Sitting on the porch, we both watched as the sun sank lower and lower into the lake. Unlike our peaceful setting, we were once again in a huge debate.
"Why don't you like the Silvers, Todd? They have never done anything to offend you," I argued.
"You just wouldn't understand," he answered quietly.
"Try me," I responded, looking at his lonely face.
Todd and I had been friends ever since our families had started spending summers in Nantucket. As little kids we would race our bikes up and down the dirt road, but now that we were older we had come to rely on each other a great deal. This time was no different, but little did I know that what Todd had to say would change a part of me for the rest of my life.
I remember accusing him of being wrong that day, for I did not see why anyone would want to hide their religion. Todd had told me that our next door neighbors, the Silvers, were Jewish; however, they did not want anyone to know. I did not understand. I thought people were supposed to be proud of their religion but instead these people were ashamed. Todd was Jewish and I had never thought twice about it, but Todd told me that not everyone was as open-minded as I. There are many people today who still have a great vengeance against the Jewish religion and practice many acts of discrimination against those of the Jewish faith. Not only was I shocked, I was also deeply saddened. To have this happen in this day and age is terrible. I then realized that the world, including America, has not changed as much as we would like to think.
I listened quietly as Todd told of the hardships he encountered daily because he was Jewish. In school there were kids who would ignore him and exclude him from school activities. There were colleges that he did not even bother to apply to believing he would be rejected for his religious preference. In his hometown there were country clubs which he and his family would never be able to join. These were only a few instances of discrimination Todd had run up against as he was growing up. All I could do was sit and stare at the ground wondering what our country had come to.
I realize how lucky I was to be sheltered from this form of discrimination, but at the same time I was ashamed. Who was to say I was any better than Todd, based on my religion? This type of discrimination was wrong, but how was it to be stopped? What makes it difficult to combat is that it is not overt; it is subtle and based on old stereotypes. There is no answer, for if people go on believing that the Jewish religion is wrong, the prejudices will continue to exist. It is saddening to think that in a land of rights and freedom, people are still oppressed by the ignorance of others.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.