Over the last months, there has been a spike in Anti-Semitic activity. Graffiti has been sprayed on Jewish Community Centers, bomb threats have been called into synagogues, and cemeteries have been vandalized. Pundits on the Left lay blame to this development, strangely, not on a metastasizing of Anti–Israel sentiment cultivated by President Obama, but on the rise of the blue-collar voter, given voice and vitality by the Trump administration. While I disagree with their assessment, talk of blue-collar Anti-Semitism brings back memories of a day some 30 years ago when I was almost beaten up by blue-collar teens in a small town in New Jersey.
For most of high school I attended a yeshiva in Edison, New Jersey. The neighborhood the yeshiva called home was white, working class; small homes on small lots, dignified by well-cared lawns and well-kept cars.
The locals were proud, patriotic Americans. Every Memorial Day and July Fourth, large flags fluttered throughout the neighborhood. I distinctly remember a tremendous outpouring of support for the troops during Persian Gulf War I, in 1990.
The yeshiva was in the neighborhood but not of the neighborhood. It had bought an old City Hall building and then an old public school across the street. Most of the teens were from Brooklyn, and we were a foreign entity in the area. Many of the locals wished we hadn’t come. The neighborhood was generally safe, but there was a steady, low-level stream of anti-Semitism. It usually happened on Friday nights, when the riff-raff was on the way to or from the pub. I remember pick-up trucks driving by, their occupants throwing pennies at us and yelling “Jew bagel.” Every now and then a window would be broken. There was one fist fight behind the gym that ended poorly for both parties.
But the date that comes to mind was a Sunday in the Spring of 1987. What had been a weekly Sunday afternoon pickup softball game quickly developed into a “yeshiva boys vs. local teens” rivalry. That particular day it seemed as if every girlfriend and cousin had come to watch. Loud music and the smell of alcohol pervaded the park.
The locals had a lead on us most of the game. They were up by two in the bottom of the ninth and we were having our last. We had runners on first and third with two outs. A tall, strong yeshiva boy named Reuven Stengel came up to bat. He took his time, waited for his pitch and barreled the ball deep into left field, over the road that ran through the outfield, into the cemetery behind it. The locals went stark-crazy. As the tying run crossed third base, the teen taking third knocked him down. Reuven, in a world of his own, ran right by both of them and scored. The yeshiva boy on third got back up and scored after Reuven. The locals said we lost because our runners scored in the wrong order. We said we won because their man had knocked our man down.
It was chaotic and time to leave. We started walking towards yeshiva when one of the locals began to yell, “They stole my glove; the Jews stole my glove!” I was walking with my friend Uriel Gleiberman and he was holding two gloves. I asked him who owned the second glove; he said it belonged to a friend who asked him to bring it back to school. The locals began searching us. If Uriel had picked up the wrong glove we were in for a beating. The locals searched Uriel and let him go. He didn’t have their glove.
The way I remember it, that Sunday was our last baseball game. The rabbis at yeshiva found out what had happened and put an end to the games.
This past February, some thirty years later, I flew from Dallas to New Jersey to attend the rededication of the yeshiva building. After the scheduled program, I drove around the neighborhood to take in the old sights. The houses around the school were much the same, small houses on small lots, with well-manicured lawns and nice cars up front. Occasionally, I would see a new brick facade or fence added. I sensed a definitive acceptance of the yeshiva by the locals. The school is now there for over three decades, and it is there to stay.
I drove back to the baseball field and parked the car. It was a cold day, but I stepped outside, closed my eyes and relived that Sunday afternoon in May, 1987.
I thought about primitive, blue collar anti-Semitism. And I was at ease. It was not and is not a serious deal. The primitive offering of the lower class, it is entirely insignificant. It begins and ends with the bottom rungs of society. The best and the brightest of the bunch, individuals who move from the lower class to the middle class, leave it behind. What I do fear, however, is Leftist Anti-Semitism. It begins at the very top, championed by professors, academics and writers; people of influence. It is they who have know-how and political acumen, it is they who have morphed Anti-Semitism into its newest, politically acceptable version of “Anti-Israelism.” It is they who have forged common cause with radical Muslim groups. The combination of secular intellect and Muslim wealth and numbers is indeed a formidable threat.
That alliance will hurt us much more than teens in pickup trucks calling us names, largely because, in the sum of things, our lawns weren’t as neat as theirs, and our cars weren’t as polished.
I’d bet that most of the locals voted for President Trump. I did too. I am ever so glad that their patriotism blossomed, that they feel empowered to push for a stronger America. I was an original supporter of Senator Cruz, but have come to realize that this country has moved too far from dignity and discipline to expect a majority to vote for conservative principals. At this point, only raw, blue-collar nationalism can garner a majority to turn the tide back, and thankfully it did in the last election.
I look back at the locals in Edison, NJ and respect them. They are hard-working folk. It is they, fired up by patriotism, who will bring this country back from the brink, away from divisions of class and race, away from victimhood and dependency, motivated by a mission to Make America Great Again.
I believe that greatness is its Judeo-Christian value system. They believe its greatness is its tenacity. One thing I know for certain is that I want to play ball with them once again. And this time, it will be with them, not against them.
The author of two books, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt serves as the Director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC)
This article first appeared on World Net Daily