It is a funny thing. No one would ever know I was Jewish. My name is Tony. How many people Jewish people do you know named Tony?

To this day, I have no idea why my name is Tony. My parents tell me they liked the name. I was not named after anyone, they just thought the name was spectacular.

The name is not that exciting. I guess “Tony” in the 70’s is what the name “Ashton” is today. Then again, maybe not.

I grew up in North Carolina. I got my fill of Cheerwine, Sundrop, NASCAR, and country music. The one thing you will see in North Carolina is that there is a church on every corner. Jews were far in between.

So when my dad and I would go to Bojangles and he would talk with his thick European accent, the woman behind counter always wondered where he was from. Some thought he was Greek, some thought he was Polish. Others thought he was Italian. People got so confused, even I do not know where he is from.

“Honey, where are your from????”

“Monroe, NC?”

“Sugar, there is no way. You sound funny.”

“Just kidding, I am from Kannapolis, NC. More of the city area, not where Dale Earnhardt is from”

“Ahhhh.”

He always did this with a straight face.

So when I was young, people would ask me about being Jewish. There were very few of us. I guess I was the spokesperson. I was supposed to know everything.

” Do you read The Bible?”

“Yes, but only the first five chapters?”

“Do you celebrate Christmas?”

“No, we celebrate Hanukkah. A holiday celebrating a guy who had oil last much  longer than expected.”

“I wish we celebrated Hanukkah, you get EIGHT PRESENTS!”

“Actually, we get none. Christmas is like a box of Cookie Crisp ad Hanukkah is like a generic bag of cereal.”

“Oh, you had a Bar Mitzvah where you became a man and then had a awesome part after!”

“No, I got yelled at by an old man teaching me Hebrew which I did not understand and then I had a lunch afterwards.”

“What is the difference with Jews and Christians?”

“You know how all of your holidays are fun. My holidays consist of not eating bread for a week, planting a tree, starving myself for a day and not using electricity one day a week. FUN!”

I never minded the questions, until I realized that some people were not fond of Jews.  The whole Jesus thing puts a wedge between Jews and Christians.

There were many friends I had that I did not meet their parents. There were a few people who did not talk to me after a while because of my religion.

Then one day in high school I got in trouble. A girl came up to me and asked…

“Hey, why do “you people” wear those funny beanie hats?”

My reply….

“Most of “us people” do it to hide our horns. Since I am not fully the devil yet, I just wear pants to hide my tail.”

Yeah, maybe I just should not have answered.

But my name is Tony, and most people would not guess my religion. They look at my name and think that I talk like I am from Long Island and that I could be part of some Mafia type organization.

Yet, my parents are not from America. They are from Europe. They know a few different languages, yet I have only heard them speak English.They are self made people who worked so hard to be proud Americans, which my parents and I are today.

Once people found out I was Jewish, they treated me different. I once went to a wedding and they had bagels there because of me. I once went to a dinner where they served Manischewitz wine because I attended. People would throw in terms like “Oy” and “Mazel Tov” to try to make me feel more at home. Yet, it just distanced me from people.

I remember a few years back during a review, my boss told me he did not want to “Jew me down” on a raise. I did not say anything, but just thought about it for a while. There is no way he realized I was Jewish.

My name is Tony, right?

When people found out I was Jewish, they thought I was rich or really good in school or funny like Jerry Seinfeld.

Yet,  was none of those.

My Dad was in the Israeli army which I know nothing about because he talks as much as I do. I remember my mom telling me a story that kids threw rocks at her because she was Jewish. I never had those things happen to me. Just some slights here and there. My parents gave me a great childhood. Just like comments on blog posts, it is funny to remember the couple of bad ones and not the 10,000 good ones.

I thought about this because I work in a small town. After work I had to go to the bathroom, and when I stopped at a gas station, I saw this…..

I was not outraged nor upset. Just wondered if the uneducated person who etched the Swastika in the door realized how many people were affected by The Holocaust. Not just Jews, over eleven million people whose families were destroyed. How many people in my family I lost. It saddened me a little bit.

Then I thought about my son. It stinks to know that people are not going to like him for something he did not do.

I guess that is why I really talk about loving yourself more and more.

 

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