A few months ago, I decided to move back to New York City and give it another chance. My time living in New York was spent leap-frogging from one shitty neighborhood to the next, across several boroughs. What’s interesting is that my current neighborhood is at an intersection of three different ethnic groups. There are Russians to the east, blacks to the west, and Caribbean to the south. I love this neighborhood.
While the next part of this story is about Antisemitism, I should note that my neighborhood does not have many Jews. There are remnants of Jews who once lived here. Unknown to its current inhabitants, a church only two blocks from my apartment contains a beautiful flame sculpture on the front of the building, stating its former life of a synagogue. The iron fence surrounding the church is shaped like menorahs. Six blocks away is another building that is currently operated by New York City as a daycare for senior citizens. Signs posted around the center point to the defunct synagogue as a place for a weekday morning service.
This past Saturday Afternoon I decided to take a walk. As I left my apartment I noticed two young men dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black hats across the street. Initially, I thought how funny it would be if I said “Shabbat Shalom” to them, as I was in shorts and a t-shirt and clearly not religious. Then I started to wonder why these two young men were walking down this street. Maybe they were taking a long walk to/from Boro Park? I thought it was odd they were walking down this specific street, especially when the neighborhood looked much nicer only a few blocks away. You go from ugly apartment buildings that look like they were built during World War 2 to giant Victorian houses that have front yards in the span of a few minutes. If I was taking a leisurely walk, that is the area I would go to.
As my mind started to wander, I noticed two more young men walking down the street on my side. Where they in a race with the other two Jews? Why are there so many Orthodox Jews walking through my neighborhood today? Was there a Torah in the former synagogue that needed saving? Quickly, these funny (to me) thoughts were interrupted by an older black lady yelling down the street. At first I thought she was speaking gibberish – there tends to be a lot of drug users in my neighborhood. Everyone in my building smokes weed in the stairwells, and I’ve seen strung out people on my front steps numerous times. As I got closer to her I started to make out some of her words. It was the second to last day of the month, and this This older black lady thought that these young men were sent to collect her rent money. She thought they were going to start kicking people out of their homes for not paying rent on time. She was yelling at them for being greedy and hurting the neighborhood.
Except they were just walking down the street. I was kind of shocked. This lady was yelling at them because the only association she has with Orthodox Jews is the many Orthodox slum lords of New York.
It was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh. I turned to her as I passed (she was still yelling) and I said to her “They are not coming for your money. It’s the Sabbath. They can not take your money.”
After a few moments of me trying to reassure her, and her not listening, a light bulb went on in her head and she said “Oh, its Saturday.”
While I have read my fair share of anti-white graffiti in this neighborhood, I have never had a problem. I have never felt threatened or attacked in any way. This was certainly a strange way to feel bias and resentment.