"This dirty Jew remembers every penny thrown at him.
The ones thrown from above, as we waited to be picked up from the public pool in my hometown on Long Island, our yarmulkes pinned to wet hair. By then, I was big enough to feel shame for the younger kids, who knew no better than to scurry around, as our local anti-Semites laughed.
I remember walking home from synagogue at my father’s side, in our suits and ties, and seeing a neighbor boy crawling on his hands and knees, surrounded by bullies, this time picking up pennies by force. I remember my father rushing in and righting the boy, and sending those kids scattering.
I remember when, at that same corner, on a different day, those budding neo-Nazis surrounded my sister, and I raced home for help. I remember my parents running back, and my father and mother (all five feet of her) confronting the parents of one of the boys, who then gave him a winking, Trumpian chiding for behavior they didn’t care to condemn. Even if it’s ‘kids with horns,’ they told their son, he should leave other children alone.
I’ll never forget the shame of it. Nor any of the other affronts, from the swastika shaving-creamed on our front door on Halloween to the kid on his bike yelling, ‘Hitler should have finished you all.’ I remember every fistfight, every broken window, every catcall and curse. I remember them because each made me — a fifth-generation American — feel unsafe and unwelcome in my own home, just as was intended.
I could, likewise, catalog every tough-Jew story of victory in the face of hatred. My favorite still: that of my bull-necked great-grandfather who worked for the railroads, who in response to the guy on the next barstool saying that there were ‘too many Jews’ in the place, knocked the bum out with a single punch, without getting up from his perch.