Christ killer, George Leggett muttered under his breath. Again, You Jews killed Christ. We were playing touch football. My first thought was I had no alibi. Maybe I did and it slipped my mind. Who could account for their whereabouts 2000 years ago?
Then Russ Demetrius shouted it at me and he shoved me against the chain link fence. One-handed touch can escalate into near-tackle when tempers flare. I was the glue-fingered receiver having stretched to make a circus catch for a touchdown. I was 15 in 1948 and this was my first and last encounter with anti-Semitism.
The two of them attended Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, a parochial school, a couple of neighborhoods away. I guess they needed motivation to play and an excuse for losing. Perfectly understandable. I’m sure a few minutes in the confessional booth would work wonders.
I grew up in a bubble. It was the time of Four Freedoms as depicted in the posters of Norman Rockwell displayed on Post office walls and in schoolrooms. Unlike today, Brotherhood was all the rage. My classes were well represented with refugees. They were usually the best students. In spite of language barriers the foreign-born were the ones who skipped.
Fifty years later I learned that Kew Gardens was a destination for asylum-seekers. My world was sufficiently Jewish to delude me into thinking it was an accurate microcosm.
We were playing that day on the grass area of Kew Forest School, a private property whose fence we had all scaled. The game was interrupted when I spotted the head-master of the school strolling down the hill before he spotted us. Instantly we all ran for cover behind a portion of the building which jutted out hiding us from view.
Suddenly we were all trespassers, partners-in-crime, in violation of some covenant if not commandment. Guilt joined us.
Jewish guilt was a worthy rival for Catholic guilt. They could finger their beads and do the arcane mumbles. I had to deal with my mother’s gevalts, her litany of aggravations. I might have been better off complicit in the Jesus caper, however, by now I suspect the statute of limitations would be in effect.
A few years later our president-elect would be attending this same school along with other boys and girls of privilege. Who knows what infractions they committed or what distortions were bred in the bone giving license to bragging, bullying and worse?