Being Jewish Today

Common Misconceptions Still Abound


Courtesy of Ellen Larkin

Here Nelson Bauman smiles in a photograph taken at his daughter’s wedding. Her ceremony combined both the Catholic and Jewish traditions.

Edan Larkin, Contributing Writer

“I think, now, it is a very uninformed public and that creates more problems than anything else… [the public] has to strike out at somebody… it’s what caused Nazi Germany to rise. As long as they were blaming the Jews, it didn’t matter,” Nelson Bauman, 75, commented on the hatred toward those of the Jewish faith.

Nelson Bauman is a born and raised Jew. He has celebrated each Jewish holiday yearly since he was a child. He also makes amazing potato latkes.

Bauman’s grandparents came over to America from Poland when Bauman’s father was 19. When they arrived at Ellis Island, they were given the name Bauman to replace their long, complicated, Polish last name. As for Bauman’s mother, Francis Bauman, her lineage can almost be traced to the Mayflower. But her true family origins remain unknown.

Bauman grew up in a good home in a very diverse community, and he did not experience hatred for his religion as a child because of it. “I accepted the people around me,” he spoke. “I never had any problems. It was predominantly Jewish where I grew up, but we had everybody. We had black, white, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, etc. We never had problems with each other.” Bauman said of his family,  “They came over here, they worked hard, they made something of themselves. Their families have all done well.”  

His wife and her family are who gave him a glimpse of what antisemitism really was. “When [my wife] was applying for a job, she was told outright they would not hire her because she was Jewish,” he continued. “[My wife] and her family dealt with a lot of immigration issues. They tried deporting [my mother­in­law] a couple times. My wife dealt with a little bit more, being a Jewish woman.” “Everything I got, I worked for. My family the same. My relatives all worked hard for what they have. They earned it,” he remarked proudly.

I spoke to Bauman’s daughter, also my mother, Ellen Larkin as well. “I’ve been the butt of many jokes,” she commented on her childhood. “I have been around people who have made very antisemitic jokes without knowing I am Jewish,” she continued. “I think they made the jokes because of the stereotypes. They didn’t care about [what they were saying] until faced with a Jewish person.”

I also asked her about how heritage has affected and people she knew. “My family is from Poland. Poland was decimated during the Holocaust. I can never really create a family tree past my grandparents due to the destruction of where they were raised.”  Larkin added that “I grew up with a friend who was born in Israel. Her parents were concentration camp survivors. They were branded. They were still proud to be Jewish. One of their sons still lives in Israel,” she spoke sadly.

Many people believe that the Holocaust was the full extent of hate faced by Jews, and that, after this event, prejudice toward Jews disappeared. This is far from true. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: Hate Crime Statistics, 2014, “Of the 1,140 victims of anti­-religious hate crimes: 56.8 percent [56.8%] were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti­-Jewish bias.”

I shared this statistic to Nelson Bauman, and asked how he felt about it. He responded, “[Society] always goes after the minority. If the Jews were to disappear, then the next minority would be in line. Always go after the underdog.”

All around the world, Jews are at risk because of who they are. Multiple members of the Jewish community in France have been murdered since October. As for attacks against Jews in America, most consist of vandalism or destruction of property, but this year already, there has been a religiously motivated knife attack against a Jew reported in New York.

Massachusetts is no exception. In 2006, a staggering 96 antisemitic incidents took place, including derogatory graffiti on schools, threatening letters, vandalizing of homes, protesting, and more in towns such as Sharon, Newton, and Canton.

Bauman shared his opinion of this fact. “If you look into most of these hate crimes, you find a very ignorant person that’s doing it… All they can say is ‘He’s Jewish!’. It’s hard for me to hate people like that. I mean, they’re ignorant. And that’s how I have to look at it… that’s their life. They’re followers, not leaders,” he commented.