Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Lesson in Bigotry הלקח נלמד: גזענות

In response to my expressions of disdain for Russian-speaking immigrants, my daughter brought up an interesting point: She believes that my aversion to Russians stems from my upbringing, wherein it was intimated to me that today’s Russians are the modern version of drunken, pillaging, Jew-hating cossacks. She also managed to convince me that my response to them is a reflexive one, largely based on appearances. In short, she got me to admit that I’m bigoted.

My daughter also pointed out that most immigrants throughout Israel’s history, starting with those that came during the Ottoman period, were not motivated by ideology, but rather by an intersection of events that brought them here.

Before this conversation with her, I’d watched (indulging in my daily vice) the TV show “Dog Whisperer”. That day’s episode featured John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, a book about his now-deceased, out-of-control Labrador retriever, Marley. The last thing Grogan said to the show’s host, canine expert Caesar Milan, was, “It’s a shame we didn’t have you on hand for Marley. On the other hand, if we’d had you, there wouldn’t have been a book”.

Quite wise on Grogan’s part to recognize that good can come out of what appears to be a bad situation.Therefore, I hereby vow to work on letting go of the anger I feel at the 21st-century Russian immigrants (which, as my daughter pointed out, should in any case be directed at the Shas-headed Interior Ministry that recruited them).

So chastened, I decided I need to look at the situation philosophically, following Grogan’s example: Assuming that it was indeed twisted reasoning (the “demographic threat”) that brought the Russians here, we can’t turn the clock back. They’re here, so let’s capitalize on what they have to offer, and in the process they’ll hopefully absorb what an open society has to offer.


  1. It's a long way to Yom Kippur. Meantime, if you meet a Russian immigrant, you can atone by saying "Za va, shas da rovia," which translates to "May you be healthy." I learned ot from the "L'Chaim" song in "Fiddler on the Roof." Russian immigrants bought our last house; they seemed delighted to hear me say it.

    They were Christmas-tree Jews: "Ve vant to be Americanzzz!" Fine with me; I was just stunned at the idea that they thought American life revolves around celebrating Christmas. Where COULD they have picked up that notion?

  2. Actually I recently learned (hadn't been aware of it previously) that in 2002, Argentina had an economic crisis (since when is that news? Probably why I didn't notice) and there was an "opportunistic *aliya*" therefrom (analogous to the post-2000 opportunistic *aliya* from the former USSR, as opposed to previous ideology-based -- or at least anti-Semitism-spurred -- aliyot from both countries). Can you untangle all that?

    Anyway, when the Argentinian aliya was being explained to me, I didn't have that visceral resentment that I feel toward the Russian aliya. I tried to figure out why (I get credit for that, don't I?). The only thing I could come up with was that I don't have any "baggage" with Argentinians, i.e., if they're not Jews by birth, at least their ancestors weren't persecuting my ancestors. Who ever heard of an Argentinian pogrom?

    Anyway, that's all I got. If anyone else has any words of wisdom, I'd be pleased to hear them.