Daniel: Look Mummy, a Jew, a Jew!
Daniel: A JEW, Mummy.
Daniel: Over there, behind that girl, it’s a Jew.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Daniel (pointing): Look, you can see it now! On that man’s arm.
Me: Oh, do you mean a tattoo?
Recounting this incident to my husband over lunch, herself asked why it would be wrong to say “a Jew”.
Me: Well, sweetheart, there was a time when people were really mean to Jews and so it’s important to be sensitive to people’s feelings..(feeling a bit overpowered by the prospect of having to explain anti-semitism, I turn to Mr. Waffle) Help me out here.
Mr. Waffle: You see a person is more than just one characteristic, you can’t just identify someone as one thing – how would it be, if you were only described as blue eyes.
Princess (confused): People would be mean to me because I had blue eyes?
Me: Well, I suppose, they could be. They could decide that blue eyes are bad. Maybe, if blue eyes were very unusual. Sometimes people are scared of people who are different or do things differently. For example, a long time ago, English people were mean to Irish people and they put up signs saying Irish people couldn’t stay in their houses.
Princess: English people don’t like me because of my blue eyes?
Me: No, no, that’s not true any more – remember we had lots of English friends when we lived in Brussels.
Her: English people like blue eyes now?
Me: No, no, forget the blue eyes.
Her: But Daddy said…
Me: Never mind what Daddy said. Look, it’s rude to comment on people’s appearance.
Her: Do Jews look different?
Me: No, of course not.
Her: Well, then why…
Me: Look, just don’t categorise people by their appearance or their beliefs – everyone is different and should be judged on his or her own merits, now would you like more soup?
Mr. Waffle: That went well, didn’t it?