I’m carrying petitions for a friend that is running for city council here in New York. I’ve been going around with someone else and the two of us went into an apartment building tonight. The building had already been done by another candidate’s petition carriers. Since someone’s signature is only valid for the first candidate they sign for, we decided to leave the building and move on. On our way out of the building there was someone standing in the hallway and we decided to approach him.
New York State has party registration and closed primaries. In order to sign for a candidate to be on the primary ballot you must be a registered member of that party. So we asked this guy if he was a registered Democrat. He asked who the candidate we were carrying for was and we supplied the candidate’s name. This guy then asked if our candidate was the “Cuban guy.” We replied that no, he was not Cuban, but that he’s Jewish. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
This guy replied that “They [Jews] only take care of their own,” and that’s why he wouldn’t sign the petition to get him on the ballot. Even after we explained to him that it was only to get him on the ballot, and there was no obligation to support him, he reiterated this position. My fellow petitioner carrier answered back a bit and explained to this guy that he was dead wrong and that we care about everybody. Before things could further escalate we left. I admit that I just wanted to get the hell out of there. We said our piece and it wasn’t worth getting hurt over in case this guy turned out to be particularly crazy.
Unfortunately, this guy’s thinking is reflective of the thinking of many. There’s plenty of anti-Semitism out there, both here and abroad. And if people want to know why we have so many community institutions and why there are stereotypes about us in certain jobs, then one only needs to look to history. In the past, we weren’t considered citizens, but foreigners residing in the land. Beyond that, there were restrictions on what type of professions Jews were allowed to work in, the most infamous of these being as moneylenders and bankers. Even though those days are long past, the stereotypes remain.
And remember, this occurred in New York, the city with the country’s largest Jewish population and one of the largest, if not the largest, Jewish population of any city in the world. This did not occur in some place where the government fans the flames of anti-Semitism or where there are few or no Jews. This was in a city where we can feel relatively safe to be Jews. It’s a stark reminder that there are plenty of anti-Semitic assholes out there (to say nothing of the many other assorted bigots).