By Andrea Karshan
Goy jokes aren’t funny…
What was a worker at Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery thinking when he made a YouTube video making fun of his African-American non-Jewish customers?
The problem of Jews looking down on non-Jews is an age-old one. Not all Jews do it, but many do. Some Jews think that Jews are better, “chosen” and that a non-Jew is a “lower form of life.” Some may say it is bad for me to talk about it. They say openly stating that some Jews feel superior to non-Jews leads to antisemitism. But it isn’t a secret. Non-Jews sense it when a Jew feels superior to them. And how will we solve this problem if we don’t talk about it?
Disgusted, time and time again I have heard Jews rant about the “goyim.” Goyim is a Yiddish word that only means a person who is not Jewish. But as with the word shiksa, it is usually used in a derogatory way and as a put down to a non-Jew. Around some Jews, I sometimes got a sense that putting down non-Jews made them feel better about themselves. It gives them a feeling of power. And in their social circles, that behavior is acceptable. And it shouldn’t be.
The demonization of the non-Jewish community, especially the African-American community, in Crown Heights is nothing new. There have been tensions in the area between the African-American and Jewish community since before the Crown Heights Riots. Crownheights.info, in particular, has targeted the non-Jewish community. There are many examples of how this publication will publish photos of non-Jewish criminals but not Jewish ones. In Man Arrested After Stabbing Roommate, 2 Israeli Bochurim Arrested for Alleged Assault and Israeli Bochur Arrested After Punching Cop in the Face, the Jewish criminals were not named nor were their photos published. In Attempted Cell Phone Mugging Turns Wild-3 Arrested, Man Taken Into Custody for Menacing Others at 770 and Woman Arrested for Shoplifting From Grocery, photos of the non-Jewish criminals were published.These tactics add to the fear and weariness some Jews have of the non-Jews in Crown Heights.
Videos like I Couldn’t Stop LAUGHING! The JEM Chanukah SEQUEL! are part of the problem. It is part of an “us against them” mentality. We have to see non-Jews as part of our community. We have to see them as human beings. We have to give them some value. They are not here for us to mock. They are not here for our “entertainment.” And in the case of this bakery, these non-Jews are their customers, so the bakery should appreciate them and show them a little respect.
When it comes down to it, it is about being a good human being. A good human being might see themselves as different from someone else but doesn’t see themselves as superior. I may be very different from someone else. But that is ok. That doesn’t make them lower or less than me.
If we as Jews don’t want people to hate us or discriminate against us, then we must not do the same to them. I find it ironic when I hear a racist or Islamophobic comment from a Jew and then in the next sentence they cry about antisemitism. Are you for real? You want people to be nice to you, but you can’t be nice to them.
I think that Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery’s African-American customers will be very saddened by this video. If I were them, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going inside this bakery.
In solidarity with the African-American community of Crown Heights and because this video just isn’t right, I will be boycotting Gombo’s Heimshe Bakery until they remove the video and issue an apology. I encourage others to do the same.
Also published in the Times of Israel
Update: Just heard from someone who is knowledgeable about the production of the I Couldn’t Stop LAUGHING! The JEM Chanukah SEQUEL! video that the actor that dressed up like the black woman in the video was from JEM Community Center. And that the person who posted the video on YouTube is the rabbi’s daughter at JEM Community Center. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was shot at Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery’s and a Gombo’s Bakery employee is acting in it.
My concern is with Gombo’s Bakery because I live in Crown Heights. The fact that this happened on their premises and their employee was a party to it is appalling.
As for JEM’s involvement, that is deeply disturbing. Look on their website see what they do- https://www.jemcommunitycenter.com/