He was a widower, 80 years old or so, a seemingly pleasant, quiet man with hearing aids who still worked part-time as an accountant. He attended weekly Shabbat services.
She was a forty-plus, short, swarthy woman of Spanish origin, a convert to Judaism. She once confided to me how angry she was some years back when a school official – mistaking her for a nanny – demanded to see her identification when she picked up her son at school.
When they were both called up to the bimah in front of the ark for an aliyah, an honor, they were requested to provide their Hebrew names. Mine, for example is Laibel Baruch ben Fievel – Lloyd Barry, son of Philip.
The woman could not immediately recall her Jewish name, and from fifteen feet away, I heard the man clearly mumble – he must have assumed under his breath, but who knew? – one word – shiksa – a derogatory name for a gentile girl or woman.
On the bimah, the Torah scroll was unrolled to Mishpatim – the week’s parshah, or portion, which includes a series of laws for the people of Israel including those prohibiting mistreating foreigners. And with this as the setting, I and others, too, heard the nasty slur against a fellow congregant.
After services, at the kiddush, the light lunch, I wanted to directly confront the man, but I didn’t want to make a scene. I asked him only if he sometimes found himself saying things under his breath that he might think people would not hear. I didn’t want to alienate him; after all, he’s an aging guy who might be losing some inhibitions. In retrospect, however, perhaps I should have been a bit more forceful, a bit more accusatory, but all in a gentle way.
That is what the idea of justice – to right a wrong – is all about.
Rev 4 / February 11, 2018
February 11, 2018 Copyright © 2018, Lloyd B. Abrams