Sunday, April 08, 2018

`Written on the Jewish Character in Blood'

My former wife is Jewish. When we entered the county clerk’s office in Indiana to get our marriage license in 1984, the event seemed routine and reassuringly bureaucratic. One of the clerks asked for our vitals – name, DOB, SSN. My soon-to-be-wife’s father had changed the family name to something blandly WASP-sounding when she was a girl. When asked, she supplied the original surname, one probably never before uttered in rural Indiana. The clerk, a woman, asked: “Is that some kind of Jew name?” For a moment everything froze, including thought. A life, not mine, flashed before my eyes, millennia of Jew hatred – Erfurt, Dreyfus, Berdichev, Treblinka. I’ve forgotten my fiancée’s immediate response, and mine, though I recall thinking how innocently malevolent the clerk’s question sounded, like a Brown Shirt asking the rabbi why he didn’t eat pork. The clerk required no rationalization for asking it. Eichmann was a clerk. We finished our paperwork and left the courthouse.

I’m fortunate. It’s a hateful time but the haters must manufacture another pretext in order to hate me. I’m not Jewish. Haters never need a pretext to hate a Jew. Howard Jacobson lays it out methodically:
“Most Jews know what antisemitism is and what it isn’t. Its history is written on the Jewish character in blood. To invent it where it is not would be a sacrilege.”

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