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I Can Only Control Myself
The holocaust: It was the most tragic time for all Jews across the world. The word holocaust stems from the Greek words of “whole” and “burnt”. What the Jews called it was “The Shoah”, also known as a catastrophe. This was the genocide of over six million European Jews during the time of World War II, led by systematic Nazis. A total of nine million Jews lived in Europe around this time. They were all forced to wear a Star of David to state their being, and were eventually taken off to concentration camps. One million of the kids were killed at the time. Five million adults were then killed, two million woman, and three million men.
Growing up in a family where half of us were Jewish, I was told this story many times. But I never understood how cruel the human kind could be. I was just reminded: You can’t control others, you can only control yourself.
At a young age I never realized how different I potentially could be from others. I was a short, chubby, brown haired girl who never had a care in the world. At the time I was living in a community where being Jewish was not unreal. Every house build kosher with two of every appliance. Often times we would take a few steps down the street to the Rabbi’s home for dinner. But eventually the time came where it was time for us to move into a different home, and a different location.
Never did I find myself to be different until just this year. I took a step inside the school starting off my senior year. I looked like everyone else at the time. I had on blue jeans, white flip flops, and my Michigan State University hooded sweat shirt. I walked through the halls saying “Hi” to all of my friends I had not seen, and hugged those who I had missed. After walking through the front hall, up the side stairwell, and down another hall, I finally made it to my Chemistry class.
Being inside the class, the windows were open and the air smelled fresh. I introduced my self to my new teacher with a firm hand shake and sat back down. I took a pastel colored notebook and a bright pink mechanical pencil. Everything had seemed fine and I could not wait to finish my last year of high school.
When class started the teacher began to talk to each student when one yelled out to themselves, “Dang it! I lost my dollar!”. We all laughed at their random outburst. It was just then that the teacher replied, “ Don’t cry about a dollar you greedy Jew.” Did he really just say that? Some kids laughed at the reply, others rolled their eyes. I sat there speechless because I had never herd a teacher say such things. I could not tell if he was being serious or making a terrible joke. I pushed aside the fact and went on with my next few days.
That was the last Jewish comment he had made for the next few weeks. That is, until we started the second half of the semester. It was about this time that we were changing seats around the class. One by one, everyone was put into new places as he went up and down the rows with his clipboard. He came to a place in the room where the vent was. The vent in a fire place looking contraption off of the floor, where we burn things like chemicals, and the remains are aired out. He had laughed and said while pointing to the vent, “Well nobody gets this spot we don’t have any Jews in here.” I was completely appalled! I raised my hand and did not hesitate to tell him how ignorant he was. I continued to tell him that I was Jewish, I was proud, and I did not appreciate his nasty remarks.
“You do realize there are people who are Jewish in here right?” I said to him.
He just laughed quietly, “We don’t have those around our town”
“Actually, I am Jewish. But thank you so much for being ignorant. Now if you wouldn’t mind, it would be great if you would stop the comments and actually do some teaching”
I had never spoke like that to a teacher before. You could tell I had caught him off guard. He stood there with his clipboard held to his chest, giggled nervously, and continued on. The rage inside me was immense. I had to remind myself that I needed to calm down, and move on.
I had gone home that day and expressed to my dad what had been happening. My father knew that I was not feeling too comfortable with where I was. He sat me down and told me his own experience. When he was a senior in high school, he had a teacher Mr. Smith, who was very against the Jewish religion. At one point my dad was thrown up against his locker and told he needed to transfer schools or watch his back. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me, but I was thankful I was not in the situation.
Mr. Conner, my teacher, no longer put his comments forward in front of the class. But now being my last twenty days in his class room, he has started to feel a little too comfortable with I, his student. Here and there will make a Jew joke at me to see if I laugh. I have grown so numb to the jokes and comments, that I just blow them off. It should never have to be that way. It is just going back to the way things used to be many years ago.
The holocaust had ended in 1944 and 1945 when the allied armies began to liberate concentration camps one by one. This all had started in July of 1944. The allied forces moved in and took control of Germany after defeating the Nazis. At this time it was too late and the victims were dead. The remaining Jews were able to try and move on with their lives and look at a better future.
That is exactly what I had learned to do: Move on and live my life with a better future. People can be so ignorant that they are not worth my time. It is also nice to have what I would call my “allies”. These are a group of friends that support me and do speak up in my honor. They are all that I could ask for. In the end, I might not be able to control other people, but I can control myself.