O’Neill Column: Hate towards Jewish people should not be overlooked
For some reason over recent months it has been somewhat fashionable to insult Jewish people. That is wrong, that should not exist and that really hurts me. I can’t give you a time when it started, because it started centuries ago, but hate towards Jews is nothing new.
The prevalence of it in recent months has been very concerning, whether that be Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Desean Jackson posting a fake quote from Adolf Hitler from a book by controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, to TV host Nick Cannon interviewing rapper Professor Griff on his podcast, who has his own documented history of anti-Semitism and spewing things with the tired old trope of Jewish control of the financial sphere.
The latest example and what prompted this column was NBA power forward Meyers Leonard yelling a racial slur against Jewish people during a game of Call of Duty that he was streaming on Twitch.
I think what hurts me the most about Meyers Leonard’s use of the word was not that he used it, but that he used it like it was no big deal, and kept going on with his day. If he says that in a public forum that is shared all over the internet, what does he say in private? My question is why did nobody stop him after that and reprimand him? There were other people on the stream with Leonard.
It also bothers me that the lack of education regarding hate toward Jews still exists and is not thought of in the same way as other races and religions. I know that African Americans in this country deal with a lot of hate and have awful things done to them, and deal with hate every single day. I stand beside them and I am not trying to minimize their plight at all, I will forever fight for African Americans to be equal in this country.
We are educated at school growing up about slavery and the horrors of slavery and the plight of Black Americans, but that same level of dedication to education is not shown to Jewish people. According to an article from the Miami Herald in September of 2020, one out of 10 young adults in the United States of America do not believe the Holocaust actually happened. That really bothers me, as a Jew and more importantly as a person. I think it should bother everybody.
I think that Jewish success, which has been accomplished over the last century of hard work, the American Dream and the immigrant experience has led to a lack of thought for the hate crimes toward Jewish Americans and Jews around the world. The general public, including Meyers Leonard, Philadelphia Eagles WR Desean Jackson, and others see Jewish people succeeding in every walk of life, they buy into the “Jews control the media,” “George Soros controls the government,”conspiracy theories and they completely buy into that on social media and on different political websites and television stations.
They don’t see the everyday people who are just trying to survive day to day like everybody else, the people like me, who are working to live my dreams in this profession but are not there yet and are not millionaires, in some conspiracy theory secret cabal, running the world like a puppet master.
Immigrants in this country have always had it hard, but they come to the United States with the hope of a better life and the goal of working hard their entire life to make a better life for their kids. That is true across the board and is true for Jewish people.
The turn of the century was a tremendous turning point for immigrants to the United States and for Jews, thousands came over from Europe and the rest of the world to New York City, including my ancestors and built lives for themselves in a new part of the world. My maternal grandmother was working at the Hebrew National Hot Dog factory during World War II, when one of her friends suggested she write to a soldier in the soldier pen pal program. That friend had a cousin who was a soldier named Joseph Frieman. Poppy as we called him, and my grandmother, Dotty Frieman aka Grammy, connected and got together when he got home. Poppy worked his entire life as a union representative for the butchers in the city, they lived in the Bronx, in an area called Co-Op City. They had three kids together, David Frieman, my uncle, Marnie Kawalick, my aunt and Karen Frieman, my mother. My mom is a highly thought of real estate lawyer at a firm in New York City, Marnie is a teacher in Rockland County, about an hour north of NYC and David is a retired investigator for the New York State taxation department, living in Florida.
All that is to say that Jewish people have lived the immigrant experience and that includes my family, working hard to build a better life for the next generations to come.
One of the most recent examples of anti-Semitism going on outside of sports was two of the many terrorists at the United States Capital on Jan. 6. That really hurt me because it wasn’t Meyers Leonard just being an uneducated idiot, I don’t think if I saw him on the street Leonard will physically cause me harm. I do however think that if I saw those two people at the capital on the street, they would have zero hesitation about inflicting harm on me. One of them was wearing a sweatshirt that said 6 million was not enough, remarking that more than 6 million Jews should’ve been killed in the Holocaust and the other was Camp Auschwitz.
There’s a lot of hate directed towards everyday Jewish people, but did you know that some of sports’ biggest stars are Jewish? We as Jewish Sports fans will forever idolize former Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Sandy Koufax because he was first of all, the best pitcher in the game at the time, and because during the World Series in 1968, aka the biggest games of the season, he skipped the game because it was on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day in the Jewish religion.
It is a day when we fast from Sundown the day before until Sundown the day of, in order to rid ourselves of our sins and to repent of our sins over the last year. Growing up, I was lucky I was not in need of sports figures to look up to, but I had a distinct liking towards the Jewish players in sports, and the Jewish celebs outside of sports. I was very shocked and upset back in 2018 when Mac Miller died, because he was Jewish and, because when I was growing up, he was the first rapper that I listened to a lot and that I really enjoyed. I have always viewed it as an exclusive kind of club that I was a part of, and that not a lot of my friends or people that I knew were a part of and that the outside country as a whole was not full of.
There needs to be some further education on Jewish people, their plight, and all that’s transpired over the years. I believe that everybody regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity etc.. should go to their local Holocaust museum. I have gone to multiple Holocaust museums over my lifetime, but far and away the most powerful one I ever went to was Yad Vashem, on Mount Hertzl in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is Hebrew, for a memorial and a name. I went as part of Project Birthright, during the summer before my junior year of college and it was something I will remember forever. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos but I do have one photo of a tree they planted near the museum in honor of the hero that is Oskar Schindler. For those that don’t know, Oskar Schindler was a German factory manager in Poland who saved 1,200 Jews from the concentration camps, by employing them at his factory. I will remember everything about that museum, but there are a few things that stand out. They have a replica in one room of the sign that hangs over the entrance of Auschwitz, “Arbeit Macht Frei” which translates to “work will set you free,” so as the Jews were entering the place that the vast majority of them would meet their death, they were reassured that as long as they worked hard they would be OK, something that is disgustingly evil.
I will also always remember the room of shoes that you see in the same part of the museum dedicated to Auschwitz. The floor is covered in shoes, some fancy, some not, but all never got worn again. That was very powerful to see.
We in society typically take things like our shoes for granted; it’s how we walk around the world. These people thought the same thing but never put those shoes on again.
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