I am part of a Jarvis Collegiate discussion group and I find certain things still hard to talk about. 

I mentioned that I had experienced antisemitism before High school.  Another Jewish writer recounted that he had to fight someone in high school for the same reason.

People in the chat group have confounded these two statements and have leapt to the defense of both their high school which to them was the perfect multicultural experience accepting of all immigrants and of myself, saying they are ready to defend me against antisemitism.

Several contributors have also mentioned they were Jewish and that this was an identity issue for them.  One said she never felt “in” in the school.  I have tried to elucidate the issues below but I am not sure I succeeded.  Here is what I wrote: 

The following is one explanation of how people could seem “in” but feel “out” at Jarvis. I will focus on the Jewish experience because I know it better but I am sure others would be able to tell the story from their perspective.

The attacks against me for being Jewish occurred before I got to Jarvis.

Peter Joel surprised me by recounting an actual fight he got into over this but it never happened to me at Jarvis.

Here is the problem. A number of us came from families whose members were murdered because they were Jewish. If we didn’t come from these families, many Jews knew about this. Given the negative attitude towards Jews in the early fifties, which a number of us experienced, you could say this combination made us wary about saying we were Jewish. Some families went so far as to flee Jewishness entirely in a bid to ensure the long time survival of their descendants.

Some of us were immigrants. Our parents spoke English funny and we were uncertain, at first, how to navigate the social world of high school. I believe we had that in common with a lot of other minorities at Jarvis, which actually made it easier over the long term, as you said.

Some of us were poor. I mean really poor. The shame that can go with that is hard to articulate. Some of the people I could relate most closely to were ones who had that experience. I think that is why my brother and I felt close to Bob Bagby. If one is Jewish, it is even more difficult to explain because both the community expectation and the perception of others is how “successful” Jews are.

Then there are the miscellaneous issues relating to puberty, awkwardness and so on that apply to just about everyone.

It is odd. I was at Jarvis for 6 years altogether. I was on the track team, the tumbling team and the basketball team. I was in the Glee club briefly, the rifle club, the junior and senior bands, the French club and the science club. But I was never at anyone’s house, except Syd Goldfarb and Chuck Webb, Mike Pearce once for a band practice, Shelley Wild once when she had the whole class over and that is pretty much it.

I felt completely embarrassed by the poverty of my house and the social and emotional difficulties of my parents and never invited anyone over. I think I went to a total of 3 dances in that time. This may have been unique to me but I don’t know.

All I can say is that I felt totally “in” at the beginning of grade 12 and totally “out” by the end of grade 13, without changing my participation. I was also totally wrapped up in what I was going thru so may have missed a great chance to get to know everybody else. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

I think I tried to explain too much in one note.  The fact is that being a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust was not the same as being an immigrant or refugee for political reasons.  In the latter case, people could feel totally free in their new environment.  In the former case, it was more complicated.  The Nazis had killed millions of Jews just because they had been classified as Jews, not for any particular act on their part other than having been born of Jewish parents.

The sense of insecurity this creates is enormous.  There is also a certain sense of shame, as if one has in fact done something wrong; otherwise why would they try to kill you?  There is also the sense of guilt.  Why should you survive and not your brother or sister or parents or children or spouse? 

Depending on one’s personality and psychology, such forces could be devastating.

Such parents might certainly pass on their fear and insecurity about the world and its prospective dangers, especially in a society filled with non-Jews.

The only analogy I can come up with is the reaction of a woman to men after she has been raped.  It might take a very long time before she can trust men, no matter how kind and non-violent they were.

There is an ongoing wariness that can be very difficult to shake.  In my case, this wariness was compounded by the experience of being physically attacked when I was younger.  I would be filled with anxiety when I wore a kippa in public in a non-Jewish neighbourhood.

This fear and insecurity have caused some to deny their Jewishness by adopting some other identity, stay away from people and things Jewish or flee a Jewish identity without replacing it with something else.

The Holocaust was terrible trauma whose ripples we are still feeling today.  How can I explain this to someone who has not gone through it.  And let us be clear, the object of explaining is not to obtain pity but understanding.

I have to say, it is not anything I could have articulated at the time I was going through it.  It is only now, looking back, that I can better appreciate what was going on.  What I did not know then is that I needed to convince myself that I was safe.