JEWDAR – PART I
Jewdar (noun) - (slang) The supposed ability of a person to be able to detect or intuitively sense whether another person is a Jew.
Wiktionary (somewhere on-line…)
I find myself well-equipped with the invaluable asset of Jewdar. In social or professional situations, I can identify a MOT, using this information to my benefit when the opportunity arises (see Part II next week). Like any electronic mechanism, Jewdar is not 100%. With Yom Hashoah approaching, today is a story that impacted me in ways that continue to influence my actions.
I have no known relatives that perished in the Holocaust. I was born 25 years after this horror. While my educational experiences, broadly defined, have created a visceral revulsion that remains, I have no personal connection like so many I have met. What does this have to do with Jewdar?
In 2010, I interviewed a Vice President of Sales candidate whom I had known for many years. I considered him a friend. His name is Renaud Baker, a contemporary born in France who immigrated to the U.S. as a small child. As we developed our relationship, he knew of my Jewish activism. I was proud of the example my parents set for me and my dedication to the cause. Renaud, as far as I knew, grew up with and had very little religious affiliation. He was not raising his child in any obviously religious way, although I do recall him mentioning church periodically. My Jewdar was silent.
As part of the interview process, Renaud flew to San Diego for dinner with my wife Laura and me. During the meal, Renaud recounted a story that left my mouth agape, my heartrate elevated, and my eyes welled with tears. During the very beginning of the French Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis, Renaud began, his young grandparents were among those rounded up and put on trains, completely ignorant of the fate that awaited them at the rail’s destination. Suspicious and afraid, the young couple gave their infant daughter to their non-Jewish set of parents.Although they managed to send a postcard before boarding the train, they were never heard from again, suffering the fate of 6 million fellow Jews. The infant daughter grew and started a family of her own, including a son named Renaud Baker.
Fast forward a couple of years. Renaud and I had business in Europe. We started in Paris. We had a customer to visit in Germany. On a crisp, sunny fall afternoon, Renaud and I boarded a train in Paris, setting out to our meeting across the border. As the train glided over the tracks and into Germany, an unexpected and immensely heavy silence befell the two of us. Again, my heartrate soared and my eyes teared. We knew the footsteps we were tracing were those of the grandparents he never knew, yet he and his family honor every Yom Hashoah.
I am honored to be able to give back, yet, next to him, I was humbled in the presence of someone whom I knew less than I thought, and whose family made ultimate sacrifices – just for being Jewish (or married to a Jew). To the Bakers and the millions of people who lost family to history’s greatest barbarism, I recommit to ensuring the strength of our future as a people. I owe you no less.
Now, to get the Jewdar fixed!