My facebook friend Andrew Schonberger posted a poignant reminiscence about his life in Romania, where he no longer lives. Andrew's reminiscence is below:
Padiș, Munții Apuseni – the Western Mountains of Romania. This photo was posted today, and it gets lots of Likes and admiring exclamations. My memories are more complex.
We sat on this very spot, in 1968, admiring the sunset with my classmate. We walked the whole day to get to the area, and we pitched our tent on the flat campsite seen below. Then we climbed the small hill from where this photo was taken. We were both 17.
My classmate asked me a few times if I liked the view. He was very intellectual, sensible, refined. He was well read, and interested in history. I sensed he was uneasy, and there was something he didn't know how to tell me. But our friendship was close enough to allow for sensitive subjects.
Finally, he took the courage to tell me among deep excuses: all the available literature stated that Jews were genetically unable to love their homeland. They could never admire the sunset, and were indifferent to natural beauty. Yet, here I was, his Jewish classmate and I enjoyed the scenery just as much as he did.
I wouldn't call this antisemitism. More like a clash between tradition and reality. I repeat, this was my best friend at the time, and I still don't doubt his sincere intentions. He died some time ago.
Also today, my FB friend Danusha Goska mentioned Shenandoah River. I know that name from John Denver "Take me home, country road". Ten years ago, I came upon a live video recording of that song. Just when the public starts to sing along, the musician stops, looks straight to the camera, and says: "You don't need to know where West Virginia is. Somewhere in the world, there is a country road to take you home."
To be sure, it was a simple PR trick to widen the audience. But John Denver still said it, and I realised no one ever told me anything like this before. I was 50+ and I felt grateful.
I would call what Andrew experienced antisemitism. It's an anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews don't feel attached to their homelands and don't appreciate nature. I certainly encounter these stereotypes when reading about Polish-Jewish relations. I'm sorry that this happened to Andrew. I asked his permission to share this story and he kindly granted it.
Andrew's story occurred in 1968, the year of an anti-Semitic campaign in Poland. You can read about that here.
Reading Andrew's brief, sad, and poignant anecdote, I can't help but think of Julian Tuwim's "We Polish Jews," which you can read here.