Monday, October 29, 2018

My Own Anti-Semitism

In yesterday's story about the senseless slaughter of Jews in Pittsburgh, I quoted Wayne Woodman. He compared Jews like himself to "the canary in the coalmine." When they are vilified, our Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom is threatened.

Some of those reacting to this tragedy attempted to minimize the perceived rise in anti-Semitism, saying it's being confused with criticism of Israeli policies. Here's what I know. As a Lehigh Valley product raised in a Lehigh Valley community, I was taught to be an anti-Semite myself.

I grew up in Hellertown, and at a time when Jews and black people were held in low regard. I was told black people were not allowed to use the pool because they smell very bad in the summer.

If a person felt he made a bad trade or was cheated when buying something, he claimed he had been "jewed." I remember saying that myself.

In the seventh grade, I remember saying at recess that Sister Raymond's nose was as big as a Jew's. One of the girls dimed me. Sister Raymond grabbed me and beat the shit out of me, something that happened often. Was she upset at me for my anti-Semitic remark? Not at all. "My nose is not as big as a Jew's," she shouted as she laid into me, which I kinda' liked.

This prejudice did not come from my mother or father, but the community. My mother was very tolerant. After all, she married my father. As for him, he ridiculed every ethnic group. Jew, black, Pennsylvania Dutch, Italian. It made no difference. I eventually realized, as I grew older, that he was probably more tolerant as my mom, but in his own twisted Irish way.

He once told a story at the dinner table about a farmer who had retained him. At that time,there were only two lawyers in town - my father and Leonard Cohn, a Jew.

This Pennsylvania Dutch farmer did not want to use my dad, who was at least on paper a Catholic. But the other lawyer was a Jew. The farmer concluded Catholics were not as bad as Jews.

It was not until I reached high school that I was enlightened by nuns (from a different order) and brothers who really knew what they were doing. I know my mental programming is to be anti-Semitic. It has diminished as I have aged and have learned that much of what was drummed into me as a child was simply wrong. But it's still there.

I know many in my community, especially older people like myself, were raised exactly like me. I hear the remarks. For years, I let it go. Now I correct these people, unless it's humor. They get very indignant, denying their prejudice.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nobody is trying to diminish the shooting, Bernie. It's an act of terrorism that you for some reason felt necessary, as is your wont, to blame the left, and specifically academics. You took a tragedy and decided to make digs at universities for no apparent reason.

Get a grip on reality, meet some Jews younger than 50, and hell, some of them will probably be anti-zionists. Maybe you'll realize that criticizing Israel for not being the liberal Democracy it pretends to be is not the same as hating people for the religion the belong to.

By the way, go back and read some of your pro-Kavanagh posts. You are acting exactly the same as you were accusing others of acting then.

Anonymous said...

Who the Hell are you to judge who is prejudiced and who is not? You are good at attacking politicians you don't like and praising the ones you love. Stay in your lane. People know you as one who gores after political leaders you do not care for and pick them apart all the while ignoring the questionable behavior of you bromances. That is your thing.

The idea of you of all people judging others morality and ethics is laughable.
Who are you to decide to "call someone out" for their prejudice. All the while you claim to not do it if it is in humor. You will decide that? Did the Almighty anoint you as the great arbiter of love and hate. People will be people, saying one jewed someone down or as stubborn as a thick-headed Dutchman are just phrases that most young people don't even understand. Don't ever call me out for some joke or I will tell you to shove it up your fat Irish ass!

Anonymous said...

Talk about preaching to the unwashed masses. Are you playing the holier than thou card?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Wow! Looks like I hit a nerve. I have judged no one but myself. And I have said that others who grew up with me were the same as me. Some people do not like honesty.

X said...

I see you are now running right down the middle not leaning left or right especially on the locals.

Huck Weaver said...

Its time to mourn the dead and pray for the survivors

Anonymous said...

Huck Weaver (10:37 am) said...

"Its time to mourn the dead and pray for the survivors"


I agree.

I'm sure we can all wait a few days to tear each other apart about who's side was more responsible, who is less bigoted, and what action we have to rush to take.

Anonymous said...

CNN has several articles on this topic up today. It's a real issue, and not confronting it will make it worse.

Joe Biden is right - "This country has to come together. This division, this hatred, this ugliness has to end." Both sides.

If you are still blaming the other side, then you are part of the problem.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't people confront the likes of Joe Biden in public? Shouldn't they gather a crowd and surround him at gas stations, stores, and theaters and tell him he's no longer welcome here or anywhere? That was Maxine Waters' admonishment, and one that met with much approval in traditional circles.

We've had a lot of defense of this kind of incivility over the last few months, including by this blog. I fear it will only get worse, sadly.

Unknown said...

Bernie, thank you for your honesty. I agree, we can't escape being infected, at least a little, by the systemic, institutionalized, family and cultural biases that surround us from birth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1256, no they should not.

You are part of the problem. Stop waiting for the other side to act first - we both need to act first.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

12;56, I defended confronting elected officials, but in the right way. I do not support stalking people as they visit restaurants or stores. I do support confronting them in face-to-face meetings. Citizens have every right to hold public officials accountable, but should always respect their right to privacy.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Bernie, well said.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Bernie you are right on with your comments. I too went to Catholic school in fact we graduated from Beca the same year. Our generation was brought up with that mentality. My Mother until the day she died referred to African American people as colored people. Enie Minnie miney moe catch a N____ by the toe etc etc was a phrase used for picking sides in games. If someone was cheap they were referred to as a Jew Boy. If you recall it was a real rarity to have a Black student at Beca. I like to think that those feelings are out of my system but you are right it was drummed into us. I brought up my children and they brought up their children not to see color or ethic background as a reason to like or dislike someone. Your blog made me sit back and think about all the crazy things we were told. I hate to say it but I feel there are still many from our generation that have not changed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" I too went to Catholic school in fact we graduated from Beca the same year. "

Fellow Golden Hawk, thanks for your honesty.

Anonymous said...

When I was young I asked what the term "Jewish Lightning" meant. It was told that meant a business owner had burned down his business for the insurance.

Anonymous said...

My mother told us we couldn't watch the Brady Bunch because there was a family on our block named Brady and they were Catholic (crazy) I was friends with the boys and never understood it. My parents are dead now, however that was revolting then and now. I'm very embarrassed about that, however I tell the story often as a cautionary tale. BTW I don't count however I venture to say most of my friends are now or were Catholic, largely my group doesn't participate in organized religion.

Louie Denaldo said...

Bern, What did your pops say about the eyetalians?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Nothing good. He hated everyone. But that was his humor. I could tell you stories about things he said to people all night long. They always laughed. If i said it, I'd be killed.

Anonymous said...

"Nothing good. He hated everyone. But that was his humor"

So again you decide what is humor and what is not. That is bullshit. You cannot define people by your standards. If you don't like someone and thy told a racist joke or comment you would immediately attack them saying it was not humor. If you like them it would be just harmless fun and their nature. Sorry, does not wash out. Your arbitrary rules are crazy.

Hypocrisy is fun, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Seconded, 12:20. This is BS. My grandpa sounds a lot like Bernie's dad. I cared a lot about him, but that doesn't mean he wasn't racist. Bernie is just making excuses.

Anonymous said...

Your best buddie Ron Angle's public statements and former radio show typified the anti-semitism systemic throughout the region. My grandfather, a Pennyslvania Dutchman catholic convert, would recall crowds of 10,000 in Allentown West Park in the 30s. Once confronting the sold called enlightened progressives of the Morning Call editorial board, Eric Chiles told me it was "interesting" that anti-semistism was so prevalent! Really.... The late, interesting State Represenative Bill Rybak opposed a young me as Democratic Party chairman with the succinct "he's a fxxxxn kike" So much for 12 years of Catholic education and an Aunt serving as a Franciscan sister..... Your mea culpa is most welcome.

Anonymous said...

10,000 Allentownians at pro-Nazi rallies in the 1930s....history is not even history

Anonymous said...

I am a white male Catholic beat up as a kid by Protestants due to my Faith, can I be a canary in a coalmine or a victim??

Anonymous said...

In the fifties in Catholic School we were taught that all Jews were personally responsible for killing Christ. As I recall this changed with the Second Vatican Council.

I was looking through a book about the history of Allentown. The author said that it was hard to get war production in Allentown, to much sabotage by Nazi sympathisers. What's the story about the rallies in West Park?

Anonymous said...

The Allentown Liedenkratz social club apparently was a hub of Nazianz sympathy. My grandfather was actually approached by the FBI to be a confidential informant. The club served as an informal organizing get tool for rallies. The Pennsylvania Germans especially in the 1st, 6th ward felt squeezed by the Irish. In the 10th ward by Italians. The 1st synagogue appears in the wards. In fairness, while not a defense, some of the Allentown Dutch probably saw Nazi rallies as simply pro-Germany. Simple social solidarity albeit misguided..

Anonymous said...

To clarify the Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors in the 1st and 6th ward which may have made them felt squeezed were not only Irish,but Syrians, Eater European catholicsand Jews. The 9th ward was the German Catholic church Sacred Heart. Life was so ethnic central for so long that my Aunt needed permission from the monsignor of the Irish church Immaculate Conception to which my family were nembers to join the Franciscan order because she was to be a an "Irish" nun with sisters of St Joseph...seems bizarre today. Was very serious back then....but have things really changed or simply the ethnicities changed?

Anonymous said...

On the surface it seemed that things had changed, but there's been a resurgence of racial, ethnic and religious hatred.