Posts Tagged ‘anti-Semitism’

PB Diversity Rallies Lacking in Diversity

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

I have some advice for those Pine Bush residents who are organizing the rallies designed to highlight their community’s commitment to diversity:  Get a few people in front of the camera who don’t have white skin, maybe a gay couple or two (preferably with their kids in tow), and (for icing on the cake) some Orthodox Jews. It would be ideal if they were Hasidic but that is probably too much to ask, considering all the fuss over that darned housing development they’re trying to erect in Bloomingburg.  Why, they’re even seeking approval to build a “discriminatory school” to go along with the housing: a private religious school for girls that will drain funds from the public schools because the Pine Bush school district (which includes Bloomingburg) will have to provide services for their children, including those with special needs.

I see your point there. I’ve seen it ever since the Reagan years when the education laws were changed so as to allow certain funds intended for public school use to be diverted to private and parochial schools. (The Warwick school district, for example, provides nursing service to St. Stephen’s.) Far be it for me to suggest there may be a smidgen of anti-Semitism involved in the current outcry from the denizens of Pine Bush and Bloomingburg.  But why am I talking about this when you keep telling me the Pine Bush thing has nothing to do with the Bloomingburg development? (Hint: Maybe it’s because you’ve been saying it so much it has forced me to think about it a lot more than I would have otherwise.)

In any event, just to recap: Your efforts to highlight your devotion to the cause of diversity are in response to negative publicity generated by an article that appeared in The New York Times on Nov. 6. The article reported on a lawsuit filed against the Pine Bush Central School District by three Jewish families who allege that their children (and others) were victims of cruel harassment in school and that the district knew about it and did little or nothing to stop it. The children gave testimony describing incidents that included the drawing of a  swastika on a seventh-grade girl’s face as she was held down by two boys; middle school students being called “Christ killer,” “stupid Jew,” “disgusting Jew,” and being subjected to jokes about the Holocaust; and students having coins thrown at them. The article led to widespread criticism of Pine Bush by some heavy hitters (Gov. Cuomo, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Anti-Defamation League, to name a few).

But at least you have the support of Stuart Feuer, a Jewish dentist who practices in Pine Bush, where he has lived with his family for 25 years. He wrote a letter published Nov. 9 in the Times saying that no one in his family ever experienced any anti-Semitism. “I am very saddened,” he concluded, “that this negative attention is being brought to our beautiful, peaceful hamlet, which is filled with good-hearted, hard-working people.” He reportedly got upset later because someone unknown to him from New Jersey wrote a letter describing him as a “self-hating Jew.”

I have met Feuer and I doubt he is a self-hating Jew. He may, however, be a self-serving dentist. As one of the few Jewish residents of Pine Bush his practice is dependent on the goodwill and patronage of his non-Jewish neighbors. John Barker, a mechanic who lives in Pine Bush, must go to another dentist. Barker is quoted in the Times article as saying of Jewish families, “We don’t want them in our town.”

Anna Merlan, a blogger for the Village Voice, checked out comments from Pine Bush residents on social media after the Times article was published and found that “reactions were divided between people who said they, too, had experienced or witnessed prejudice, and those who were shocked, shocked to hear that such a thing might be taking place in their town.” The most revealing responses, she noted in her Nov. 11 post, came from Pine Bush teenagers and young adults. Some took to Twitter and Facebook to say they were “embarrassed” or “ashamed.” But others made no attempt to conceal their bigotry:

“This is pine bush, and if you don’t like pine bush you can geeeeeeet out,” Tweeted Charlie

“I think this is all coming up because the Jews want to take over Bloomingburg and the people aren’t letting that happen,” chirped I Am McGlory.

“(Bleep) all ya why cause more drama then there already is in this town. The jews just needa go back to kj where they belong,” cursed the uncharitable Christian.

“Don’t believe things people say just to get money from the school district,” opined Joey.

And after a hearty “lol” in homage to Joey, Amanda proclaimed, “…that article is retarded. No one threw coins at the (bleepin) jews.”

Maybe you “good hearted, hard-working people” in Pine Bush don’t know what these young people have been saying.  Surely Feuer never saw those comments. Like Feuer, author Michelle Zink lives in Pine Bush and is raising her children there. Unlike Feuer, she does not depend on the goodwill of her neighbors for her livelihood. Three days after Feuer’s letter was published in the Times, Zink posted a blog on her website titled Anti-Semitism Is Alive and Well in My Home Town. I suggest you read it before your next diversity rally.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.