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Jesus and the Jews

March 20th, 2011

From “Long Time Leaving” by Roy Blount Jr., quoting a woman he met while reporting a Klan rally:

‘You know the Jews don’t believe in Jesus?  That’s something I didn’t know till not long ago.  That kind of threw me for a loop’

Which put me in mind of a story about my grandmother Opper.  Boggin, we called her.  Boggin lived two doors up our quiet street, in a white-frame house with a basement that had both an ice box and wringer washing machine, a coal room, and a larder full of her own canned apples, peaches, and what not vegetables.

Boggin had a cleaning woman, who came in twice a week.  The cleaning woman, let’s call her Kathrin (since that was her name), was of German origin; she spoke with a thick German accent.  Not unusual in upstate Illinois, an area that had been settled, despite the French name of Des Plaines, by German farmers, toward the end of the Nineteenth Century.

Boggin was relatively liberal, for her age and time.  Both politically and religiously.  An Eisenhower Republican, I guess she’d have been. She didn’t let her prejudices show, though I’m sure she had some.  But as a Congregationalist who had married a Jew (Oppenheimer changed to Opper some time around the First World War), she really couldn’t afford prejudices.

She loved to talk politics with Kathrin, who was almost a Nazi throwback; Kathrin could rant, and Boggin would goad.  One day, they got into religion; the subject of Jews came up.  You can imagine Kathrin’s stand.  Finally, Boggin said, “Well you know, Jesus was a Jew.”

“Ach ja,” replied Kathrin triumphantly, “until he turned Cat’lic!”

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