“Don’t mind him, he’s just being cheap like a Jew.”
When Addie, working as a cashier in Foxborough in 2021, heard those words from a customer watching her companion fumble through his wallet, she felt an immediate physical reaction.
But this wasn’t Addie’s first time experiencing antisemitism.
Growing up in a small town southwest of Boston, Addie remembers being one of a handful of Jewish kids in her graduating class of 360 students. From the cliques that formed around church groups to being singled out during her history class unit on Judaism, pervasive feelings and messages of otherness were omnipresent throughout her formative years.
During a lecture on dictators in her freshman year, a classmate turned to her and said, “Addie, you need to go hide because the Nazis are going to come for you.”
“I didn’t think too much of it when it happened,” Addie recalls. “I was a shy kid. I went through the day, didn’t say anything to my teachers, didn’t say anything to anyone else, but I came home and was telling my mom about school, and I said, ‘Oh, this kid said this to me,’ and she sort of just stopped in her tracks and was like, ‘What? Can you repeat that?’ She said, ‘You know that’s not ok, right?’ I told her that I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do.”
Her father called the school, and Addie remembers feeling embarrassed, fearing reprisal and not wanting to draw additional attention to herself. After she met with the principal and told him what happened, the boy was moved across the room away from her, but he never apologized. “I think I kind of knew that nothing was going to be done,” Addie says.
Her mom and dad, however, insisted that calling it out was necessary. “Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I’m glad they did it, it was a learning and growing moment for me to realize that things like this happen and they happen often.”
During her senior year, a teacher told Addie that her congestion from a cold made her sound like “an old Jewish woman from New York.”
“I had to hold myself back — she was an adult and an authority figure,” Addie says. “Now, looking back, I know I should’ve done or said something. That was another moment.”
Addie believes that these “moments” helped shape her into the person she is today and gave her the courage and confidence to speak up that day in Foxborough.
Noticing that the man was looking at her and toward Addie with embarrassment, the woman continued, “Oh don’t worry, she’s not Jewish.”
Heart racing, Addie says that she “put the customer service part of [herself] aside” and said, “Actually, yes I am, and you shouldn’t say things like that.” She says that the woman seemed ashamed of what she said but didn’t offer an apology, and Addie’s manager gave her the time to step away and calm down after she explained what occurred.
While she knows antisemitism is never going to completely go away, Addie isn’t hiding, and these experiences have only strengthened her Jewish identity. “I hate that it happened, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it,” Addie says, noting that she shares these incidents as often as she can to encourage others to fight back. “I define it as a source of pride. It’s a badge of honor.”