When I woke up last week it seemed the local (that is, Connecticut) news was full of stories about unlikely dangers in our midst. First there were moose, bears and other wild animals prowling the streets. And then there were anti-Semites.
I’d seen a few articles about the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents for 2011 when it was released almost two weeks ago, and noticed that it found acts of anti-Semitism were down by 13% nationally but up in my state as well as in neighboring Massachusetts. But for whatever reason — upcoming election? devastating super-storm? rocket attacks on southern Israel? — it didn’t seem like the most pressing of news stories over the following week.
But when the Audit belatedly reached some Connecticut papers (here and here), I couldn’t avoid it any longer. One incident, involving a swastika spray-painted on a synagogue, happened in the town where my parents live. Another, in which a young Jewish child was told by a classmate, “Your family deserves to be killed,” took place in a bucolic town ironically known in Colonial days as the “Parish of Judea.”
In some parts of Connecticut it seems every third person is Jewish. Other places in the state once had many Jews; their names can be seen fading on the brick walls of erstwhile dry goods stores. These places have mostly retained just enough Jews to keep a shul or two open, just enough so that no one finds us strange. In the less populated areas, Jews are more exotic. Revealing your Jewishness there can feel like pulling a rare tropical bird out of your handbag.