Last night, I had an altercation with an African neighbor over his insistence on loading a dumpster parked in front of my building with construction debris after 10 p.m. He did not stop until the police arrived. While waiting for the police, he repeatedly screamed at me, accusing me of harassment because I wanted to get some sleep.
But it was the reactions of passers-by that I found most disturbing. One man appeared out of nowhere, screaming that the problem is that the old Jews don’t want anybody else living in their neighborhood. He advised the neighbor to call the police on me if I so much as jaywalk, to teach the old Russian Jews that they don’t own the neighborhood. He spoke with a heavy Middle Eastern accent, and shook his finger at me, saying that the Jews need to be dealt with and need to learn to mind their own business. I was stunned by such vitriol from a complete stranger on the street at nearly 11 p.m.
This man barged into a private dispute about which he knew absolutely nothing yet somehow decided it was all the fault of the Jews. It was appalling.
But he wasn’t the only anti-Semite on the street. Another man also with a heavy Middle Eastern accent rolled up on his bicycle and advised my neighbor not to “empower” me by arguing. He, too, advised ignoring the complaints of an old Jew and assured my neighbor that he had a right to do whatever he wanted regardless of the time of night. He left as soon as the police pulled up.
It was the blatant, shameless anti-Semitism that really got to me, and I was especially distressed by the obvious assumption of all the men present that they were dealing with an old Jewish woman who needed to be put in her place as a Jew and as a woman. It was sickening.
The antagonism toward Jews simply astounds me. One of my closest friends is Jewish, and she tells me that she is always conscious of her Jewishness wherever she is. I struggle to understand this, because I am never conscious of my Catholicism, even when I’m in a synagogue. No one has ever looked at me and said, you must be Catholic. How can anyone tell she’s a Jew? Yet the men last night, for unfathomable reasons of their own, believed me to be a Jew–a Russian Jew at that–and thus felt safe in blaming all Jews for whatever was wrong.
So much hatred for something so small that didn’t concern them in the first place.