Russians in a Skokie Panera are discussing Rahm Emanuel in a way that makes me very, very tired. Allow me to explain.
It’s an older woman and an older man. The man lives in Florida and is here visiting. The woman fills him in on local current events. Let’s call her “Irene” and let’s call him “Boris.”
Irene: There was a demonstration yesterday about the school closings. You know, on the south side.
Boris: Oh yeah?
Irene: Do you know what one of the placards said? “Jewish Decision.” Why did he [Rahm] have to get into this office? Why be in a position of political power at all? As soon as someone gets in, they hate all of us.
To many Jews, this will sound familiar. I have heard this all my life growing up. My father used to say that at the manufacturing plant where he worked, people blamed everything that was wrong with the economy on Alan Greenspan, another Jew in power. And that’s just here in the U.S. You can imagine what they said in the Soviet Union.
The thinking then goes that Jews should stay out powerful positions, lest all other Jews suffer for decisions they make that could foment Jew hatred.
When I hear things like this, I think are you freaking kidding me? Who cares if Rahm Emanuel is Jewish?
Then I think Christ (ha!), are there really people who blame Jews in this way?
I guess I live in echelons of society where this is not the norm, but I’ve always been warned it exists elsewhere. I don’t know to what extent it exists. It’s almost like a Jewish urban legend, but it strikes into my chest a visceral fear nonetheless. The Jews who lived in Hitler’s Germany also thought they were so deeply integrated into society than no one saw them as different, as “other.”
But now “Irene” and “Boris” have turned to discussing something else I’m very familiar with; the unfortunate situation of someone’s grand-daughter. The poor girl is 25 and unmarried.