Dan Shapiro's Blog

Where we yap about parenting, psychology and media

Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro
Hershey, Pennsylvania, US
September 09
A psychologist and writer, Shapiro has written a few books and for the NY Times, Salon.com's old "mothers who think" section, NPR, and lately consults for Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. Author of Mom's Marijuana (Harmony/Vintage) and Delivering Doctor Amelia (Harmony/Vintage). He chairs a dept at the Penn State College of Medicine when he isn't roaming Salon. Four essays published back in the day on Salon are in the links below. If you like this essay, you'll love Dan's book: Mom's Marijuana. http://www.danshapiro.org

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 20, 2010 7:07AM

Kill Jews

Rate: 67 Flag


An old joke:

An old Jewish man rides his bicycle on his way to work past the Nazis who chase him, yelling slurs against the Jews.   Then one day they knock him off and beat him up.   “Filthy Jew!”  They scream. 

“Oh the bicycles, the damn bicycles” the old man swears after the beating.  The Nazis look at him, puzzled.  Then a few days later the same thing happens.  He’s riding by – they knock him off and beat him and again, at the end of the beating, he swears at the bicycles.  “Damn Bicycles!  Damn Bicycles!” 

On the third day, one of Nazis stops in the middle of the beating and says, “Wait, you keep swearing at the bicycles, why the bicycles?” 

The old man looks up and asks, “Why the Jews?” 


So last week, Alexandra, our 14 year old, was in her middle school study hall when she noticed that the kid next to her, Robert, had something written across his knuckles in marker. 


Alexandra has been raised to be proud of her heritage and that women ought not be soft-spoken when they observe injustice.

Wash your hands.  My Jewish daughter insists.

I’ll pass.  He responds.

The kid next to him on the other side asks if it bothers him that he’s insulting other students. 

No.  He answers – as cool as you’d like.

Maybe I should tell Ms. O, Alex suggests.

Maybe you should, he taunts back.

But she doesn’t.  She just asks to change seats and the teacher obliges. 

Sitting across the room -- another kid suggests, you should tell Ms. O.  

So after the bell rings when the kids pile out to go to lunch, she does.  

Ms. O is ticked.  They have, after all, just finished a module on “injustice” and the school marquee regularly announces events related to Tolerance and Diversity.  Word spreads quickly up to the principal.  Robert is hauled out of lunch and into the principal’s office.

As is consistent with policies at our local public schools, I’m not privy to what punishment Robert collected, but I understand there were police at the school.   They take death threats seriously these days, Columbine, VA Tech and all.   Alex’s friends say Robert was given in-house suspension and not allowed around the rest of the student population. 

I’d to believe this was isolated – but just last week, another kid, on her bus, called her a Kike.   Totally different kid.   “I’m handling it,” Alex had insisted.  And then a girl in one of her classes etched a swastika on the inside of her arm.  “She’s not so bad,” Alex said.


Let’s back out for a minute.  Alex is not one of those kids with a bull’s-eye on her forehead.  She isn’t socially awkward, isn’t physically unusual.   In fact, she’s verbal, quick, and has a bunch of friends.  The only thing that really makes her different is that she’s Jewish.  

The reality is that there are bigots everywhere, and I don’t want Alex running to the principal every time she encounters one.  Instead, she has to learn how to respond.  Last year, when a kid was calling her a “dirty jew” every time he saw her, she snapped back, “That’s right, I’m Jewish and I’m proud of it.  Are you proud of being a jerk?”   He backed off, and now I think they may actually be friends. 

And let’s not forget that these are eighth graders.  Any difference is grist for attack and maybe one of the developmental stages we must all grind through is learning to defend ourselves from bullies and those who would use any of our characteristics to beat us down in that Lord of the Flies world that is Middle School.   

But this kid with the knuckles was different.  There’s threat there.  Violence. 

But why?

At first I thought – oh, middle of Pennsylvania. It might be that it’s this region of the country.  Small town America.  Mostly rural and parochial and white.   Many of these kids have never been on an airplane or to New York City, only three hours from here.

But I think it’s something worse.

I think what happened to my daughter is just the surface.  That all over the country -- the ultra-right is swelling again.  I’m not talking about the Tea Party.  I’m talking about ultra right wing nationalist racist nut-jobs. 

If you look through our history – during every economic recession or depression – 1870’s -- 1930’s – 1970’s – 2010 -- the Klan and groups like them rise when the ignorant look for simple answers to economic woes.  It’s the blacks.  It’s the immigrants.  It’s the Jews.  Recent reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center show that Pennsylvania has 28 such hate groups -- but they are growing all over the country.

And then we have the credit default heroes.  Many in this society associate bankers and finance with Jews.  While the reality is that we were recently ripped off by people from every ethnic group – it’s convenient to pick one -- and who better than the Jews?   There are, after-all, many Jews in finance.  

The irony is that racism appears to be flourishing just as science is showing us that race doesn’t exist.  When you analyze DNA you find that we are mostly blends – it’s not possible to look at our underlying blueprint and split us into categories.

But this is all intellectual.

Nearby, there’s a 14 year old kid who thinks killing Jews is a good idea.   And we’ve got a family history that includes concentration camps – so I know better than to overlook anti-Semitism.   There’s a less intellectual part of me that wants to fight – to arm and strike first – Israeli style.  But there’s no answer there.  He’s probably just a screwed up kid doing the best he can with anger he can’t control and my daughter and my people are easier targets than his Mom or step-dad or the new baby in his house (yeah Robert – I’ve done my homework) or whomever he’s really angry at.

So I’ve got nowhere to go with this hyped up --  shoot back -- electric juice keeping me up at night.

Damn Bicycles.  Damn Bicycles.  Damn Bicycles.



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Excellent essay. It shows once again that the potential for prejudice and violence is always present. Once you've got a movement and a leader in power who tell their followers that this sort of behavior is "all right" and even encourage more of it, disaster is inevitable. Better to stop them in their tracks.

Anti-Semitism is a strange if enduring mystery. There's this "bankers" angle - but by me, growing up in Canada, the bankers (and politicians and newspaper publishers and general People Running Things) were of Scottish origin. So am I. So were all my poor-farmer relatives. Being of the same ethnic origin wasn't something you could take to the bank when you needed a loan... And it wouldn't have helped anything if our, say, Ukrainian neighbors had risen up against us on the grounds that we are somehow connected to those damned bankers.

As an adult, all the Jews I knew or currently know are lower middle-class, existing on pensions or whatever (many of them impoverished commune veterans). Only one in my circle is rich, and he got that way thru work and talent (and a little luck) ... and he no longer associates with us.

It's CLASS, people. Ethnicity means NADA. People devour 'their own' as readily as The Other.
P.S. - Sorry for what your daughter is going thru and hope it eases up as her contemporaries mature.
Scapegoating is universal. If it isn't Jews, it's Gypsies, Armenians, Indians, whoever is vulnerable and available.
Great Post! The thing with these young kids is, they don't know "why" they hate the Jews. Only that the father or older brother does, so they should to. In the south, where the Jewish population is not that great, you don't hear the "kill the Jews" slogan so much, as "kill the N***ger", as in Obama. Again though, it starts with the elders!
Very thoughtful, and scary. My mother is Jewish, although I've chosen a different religion, I am fiercely proud of, and protective of Jews and Judaism. I have only recently had skirmishes with two friends who are really nice, fairly evolved people - in one case because she informed me that "Jews are good with money," and in the other because the person told me that a third person "looked and acted Jewish." They find these statements harmless, I find them terrifying. Thanks for reminding us that the danger never really abates, and that we need to be some nearly impossible combination of vigilant, philosophical, sane and ready to educate.
The one thing I would surely do is alert the principal. We have seen that without adult supervision these things can easily escalate. This could lead to discussions rather than punishment. I would not ignore it.
Hi Lea -- we did meet with the principal -- who is excellent -- as are the teachers.
There is definitely a difference in the acting out of ignorant junior high bigots and hard-core racism, although the latter can be found in that same junior high setting, as your daughter discovered. My son went to a new school in 7th grade and endured taunts of "Jew boy" from a classmate for some weeks before going to the principal. He and that boy eventually became friends (of sorts), but I'm not sure whether the taunter changed his mind about Jews or just my son.

The sad truth is that the "mild" bigotry that lives on in the shadows and in enclaves of the similarly bigoted is the pilot light for the incendiary racists that are rising up again now. What you say here is important because we do have to always be willing to step up and try to head off the kind of simmering hate that can blow up when times get tough. Learning to deal with racists--and not just ignoring them--is difficult, but I think we really need to do it before they become a serious threat again.
American style Jew hate has its own particular homegrown mythology tied deeply into racism involving Jews as the "puppetmasters" behind African Americans. The Obama presidency has been a catalyst not only for emerging racism, but for anti-Semitism as well. What your daughter is experiencing is as you realize happening on a larger scale. She shouldn't be fighting this battle alone. Schools are there to educate and the school should be dealing with this, not by isolating and punishing the haters, but by TEACHING them, actually educating them about racism and anti-Semitism and getting them to think critically even about what they may be hearing at home.
In your shoes, I would try to dialogue with the kid's parents too, maybe even invite them somwhere neutral for a cup and a conversation. No kids. No big statement about the "knuckle art," no ultimatums. Just a conversation. I suspect that people who hate with that kind of energy often haven't even shared the same air space with the focus of their hatred. It all comes to them from third parties, propaganda...Aw. Perhaps I am living in a dream world. But maybe it can be healed one olive branch at a time.
As a Jew with holocaust survivors in my immediate family i startled at your post title.

But this is an exceptional piece. You will reach many, I hope, with this thoughtful, deceptively casual, well-crafted exploration of the feelings and signs, for Jews, of our times.

Damn bicycles. But God damn nazis, various and sundry.
Damn bicycles!

I moved to the South from San Francisco two years ago, it has been two years of diligent education of my children to stave off the ignorance that so readily envelopes a person here.

I never thought I'd have to work so hard against fear, ignorance, and hatred. It is, at times, exhausting.

Excellent post, excellent parenting and guidance. Rated.

Anybody who says "never again" and closes their mouth and eyes to what is going on here and around the world, will wonder why they didn't speak up if it happens again. To Jews, or anyoneelse. Excellent post.
In over a hundred languages the word for the day of the week we know as "Saturday" is that language's word for "Sabbath," or "Shabbat."

There is only one Creator, G-d of the universe, as cosmology's Dread Singularity and common sense corroborate. Thomas Jefferson and Our Whig Founders understood, hence Our Creed's three mottoes.

Recall "Annuit Coeptis."

We are "Novus Ordo Seclorem," The New Secular Order, for a reason, for Reason...for "E Pluribus Unum."

Who is not of The People? Taught to hate good neighbors doing no harm?

Sectarian faction is treason.

The same families in Europe have lived on the same hills, in the same castles, for two and three thousand years. There they are openly known as The Black Aristocracy, the descendants of caesars and popes.

Crucifixion was punishment for only one crime: getting convicted the second time for sedition...denying that Caesar was God.

From whence cometh "Kill Jews?"

Do the "math."

Read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's "A Moral Reckoning." Those whose catspaw gave us the Holocaust, are now giving us FoxNews, Sarah Palin, and the astroturf "tea party:" fascist plutocracy - identified by Our Founder as "the real Anti-Christ," that which Jews call "Amalek."

Yet to be brought to justice for the Holocaust, hopefully their confidence that we "rubes," confused, exploited, and misled by their "Fifth Column" will continue to let their minions - Joe McCarthy, Rockefeller, Bush, Nixon, Cheney, et al - run roughshod over Our Constitution and the People's sovereignty, is terminally misplaced.

The Jefferson/Adams postroad correspondence http://www.amazon.com/Adams-Jefferson-Letters-Complete-Correspondence-Jefferson/dp/0807818070 is available for any wishing to "put a hand in the wallsocket of G-d," the birthright and duty of every legitimate, sovereign citizen...that which Jews have been trying to do for many thousands of years over the "objections" of the cult of male prostitutes ejected from Jerusalem which took up residence on Vatican Hill to "read" goose guts and ally with Etruscan assassins and tyrants.

White, Black, Gentile, Jew; there is but One G-d, America the Promised Land.

"Tough love" is the answer. They are still molesting their children and teaching them to hate Jews, and liberals, and true, credal Americans.

The proper American response is Truth...and JUSTICE!

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

Secure the border: Roman Anti-Christ, its fascist plutocracy and pedophile priesthood: OUT! NOW!
Full expropriation, and extirpation for those "unconvinced" of their institutional guilt.

Death for Treason
Justice for the Six Million
Bush and Cheney must hang.
Intolerance is happening everywhere around the globe. We must confront it head on, because as it happens in the behavior of individuals, violence and intolerance in society will surely escalate.

This is a fine piece....
Brilliant essay and it reminds me of something I wrote a few months back about Bernie Madoff, the huge smuggling ring busted in New Jersey that included a couple of rabbis (seriously) and then the financial crisis. IN times of trouble, find the target. But what it really amounts to is that prejudice is SO much easier to embrace than tolerance for too many people. It requires less thought and, as your duaghter's knucle-headed classmate proved, only five fingers.
Good for your daughter - and this moronic anti-semitic hatred has to be nipped in the bud now.
Transferring prejuidice from one target to another is a human doing that adds another layer to this meltdown of spirit. Many studies have shown that one who is predisposed to prejudice of one group, will have a change of heart if their life changes in some fashion and that target is no longer nearby. But they do not lose the core rot that makes them hate. They switch to a new group and deem them next to be more reprehensible than the group they have since allegedly stopped hating. It's a shell game with no winners.
Excellent piece! It was so hurtful to me to be at a peace rally recently and here a speaker talking about the Gaza conflict and saying repeatedly, "The Jews in Israel." From playground, to international stage, this roils on. xox
A well crafted piece. I come from a place where I cannot abide this kind of assault on any minority for any reasons. My problem is for all my studying, discussion, pondering, I still cannot solve it. It cannot be legislated out of existence, it is a dark side within each of the collective us that must be contained by desire, by choice. Speaking out is the answer in some measure, but whatever it takes, it takes the changing of the heart. As Linnn said, "But maybe it can be healed one olive branch at a time." Rated.
Sorry to hear about your troubles. Any chance of talking to the kids' parents? In any case, judo lessons for your daughter might be a good idea.
Your daughter is learning to handle hatred very well. At her age, I would not have thought to suggest Robert wash his hands. I don't know how to help the Roberts of this world. I agree it can't be Jews who are upsetting him. I don't know why he identifies this particular hatred as one he wishes to endorse. We do no better if we hate or fear the Roberts. Do you have any thoughts about how to help the Roberts of this world find peace? Or is finding our own peace enough?
Wanna borrow my Uzi?
Fine piece.
Well the beauty in this story is that your daughter's classmates encouraged her to tell the teacher, and that your daughter has such courage to face the boy and tell him to wash his hands. Therein lies the hope.

I marvel at the difference here--smack in the middle of Indiana--that I see through my sons. Thirty years ago, when I was in high school, this was not a place you could be openly gay. When my oldest son had a birthday party during his sophomore year, he told me he was inviting a friend from his photography class--a friend who happened to be gay. I'm sure we haven't progressed to the point that this boy sailed through high school without difficulty regarding his sexual orientation, but I also know that he didn't feel he had to hide who he was. That's progress. That's hope.
I am a Russian Jew that was born in the US. My parents & grandparents were immigrants to this country. My father or grandfather could have easily been the one on the bicycle. Many of my relatives did not escape from Russia & Germany. They were killed.This post was not just about anti-semitism but spoke largely about hate. Hate is something that no culture is exempt from being victims of and all of us are responsible for changing the attitudes of hate and keeping hate out of our own hearts. I have found that even as a Jew, many of my people hate African Americans which is wrong. It is one thing to remind people of how they have been hated and then go about hating others, as well. It must change beginning in us. We cannot say that something is wrong, if we ourselves are guilty of the same thing. My parents& grandparents taught us this. They did business with many people in NYC and hired, and had relationships (business & personal) with people of many cultures and many faiths. This is the way we must live; in harmony & peace with one another. My best friend is Carl, an African-American man that I knew as a child. We grew us together. We are now old men with wives, children, and grandchildren. We play chess & go golfing now, and our wives tease us about the way that we have taken on our retirement. My best friend Carl is my brother. He shares stories of what it was like for his family (from the South), who were victims of lynching. My son is married to an African-American young lady (Carl's daughter) & they have three children. My daughter is married to a Asian young man and they have two children. One of my daughters is Lesbian and has a beautiful partner who was born in India. They have adopted a little boy from Haiti.
I am granddad to all of my grandchildren and love them equally.

Everyone must always examine the presence of hate in their own hearts. It is always easy to point the finger at others than to search oneself to see if it lies more close to home. My wife & I enjoyed reading your posting because it reminded us of many things but mainly; that there is still much work to be done, in the hearts of many.
What is sad is that kids like the one with the threat on his knuckles are merely repeating what adults have said in front of him. Ignorance is a learned experience and that says volumes about our culture. Very sad.
Excellent, thoughtful post. I'm sorry your daughter is going through this. I'm glad the principal is involved. I don't think this kind of thing can be tolerated - it must be addressed, and hopefully the kids educated more than punished.

The rise of hate in this country is really scaring me, too. Most of the racism seems directed towards Obama and other African Americans (and of course, the old standby target, "illegal immigrants"), but I'm not really surprised to hear anti-Semitism is rising as well. And as a grandchild (on one side) of Jews who fled Eastern Europe to escape persecution and possible death, I take it very seriously. Even though I was not raised Jewish, I am very sensitive to anti-Semitism and have been shocked at the comments I've heard made over the years (including to me, by those not knowing my heritage) by people who otherwise never utter a racist remark. It's an acceptable prejudice to some degree in a way that others are not.
I am glad to read about how well you and your daughter and the school is handling this issue. Where I work (an investment company), I still hear whispers after a research analyst or another colleague walks away "He's Jewish, y'know". I never get used to it and can never let it go.
Wonder what would've happened if "KILL POOR" had been on there, since we really are doing that.
I agree that there is a correlation between economic recessions and the increase in hatred and racism. A lot of American jews feel comfortable and protected in the USA. They feel completely assimilated and don't think that they need to be concerned about anti-semitism. American jews may be rudely awakened one day to discover that what has happened to the jewish people all over the world throughout history, can also happen in the USA.
Your daughter's education is quite advanced. Her acumen in the verbal arena, without having to reach or fight for the conch shell, is inspiring.
I'm a Jew and a former Middle School Head in independent schools, Jewish ones and secular.
Here it is: Should the talk you mention turn to harrassment, the most effective way to stop it is a) have your kid and/or her pals beat the hell outs the bastard and/or b) go to the parents' house and threaten them both w the law and physically. Do not have a weapon but be as intimidating as you possibly can. Should they threaten suit tell them you welcome that, along w the media knowing what their kid does. And make sure the school people are on notice.
I'm so glad the school took this seriously.

Here's my experience, teaching in a small Catholic high school in a working class town about 30 miles from Omaha, Nebraska:

A few years ago, the kids loved the word "gay". Everything they didn't like was "gay". Sometimes this was actually unintentionally humorous, like my favorite moment when a sophomore announced that it was "so gay" the way a classmate "hangs on his girlfriend all the time". Even more humorous that when a teacher pointed out how stupid that sounded, not a single kid comprehended why.

What was the response to this? Admins and teachers had an all out war on that use of that word. We made kids stay after school; rephrase sentences, asked them the following question until they could recite it: "is the (fill in the blank) homosexual or happy?" When they rolled their eyes, we told them to say what they meant and made them say it.

That's over now. Passe in the world of teen slang. We were happy.

Until the new one popped up this fall:

"That's Jewish".

What happened in response?


I'm fighting the battle alone, trying my hardest in history classes to explain why it is so wrong to say this. We're on the Holocaust unit. They're finally getting.
I can imagine that the boy was easily shamed. Your daughter's actions were courageous. Her concerns were acted on in a strong manner. The scary part is - for whose approval did the punk write those words on his hands.
I love that your 14 year old daughter speaks up. I wish we all would. We cannot afford to be complacent.
At-home suspension? I would assume he was being sent to the place where his beliefs were formed. Scary stuff.
I'm not Jewish, but my SIL is, and my mother's boyfriend of 10 years is. When I was growing up, my family was close friends with another family, the father of whom was a survivor. By "close" I mean we spent vacations with them, and either we were over at their house, or they were over at ours playing games all summer and after school.

SO I find this really disturbing, especially Robert. However, I applaud your daughter's response to the dirty jew charge: she snapped back, “That’s right, I’m Jewish and I’m proud of it. Are you proud of being a jerk?” In the Kid Code, other kids admire those who stick up for themselves, and you're sadly right that she can't go running to the teacher for help every time. SOme of being a kid is having to fight her own battles. It sounds like she's been admirably prepared to do so. I'm just sorry she has to fight a battle this ugly at any age.
Americans are being seduced by a tidal wave of anti Semitic blogs ( incidentally I do know they are not Semites they are an Asiatic tribe from the area right above the black sea Schlomo Sand thoroughly proves that ) generated by Arab oil money. Jeff Rense, The Truth Seeker, Prison Planet and the French Connection all financed by Arab oil money. You would think that since the Arabs are wealthy beyond belief and the Muslim countries bountiful in land they would relocate their Palestinian brethren but they will not. They will stand their ground and continue to bombard a semi literate American public with some of the most inane propaganda that has ever found its way into print. Why ? Because they are wining , as this post illustrates , and the Palestinians are the vanguard protecting the Mosque that stands in the way of building the third Temple. We are told that the Mosque is the third holiest sight in Islam but the Temple of Solomon is the holiest sight of all 3 religions : Christianity , Islam and Judaism what child has ever been born without a mother. It is that Mosque that grieves me the most it does not commemorate the angels carrying Mohamed up to heaven but it is rather a monument to the power of money, Arab oil money, over God that is why it is still standing and I for one will not rest until it is torn down brick by blasphemous brick.
"What is it about the human animal that seeks a target?" Seer's right. Good for your daughter for speaking up. How disquieting- I'd be up all night worrying at it, too. :( creepy fucked up kid
Thanks,Dan, for the information.
"Recent reports by the Southern Policy Law Center show that Pennsylvania has 28 such hate groups ..."
It is part of the reason that I am trying to move back to Princeton.
Madupont: I wouldn't flee to New Jersey to avoid hate groups. While Princeton has much to recommend it, NJ has 44 such hate groups... Hate appears to be an equal opportunity geographic opportunity -- tho New Mexico, Vermont, and North Dakota appear underrepresented...
Your daughter is brave and wise. You are, too. Did you struggle with the temptation to kill Robert? I would have felt that way, if it had been my child who was threatened by a bigot.
I feel the parents--you and the non Jewish ones--should get together and see if you can come to a consensus. Your daugther is great but as anti-semitism is on the rise, world wide, this is a chance to either nip it or get some folks locked up.

In Canada last week, I bought a magazine called MACLEANS and I meant but didn't ask if this is akin to Time or Newsweek or The Economist as it has high brow articles and stuff on nothing much.

To wit: There is one piece that had me transfixed called "The Return of Hitler" giving figures for new Hitler-loving in almost every country you can imagine. I'll say more about it later or post a link. This is in response to the recession and the Jews this time are clearly part of the problem at Goldman Sachs and Citi et al. However as we all know anti-semitism needs no reasons and is akin to Elvis-sitings only so much more dangerous.

I'm a little worried about how things are going in your neighborhood. Your daugther is great but the problem is far greater. What would I do? Have to think on this one. rated but of course!
Obviously this kid has been hearing stuff at home. I hope his parents were informed of his unacceptable conduct.
While sympathising with your situation, I would like to add here that members of your ethnic group are the chief instigators of hatred against the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Wanting the U.S to go to war with one Muslim country after another.
And, as for Jewish involvement in the financial scams; Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs etc etc etc, who are they?
Now if the biggest fraudster in all of history Bernie Madoff was a Muslim, the Jews would have been standing on top of the Eiffel Tower condemning Islamic financial terrorism.

Promoting hatred for others should also be condemned.
Everyone is prejudiced in one way or the other, and a great many people are racist, so what're ya gonna do? Certainly not take pride in your ethnicity, defend it or celebrate it, I should think. If there's no rational or scientific basis in racism, racial pride is no less insane.
Marvin Polinsky has traded in his years for wisdom
A white, southern-ish (Virginia) friend told me once (we lived in New Mexico, land of the enchanted) that the difference between the north and the south with regards to racism, is that in the south people are more "honest" about it. And that her black friends there generally knew where they stood with respect to their white peers opinion of them.
Harsh stuff, and maybe true. I am not sure whose job it is to keep doing all the educating, other than I hope it continues. I was watching the Diary of Ann Frank last week on Masterpiece Theater, and crying for her and the family and the world we live in now, and then wondering, do kids even learn this story these days?
I think that the word "Jew" is like "fag"-- a default insult not always fully understood by the user. Their value as insults will only disappear when it is no longer considered "lesser-than" to be associated with either group. B.H.

Southern Poverty Law Center - http://www.splcenter.org/
Excellent post. Seems like your daughter handled it very well. It is sad that kids adopt their parents racist points of view. Clearly the economic downturn and the election of Obama has caused the racists to come out of the woodwork and to begin to feel more comfortable with open racism.

When I was younger I lived in the midwest and went to college on the east coast. I didn't have much exposure to Jewish people so when I got to school, there were a number of people who where very anti-semitic and I was young and naive and didn't really know what they were talking about or why they had a problem with Jewish people. I look back on it and wish I would have confronted them when they made their hateful statements, but sadly, I was largely silent. I have learned, and I try to speak out against injustice wherever I see it, because silence is betrayal as MLK said.
This is a stunning and shocking piece. I don't want to believe it happened, because my children are grown, and I don't want to believe it is this bad. I am glad that you wrote it, and hopefully you can more widely publish this expose of the hatred spewed out. Thank you for sharing. R
This saddens and infuriates me. I'm so sorry for what your family is going through, and so impressed by your daughter. I am originally from NY, and I lived in Lancaster for 6 years while I worked for Hershey. I remember the first time I realized that the KKK was marching not far from where I lived in Lancaster. I was terrified and shocked. Holding you and your daughter in my thoughts and in my heart...
I too was a bit shocked by your title, but it was provoking wasn't it? Here we are!

Your daughter exhibited a wonderful degree of poise and quickness, which some credit must go to you. She has learned to be proud of herself and defend herself with dignity and maturity. (Again, well done) That will stand her in good stead for things she will surely encounter later.

I grew up in Minnesota (your commenter who grew up in the midwest and said she had no experience with Jews, not sure where she lived!). I was lucky because Minnesota Nice isn't just a slogan. I went to a private school and may have been a bit sheilded, but it was diverse just the same and never got called any of the horrible Jewish names or heard the taunts that you daughter has had to hear. My experience came later with adults! I am a combination of many things so those who like to pigeon-hole had a hard time with me, which I think made them even more persistant. "How did you get to be such a lovely color?" (not mean, just strange) "But I did hear "Jew nose" which was hard as it's something that has always been a sore point for me. And these were adults!
I really don't understand the rise in hatred after such a momentous election. But then I heard a lot of nasty things from people during the election that I would have never thought they would think, much less utter.
I do think that education is key to understanding. Not sure if I would want to be the bigger person with this little creep, but who knows what he may have gone through, as others have said.

I am glad to know that people still feel passionate about prejudice and hate (as the commenters testify) and that in small spheres we try to do our part to fight them.

I love that your post brought out so many to tell their stories. I am envious of Mr. Polinsky and his wonderful friend and his family! Such a wonderful group to live amongst. He must be so proud.

I wish you luck and wisdom in handling this situation (although so far you have been truely wise and patient!).
I hesitate to comment now -- for fear of silencing future comments -- but just want to say how much I've learned from -- and enjoyed -- your experiences. Your words about Alex and our parenting have been validating. It is helpful to have this community...
Beautifully written, Dan. I only regret that it isn't fictional.

I'm just sayin.
I have dealt with this issue all my life, professionally and personally, here and around the world, and all my experience in dealing with anti-Jewish feeling brings me to one conclusion: talking accomplishes nothing.

We would like to think it does, but the hatred the world directs to the Jewish people is one of history's great mysteries. Why does it crop up in so many places, throughout history, over and over again, when there are really no such people, ethnically speaking, as "the Jews?"

And yet we are a people. We are the outsiders in every culture on this planet for the simple reason that we stubbornly refuse to assimilate. We are different because we think of ourselves a people on the basis of our religious heritage, even when we don't practice the religion, even if we don't believe in God. We remain a people.

We bask in the accomplishments of our fellow Jews, we grieve at their failures, we shoulder the blame for their misdeeds in a way that no other people do. Catholics do not accept mutual responsibility for the actions of other Catholics, nor do other Christians, or Buddhists, or Hindus, or even Muslims. Jews, alone, do.

Evidence abounds. The vast majority of the world's Muslims have nothing but contempt for the Muslim extremists but they don't "out" them because they don't consider the extremists to be their responsibility.

Jews do. Some of us have difficulty accepting the "extreme" policies of the Israelis, or we support them; in either case, we associate ourselves with those policies....but we understand that ultimately is that our only security comes from our willingness to fight.

No other people on Earth have this strange cohesiveness.

Black people, where they are prejudiced against, experience the same responses from others....and black people can't walk away from their blackness.

Jews can't either. Even when we are not raised Jewish, even if only one grandparent was a Jew....our enemies will point us out and hunt us down if we let them.

Al0ne, your daughter cannot fight back effectively. Alone, she's a target. That why she should not be alone.

Many years ago the King of Denmark personally demonstrated the only correct response to anti-Jewish behavior: join with the Jews. When the Nazis ordered all the Jews wear yellow arm bands emblazoned with the Star of David, The King of Denmark appeared the next day, wearing the Star of David.

Today, the myth of individual self-reliance must be replaced with the historic reality of collective mutual support. The wave of antisemitism is closely paralleled by the episodes of bullying in our public school because they come from the same root: always, it is a group of malefactors aligned against a single target and we - the targets - make ourselves easy prey by attempting to combat the forces of oppression individually rather than as a group.

The right thing for your daughter to do is to organize support around herself - and not necessarily just Jewish children - who will stand together against the bullies.

Escalation isn't simply a possible outcome of this approach - it is inevitable, but escalation triggered by strong resistance is preferable to being staked out like some sacrificial lamb by attempting to take on the goons alone.

I've lived this scenario several times in my life, and I have always found this to be the best recourse.

The porcupine has no natural enemies because no one wants a mouthful of quills.
Ah, counselor -- good question. I thought of the 4/20 thing -- would have said a complete coincidence, but later, I wondered if perhaps there was more media/internet exposure for anti-Semitic perspectives leading up to the day and that's what got those words on his hands. Don't know.
I am moved by the way you share this story. What a wonderful testament to lessons learned at home expressed by your daughter as she tried to find her own ways to deal with hatred sitting next to her in her classroom. Who, indeed, is the real target of the boy's anger and who is helping him deal with his rage? So many are angry at so much. I can only hope that the anger near your daughter is addressed and helped before something erupts that can not be controlled. What if on one or several days, school closed for the students and opened for the parents and only lessons of hate/rage/anger control, honesty and acknowledgement within families of issues that we ignore at our peril? What if?

At the very least your piece and your daughter's courage make us think.
I know this post has been up for almost a week now, but I've been avoiding it. Avoiding it because I was afraid what it might be about.

I was right.

Yes, there are all kinds of bullies in school - but when you actively alter your body to display symbols of hate, something needs to be said to someone in authority.

"Kill Jews" cann0t be tolerated; neither can the swastika. We have to speak up because if we don't, it just gives more traction to the hate. We all know what happens when hate and bigotry gets enough traction.

Your daughter sounds like a smart cookie - keep up the good work.

It all stirs under the surface, waiting to rise and engulf us...but on the other hand kids can be bastards for no reason at all.
A great read, and a good throught provoking piece.
Personally if I saw my kid with that crap on his hand, he'd have a tanned hide.
As for your daughter, she's doing the right thing by standing up for herself. Bravo!
Excellent post.
It's out there, even if it can't always be seen.
I work in a store and I can't tell you how many people ask to "Jew me down" on the price."
These people are not filled with hatred. They are overflowing with ignorance,
Jews and gays will always be fair game until the ignorance stops.
1: rated
2: kudos to your daughter for speaking up - and it sounds as if she did so without hatred or payback - very cool.
3: I'm finding this is being bred amongst middle schoolers - it is here. What is scary is that it often goes without repurcussion, as "kids will be kids." I find it abhorrent. When it begins at that age and is left for them to grow out of/explore their word, the long-lasting affects are going to run rampant and damage everyone.

I have middle schoolers. I've taught that prejudice is unacceptable and that love and kindness are priority.

We've watched films such as "The Rape of Europa" and "The Boy in Striped Pajamas." I want I WANT my kids to know how poorly the Jews were mistreated so they will catch themselves - whether is is the Jewish people, or blacks, or Asians.

I consider myself American, and my children as well. But when asked, I proudly say "We are Irish, Italian, German, and Indian." (and some other stuff LOL).

I wonder: when my grandparents took their first step onto American soil on Ellis Island, I don't think they thought :"Boy, I can't WAIT to get into a home and then slam the Jews and Blacks and Asians, I am finally in AMERICA, so I get to slam them all."
I doubt it. There was an inexplicable relief and joy of being on American ground, a new start, a beginning. Time to renew that attitude.

I abhor hatred. I hold high hopes that with your attitude, your daughter shall do well in future days and endeavors.

It IS a rocky road - where does a parent step in - and police their child and yet, is it interference or a teaching moment? For which child?

The child with the knuckles - SCARY, to me.

At that age, they sling around insults and names and are - in my humble opinion - testing boundaries. What I am trying to know is as a parent how far do I go and how much do I let go?

(My boys think cussing makes them cool. I could fight that battle, or realize they are testing growing and their age and looking cool to peers. I cringe when I hear that word... but we're also talking of boys who, when a neighborhood child nicely gave them marijuana seeds in a baggie- they came to me in disgust and said "here mom, we don't want this. We don't do it." And handed over the bag for me to dispose of.)

Led to a GREAT conversation about other things.

Kids want to spread their proverbial wings and test the boundaries.

its everyone's job to herd it in when they go too far. Name labels and name calling, rudeness and anger cannot be tolerated.

Ah.... but what I observe is: its running amok among adults - and I don't have that answer. Manners and kindness seem to have become a bygone era, if it every truly existed.

I have no magic answer. I feel I should apologize for those kids who are taking, as you said, their feelings out b/c of whatever else is going on at home.

Thanks for being the parent who cares, not just for your own kids, but its obvious your heart goes out to those who are drowning with no life line.

The hatred that is passed down from generation to generation terrifies me because eventually there are kids with no idea why they hate certain groups- they just do. How do you begin to address that? It is not only challenging them on their belief, but challenging their allegiance to their parents, peers and everyone else who believes as they do and that is assuming you could even get them to accept the possibility that their belief is maybe not right.
This is terrifying.. I want you to know we share a similar history.

And that I agree with you, there is a resurgence of antisemitism in the fascist tea party and other extreme right wing. In my way, I will not back down. I am vocal about being of Jewish heritage. It is a challenge to anyone in it's way. I will not deny my family.

I'm an atheist but I live with my history. I am also half Catholic but first, when asked, I am a Jew. This is because my family was slaughtered due to this fact. I feel it so deeply, this faith they had died in aid of. A family my father and my grandmother left behind in Poland, not knowing they would never see them or their friends again.

So you know, I'm with you.

First and foremost, protect yourselves.
I am glad to see an essay like this. I have been stumbling about the internet as of late, and reading whatever catches my eye. Yesterday I had the curious misfortune of coming across a blog entry discussing Islam and the author's disdain for it and anything that threatened his narrow (in my humble opinion) viewpoint. When I saw the title of this piece, I thought I had somehow found something even worse. I was pleasantly surprised as I read on. But this got me to thinking (particularly as I read the comments) that you are most likely preaching to the choir. While I find a sense of commonality with your words, I wonder if it may be more constructive for those of us who agree with the opinions expressed here to seek out opinions with which we disagree. To raise questions among the very people whom you describe. Often when I do, I find that their response to such open ended questions like: "What is it that is so bad about (insert group here)?" followed by "And what is it you are basing this on?" tend to get short, thoughtless, even accusatory responses. I suppose I am left with a wish to know how to open a dialogue with the "other" in this discussion. One that would actually get a reply.

I apologize for using your comments as a spill-off for my thoughts on matters only somewhat related. I had hoped at least the idea wouldn't fall on deaf ears here.
Given what has been going on globally for some time now, I am amazed that we Americans haven't become more cohesive allies. Perhaps we haven't yet evolved enough as a country to know who we are, what we stand for and what to teach our children.
Thank you for this essay.