by Betty Koop
I stood in my office at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, shocked and also puzzled at the same time. One of the professors had just explained something about a colleague by saying in a most denigrating way, “But he’s a Jew!” Couldn’t get my mind around that. How did that explain anything? How did that explain his colleague’s actions or intentions?
This was back in the late ’50s and I had recently started my first secretarial job in the Big City. I grew up in a home where my father and minister, Abe P. Unger (Prairie Rose), modeled Christianity in his daily living. No, he wasn’t perfect, but his attitude toward people was to look for the best in everyone.
And that included Jewish people.
There was a fruit peddler who came around regularly; he was a Son of Abraham, as my father might have put it. He was always welcomed and treated with respect. Dad would invite him in for a chat. He was genuinely interested in this man and his beliefs.
I remember hearing Dad ask if he knew from which of the Twelve Tribes he had come. Dad seemed disappointed when this man explained that today most Jews did not know their “tribe of origin,” except maybe the rabbis who might be of the Tribe of Levi.
To my father, the Jews were people to be especially honoured. After all, Jesus was born into a Jewish home and thus all His relatives were to be treated with respect and love.
The professor I mentioned above had emigrated from one of the countries annexed by Hitler during World War II. He seemed to have picked up the anti-Semitism that was so dreadfully preached and brutally carried out during that time. I still remember how his face twisted in utter disgust as he said the word Jew. That’s what caused my shocked reaction. And maybe I was just a bit curious as to why he would feel that way.
We hear and read these days that anti-Semitism is coming to the fore again with such tragic results.
Do we as followers of Christ need to be more dedicated in looking for the good in other people, rather than simply labeling them at first glance? Are we modeling Christ’s love in our day-to-day lives? Are our children and grandchildren being raised to be as “innocent” as I was in matters of bigotry and racism?
I will always be thankful for the lessons learned by observing the life of my father. There are more lessons to learn from my father, and I trust it will give us some food for thought as we journey down memory lane.