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The Human Touch

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A Woman friend—who told me about this—had lost her maid and was looking for another. It isn’t easy for her to find a suitable servant because the stringent requirements of her five-year-old son must also be taken into account. And he likes only white girls. So Mother answered all the promising advertisements and applied at all the employment agencies about which she was told. This woman knew practically nothing about Nazi propaganda among the servant girls in New York. Now she knows, for among the telephoning applicants for the job was one who, after some preliminary talk about work and pay, suddenly asked her potential employer, “Are you Jewish?” The woman, somewhat taken aback by this sudden query, answered, “Yes.” “In that case,” replied the maid, “I can’t work for you,” and put down the receiver with a bang.

Seven cities, you will remember, fought over Homer, each claiming to have been his birthplace. “Over me,” said the humble little Jew, “two cities are in dispute. One wants to kick me out and the other doesn’t want to let me in.” It’s not a new story, but it is new today in its pertinence to the situation in world Jewry. And it is a good story because it is full of that humorous philosophic shrug of the shoulders which is believed to be a part of the Jew’s gift of survival. Incidentally, this week’s batch of news includes a little item to the effect that one Benedict Herzl, a cousin of Dr. Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, has been obliged to leave Palestine voluntarily to obviate the risk of deportation for some technical violation of the immigration law.

I met an old friend on the street the other day. I feel that I can say, and I hope to be able for a long time to continue to say, without ironic overtone, that some of my best friends are Gentiles. We said Hello, and we said How are you? and we seemed as cordially interested in each other as we had been three years ago, two years ago, a year ago, six months ago. But something intangible came between us, my Gentile friend and I, during the brief moment when we said Hello and before we passed on. It was as evanescent as a smile or a frown before it becomes fixed for a photographic second in the face. I spoke instinctively, and before I knew what I had said I had said it. I said to myself: There goes a Nazi. I was shocked at the realization that I could think of him in such terms. It is a pity that one can think of an old friend in such terms; that far beyond Germany the Hitler movement could have cut with a psychological knife along the friendly chalk-line that divides the Gentile and the Jew everywhere. There is good and I believe a little of evil too in the fact that Hitler has made Jews the world over conscious of their Jewishness.

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