Octogenarian’s story about A Guy Who Never Met a Jew brought to my mind a story that Gitta, my mother used to tell. It took place in the late thirties, when my parents and my brother still lived in Deauville before WWII.
My brother, Félix, must have have been four or five, and one day, as he was playing with a friend in the garden, Gitta heard some screaming and shouting and when she looked out of the window, she saw Félix seize the other boy by the collar and shove him out of the garden.
Gitta rushed outside and scolded Félix for not being a good friend.
You should not behave like this with a friend, she said.
Félix replied: he is not my friend, he has insulted me.
So Gitta wanted to know what the little boy had said. Félix said: he called me a Jew!
Gitta told Félix: but Félix, you ARE Jewish!
No, no, cried Félix. I am not Jewish. I told him: YOU are a Jew, not me!
It took Gitta a long time to explain to Félix that the words Jew or Jewish were not an insult, except in the mouth of antisemitic people.
When I was born, at the end of the war, my parents acted quite differently with me. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was Jewish.
Not that it prevented people from being antisemitic, neither did it protect me from occasional name-calling, but at least, I was prepared and knew where I stood.
My husband (not a Jew) always claimed that I was a bit hysterical concerning my Jewishness and tended to see antisemitism where there was none. But I am convinced he was over-optimistic.
Listen to this post in Frenchhttps://blogginginparis.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/felixandantisemitism.mp3″