West Bloomfield or Skokie?

After I moved from Detroit to West Bloomfield, the landmarks of my youth changed.  Exit Dexter and Davison, the old grocery store haunt of my youth.  Enter Maple and Orchard Lake Road.  That corner of West Bloomfield was one of the landmarks of my youth . . . in many ways, similar to Tally Hall and Maple and Telegraph, to name a few.  I could describe every nook, store, sign . . . it was at this shopping center corner that I purchased my Bar Mitzvah suit although (shame on me) I cannot remember the name of the store.  When I returned from my family vacation on Saturday, January 3, 2009, I was confronted with a difficult reality — that landmark of my youth had been used by people who were protesting against Jews and Israel.  I was stunned, offended and angered.

I remembered something else from my youth and studies as a youngster, the KKK march on Skokie, Illinois.  A predominantly Jewish suburb, the KKK deliberately eschewed marching in some backwater town in its comfort zone to instead “spit in the face of the Jewish community” by marching and bringing their hatred and vitriol to a Jewish neighborhood.  As I watched a video of the demonstrators chanting “Kill the Jews” less than 100 yards from a kosher bakery and the storefront where I bought the suit in which I’d become a Jewish “adult man”, I was stunned.  I thought of Skokie.  How I longed for my radio show to try and express my outrage . . . to take the corner back, so to speak.

On Sunday, January 4, 2009, the next day, I was given that chance by some dear friends who organized a Pro-Israel rally for that very corner.  Despite an overwhelming amount of work, I attended . . . in the rain, sleet and cold.  The cold and wet weather did nothing to extinguish the fire in our bellies as made signs, waived flags, donned hats and shirts in support of Israel.  Soon the rally grew.  We were joined by others.  Jews.  Chaldeans.  Christians.  Soon professional signs showed up.  Bagels.  Coffee.  Cookies.  A television camera showed and interviewed me . . . even though I was not the event organizer, I was proud to speak and represent the bunch.  I hoped that my words would match our spirit and the passion of those who started the rally.  To represent them and Israel was an honor.

I thought of my people, not just the Jews who were there but the Chaldeans too.  I spoke for them as well hoping that I wouldn’t let their commitment to this cause down.

I thought of my youth, about that corner and what it meant that of all the places the pro Hamas organizers could have selected to chant they selected this area.

And I thought of Skokie.  I thought of those Jews then forced to surrender their corner to those who were chanting for their death.  I looked out over the corner that Sunday and I felt the pride that someone somewhere must feel in a turf war.  This was our corner.  This is our neighborhood.  We are taking it back!  And guess what . . . we did!

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