Nathan Englander is a Brooklyn essayist and novelist. On Tuesday, he wrote in the New York Times about the racist, anti-semetic events in Charlottesville last weekend ... and how it differed from an event in Brooklyn that had made him believe the world had changed since his Jewish childhood in Long Island.
Charlottesville, he wrote, had stolen so much of what he thought had been achieved in his lifetime, going from being called a “dirty Jew” as a Long Island boy to watching other boys in Brooklyn, freed from indignity, from fear, from the horrors of anti-semetism.
Specifically, he contrasted what took place this weekend to what he had found one night, oddly enough ... at Barclays Center ... at a Nets game.
I live in Brooklyn now, where my father grew up. It was here, after watching people cheer Barack Obama’s victory in the streets, after gay marriage became legal nationwide and after other evolutionary steps, that I was finally able to embrace the past as the past and look at our collective present in a new light.
Secular now, I watch the younger religious Jews in awe. They don’t slip their yarmulkes into their pockets out of fear. It hit me at, of all places, a Nets game. I was amazed by all the yarmulkes in the crowd, and the boys beneath them eating hot dogs from — who would have believed it — kosher concession stands.
In a New York sports tradition, one of them was mouthing off at anyone and everyone who was rooting for the visiting team. I watched him razzing people, opening his mouth without thinking he’d be beaten to a pulp for drawing attention to himself. But no one said a single non-basketball-related, Jew-hating word.
I can’t tell you how much pride I took in that moment...
Now, he fears a world he thought was new, was changed, is threatened. Crowds of white nationalists carrying tiki torches marching through an American city chanting, “We will not be replaced by Jews.” And a President who refuses to understand.
Because the children who witness a day like that, and a president like this, will not forget the fear and disrespect tailored to the black child, the Muslim child, the Jewish child.
They will not forget the assault rifles that this government puts in these violent men’s hands, nor the chants that black lives don’t matter and that the Jews will not replace them — just as I will never not hear what that kid on the bike screamed or stop seeing my father helping a boy, crawling for pennies, off his knees.
We Nets fans — Jews and gentiles, white and black, Latino and Asian, straight and gay, man and woman — should take a moment to rejoice in what has been created in Brooklyn, in our arena, in our time, in our name ... but never forget, never just stick to sports. The stakes are too high.
- What Jewish Children Learned From Charlottesville - Nathan Englander - New York Times