As I listen to the television news and read in the newspapers about the changes taking place behind the Iron Curtain - Russia, East Berlin and South Africa - I was filled with happiness for the people and their future, for I knew first hand of the oppression that existed there from past travels behind the Iron Curtain, and seeing the people with their sadness and helplessness. Then the news said that anti-Semitism was on the increase in Russia, and Jews were afraid for their lives.Immediately, my happiness was replaced with deep concern for their future - and the remembrance of my childhood in St. Petersburg where there was discrimination of Jews, blacks and anyone else who appeared to be different.
There was an active anti-Semitic anti-black group in the area, and a sign at St. Petersburg Beach and all beaches that said "No Blacks or Jews Allowed." As a child, I did not understand what this prejudice was, or what those signs really meant, but as I grew older I realized how hurtful it was, and how much discrimination existed at that time. I never remember, as a child, anyone ever standing up against that practice or action, it was an accepted practice.
It's 50 years later, and times have changed. Things are better in our area and throughout the nation. It's not, however, all over. Our consciousness must continue to be raised, and we must be ever watchful of any discrimination that may creep into our society. We cannot change the attitudes of the whole world, but we can make a difference in our own community and we can change our little corner of the world.
The National Council of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) was formed for the sole purpose of improving human relations among groups and individuals.