Let’s back up a tad… to 1990. I was nearing the end of my social-work career. For anonymity’s sake, let’s say I worked at the XYZ agency, and the shocked client was Mr. Q.
He wasn’t always shocked, oh no. I got along wonderfully with him, his wife and adolescent son. Mr. Q. was suffering feelings of loss and depression since he was stricken with a chronic illness. He felt tremendously sad and angry over the loss of his status as family breadwinner – a particularly important role in his native country in Europe.
I liked Mr. Q – except for one thing. Occasionally he would, very casually, drop an anti-Semitic remark into the conversation. Just in passing, don’t you know.
“I jewed him down, and…”
“He was like a Jew, really cheap, and…”
…you get the idea.
Those remarks cut like a razor blade; I myself am Jewish… but obviously Mr. Q. had no idea. I so wanted to say something! I was dying to! But as their family counsellor, I couldn’t. It would disrupt any trust and bonds I had forged with them. But I vowed to myself that I would speak up when our sessions came to a close!
How I looked forward to our last session together, as you can well imagine!
Finally the time came. Perfect for the Big Reveal! I was grinning inwardly at the thought of what I would say.
We were having our last wrap-up: I did my summation and all three of them contributed their thoughts.
“There’s just one last thing I’d like to mention, Mr. Q.,” I said, collecting my purse and cardigan.
“Eh? What’s that?”
“I think maybe you shouldn’t say things that are against Jews. You never know who you might be talking to.”
“For instance, I’m Jewish.”
He looked up at me sharply. “Eh? No!”
“Yes, I am Jewish.”
“No. You’re not.” Smiling uncertainly.
“Yes, I am,” grinning broadly by this time.
He tries another tack, telling me in a triumphant tone, “There are no Jews working at the XYZ agency!”
At this, I chortled. “Oh yes there are, Mr. Q.! There are many Jewish people working there besides me!”
I could see he was caught in a bind. He liked me – but I was Jewish! How to square this circle?!
“W-well…” he stammered, “you’re nice!”
“Mr. Q., I said patiently, smiling, you see, there are good and bad in every religion. In every nationality. In every race.”
I got up and walked to the door. We all shook hands.
The last I saw of Mr. Q. he was still shaking his head in disbelief, with a little sad smile on his face as he closed the door.
For me it was one tiny triumph, and hopefully one less anti-Semite in the world.