To the antisemitic vandal who defaced my car: thank you.

vandalismDear Old Friend:

First of all, thanks for not using an adjective.

I know you understand the word “Jew” to be a slur in itself, but it’s a bit softer without the modifier. I never liked it when you spat “dirty” Jew at me in the playground. I always saw red whenever you jeered “cursed” Jew, using the Québécois term maudit juif. Exchanges like that usually resulted in scuffles and fisticuffs, and ultimately we ended up glaring at each other on the bench outside the principal’s office, bloody-nosed and sweaty. As a teenager, you shouted “F-ing Jew” as you zoomed by in your car as I walked home from shul on Saturday mornings. In recent years your anonymous invective on social media has been especially creative.

So it’s a kindness on your part to simply label me “Jew,” something I would proudly affirm. Your hateful, anonymous scribblings on the hood of my car just reinforces solidarity with my ancestors who endured far worse, as well as my African-American neighbors who moved to our safe Jewish neighborhood because you scrawled a swastika on their front door. 

Hamburg JUde
Berlin, 1933. The sign reads, “Germans! Defend Yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!”

Second, thanks for timing it such that I didn’t discover your message until right before Shabbat. I don’t know if you intended to sour my mood moments before walking into synagogue, but your nasty surprise was overwhelmed by two unexpected, and infinitely preferable, developments.

My fourteen-year old son was the first to see the damage, and you gave me the precious opportunity to teach him some ancient truths about our long-standing relationship. His childhood was more sheltered than mine—he’s grown up in various American shtetls, and as far as I can tell, he’s never encountered you in any meaningful way. I’m hoping that your venomous message, diluted in the form of a cowardly one-word act of vandalism, will inoculate him against the live, active version of the disease you represent. You gave me the unscripted opportunity to teach him how to react with dignity and equanimity, just as my father of blessed memory taught me so many years ago. (A prayer: May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my ancestors, that this be the full extent of his contact with you).

Antisemit.Kinderbuch v.Elvira Bauer 1936
“Jews are Unwelcome Here,” from Elvira Bauer’s twisted children’s book, Trau keinem Fuchs auf gruener Heid / Und keinem Jud bei seinem Eid, Ein Bilder- buch fuer Gross und Klein Elvira Bauer, Nurenberg (Stuermer-Verlag) 1936.

The other amazing surprise revealed itself when I  broke the news to my wife. Given that the Sabbath is a time of rejoicing and relaxation, I was concerned that the news of your reappearance would upset her, so I told our son not to mention it at the table and I didn’t share your communication until after the Havdalah ceremony on Saturday night. You should have seen her reaction! Her normally luminous green eyes turned a hard, gun-metal grey as she pursued her lips in that dark expression that says, “congratulations, soldier–you were looking for trouble, and you certainly found it.” I was worried that she might be frightened or at least intimidated, but man, if I were you I would lay low for a while. You and I have had the occasional conflict, but you do not want to mess with Jewish women.

260px-Glikl_Pappenheim
Bertha Pappenheim as Glueckl of Hameln, her 17th century ancestor.
1600px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Female_Soldier_at_the_Shooting_Range_(1)
Your typical soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.
GOLDA MEIR
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel 1973. AP Photo/Bob Daugherty

My eldest daughter decided to share photos of your art on her social media account (like I said—those Jewish women). And you know what? She got a ton of supportive messages from her online friends and colleagues. Jews for sure, but plenty of Christians and Muslims, maybe some Hindus as well: kind and sympathetic messages from men and women representing the kaleidoscope of human races, colors and religions. I’m sorry, old friend, but even your dramatic torch-lit marches can’t hide a basic truth: there are more people like us, ordinary people who love their families and just want to mind their own business and get along with each other, than there are people like you. Yell all you want, we’re not affected.

charlotessvile
“Unite the Right” Rally, Charlottesville, VA, August 2017 Photo: Samuel Corum | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

See, the chip in your brain that is supposed to recognize our common humanity is busted. You don’t see me as a regular middle-aged guy just trying to take care of his family. Instead you dream up all kinds of crazy pathological fantasies about me, like I drink Christian blood on Passover, or I faked 9/11, truly messed-up stuff. You should take better care of yourself, see someone about that, because it’s not healthy, you know? 

Simon_von_Trient_Schedelsche_Weltchronik
Blood Libel of Simon of Trent, 15th c.

Which reminds me: thanks also for limiting your self-expression to my car. The ancient Sages, when they contemplated the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago (the anniversary is coming up, as I’m sure you know), proclaimed, “wood and rocks.” Meaning, no matter how awful the loss, the Temple was ultimately only wood and rocks, inanimate things. “Sticks and stones,” in the vernacular. Yes, I know full well that you are capable of breaking bones as well. My ancestors’ bones, which lie in an unmarked mass grave in Lithuania, testify to your genocidal capacity. That’s why I’m happy you restricted yourself to the car.

Einsatzgruppen-Episode1-V4-360x300
Einsatzgruppen Murders, 1941.

But back to the broken chip in your brain. What you probably don’t realize is that I actually care for you. I worry about whatever it was you experienced that made you hate me—even though you never met me—and wish I could do something about it.

Love, wrote King Solomon, is as strong as death (Song of Songs 8:6). As much as you wish to negate me and my people, you will never succeed, because we love life, and believe it or not, we even love you, you pathetic little person–I mean, come on, you write on people’s cars when they are not looking! We are an exuberant, entrepreneurial, generous, creative people, and whenever you try to put us down with your threats of violence, we will be in your face with our irrepressible joie de vivre, courage, spiritual exaltation, and humor. It takes a lot more than this to knock us down.

Sincerely,

your old friend,

Henry

P.S. I was also pleasantly surprised that the Nassau County Police took this whole thing really seriously. I reported your crime, figuring it would just be for the statistics, but they sent out a squad car and two detectives (!). They will be reviewing a pile of security camera footage, my friend, so maybe we will get a chance to catch up on things in court.

20 thoughts on “To the antisemitic vandal who defaced my car: thank you.

  1. Dear Rav Abramson
    How much longer will American Jews waist their energy in the Galut !!!We wait for y’all in Israel , this is the place you belong to.
    Take care

  2. Keep up the good fight. Although our backgrounds are not dissimilar, I always knew there was something lurking beneath the surface, I never experienced the blatent outright hatred that you describe. Knew the words but they were never aimed directly at me until I left the North

    1. Whoa, powerful post! I know the feeling. The “turn the other cheek” bit—which is not precisely what I’m saying, just that I appreciate the reaction of my family to this unpleasantness—is actually in the original (even though the “sequel” may be more well know). We will read it in a few weeks unless Mashiach arrives first: see Lamentations 3:30, “let him give the cheek to the one who strikes, let him be sated with insult.”

  3. Very unfortunate you were exposed to this hatred. Your letter of reply was an amazing tribute to you, and an expression of your understanding, compassion, and wisdom. May Hashem protect and guard you from such baseless hatred, and may you and your family be blessed in all that you do. My husband and I loved your classes when you were teaching at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour. We miss your classes.

  4. Btw, I spent a month for a research report on world war 2. I focused a lot on Germany so, I don’t feel as in the dark as you say.

    1. Aryeh! I didn’t know you read my blog! Happy to see you commenting. I didn’t mean to underestimate your understanding of this difficult topic. I know you were with me on more than one occasion when hooligans shouted at us from passing cars (as a father, that’s the most painful thing—the inability to shield a child from random cruelties). What I meant was that it is one thing to intellectually experience antisemitism, like by conducting a research project for school, and viscerally experiencing it on a personal, physical level. Baruch HaShem, I think you have had an easier childhood than me (and I, growing up in Canada, had it far easier than our fellow Jews in many other countries). Let’s talk about it on Shabbos (as appropriate). Love, Aba

  5. I’ll be going to shul for the first time in many years this Saturday as I change my Hebrew name. I’ll say a prayer for your vandal that his cold heart turns warm. Miracles can happen. I’m sorry this happened to you.

  6. You set an example for others with your way of positively seeing things.
    This is an enjoyable and motivating article to read, just as your other articles are, notwithstanding the cause of why you wrote this particular article.

    Gut Shabbos from Antwerp, Belgium

  7. Dear Dr Abrahamson: this is beautifully stated and i want i to know that my family and I appreciate u very much in all u do!!! I love love love your Jewish history series and i admit ive watched each video more than once!!! Sincerely, Katherine White-Fletcher

  8. I’m not Jewish myself but my sister is. Katherine Fletcher. She has told me so many things. Some are heartbreaking but mostly given me some of the knowledge and the pride that I wish all people should have.

  9. “Books and pogroms, pogroms and books.” That was the old saying. Is it now “Blogs and insurance claims?”

    I am always baffled at how some people want to reject what they see as the “other”. I prefer to put a br- at the front and find out what’s cooking. One misses out on so much wonderful food, art, music, and wisdom when one closes a heart and a mind because of hatred.

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