Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Breaking News

In a one week period, there has been more breaking news in the USA than I have seen since 9/11.  Pipe bombs sent to public figures including two former Presidents, a former Secretary of State and CNN.  A grocery shooting in Kentucky, a hate crime that targeted African Americans resulted in the death of two people, one of whom was shielding his 12 year old grandson.  Megyn Kelly speaking about how dressing up in black face was acceptable as Halloween costumes when she was growing up and it is not such a big deal (huh?).  Finally, the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that resulted in the murder of 11 people with another 6 injured including, and this is important, 4 police officers.

This whole week saw President Trump acting anything but presidential.  He blamed the media, which is where I have worked for the last 20 years, for the domestic terrorism in the US that I referenced.  The media is made up of many people who work behind the scenes to make the news, morning shows, lifestyle shows and entertainment shows happen. The people that had the greatest potential for injury were the people in the mail room or the security guards, not the “fake media” that the President so loves to reference.  This very man did not even reference the shootings in Kentucky.  He managed to tweet about the World Series, but not even a word about this particular shooting.  I am not sure if it is because “only” two people died or if it is because the two victims were African American.

The President identifies himself as a nationalist.  Think about someone else that identified himself in the same way – Hitler.  Last year, it was shocking seeing to see the white supremacists march the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”.  People in the community held a counter-protest resulting in the death of a woman and the President said that was blame to be had on both sides.  While I do not believe that Trump alone is to blame for the environment of intolerance that I am seeing now, he has allowed people the platform to be open about their hatred.  He is also supported by the National Rifle Association (the NRA).  Here was his response to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh:

“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation,” Trump said. “They didn’t have protection. They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection. If there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him.  Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly,” Trump continued. “Isn’t it a shame that you have to think of that inside a temple or inside a church? But certainly, the result would have been far better.”

Can we please get real for 1 minute?  The shooting still would have happened, in fact, the armed guard would likely have been the first casualty.  More guns are not the answer to gun violence.  No one should have to be at a house of worship with armed guards regardless of your religion.  Armed guards just mean more bullets and more targets.  The answer is twofold – tolerance and gun control.  No one needs an automatic assault rifle to defend themselves.  We have strict gun laws in Canada – and yes, while shootings do happen, because if you really want to get a hold of a gun, you will, it is not a daily event. How many more mass shootings do there need to be?  How many more candle-light vigils and marches need to happen before current administration in the States gets a clue?  Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both tried to pass gun control laws.  It’s time to stop pandering to a gun lobby and show value for life.

What happened in Pittsburgh was so devastating.  I have written about my own experiences with Anti-Semitism before (https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/being-different-in-a-trump-sort-of-world/) I mentioned that in this article that when I do go to synagogue, that I often have to go to security before I am allowed in.  It is my normal, but imagine having to do that.  Imagine, for a moment, if you will, being a 97 year old Holocaust survivor going to Sabbath services in your adopted country.  Surviving the brutal death camps only to be shot and killed by an anti-Semite?  Imagine how this makes other survivors feel or children and grandchildren of survivors?  Imagine knowing that because you are a minority, that this could happen to you?  Imagine looking at social media today and seeing your Jewish friends send out messages of hope to the community of Pittsburgh, but only your Jewish friends?  I remember seeing so many London Strong/Paris Strong/Boston Strong/Istanbul Strong/New York Strong photo frames going up, but today, I see only a few Pittsburgh Strong frames.

We all have a duty to speak out against hatred.  I watched CNN this morning, for the first time in a long time, and Jake Tapper ended his panel with this quote from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

There are more good people than bad in the world, and I have seen these helpers first hand, but here is another quote from the very same man that spoke to me:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Be a hero – speak out against hatred and bigotry and intolerance, wherever you see it.  Don’t just like this post – act.  If someone around you spouts hatred of any kind towards any race or people of any sexual orientation, speak up and let them know that you will not tolerate this.  When Jews say confession on Yom Kippur to atone for our sins, we say it as a community, because if one of us is guilty, all of us are guilty.  We also believe that if you save one life, it is the same as saving all of mankind.  Think about that…if you speak out against one type of intolerance, you are speaking out against all types of intolerance.

 

 

 


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An Unveiling

Today was my mother’s unveiling ceremony.  If you have never been to one, it literally is a ceremony where a headstone is unveiled and it is held within one year of the person’s death if they are Jewish.  Planning it, from selecting the headstone, to writing the words that will live on long after I am gone, and planning all of the other details was, as I saw it, one of the last things that I could to honour a woman that I so admired.  My sister, Michele and I decided last night, that I would say a few words.  It was harder doing this than it was giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  The shock and numbness that I felt that day could no longer protect me from what I was feeling.  There is a sense, on a day like this, of a wound that had never closed, reopening.  Seeing my mother’s headstone reminded me that this loss is real, and now, it had a tangible aspect that it never had before.

I did not prepare or write down anything for today’s service.  I just had a very vague idea of what I wanted to say.  Some of my family, who could not be at the service, asked if I could blog about it; others who were there did not hear everything, asked for the same.  Here is the gist of what I said:

“I first want to thank you all for coming out on such a cold day.  Some of you, like my cousin, had to travel from out of town.  My aunt is in from Ottawa, but I know that she had always planned on being here, for her sister.  When coming up with the epitaph for my mother’s headstone, it was difficult to summarize everything that I was feeling in 5 words or less.  Some of you many think, when you see it, that I was seeing my mother through rose-coloured glasses.  That the words came from a child’s love for her mother.  I actually took the words from Rabbi Chaim (Harold) Zelikovitz.

After my mother died, I showed my aunt my grandfather’s siddur (prayer book).  It has to be about 100 years old.  Harold had written a passage in it when my Zaydie died.  She suggested that I should ask him to send me something about my mother, and here are his words:

Judith Zelikovitz Schneiderman returned her heroic, courageous and dearly beloved soul to her maker on 17 Adar 5778 (March 3, 2018).  May she find comfort forever in the everlasting world.  Rest peacefully.  Never to be forgotten.  

That is where the words for the epitaph – Heroic, Courageous and Dearly Beloved – come from.  They seemed to perfectly describe my amazing mother who was exactly the person that I remember her to be.

We know that the loss of our mother does not just belong to me and my sisters.  It belongs to all of you as well.  You all miss her too.  We wanted to make sure that we reflected that loss on her headstone.  

I know how cold it is out, but I wanted to thank just a few more people.  Emily, Narda, Grace, Julia and Angel – you all put the care in caregiver.  You treated my mother like a cherished family member, not just a patient.  You gave my sisters and me peace of mind and cared for our mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We are forever grateful to you.  My mother cared about you all too.  She would be deeply touched and so appreciative of the turn out today, and we are too.”

I had the chance to speak with some of my mother’s very close friends and her dear cousins today.  It was so touching hearing what they thought of her.  One of her friends told me that my mother would have been so proud today – that everything was done perfectly.  That meant a lot to me, but no matter how perfect it was, it will never seem like enough.  Today reminded me of how I felt the week that my mother died.  I wondered, then, how something could be awful and beautiful at the same time.  That week, my family, including my cherished mother, were surrounded by people and with so much love, even as we were losing her.  Today, we were once again, surrounded with love, but this time, we all had to deal with the pain of her absence.

When I asked the Rabbi, who officiated at the unveiling, months ago where my mother would be once she died, he said something incredibly profound.  He said, “The best way to explain it is that your mother will be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.”  That still makes perfect sense to me.

 

 


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Being Different in A Trump Sort of World

I never realized that I was different from most kids my age until I was at least 4.  Sure, around Christmas time, I wondered why we didn’t have lights or decorations.  My mother just said that we celebrate Chanukah (yes, it really does have a Ch).  I also wondered why Santa didn’t visit us, and she told me that we had a special dot on our door that told Santa not to deliver gifts to our house.  Being gullible, I looked for that stupid dot long after I realized that Santa wasn’t real.  I never did find it.  Just another little disappointment that I’ve had to learn to live with.  Anyway, I was born in Montreal and raised in Sydney, a small city in Nova Scotia.  Being Jewish wasn’t the rule, it was the exception.  Once, when I was about 4, I was playing outside and an older boy, or should I say bully,  from around the corner drove his bicycle over my feet.  He did this simply because I was a Jew.  Luckily, I told my older sister and friend Paul what happened and my sister knocked him off of his bike, and Paul jumped on him and pulled his ears until he apologized.

There were other incidents as I was growing up.  One boy kept yelling “Jill is Jewish” in the playground.  I didn’t get too offended, because even though it was meant as a slur, it was just a fact.  A couple of other kids told me that they knew that I was rich because I was Jewish.  I had no idea what my parents had, all that I knew was that I never did get Superstar Barbie because they said that they couldn’t afford it.  My friends were all very respectful though and defended me when bullying came up.  Interestingly, my closest friends in high school were Muslims and Hindus.  None of us cared about what made us different – we grew up in a very similar way.  The most uncomfortable encounters actually were with adults.

My neighbour, who seemed like a perfectly nice man that let me take his dog for a walk when I was walking my own puppy, later became a bit of a terror.  He got fired from the bank when he told a Jewish customer that he wished Hitler had finished all Jews off.  He  held a bit of a grudge.  When I’d walk my dog, there were times that he would follow us around with his car getting a little too close for comfort.  He threatened to “take a stick” to me and my dog if I ever let Rascal on his lawn.  I was 8 years old at the time, and finally realized that there really was something different about me, something that certain people may not like.

My grade 12 English teacher was the second adult that made things uncomfortable for me.  Just my luck, we were reading “The Merchant of Venice” and he felt it necessary to discuss the character of Shylock’s Judaism for longer than necessary.  Some of what he said absolutely was important to the narrative of the play.   Throwing in his opinion that all Jews are rich, that you never see a Jewish cab driver or maintenance person wasn’t.  He directed comments about Jews being doctors mainly, looking right at me (my father was a doctor) when he said it was just a little slice of heaven.  There was more, but he’s not worth any extra time than this.  Again, most kids and teachers were great.  People from the East Coast (of Canada) are very friendly and welcoming.  Most of the time when they’d make comments or ask questions, it was curiosity, not malice.

When I moved to Toronto, I experienced far worse.  Here is a small smattering of things that I rarely have spoken to anyone about:

  • A woman walked up to me walking along the street with a friend, and said “Excuse me, do you think you are in Jew-town?”.  Me, “Pardon?”  thinking that she couldn’t have said that.  The woman retorted, “You heard me” and walked away.
  • A person, not realizing that I was Jewish, joked about my part time job as a cashier at a card store saying that I was playing “the Jewish” piano.
  • Sitting with a group of friends and acquaintances watching TV one day, a skit came on featuring Hasidic Jews.  It was funny, and if you can’t laugh at your own people, who can you laugh at?  One person took it one step too far and he said exactly these words, “I f%$king hate f$#king Jews with their f$#king big noses and f#$king big wallets.”  He went on to say more, but stopped after a minute more of his tirade when the room got very silent.  He turned to me and said, “Your not Jewish, are you?”.   The last words that I ever said to him were “As a matter of fact, I am”.
  • “You are such a nice person Jill, it’s really too bad that you are going to hell because you don’t accept Christ as your saviour.  Sin is sin in God’s eyes.”
  • “Oh, when I said that Jews were obnoxious and horrible, I didn’t mean you Jill, you aren’t like that.  I meant other Jews.”  If I had a dime for every time someone said some form of this to me, I’d have a couple of hundred dollars at least.
  • I’m not religious, but out of guilt (it’s one of the stereotypes of my religion that’s actually true), I go to synagogue twice a year on the High Holidays.  Every time that I go, there is security that has to check my purse before I’m allowed on the premises.  Imagine going to church and needing to have it checked by bomb-sniffing dogs and needing police protection?  That’s our normal.

The list goes on and on, as it probably does for everyone who is a visible or invisible minority.  There have been times when I’ve seen what it’s like for someone else.  I was in Memphis with my friend when we were waiting for a car rental place to open up.  An African American woman came out of a bus with a whole bunch of children who also happened to be African American.  She was distraught, because the store was late opening and they had to be on the road and she wanted to return the keys for a car.  We offered to do it for her, and she looked like she was going to cry.  She explained that it was just such a nice thing to do after she had such a rough day.   Her group was on a high after taking the kids to the National Civil Rights Museum.  When she checked into her hotel, the front desk clerk told her to keep her little (insert the “N” word here) quiet.  It was traumatizing for her to go from the extreme of how far her people had come, to how much further there still was to go.

Another time, I was on a bus, and there was a young-ish black child (maybe 11 or 12) on his own.  A mentally ill woman starting walking up and down the bus shouting derogatory things about black people.  It was awful, and I just wanted to die for this child.  I talked to him and said you know what she saying isn’t true.  She’s mentally ill, right?  He slowly nodded, but it was so heartbreaking.  I just kept talking to him the rest of the bus ride so that he wouldn’t feel so alone.

All of the things that have happened over the course of my life didn’t prepare me for what I saw in Charlottesville.  The march by the Neo-Nazis and KKK sent chills down my spine.  Watching them take over the streets with their tiki-torches and Anti-Semetic signs was a horrible reminder of what it must have been like to be a Jew (or any minority) in Germany in the 1930’s.  The weekend’s festivities where they spouted hate against African Americans and all other minorities was a reminder that there are home grown terrorists in the US (and Canada) too.  They are being enabled by a President that doesn’t understand moral equivalency because he is completely immoral.

Here is what I have to say to the KKK, the Neo-Nazis/Fascists and haters of all kind.  “Jews will not replace us” (coming from a Nazi Germany and Neo-Nazi saying meaning basically that whites will not be replaced with immigrants and non-whites) makes zero sense.  I have no desire to replace a racist, sexist low-life who spends most of their time hiding behind a hood.  What am I supposed to replace you at?  Marketing for the KKK?    I can imagine the campaigns now: “Wearing White after Labour Day – a Klan do”; “Waterproof Eye Liner – How to paint a Swastika on your face without smearing it.”;  “The All White/Alt Right Food Diet”; “17 Different Woods That Are Best for Burning Crosses”.  I could go on, but I won’t, they aren’t worth it.

If you hate people because of their colour, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender/gender orientation or any other reason, you are a loser.  Really, just a big, old loser.  All of the people marching in the streets for “their country” and “their land” should remember that by ancestry, they too are immigrants.  The only Native Americans, are just that, the Native Americans.  You know, the ones whose land your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents took away?  The Confederates lost the Civil War – get over it.  The Nazis lost World War 2 – it’s time to get on the right side of history.  The side that embraces people that are different than you.  The side that Trump seems confused by.  There are no “fine” Neo-Nazis or KKK.  There are fine people that may be white or black or gay or straight or trans or Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Native American/First Nations or Chinese or Japanese or South-East Asian or Arabic or even a mix of all of the above.  We need to learn from history so that the devastation of events like the Holocaust never happen again.