Antisemitism On The Subway

Two minutes ago a man yelled “Sieg Heil!” at me and did the Nazi salute.

But let me start from the beginning, 5 minutes ago.

I write on the subway, see. It’s like my office of creativity. No internet, a flowing motion, and everyone keeps to themselves. Better than any coworking office, I tell you what.

So there I was/am sitting by lonesome, only me, a lady, and suddenly one more dude in my train car.

The “suddenly one more dude” started putting these fliers all over the train. Like, on the signs (two on the same one!) and a bunch on the seats.

These were, you know, the kind of fliers a crazy person would spend his time putting on seats on the subway. They were proselytizing Christian (but not normal, chilled out, nice Christian, of course) sort of cards of the insane variety. They were advertising a guy who can heal you through prayer and that sort of business.

He happened to come right next to me, and then place it nicely… two inches away from my butt.

If you are unaware, I have a beard and a kippa and these white strings that come out of my butt called tztitis. So, I dunno, I guess I felt it was a tad presumptuous of him to put such a flier next to me. Although, in retrospect, maybe the fact that he was doing the thing that only crazy people do on the subway with fliers that only a crazy person would find to be reasonable, was an indication that he himself might be… crazy.

But at the time (10 minutes ago now) I guess I didn’t really take that into consideration. And so as he walked away, I just, you know… lightly pushed the paper to the floor. I’d like to say it was because I didn’t want my butt to be proselytized to by a crazy healer who sends people to advertise him on subway seats. But the truth was, I think I was kind of pissed. Being a Jew and all, and the whole trying to convert us thing. You know.

So, yeah, that was my first world anarchy moment of the day, and I was pretty sure that would be it. Honestly, in retrospect (I have a feeling I’m going to use that word a lot in this essay), I probably shouldn’t have done anything. I mean, that’s like the number one rule on the subway: don’t do nothin’. Don’t get noticed. Move on. You see someone peeing in the corner? All good, just get back to work.

Well, like I said, this time I did something. And so, of course, this did not end well.

As I’m writing my other post, the one that was meant to be published today, I hear a voice. At first quiet, almost gentle, through my huge headphones purposefully purchased to keep crazy voices quiet while I’m on the subway.

But then it got louder. Much louder.

“Hey. Hey! Hey! HEY! HEY!

I turned and there was Mr. Crazy hurtling towards me.

I took off my crazy-noise canceling headphones, which seemed defective at that point, and looked at him. He picked up the flier I had flicked the floor and waved it at me.

“Hey! Why’d you do that!”

Now, again, I am aware in retrospect that smart people at this point don’t say anything or they apologize or they generally try and make themselves circumspect. For some bizarre reason, for the first time in my life I decided that it was the logical move to respond to a crazy person.

I calmly (read: not calmly) asked him if he was allowed to put these things all over the subway. Clearly, in my mind at the time, I thought an appeal to logic and rules expressed in angry, unruly tone would be just the thing to deal with this fellow.

In retrospect, this was not true.

He actually, and I think this was quite rude, did not answer my question and instead answered with his own question (How Jewish!): “What? Is it because there’s a picture of Jesus on it?! Is that it?!”

(I know that in writing class they teach you not to overuse exclamation points, but I promise you that this is the only proper way to express this man’s dialogue.)

And so my next tact was to go for honesty. Again, not calmly. “No, it’s because you put a piece of paper next to my butt that was proselytizing to me.”

And he said, “What, you Jewish or something? So you think it’s okay to throw Jesus on the floor?”

And I said, “Yes, I am, but it’s not about Jesus, see, it’s about the proselytizing near my butt.”

He kind of looked incredulously at me, like the words didn’t seep in, which (in retrospect) I suppose makes sense. Crazy person, subway, etc.

“You know what, that’s just racist, okay?! You’re just a racist. A racist!”

And I’ll be honest, at this point, I think it was starting to hit me that I was dealing with a crazy person. But instead of doing the things you do with crazy people on the subway, I continued to push my luck.

I laughed.

Man, I wish I could share his look of shock with you. It was like… it was priceless. I mean, it was funny, okay? And, I dunno, I was feeling in antagonistic mood still (this is why, by the way, people who read this blog and think I am a good, calm, and nice person should understand that writing never truly gives over a person’s true idiotic personality).

This was at the point when the Jew-hating began. Which, and this one I didn’t even need to realize in retrospect, I felt was kind of in conflict with his previous stance of being anti-racism.

It started off with a little, “They should have finished the job in Auschwitz.”

I think this was the moment I finally woke up from my daze of momentary insanity, and realized what I was truly dealing with. Or rather, I think I was just stunned and had no idea what was going on. Because no matter how crazy a person is, I usually don’t expect to hear such things from them. I’ve met lots of crazy people in my life, being a bipolar fellow whose spent time in a mental hospital, as well as just the fact that I lived both in Jerusalem and New York City. Up until that point, no Auschwitz references directed at me.

I suppose I have become a bit complacent in America, which I consider to be a truly all-loving nation, with some hateful people sprinkled around, but where even the crazy people are like, “Antisemitism? That’s uncool. I’ll stick with peeing in the corner, thank you.”

Back to Mr. Crazy. He said that, and really all I could say was, “What?” in a kind of attempting to keep my crazy not-calm voice but really coming off more like not-crazy and complete-woosie voice.

And he said, “Yeah! Auschwitz! Shoulda killed you all.”

Now, I’ve been on YouTube. And from what I understand, in these situations, you usually follow the person around with your phone and video record their rantings for the world to see, just to kind of remind people we’re not as safe as we think we are.

But unfortunately, I had gone into shock (read: woosie) mode, and I was just kind of frozen in my seat.

We arrived at his stop, I guess, and he walked out, he turned to me and said, “Seig Heil!” and gestured to me with a Nazi salute.

I just stared.

In retrospect (sorry), I wonder why I was surprised. I suppose it was because I’ve lived for 30 years without anyone ever doing that to me. Crazy or non-crazy. I suppose it was also because I kind of was in this “I’m-invincible-and-ranting” state of mind that I got shaken out of.

And I guess, I feel like I should just shrug this off, right?

I mean, the guy was crazy. That’s kind of what I’m grappling with now, thirty minutes later, and also even the moment after it happened.

I suppose that’s what this post was meant to be about when I started it: my trying to convince myself that I should shake it off, that he was a Crazy Subway Person and that it meant nothing and I shouldn’t take it as a “sign” or anything.

But it’s weird, I can’t help shake the feeling that there was something more going on, that maybe the crazies have mutually decided it’s okay to start being antisemitic again.

But that’s also silly, because it was one person. It’s not like I did a statistical analysis of New York City, as well as its subway-dwellers.

I suppose it’s because there’s been a lot of talk about antisemitism rising in the world, and even in America these days. The whole Israel thing, the whole post-post-Holocaust age thing, the whole antisemitism that didn’t actually disappear but went underground thing.

For example, when the last war between Israel and Gaza occurred, it was like a rush of reality shocked the Jewish world, even in America.  A rabbi was killed in Florida just for being Jewish.  Antisemitism rocked more and more Jews on college campuses.  And we as a people started to think that maybe… maybe nothing had really changed as much as we thought it had.

Should I think anything of what actually happened? I guess not.

But then again, those statistics are real. And those things happened, and are happening.

And, being a religious person, I like to believe everything happens for a reason. And a deeper reason than just to write a semi-funny post for my blog.

I think I needed a wakeup call. Even if this man was an anomaly in his own way… he represented something to me in that moment. He represented the reality that many of us Jews these days are waking up to: that antisemitism hasn’t disappeared with the Holocaust. That there are countries we thought we’d be safe in that we are now leaving in droves. That we can use the words “crazy” and “anomaly” and “outlier” all we want, but that these realities are both true and not true.

I guess that’s why I sat there in shock (in addition to my woosieness). It was like those fears that were in my brain had finally reached my heart, my emotions. It was like he was just the catalyst for what I perhaps should be feeling more and more.

But then again, maybe he was just crazy and I’m also crazy and an over-stressed/neurotic/paranoid Jew.

Let’s hope so.





22 responses to “Antisemitism On The Subway”

  1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
    Zerach Moshe Fedder

    So my dear Jew, for 2000 years we prayed to return to Zion and Jerusalem. And the gates were closed. Now even the economic situation is excellent here. Now all it takes is a plane ticket. How many signs will you and our fellow brothers need to leave the exile before it’s too late. Perhap I’m an over-stressed/neurotic/paranoid Jew or Perhaps G-d really is trying to warn you. Let’s hope so.

    1. Another Shpitzle Avatar

      “the economic situation is excellent” is a bit of a stretch. A huge stretch, actually.

      1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
        Zerach Moshe Fedder

        Compared to when. 1930’s swamp draining? 1950’s rationing? Everyone is getting by quite well and the American economy is slipping. What will it take Chevre to get you to come home? What more has to be perfect here before you can comfortably perform the Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael?

    2. Chana S Avatar
      Chana S

      Mr. Fedder, the economic situation is excellent in Israel?.. so many are struggling, unable to buy apartments, rents are out of wack, salaries not commensurate to cost of living and thus not making enough to make ends meet..what part of Israel are you living in? Rechavia, Yemin Moshe, Herzilya? Ramat Gan?..yes it is very excellent there…say it like it is..its very hard here, yet here is where Yidden belong despite the struggle…

      1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
        Zerach Moshe Fedder

        You are correct there are Giants in the land. I have only a minus in my bank account and I have food on my table and live an amazing fullfilling life. I’m not dying of malaria…. How bad is it really? Compared to Greece? Compared to India? I don’t own a car, there are buses and my neighborhood in Jerusalem has over 60 minyans. Does “getting by” mean only owning a big house in Scardale? Again the economy is excellent. 100 years ago people had no food to eat in my neighborhood. Now their grandchildren children can’t afford to buy a closet here. We couldn’t either. Yes that’s progress. At the end after 120, you get a 2 meter plot whether you owned a castle or rented a closet.
        Sorry for being so longwinded. My point is that HaShem has never made it easier to live here. Enough excuses! Please come home my dear brothers and sisters. We need you here and you need to be here. Join HaShem’s plan for redemption voluntarily and save alot of suffering for all of us.

        1. Jeremy McCandlish Avatar
          Jeremy McCandlish
  2. veronica Avatar

    ehm, elad, of course i can be crazy and bipolar….but i am not allowed to go around spreading my hate-filled crazyness toward people. particularly antisemitism. if you hate anybody, well it’s your problem and keep it for yourself and stay away from me! and of course you are not allowed to act out your hate. i felt shocked reading your piece and very very very scared, really that much. i think i know that feeling when you hear your voice answering even if you know it would be better to let it go….i totally understand and i understand the confusion that follows and makes you think about it for hours (what if…etc etc). these are things that happen in 2015 and it’s a great problem, isn’t it? evil people seem to be Always around. insane people, that kind of haters, make me feel unsecure, so unprotected. i think i would have called the cops, but i live in another country and i don’t know if cops can help you in the subway 🙁 anyway, i’m happy you are safe and well!

    1. Marc Gelmon Avatar
      Marc Gelmon

      My feelings exactly!

  3. Another Shpitzle Avatar

    The NYC shlubway is not a place to come to conclusions about anything. I know you had a jarring experience, but try to see it for the temporary insanity that it was. For every one person on the subway who has told me “Hitler should have finished the job” or “Stop having so many kids”, there are plenty of people who start conversations with me just to tell me how much they love Jews or Jewish culture, that they support Israel, or that they think it’s wonderful how many kids “we” tend to have. Sorry you had to go through that today.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Yeah, I think that was part of the point of the piece. It wasn’t so much him or even the experience, but what it represented in my mind in relation to the news we’ve been hearing for the past few years.

      1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
        Zerach Moshe Fedder

        Yes let’s go back to sleep….

  4. Jeremy McCandlish Avatar
    Jeremy McCandlish

    I don’t follow the news, and have somewhat forgotten how. Are things really getting that bad? Maybe I should think about going Home…

    1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
      Zerach Moshe Fedder

      Welcome home Jeremy!

      1. Jeremy McCandlish Avatar
        Jeremy McCandlish

        Hold on, hold on, not there yet! Unless you know something I don’t…:P

  5. Malka Hellinger Forshner Avatar
    Malka Hellinger Forshner

    What? You didn’t give him a “sheva mitzvos” card? What’s up with you?

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      I really hope there isn’t a sequel. And thank you for the compliment 🙂 Or… I think it was one…

      1. Malka Hellinger Forshner Avatar
        Malka Hellinger Forshner

        Wasn’t wishing a sequel on ‘ya, unless it’s the guy tracking you down to get his sheva mitzvahs card! And yes, it was meant as a compliment….

  6. Chana S Avatar
    Chana S

    I remember years ago, walking down uttica ave in CH. and mind you, no black beard no nothing, just a nice jewish lady with synthetic on her head (before customs wigs btw)..somehow some mean looking black lady, came up to stinkin Jews, get outta of here..and go back to your F—– promised land NOW! I of course was mortified and shocked, like it can’t happen to me kind of thing, but it did..years later we made aliyah, the day of the first intifada,1987 going back to the promised and yet another tribe was saying the same thing when we got here. -may we finally get out of our inner and outer golus, merit the geula NOW .

  7. Maamarim Chassidus Avatar

    Anti-Semitism is a plague that needs to be dealt with. And between Iran’s nuclear program and the EU and UN’s insistence on villifying Israel, instead of fighting Muslim extremism – I don’t know that this wave of anti-Semitism is going to end anytime soon. Kind of scary.

  8. Rachel Landes Avatar
    Rachel Landes

    The freedom of the writing is beautiful and the depth of your angle is thought provoking. A truly impressive piece.

  9. Kimberly Whitford Avatar
    Kimberly Whitford


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