When I was a kid, it was part of the family lore that my dad’s first dime store in Detroit failed because it was located in a Jewish neighborhood. Jews were cheap was the primary theme. They were demanding and unreasonable. One Jewish woman, according to the story, had even chased my dad around the the store waving a hammer. So, it was impossible to make a living in such an environment.
My dad broke the lease on his Detroit location, hiring a semi-truck to load up the store’s contents in the middle of the night to move to a new location in Dearborn, Henry Ford’s base, if that tells you anything. No more worries about Jews.
Nothing much was said about Jews after that. Oh, now and then, a comment would remind me that we were to blame the Jews for our financial troubles, the seemingly endless run of 29 cent chicken pot pies for dinner. “He got himself a Jew lawyer” is a phrase I remember from the dinner table and I wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing or an unfair thing which is what my dad’s intonation suggested. A Jew lawyer was going to be waving a hammer, I guess.
I’m remembering this tonight for no particular reason.
When I was 35, I married a Jewish man and my dad was unfailingly friendly and conversational with him from their first meeting until my dad died 20 years later. There was never a whisper of anti-Semitism. By that time, my dad was 70 and all I can think is that he’d just let that piece of his thinking go. Maybe he figured out it was wrong, I don’t know, we never discussed it.
I think people just change for the better sometimes. They aren’t the way they start out, sometimes they aren’t the way they were yesterday. I’m glad for that possibility. It gives me hope.