Moishe Hertzberg of Mumbai
The two-year-old, in Israel now after his parents were gunned down last week, evokes tears and stirs a childhood memory.
One day when I was ten, in a Bronx park, a band of kids from another neighborhood suddenly attacked half a dozen of us. In the melee, I was pinned against a tree by a bigger boy. He held me with one hand and kept driving a fist at my head as hard and fast as he could. I warded off most of the blows with my arms, but I couldn’t take my eyes off his furious face. While struggling to escape, I was transfixed by a rage I had never seen before–it was like being caught in a storm.
When it was over, I asked an older boy from our neighborhood why.
“They hate us because we’re Jews,” he said. “They say we killed Christ.”
“How the hell should I know? It happened a million years ago.”
From then on, I lived in a world among those who despised people like me enough to inspire special words for our slaughter–pogrom, genocide, Holocaust–and by those with euphemisms for killing the spirit, if not the body: “restricted” and “gentlemen’s agreement,” and those on the streets and in barracks where the expressions were raw but honest–kike, sheenie, Hebe.