Lookout columnist Claudia Sternbach has been spending time bobbing in a Florida pool, thinking about Ye — the artist formerly known as Kanye West — and getting angry. Her aging, widowed mother-in-law, now in her 90s, lives in a mostly Jewish senior community and Sternbach sometimes flies down to visit her. Sternbach is frustrated and appalled by the recent rise of antisemitic rhetoric and worries for our country and for people, including her mother-in-law and her friends, who have faced discrimination their whole lives.
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The water was as warm as a bathtub and the air as humid as a sauna. I balanced on my yellow noodle and sat bobbing in the pool, gazing at three black birds, who perched on three, separate teal-colored umbrellas, which provided shade for three tables, which were empty except for one woman talking on her phone.
We were visiting my recently widowed mother-in-law at the seniors-only country club where she and her late husband of 70 years have lived for more than two decades. In her 90s, she is doing great. Surprisingly great.
My father-in-law had been ill for quite some time before he passed. He got to stay at home, thanks to the excellent care provided by his wife and a dedicated angel of a caregiver.
Losing a spouse is not an unusual occurrence in this community. Often it is the men who go first. Then, the women flock around the recent widow and give the support they got as they experienced their own loss. It is something to see.
Floating in the pool, I watched as residents placed beach towels on chairs, took books out of their bags to read, scrolled through their phones, chatted with others who were settling into their own spaces. The average age of these sunbathers is up there. I remember when we first visited and I was in my early 50s, I felt like a teenager compared to most of the residents.
Now, not so much.
The black birds are still there. Not moving. As if they had been placed atop the umbrellas for decoration. I wondered if they had a bigger purpose. Were they sending a message? Were they a sign of things to come?
Back in California, in Los Angeles, someone hung a banner from an overpass on Interstate 405 saying, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” while a number of people raised their arms in a Nazi salute as they stood behind the hateful message. WTF?
Please, would someone please send Ye to his room without supper and leave him there, oh I don’t know, until he is forgotten completely?
Although that won’t fix the problem. It won’t put out the fire that seems to be burning once again. Blaming Jews for everything Ye and his “followers” believe is wrong with the world.
In a recent Washington Post article, the president of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen, talks about the disturbing rise he sees in antisemitism. He doesn’t see anyone on the right with the leadership to curb the hate.
A senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, Marilyn Mayo, says we are now in a time where bigotry and antisemitism are being “normalized.” This past weekend, the New York Times had two articles — one on the front page, the other an opinion piece — on antisemitism.
The pool is lovely. It should be relaxing. But my anger is interfering with my gentle bobbing.
The majority of the residents of this retirement community are Jewish, my in-laws included. As I float, I remember the stories my father-in-law used to tell about life when he was a recent graduate of an engineering school, newly married and living in a small town in New Jersey. No matter that his grades were excellent and his enthusiasm for beginning his career undeniable, he struggled.
Jews were not judged as equals in the search for work. Doors were not open.
In the center of that town, a town with a high percentage of Jews, there was a world-class golf course. The U.S. Open was held there more than once.
Jews were barred from becoming members. Banned from playing on a course right in the middle of their own community. And this was not uncommon. The Ivy Leagues banned Jews through the 1960s and Stanford, after years of denying its anti-Jewish policies, just admitted to them.
But eventually the rules were changed. Rules which should never have been put in place in the first place. Stupid, ignorant, antisemitic bullcrap.
And here we are again. Moving backward as a society, back to when America was “Great.”
I’d say “shoot me,” but someone might.
Claudia Sternbach has lived in Aptos for 40 years and walks her beloved Seacliff State Beach almost every day. She...
There is a group of men gathered in the shallow end of the pool chatting. Laughing. They are far from spring chickens or, I guess I should say, roosters. I wonder what their lives have been like. Are any of them survivors of the Holocaust? Are they children of survivors? There are those who once again are claiming the Holocaust never happened. And they have been spewing poison far and wide.
We have seen the camps. We have seen the film footage. We have listened to survivors tell their horrific stories. What more do these deniers need?
An older gentleman wearing a robe passes by me. The cord from his earbuds is hanging from his pocket, dragging on the ground. His (I assume) wife catches up to him and instructs him to wait so she can pick it up for him. She is having trouble bending down to catch the white cord. He turns and helps her. Their arms lock to support each other. Then, when the rescue is complete, he reaches around and pats her in her fanny. She swats him away and laughs.
The three birds watch.
I can feel my anger surging. I also feel an overwhelming sadness. Are we really going to ask these people to suck it up again? To place the blame for just about everything on their shoulders once more? What the hell have we learned? Has all of this hate just been simmering underground waiting to be released?
Apparently so. And Donald Trump and his MAGA followers were happy to light the fuse and dance around the bonfire cackling.
Time to get out of the water. The club happy hour begins in 30 minutes. Groups of seniors will be gathering in the bar to enjoy cocktails, coconut shrimp, chopped liver on crackers, vegetables with dips and mini sliders.
I will introduce my mother-in-law to tequila in a refreshing cocktail with orange juice and pomegranate syrup and she will take to it like a duck to water. The big-screen television will broadcast whatever sporting event is taking place. The news will not be broadcast. Because the news is bad. And all these folks would like to do is live out their lives in peace.
I mean really. Is that asking so much?
Claudia Sternbach is the author of three memoirs. Her most recent is “Dear Goldie Hawn, Dear Leonard Cohen” (Paper Angel Press), which also includes stories about her sisters. Her previous piece for Lookout, “From warring yard signs to national vitriol, election season has pre-Civil War feel,” ran in October.