Scrambled Eggs, With A Side of Anti-Semitism

Local diner. Family-owned joint. Circa 9 am on a Saturday morning.

We’ve eaten there before. It’s fast, fairly decent, and the model airplanes covering the walls and ceiling keep a curious toddler entertained while he’s waiting for his breakfast.

What we hadn’t noticed until today, were the two WWII model airplanes. The Nazi Germany airplanes. The ones with swastikas on their tails.

As Max stuffed hashbrowns into his face, Sean and I debated how appropriate it was to have swastikas smiling (frowning?) down on us while we drank our coffee. The planes are part of history. I get it. But we’re in a diner, not the Natural History Museum. This is clearly someone’s private collection of planes, and whoever owns them, doesn’t seem to mind that a few are adorned with a symbol that represents the slaughter of millions of Jews. Millions of our people.

It was one of those teachable moments, I suppose. Say nothing, silently fume, and feel stupid for over-reacting. Or nicely, gently ask the manager if he’s noticed the planes, and explain why we were offended. Being parents, being Coastside locals, and being overly aware of our minority status, we decided to ask about the planes.

The manager’s reply was nothing less than flippant. He felt that we were over-reacting. He blew us off.

I mentioned that in the eyes of many Jews, the swastika is a symbol of hate and persecution. It stands for death, torture, genocide. He laughed at us. “It’s just a plane” he said. “Take it as a reminder that war is a bad thing….and that we won…at least we won.”

I asked him if he would have something in his restaurant with the “N word” on it. Just because that’s “part of history”, doesn’t make displaying it acceptable.

As the manager excused himself from the conversation, Sean and I wondered outloud if they would display a Confederate flag in the restaurant. Of course not. It might just be “a symbol”, but it’s a symbol of a terrible time in American History. It doesn’t really go with bacon and eggs.

Sean walked Max out to the car, and I walked over to use the restroom. On the way back through the restaurant, I approached our table where the manager was talking to the waitress. But he didn’t see me coming.

“Did you see THAT GUY who was sitting here?” he laughed to the waitress. “He was giving me a ration of shit about the swastikas!!” He smirked.

It was funny to them.

6 million people isn’t funny.

6 million lives snuffed out, 6 million dreams, 6 million people who were all somebody’s child. The symbol of their destruction, the symbol that seperated who would live and who would die, was now chillin’ above our heads like it was NO BIG DEAL to anyone else in this crappy diner by the airport.

In our house, we are not perfect Jews. But we try to live by Jewish principles, and we do the best that we can. We do it for Max, because we want him to know what it means to be Jewish. What it means to have a Jewish family, and Jewish values. But we also do it for the 6 million people who weren’t allowed to light Shabbat candles on the first rainy November night. We do it for the millions of children who never got the chance to sing the blessing over the challah with their own children. We do it for them, and we do it for Max, and we do it because that is what the Jews before us did, and what we hope the Jews after us will do.

And even if you think that we over-reacted in that diner, I’m proud of us that we spoke up in front of Max. I’m glad that he heard us questioning. I’m glad that he saw us telling someone when something wasn’t OK. Judaism teaches us that we take care of others, and maybe a little bit of that happened today. We send Max to a Jewish preschool because we want him to learn all of the wonderful things about Judaism, but it’s also in part so that he doesn’t grow up feeling like “the only one” who is Jewish. We want Shabbat, and Chanukah, and Passover, and the philosophy of Tikkun Olam to be “normal” for him. We want him to embrace how lucky he is to be Jewish. We want him to know that other kids have a Baubee, and that other kids have menorahs instead of Christmas trees. But along with those wonderful things comes great responsibility. The responsibility to speak up when you see something that hurts other people, even if most of your friends on Facebook think that you’re silly for being offended. The responsibility to proudly carry on Jewish traditions, and sing songs in Hebrew, and stand proud that we are sometimes the only voice in the stupid diner that cares about those two airplanes.

At the end of the day, we light our candles on Shabbat like all of the other Jewish families in the world. And for the 6 million who can’t. That my friends, is more important than what happens in a diner. A diner that we will not be returning to.

OK, so the Shabbas candles are a little hard to see in this picture….look closely…see them now? And yes, that would be challah (already properly blessed) that Max is diving into.

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Comments:

  1. Anonymous says:

    I found your blog through Kelly's Korner blog link up. I have thought about starting a blog for over two years, but thinking is as far as I have taken it. Anyway….

    I wanted to comment about your experience in the diner. I am not Jewish, but I'm still sad that a restaurant owner would think Nazi symbols would be appropriate for anyone's dining pleasure. I truly believe his flippant attitude is based on ignorance. I taught English in high school for 10 years before I decided to stay home with my daughter. I taught Elie Wiesel's Night. It was my all time favorite book to teach even though it was so painful to teach. The kids became alive and not just bored zombies as they realized they were reading history and not the product of someone's imagination. Most of them were horrified at the realization that the events happened. They had studied them in history, but they needed to read about a young boy's experience in order to make it real. So, I think what the man at the restaurant really needed was a dose of reality. He just doesn't understand.

  2. I'm sorry the reply was so glib, and that someone in this day and age could still think "it's just a plane" because no, it isn't. It's not OK, and you should be proud for demonstrating that for your son.

  3. When I read the title of this post I wondered how this story could possibly play out. And it played out sad. Sad that the manager is such an idiot. But also good because of how you chose to react and use it to teach your son. You were absolutely right.

  4. Oh, that would make me so, so mad. This is a beautiful post–I also keep in mind when I light Shabbos candles how amazing it is that we're still here, and that I can do this for the people who never got a chance.

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