| All it took to be sent to the
camps was one drop of Jewish blood, which is a
ridiculous concept because Jews are not a race.
So we Jews have figured out how to work the American
system and help each other along in it - and how
quickly we forget our proud working class roots.
How honest can I be? Can I implicate my own mom?
We were driving from the airport past a black
neighborhood into Houston and she said "They
sure don't keep their houses up very well, do
they?" I thought to myself, "I better
not get into this with her and get the whole trip
off to a bad start." But I wanted to say,
"It's not their fault," but I knew my
parents would think I was criticizing them. I
went silent and stewed. There you have it... that's
how racism separates white people.
I also wanted to tell my parents that life
in "those neighborhoods" isn't as
despicable as they think. We are afraid to really
look because we would have to become aware of
our privilege and we're scared we'd have to
give it up. That's what keeps white people silent.
But by accepting that privilege, there are lots
of thing we've given up...like life in close
connection to each other, as it was in the shtetl
where we really had to depend on one another.
This obsession with upward mobility leaves little
time for Jewish ritual and family togetherness
- the core of being Jewish. Sometimes we feel
like we need to close the door on our past,
because much of it is very painful to remember.
But then we lose our heritage, our history and
most of all our compassion for other people
who are struggling.
We checked into our fine four star hotel. "I
could get used to this," I joked. As I
started saving the soaps and shampoos as if
I was going home to a shtetl, I thought, it's
too easy to forget about the little houses on
the way to the airport.