The local Facebook group for the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown is usually a hub for sharing favorite pizza places (apparently my neighbors are obsessed with pizza!), local contractor recommendations, and other useful information. But recently I came across a post that made me stop in my tracks.
A Jewish neighbor, Esther Cohen-Eskin, who has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years, woke up one day to find a swastika spray painted on her trash can. She shared before-and-after photos of the trash can, which she quickly painted over with a colorful flower. As the news spread in the Facebook group and beyond, other neighbors joined in to show their support by painting their trash cans with messages and images of love. The story even made the local news.
While we all love a happy ending, and I’m heartened that the community so quickly responded with support, I’m still left feeling uneasy. I knew when I moved here that this was a predominantly white suburb, which was new for me. I grew up in New York City where I was sheltered from anti-Semitism, though of course it happens everywhere. I have always been used to diversity as the norm, not the exception. Before moving to Havertown we lived in West Philadelphia, where black folks are the majority—the opposite of what we see in our current neighborhood.
This is all compounded by the fact that thanks to the upcoming election, there seems to be a palpable rise not only in anti-Semitism but anti-immigrant and anti-minority sentiments as well. As a mom of a kid who is both Jewish and Mexican, I can’t help but worry that his dual identity is double whammy.
For those with so much hate to spew, it doesn’t matter which group is the current scapegoat. I’m often grateful that my son is not yet old enough to listen to or understand the current political rhetoric, wondering if when he’s older this will all seem like a bad dream. I can only hope that as my son grows and learns the histories of oppression on both sides of the family that he might find strength in the beauty of his heritages and our peoples’ will to persevere.
So to my neighbors who have shown that love does indeed win over hate, thank you. Your support makes a difference. I hope your love is a sign of changes to come.