Sixth Grade Hell

By
Jew. A word commonly used to describe a person of the Jewish faith. Now used as a derogatory or insulting term. JEW. There it is, boldly written on my classmate’s pencil case. Why is it there? Maybe one of her friends wrote it as an attempt to be humorous. Obviously my classmate does not care who reads her pencil case. But why do I care so much? David. A boy with a crush who would soon turn my life into a living hell. Jew. A word that would haunt me forever.
Sixth Grade. Mid September. Beginning of Hell. I returned late one Sunday night from an out-of-town Tulane football game. Like every other pre-teen on a Sunday night, I came home and immediately checked my latest emails. I was excited to see an email from David, a classmate whom I occasionally swapped CDs and DVDs with. I opened his email to find this message: “Sarah, I have liked you for a while now but I can’t stand the thought of you not liking me. I am going to kill myself.” Needless to say, I panicked. Suicide? For a young Catholic school girl like me, this was a word that was often said on the news but held no significance in my life. All I knew was that David could be dead and it was entirely my fault! I ran to the one person I knew could help-- my mom. She called the school counselor on Monday morning, read the email to her, and said we wanted to keep it confidential so that nobody would make fun of David. Luckily, David was in school Monday morning. It wasn’t too late. The counselor notified the principal and assistant principal. David’s parents were called but they weren’t concerned. Their only concern was that David was on the computer at one in the morning. Great parenting, right? David was punished and told all his friends that my mom and I got him in trouble for being on the computer too late. He didn’t dare tell one of his friends the truth about the suicide threat. Next thing I knew, David and his three friends, who just happened to be the popular boys in the grade, began pushing me into lockers and standing on my schoolbag when I would try to pick it up. David would come up behind me and whisper hateful names in my ear. I thought this was cruel, but I had no idea what lay ahead of me.
Sixth Grade. October. Middle of Hell. Leave it to boys to dig up every bit of information they can get their muddy little hands on. David and his friends found what would soon become my greatest weakness-- my father is Jewish. My dad is my hero; his religion doesn’t matter to me, but the sixth grade boys felt it would be the perfect way to get under my skin. The ignorant boys began teasing me about being “part Jewish.” They would fake sneezes and say “A-Jew” instead of “Ah-Choo.” They would draw swastikas in their notebooks and hold up their papers to me in class. The boys would pass me and say “effing Jew.” David was the worst; he was the ringleader. He would tell me that he was going to wear his swastika contacts and stare at me all day. Utter loneliness and fear. The only person I could turn to was my mother. My friends would see the boys making fun of me, but not even my closest two friends knew why. I could not tell them because I, for some reason that remains unknown, still wanted to protect David. My friends reported the teasing to our principal. The boys would occasionally be called into the front office and were told to leave me alone, but that did not stop them. My teachers watched from the sidelines, unwilling to interfere. Although one of my teachers wanted to assign a project on the Holocaust to teach the boys a lesson, he was turned down by the administration. Those cruel boys learning more about the Jews was exactly what I did not need. My life was miserable. I began skipping classes and sitting in the counselor’s office. I wouldn’t eat lunch; I would just put my head down on the table and cry. Go to school, get teased for hours, go to the counselor’s office, cry, go home, cry some more. This became my daily routine for months. I hated school. I had nothing to look forward to except more teasing and bullying. I did not know how much longer I would last.
Sixth Grade. March. Two Months Left. More Hell. One of my favorite rituals of the year came along-- signing yearbooks. I could not wait to have all my closest friends sign mine. I began flipping the newly filled pages to read the notes from my friends. I turned a page, and there it was. JEW. The word was back again. Walking out of school, I noticed horror on my friends’ parents’ faces. The boys had written in my friends’ yearbooks, too. “Sarah is a Jew!” The mothers were absolutely furious and immediately went to the principal, but all the principal did was hand out new yearbooks. So there I was again, frightened and alone. Now I was staring at a blank yearbook with only the faces of those boys staring back at me. I had two more months until I was free from the devils. Could I make it?
Sixth Grade. Last Day. End of Hell. I had barely survived the worst year of my life, but the key is that I survived. I knew the boys would forget about everything over the summer. My mom made arrangements so that I would not be in the same classes as David for my seventh grade year. Finally, my life had a chance to return to normal.
To this day, my father does not know of anything that happened during my sixth grade year. We felt it would be best if he did not know the awful things taking place in a Catholic school. I eventually was able to tell my friends the whole story; they were completely shocked. My friends became a great support for me after they finally learned about my year of pain and suffering. Since that awful year, David’s friends have all apologized. Yet, David has never uttered a single word of apology. Now, when I hear someone called a “Jew” in a derogatory way, or if I see “Jew” blatantly scrawled in public, I will not just stand on the sidelines, hoping the ridicule will one day end. I stand up for what I know is right. I hope that one day “Jew” will once again be solely used out of reverence and respect for a follower of Judaism. David may not know it, but my year of teasing, ridicule, hatred, pain, and fear has made me stronger in my own faith and in my heart. Jew. A word of strength and courage.





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Lizzy12 said...
Jun. 12, 2009 at 12:52 pm
I love this passage. I also hate when people use this derogitory term however i am not jewish so i can only image how you feel. Great Job !
 
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