by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)
Growing up in the cooling shade
of a predominantly Jewish neighborhood,
I had been totally unprepared for the
hot sun attack of anti-Semitism.
They say the first time it happens
it leaves a lasting sunburn on your skin,
and now, some 50 years later
it still singes my soul.
First time? Indiana, I was in the
bucolic fields of the Midwest.
I descended the plane and
a passenger near me said, “You Jewish?”
“Yes,” I said, dumbfounded at the question.
“Where are your horns?” he asked.
I could only manage a weak, “What”?
I had no reference point, no rebuttal,
and that lack of response
has haunted me all these years.
I have assuredly witnessed much more since,
but my silence then and failure to answer
was and is anti-Semitism accepted.
How I wish that Indiana passenger
were in front of me right now.
I believe I would know what to say.
Even with standing in the shade now
my sunburn still remains,
as indelible as the numbers
on my grandfather’s arm.
Mel Glenn, the author of twelve books for young adults, is working on a poetry book about the pandemic tentatively titled Pandemic, Poetry, and People. He has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years. You can find his most recent poems in the YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy, edited by M. Jerry Weiss. If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit: http://www.melglenn.com/
2 responses to “My First Anti-Semitic Experience”
Not my first anti-semitic experience, but my first day in the dorms, freshman year in college, the guy in the room next door, said the same thing to me. “You’re Jewish, I never met a Jew before. Where are your horns?”
Mel, Your articulation of how you felt resonates with me deeply. I would be very interested to know your thoughts on what I experienced when I was about 16 years old in the suburbs of Westchester County New York. I’m going to give you the link which is also here on The Jewish Writing Project. I look forward to your thoughts and reading more of your work. Jessica Ursell