Being Jewish throughout human history has been a varied experience.
The story of the Jewish people cannot be recounted without including the re-telling of many obstacles — in history itself and in recent memory. But what is it like being Jewish today, in the new millennium?
In the majority of the world, being Jewish means you belong to a global faith community that is filled with fellow Jews who will consistently offer their support. And by and large, Jews are comfortable and well-integrated in American society.
Times have definitely changed. In the United States, particularly, many strides have been made from the way things used to be. “In the late 1940s my parents nearly purchased a tract house in a post-war development,” Rabbi Bob Alper writes in Thanks. I Needed That, “… until the salesman realized they were Jews. No Jews, he explained. Their cooking smells are too offensive.”
Imagine the furor that would erupt had that happened today.
Back then, it wasn’t just limited to real estate.
“During my years at Lehigh University, so the story went, Jewish enrollment was traditionally capped at 10 percent.”
Alper would have his chance to avenge his parents’ real estate discrimination. He and his wife volunteered with Housing Opportunities Made Equal in the 1960s. They would test apartment complexes in the area by working with their black associates. If the black apartment hunters were denied an apartment or heard the excuse that the units were full, Alper and his wife would appear immediately afterwards and find to their amazement that there were in fact, available apartments, and they’d even have their choice of several. After which a report would be filed.
The United States has come a long way in regards to religious and ethnic discrimination. Of course, it still occurs, and may be difficult to stomp out completely, but this kind of discrimination has, hopefully, been pushed to the edges of our society.