friday night on the snow deserted streets of Mill Hill, some mindless thug has to hurl some pathetic racial abuse his car window. I always notice my kids tense up, even if only momentarily and I ask myself, “Why do they have to put up with this?” I remember when on Sabbatical in Israel seven years ago, the lightness with which they walked the streets like free spirits blissfully coasting about. I often pine after those moments and wonder whether then wouldn’t have been a good time to make aliyah. There was the one time early on in the Sabbatical when we were walking our rented apartment in Katamon to the nearby basketball courts when a group of six teenagers were coming the other side. My defence mechanism kicked in as I’m anticipating some confrontation and thinking how I will protect my teenage sons. Before I knew it they walked right on past, and I had to remember, this is Israel not the UK. They are my brothers, not the enemy.

We were about half way home Synagogue last Friday night, when one of the cars creeping by on the slippery roads, slowed down even more as the driver rolled down his window and yelled: “Oi! Oi!” We instinctively looked up. “There’s Hitler over there!” I know that most people would immediately look away, keep their heads down and walk on. That’s probably the sensible thing to do and surely what the CST (Community Security Trust) would strongly recommend. I’m sorry I can’t help myself. My kids already knew what to expect as I stopped and shouted back: “Oi! Watch your mouth!” What do you want a guy who when studying in New York back in the eighties would take the C train Ocean Parkway to Kingston Avenue at 11:00 at night, even as my friends shared a taxi. (For those who don’t know, this is the equivalent of walking around Moss Side on a Saturday night with a yarmulke and a T shirt that reads “Bring It On.” Well maybe not quite, but close to it). Some will argue I’ve got more guts than brains and that may be so. I just can’t stomach the mindless thugs and loath the idea of assuming what novelist Israel Zangwill described in his Children of the Ghetto as the “ghetto shtoop.”

There is legislation against race hate crimes but I wonder the extent to which these are properly enforced. I’m sure action would be taken were it to become physical, but how far do we go to combat verbal abuse? I caught the first four digits of the registration – SF02 – and I’m certain that going through CCTV covering Mill Hill Broadway between 4:15PM and 4:45PM would certainly pick out the car. But will anyone really bother to do that? And if not, is there really any point in my reporting it, apart the purpose of building a profile and determining statistics?
I’m sure what I endured is just a blip on any radar and my kids will have long forgotten about it. For them it’s just another typical Anglo-Jewish experience, sad as that may be. But maybe if police would vigorously pursue and prosecute even ‘minor’ racial slurs, more of us would be inclined to report them. And maybe the mindless cowards would think twice – assuming they’re capable of thinking – before mouthing off again. Until then, for better or worse, I’ll continue mouthing back.