I drove my wife to the train this morning and caught her up on chit-chat. I said I had been talking with my friend A, who is Jewish, when he said, “Do you think that B"–a good non-Jewish friend of mine– "is an anti-Semite.” My wife broke in. “Totally.” I was surprised. "You think B is an anti-Semite?" She nodded. I said, “Well, I told A that B’s mother was an anti-Semite, I heard the stuff she said. But not B.”
My wife shook her head. "Yes he is." I said, “What is your evidence? When has he said anything?” My wife said, “It comes out of his pores.” I was really thrown. I said, “You think he’s an anti-Semite?” She said, “If you’re going to ask a stupid question three times, I’m going to give you the same answer, Yes.”
My wife is different from me in how she collects information. She gleans things from the air. And though she gets many facts wrong, directions, names, dates, titles, when it comes to human character, I decided early on, “She’s always right.”
As we came down to the train, I pressed her for more information. After all, she’s from the same social tribe as B. She said, “Everything about him. He’s from another era, and he actually prefers that era.” Well then what about D? I said, mentioning another friend. She said, “Do we really have to do this? It’s too early in the morning.”
My wife’s staying with a friend in the city tonight, and I’ve been disturbed by the conversation ever since. I was raised with a hairtrigger for evidence of anti-Semitism. It came with my tribe. My friend A is that type; he notices these things all the time. I threw a lot of that training out. Maybe too much of it? It bothers me that my wife, a non-Jew, would be more sensitive to this than me. Also, it bothers me that I’ve been close to someone who may dislike me on a racial basis.
But at another level, I confess I don’t care all that much. B has no power over me, not over my work or travels, just a little over my social world. And his tribe has been displaced. They lost their privilege, willingly or not, they suffered a giant comedown in the establishment in the last generation. Jews are all over the turrets of the establishment now. I guess he is resentful. I’m surprised more gentiles don’t express this feeling. It’s true he’s made ironical comments now and then. I don’t care.
I think about when I will see him next. How I will cnduct myself around him. I won’t bait him. But I will watch closely. He sometimes brings up Jews. I will listen but not bait him. No that would be beneath me.