Cheering for Max but sad about anti-Semitism

I’m more than thrilled that the Dallas Morning News has chosen Max Glauben as its “Texan of the Year” for 2019. If you haven’t yet read his full story in last Sunday’s edition, please go to your computer ASAP and find it online. His is an incredible tale of a child who used mind, strength and faith in God not only to survive the Holocaust against odds beyond comprehension, but to emerge from it as a person who continues to use those powers of survival in the service of ongoing education. He is a one-man force, working to make sure that such horrors and losses as he experienced never come to anyone, anywhere, again.
I applaud. But it is through tears now, as I read so often in the same paper almost every day of new acts of anti-Semitism. Pittsburgh, my hometown, was not an isolated incident, just big enough and first-time enough to make headlines everywhere. And now, it seems such headlines have the horrific side effect of encouraging others to act the same. What will it take to let us Jews live safe Jewish lives?
My grandparents emigrated from Europe before the turn of the 20th century, running from persecution, yes, but mainly running toward a new life that offered the promise of Jewish safety. And the United States delivered, at least in the main, on that promise. They lived in a ghetto of their own making in an area that was also home to a growing population of African Americans, and were content there. But their children wanted more, and better. My parents moved to the fringes of another area that today is still known as primarily Jewish, but the street on which I lived was divided, with an invisible line separating Jews from Italians. And our children moved on, and out, not just to other primarily white Christian neighborhoods in the city, but far from the city itself. And what we see now is ugly anti-Semitism in that city, and in so many others.
Has Max Glauben been laboring in vain? Does our wondrous new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Center labor in a lost cause? Will we — not just us Jews, but all people of goodwill — ever be able to overcome those whose will is evil?
Max’s honoring as an individual reminds us to honor all who survived then, and who survive today, against increasingly evil odds, to live lives of productivity and at least seeming normality. But there has always been this underbelly of anti-Semitism in our beloved America. And now, we must not only admit it; we must somehow unite against it.
My father, born in America, trained first as an engineer, but couldn’t get a job because Jewish engineers were unwelcome in the 1920s and ‘30s. In our “safe” neighborhood, where I was raised from early childhood, the German American Bund made its presence known late in the ‘30s, paralleling the rise of Hitler, and energized its school children to make life miserable for their Jewish peers. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, Jewish soldiers who had served our country with honor in World War II hesitated to speak freely of what they endured from Jew-hating Christians during those years. Yes, it was a stressfully dangerous time for all in uniform, but even more so for uniformed Jews.
So today, I am scared. But now, I wear an obvious Jewish symbol around my neck every day — a star, a mezuzah, a hamsa, an Israeli coin. I tell people I do this because If someone wants to shoot a Jew, I don’t want that person to kill some “innocent” Christian by mistake. I’m only half-joking about that.
Let’s cheer for Max. Let’s honor the few other Holocaust survivors who remain to stand with him today. But let’s always remember the many who died then, and in times before, and are dying today, just because of being Jews. Like us.

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