In 1941, I was five-years-old, just back from living with an aunt and uncle for almost a year. I didn’t know any of the kids on the block so when a girl from across the street invited me to play with her, I skipped to her house, filled with excitement.
She invited me to go down to the basement where a group of girls was waiting. The smiles on their faces didn’t make me feel good. The girl who invited me said, “We’re going to play a game. We’ll make a circle. Go into the center. You’re it.
Not knowing what the game was, I hesitated, then went into the middle as the girls joined hands and started to circle around me. Suddenly they began to chant, “You killed Christ. We’re gonna kill you.”
Terrified, I broke through the circle, ran up the stairs, out the door, across the street, up the stairs to my house, opened the door, ran into my room, and hid under the bed, crying.
My mother came in, pulled me out from under the bed, and asked why I was crying. Through my sobs I managed to say, “They say I killed Christ and I don’t even know who he is.”
“Oh for godsakes, don’t be such a crybaby. No wonder they don’t want to play with you. They were only teasing,” said my mother, who left the room in disgust, leaving me no wiser as to who Christ was.
I stopped crying.
The next day, when it was time to walk to school, a Catholic boy from up the block offered to walk with me. He was about eight or nine, big for his age. “You’re too little to walk 14 blocks by yourself,” he said. I smiled and thanked him. It was a long walk. Having someone to walk with me was comforting. The stories he told made the walk go quickly.
But, at the end of the day, a bunch of Catholic boys beat him up for walking a “Yid” to school. When I saw his bruises and found out about the beating, I told him, “I don’t want you to get hurt just for walking me to school. It’s okay, I can walk by myself.”
He shook his head. “I’m gonna walk you. I like walking with you. I’m not about to let a bunch of stupids tell me what to do.”
Every day he walked me to school despite the fights. When I begged him to stop walking with me, he laughed, “All this fighting is making me strong. Don’t worry.”
Have you experience hatred based on prejudice?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.