Posts tagged “education”.

ROTT: Learning to SHARE

One day I went to high school, senior year, to find swastikas painted on the columns out front. We also were to find out that someone had scrawled “Hitler” and “Jews Rember” [sic] on the side of the school. As always, the haters are never very good spellers, are they.

SHARE

Great Neck by 1981 was mostly Jewish, and you would think that the non-Jews in Great Neck were pretty much used to the population shift. The haters turned out to be our age, and non Jewish.

The incident ultimately led to what I called than an “all-day overreaction.” For one day in December, the entire school’s schedule was suspended for SHARE — stop hatred and respond effectively. I have the SHARE t-shirt to prove it, but not for long. It’s one of the many things, one bit of the Bookey Accumulata, that I am donating to the next charity that calls and offers to swing by and take a plastic garbage bag full of stuff for their ultimate placement.

I felt at the time it was an overreaction because I saw it in terms of Jews vs. non-Jews, and that with 75% or more of us in the school being Jewish, it was like preaching to the choir. Hindsight being what it is, I can see now that the point was to show all of us the irrationality of hatred and bias. The only program I remember vividly that day was a Chinese woman who worked at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. She told us about the stigma in general of being born female in a Chinese world that only valued boys. She told us how she was adopted, and therefore stigmatized further. She told us how the American-born Chinese and the China-born Chinese didn’t get along, and if you were born in a particular province in China, someone from another province or region was not too thrilled wtih you.

In a nutshell, everyone hates everyone else. It was astounding, coming back to Great Neck many years later, to hear that many old-timers are not happy about the Israeli- and Iranian-born Jews “taking over” and that among the Persian Jews, the Tehrani bunch doesn’t like the other non-Tehrani Persions. But this is nothing new. In Frankfurt on the Hudson, I read how the German-born Jews were at odds with the American Jews, and how in Germany, the Landjüden (the country Jews) were mocked by the urban Jews. And of course the yekkes didn’t like the Polish Jews all that much.

And over in France, most of the French hate Paris and many Parisians despise the Eiffel Tower. In Iraq, we have three groups that hate each other (Kurds, Sunni, and Shi’ites) forced into one mutual country.

So after all this time, what exactly is the secret behind the message on the t-shirt? How do you stop hatred and respond effectively? By trying to like other people anyway, and going to their restaurants? I dunno, but I am glad that I live in an area where we are all thrown together anyway, and I am glad to go to H-Mart and ask some questions and deal with the notion that no one behind the cash register understands a word I am saying, and going back week after week and NOT demanding that they learn English for my benefit. I am still going to say hello to my new orthodox neighbors, even if my being dressed appropriately for summer (i.e., wearing shorts) scandalizes them. Because I am not going to change how I am for their benefit either.

Oh, if only that t-shirt were magic and we could make some Lisa Simpson-style wishes and get world peace. But then Kang and Kodos would take over. Or Canada. I can just see the Mounties overtaking us and forcing the metric system down our throats once and for all. But aside from that, it might be nice.