This past weekend I was lucky enough to experience my first Passover Seder with my boyfriend and his grandparents. I have been raised with Athiest beliefs, only briefly educated in Christianity from my grandmother. This being said, I knew next to nothing about Judaism other than what I’ve learned in class and what I have been taught by Jewish friends. I was very surprised by how beautiful this experience was, as it was something that brought us together and sparked conversation. His grandmother spoke in lengths to me about her experience with her faith and the times that it has often failed or ostracized her even from her own friends and religion.
A story she told that stood out to me the most was one of her first college experiences in Cleveland, Ohio. She spoke of moving in with her two new roommates freshman year. She described her roommates saying that one was an African American girl and the other was a white, devout Christian. His grandmother said that when she was changing into her pajamas on that first night, her roommate (the one who was a white, devout Christian) asked her where her tail was because the girl genuinely believed that Jewish people had tails and horns. This not only horrified me that this happened but also brought me right back to the thoughts of our class discussions. I remembered our class discussion of the misinterpretation of the Hebrew Bible in which some individuals read the work as Moses having horns and a tail. Although I knew the history of this from our class discussion, I was still shocked and appalled that this is something that actually happens.
His grandparents went on to describe the endless times they have dealt with anti-semitism without the individual even realizing they were being anti-semitic. His grandmother also described a situation where one of her best friends said that they had to “Jew-down” someone to get them to donate to a fundraiser. I asked his grandmother how she responded to this and she said that it was hard to even formulate a response when something like that happens.
I feel as though these issues are still extremely relevant, specifically with the recent issue of blackface on the Geneseo campus. More people need to think before they speak or act to avoid acts of racism (intended or not). This again made me think of Big Machine, as many of the characters deal with their faith. Recently in Hum 2, my professor was talking about how if you want to be a successful dictator, it’s all about finding a group of people to hate and get everyone else to hate them too. This reminded me of both the Washerwomen and Solomon Clay, as both try to lead out of hatred for others. Solomon Cly tries to turn people that are poor or homeless against the rest of society and the Washerwomen have a hatred for other beliefs. I have found it to be a reoccurring theme not only throughout literature but also life and society to spread hatred.