Watching an episode from 1964 tv’s Mr Novak which was about anti-semitism. Brought back memories of growing up in the ’50s and ’60s after WWII, when prejudice and discrimination against Jews in North America was more overt and common.
Everybody learns prejudice and discrimination from their parents and friends at first.
My parents held some resentments based on traditional stereotypes and, in the case of my mother, from working for Jews when she started out working. Ironically, one of my Dad’s best childhood friends was Jewish, so there were those little ironies. Inevitably jokes in series would include a Jew, a German, and sometimes a Japanese person (all three took hits in North America after WWII).
None of my school friends were openly Jewish, though I had a close Jewish friend I used to sing with in high school. He never talked of his faith. It wasn’t till I got to the University of Winnipeg in 1967, where many Jews went, that I was aware of Jewish people who were openly and unashamedly Jewish, and I started to learn and hear about their customs and personal experiences (e.g., kabbutz).
It was in university, too, that I first became aware of Jewish writers like Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, and others, and found myself identifying and empathizing even more with people of this background. By this point, ‘they’ had become more familiar and even closer.
(I would point out, for the record, that it wasn’t until the 1980s that Canadian schools and students started to become more aware of the details of the Holocaust and what the Jewish people had gone through. Which seems a little late to me, looking back–some 40 years after WWII.)
In my teaching career, I became even more conscious of this long-suffering culture via teacher-friends and students, one of the former even taking me out for a ‘nosh’. I also learned many Jewish expressions via Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. In fact, Richler is my favorite Canadian author and I believe he wrote the Great Canadian Satirical Novel–the hilarious, celebrated Barney’s Version. (equally funny in film form)
(Incidentally, my daughter’s kind and smart significant other, who is also my IT blog go-to, just happens to be Jewish. I find it also interesting that two of my old Winnipeg school friends married Jews. Who’da thunk, going back to our narrow-minded roots and unenlightened growing-up times.)
So, in conclusion, my own arc of experience with people and things Jewish has been a long one on the tabula rasa of time and moved from inherited dumb-ass prejudice to a much greater empathic understanding and appreciation.
But life’s like that, isn’t it? You are often bound to change and, it’s hoped, learn. I look back now and am glad for what has been a long positive, pleasant trajectory to a much more accurate and truer, higher plain of respectful attitude and connection. Mazel tov. L’ Chaim.