Friday, January 26, 2007

Jesus Was a Jew: A Lesson in Anti-Semitism

I was subbing in a classroom the other day where every student had a behavior disorder. I’ve subbed in the class before, so I was familiar with most of the students. However, there was one student who I had never seen before. Apparently he had been in jail for over six months for a variety of crimes. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the student was also extremely racist. In the afternoon all of us: the students, the teacher, the extra aid, and myself; gathered together for a little meeting. Someone in the class had written racist names in the backroom blackboard wall. During the course of the conversation, the student I had never seen before became highly agitated and started cursing and making comments. He also threatened another student in the class. Before he was removed from the room, he was yelling at the other student and his remarks were like, “You better tell that little fucker to shut up. See, he’s not talking to me now. What’s he doing now? Praying. Go ahead and pray to your Jewish God. Your fucking Jewish God. I don’t believe in God. Fucking Jewish bitch God. Think your God’s going to save you? There’s no God here. You’re God’s not going to save you. Fucking Jewish God. That no good Jew God.” The other student who he was yelling at wasn’t even speaking and the student isn’t Jewish. The teacher, the other aid, and myself were all a little bit stunned afterwards. In the less than five minutes the student had been ranting he had spewed forth more virulent racism than I have ever encountered before in my life. I’ve known people who are racist and I’ve actually been a victim of racism myself. But I’ve never seen a young person vomit such verbal hatred in such a short time.

Thinking about the incident later that day, I remembered something significant. Jesus was a Jew. Therefore, I guess that technically I follow a Jewish God. Having been raised in a Christian home, when I was a kid I never thought much about Jesus’ Jewishness. I guess I viewed Jesus like everyone else did, the son of a Christian God. Jesus is the foundation of my faith. He was a Christian in the purest sense of the name. It wasn’t until about twelve years ago when I was introduced to a book by Phillip Yancey entitled The Jesus I Never Knew that I thought about, considered, and accepted Jesus’ Jewishness. It’s something I’ve studied more sense then and I now accept it without any reservations.

However, thinking about yesterday’s events I realized that the way I felt in class yesterday is the way the Jewish people have been treated for thousands of years. Jews and Christians share common traditions and parts of faith, but they aren’t the same faiths. Nevertheless, there are similarities. As far as I know, I’ve never done or said anything anti-Semitic and I’ve tried to treat Jewish people the same way that I treat everyone else. I’ve read about and studied anti-Semitism, but yesterday I discovered what anti-Semitism feels like. It’s not a very good feeling, but I’m glad that I know.

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