Red Neck Prejudice
Sadly, a part of American Jewish history is anti-Semitism. Until I was drafted in 1966, I never experienced it, though I’d heard stories my grandfather recalled about his experiences years after he emigrated to the U.S. from Poland. When I reported for duty in lower Manhattan, I was one of dozens of young New York men headed for basic training in South Carolina. About half the group was Jewish and more than a handful were black. Before we reached Fort Jackson, the train stopped in a rural North Carolina town. Several of us had already become friends and formed our own small groups. Several of the groups got off the train and headed to a nearby general store several hundred feet from the tracks. Some of the blacks neared the store first and quickly turned around, mumbling about something. In seconds, my group approached the entrance and noticed a crudely written sign hanging on the front door: No dogs, No Niggas (sic) and no Jews. Though we had heard about widespread prejudice in the South, it was a shock to actually witness it up close and personal. We did a rough about face and headed back to the train—mostly in silence, though a few cursed and grumbled under their breath. Weeks later, as the High Holy Days approached, the N.Y. Jewish contingent requested time off to attend services. In formation a few days later, we got our answer when the drill sergeant, a caricature of red neck, called everyone to attention and ordered “All Jews front and center.” We looked at each other and rapidly walked to the podium in which the NCO was sanding. When we all got there, he said, “OK, Jews, double time in place!” After 15-20 seconds, he ordered us to halt and, with a smirk, told us we would be allowed to attend services at the base chapel. For the remainder of my time in the service there was never another episode of anti-Semitism. But, in 1966 South Carolina, I got to see, hear and feel it firsthand.