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A Penny For Your Thoughts

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Recently, a Facebook friend sent a message about a disturbing incident that began when someone rang her doorbell late one evening. When her husband answered, no one was there, but on the doorstep, he found a pile of pennies arranged in the shape of a swastika.

The police were called and after being photographed, the pennies were taken into evidence. My friend is alerting synagogues and schools in the area. She also reached out to us to share her horror, to warn us. Perhaps, she was searching for answers that just aren't there.

I posted something on my own Facebook page because I wanted to share my outrage. I was almost speechless in my fury—that this could happen at all, that there is still such senseless hatred in our world. 

Many of my friends posted their own comments, sharing their own outraged calls for action.  And then there was this:

Am I surprised? Of course not! [My daughter] was confronted by two boys four weeks before the end of school. They yelled at her, calling "Jew, Jew" and threw pennies at her feet, telling her to pick them up. This happened not once, but twice before, she told me.

The onlookers only laughed.

We went through the process at school. Kids were dealt with again by the administration because they have been bullying kids for years. Guess their policies don't work. The school isn't too bothered or outraged, so it seems. But she was harassed again, by the other kids, because she told.

Then at a school registration event last week, the same kids saw her and started yelling 'Jew, Jew, there's the Jew!" She came and got me. I confronted the two boys in front of the principal and the entire population of parents, and kids who stood, looking at their schedules, there in the cafeteria, deftly ignoring the situation. I had a meeting with the principal, who decided that the incident was not serious because it still wasn't officially “school.”

Will this stop for her? No chance. The school really doesn't have decent policies to deal with these types of situations. No chance they will kick out the bullies because the school doesn't want to lose the money. There’s been lots of talk directed at my daughter about not being a victim, about fighting back, about being strong and better than them. Next stop: police. Next stop: lawyer. How pathetic. The school administration should be ashamed that they can't keep the kids in a socially safe learning environment. For them, just another day of trying to make do with crap policies that protect no one. For everyone who says we shouldn't stay silent, well, I can't hear you. Sorry for the tirade but this one is just too close to home for me to stay off my soap box.

I can't afford to be speechless, to step down off the soapbox-- not about this.

"We are better than this!" I want to shout.

“Haven’t we learned anything?”

Hatred lives and thrives in the dark, in the twisted, ugly places that are guarded by fear and ignorance. We must illuminate this pestilence so that it cannot grow and fester.

This is not a matter of “kids will be kids.” We can't afford to pass this off as a prank or fear that we may overreact, or that our reaction is merely feeding their need for attention. What we cannot do is posture. We cannot wring our hands and shake our heads. We cannot just post our outrage and then walk away. When I talk about shining a light into the dark, I mean it actively. What do we, what do I, do about this? How do I teach and shine the light and change the world?

What if, instead of a swastika, it was a burning cross, or a racist smear, or a cartoon reviling gays or the disabled or Muslims?  These acts are hate-filled and evil. We cannot let it pass.

We are a people who do not sit idly by. In last week’s parashah, we were commanded to remember Amalek and what he did to us in the desert. If we do nothing, Amalek wins. Let's make the desert bloom, shining our light so brightly that we change the world.

It was suggested by a friend that the pennies left on the doorstep be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I think that’s a great idea.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling towards meaning: Stacey’s Blog, where this post originally was posted.

Published: 8/25/2013

Categories: Religious Liberties
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