In response to Sean Scully’s editorial “Still a shining city on the hill?” (Nov. 4), I have several comments related to the Jewish element of world bigotry and hatred.
First, this attitude against the Jews has been around in this country as long as I can remember. I recall as a child walking to school in the mid '50s and being attacked by bullies that would call me “dirty Jew” as they knocked me to the ground. Not that we were rich and could afford to join a country club but it wouldn't have mattered because most private clubs prohibited minorities and especially Jews and blacks. And this was just the tip of the iceberg.
The difference between then and now is, thanks to our president, those radical hate mongers now feel it’s okay to come out of the shadows. When you combine sanctioned hatred with a society that now uses guns to settle personal grievances, Pittsburgh is what you get.
I have always wondered why Jews were so often targeted by others in society. This week the answer finally came to me. As our commander-in-chief tried to whip up his base against the oncoming “invasion” from the south, he hammered against the thieves, rapists, terrorists, and future welfare recipients headed our way.
When you think of Jews in America do you think of us as murders, rapists, and people on the government dole? I think not and here is why. We, or our parents, or grandparents came to this country to escape persecution and hatred and the only thing we asked for in return was to be able to live in peace and be allowed to contribute to society. With respect to the latter, we have done incredibly well.
Mr. Scully says, “We even have Superman, who fights for truth, justice and the American Way.” It's somewhat ironic he chose this example as Superman creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were Jewish, but Jewish contributions to society go far beyond comic book heroes.
Jews account for one fifth of 1 percent of the world population yet account for almost a quarter of the 900-plus Nobel Prize recipients. We are responsible for the polio vaccines, the cell phone, transistor, ballpoint pen and even the Corvette. In the arts we account for many of the greatest orchestra conductors from Gustav Mahler to Andre Previn. Violinists from Heifetz to Perlman. We invented the Broadway musical and wrote 30 of the top holiday songs as we helped people rock around the Christmas tree, roast chestnuts by an open fire, and dream of a white Christmas.
That last category, Christmas songs, might seem odd to some but it may help to know Jews do not proselytize. If you wish to join, anyone is welcome. If you have another way to communicate with God, well, that’s between you and God and none of our business. We don’t judge. In our religion we have an expression, “From your lips to God’s ear.”
So, if we came to this country in peace and only wish to make positive contributions to society, why are we so often victims of hate? When I saw those people marching the streets of Charlottesville shouting “Jews will not replace us,” all I could think of is “I hope not,” as none of them looked like a potential inventor of a cure for cancer or coming up with the solution to global warming. That's when it occurred to me. Could it be they hate us because we are successful?
If so, what is it in the Jewish culture that so often leads to success? Maybe it comes down to this. I once asked my Rabbi about Jewish belief in the afterlife. Our religion is very ambiguous on this matter. What he said to me is this. “Your children are your afterlife. Long after you are gone they will continue to walk this earth. They will carry on the lessons you have taught them as well as perhaps the twinkle in their eye, the way they talk, the jokes they tell, and most important, your moral teachings. That is your afterlife and this is why Jewish parents are willing to sacrifice almost everything for the success of their children.”
So, while we have had our share of Bugsy Siegels and Meyer Lanskys, we also have had more than our fair share of doctors, scientists, musicians, inventors, and scholars. We strive very hard not just to succeed, but to make this world a better place. So please don’t hate us for being successful. And even if you do, it won’t stop us from trying.
Finally, I wish to close with a prayer sung at virtually every Jewish service I have ever attended. “May He who makes peace in high places make peace for us all.”