Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I write to you with great sadness, and with the hope that you can shed light on the hurtful experience both my husband and I experienced this past Yom Tov.
We came from Eretz Yisroel to spend Yom Tov with my husband’s family. They are Sefaradi and dark skinned in comparison to everyone else in the shul. However, I am Ethiopian and am black skinned with blue eyes, as are my two little sons. I will not tell you what city or state we were in because I don’t want to offend anyone or embarrass my husband’s family, they are kind and loving people and treat me with love and respect. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for their neighbors, friends or other family members and shul congregants. I tolerated the sideways glances from the women who, I am quite sure, where whispering amongst themselves behind my back. To my face, they said nothing more than a grumbled “Good Yom Tov,” when introduced.
No one sat next to me – even though the shul was full, there was an empty chair beside me that no one chose to sit in. My sweet mother-in-law tried to brush off the embarrassment and shame I was feeling, even though I understood the reason. To be shunned by my own people was a hurt I had never experienced before. In Eretz Yisroel I am never made to feel this way or stand apart because of my skin color. My brothers went into the army and they were treated as any other soldier. My sisters and I are all well educated, practicing professionals; in fact, I am a well-respected ObGyn in a large Israeli hospital.
What hurt more than my own feelings of rejection was that of my children, who were taunted and ganged up on by the other children. My older son was jumped by bigger boys and the candy he had gathered during a hakafa on Simchas Torah was ripped out of his hands. He came to me crying and said he wanted to go home, home to Beit Shemesh where life did not set him apart or made him feel excluded, unworthy or different! My husband’s eyes reflected the pain he felt for his children and we decided that it would be a long time before we came back to the States.
I am jotting off this letter as I finish packing for the way home. I wanted to make something right out of this experience by letting people know that we are all Bnei Yisroel, and equal in Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s love.
Why were we made to feel so low and inferior, why? Because we are dark-skinned?
My hope is that those who read my story and see themselves in it will have a change of heart and realize that Hashem made us as we were meant to be, different yet the same in His love. Does anyone have the right to cut down another because of any differences, be they physical or emotional? It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to see how little ahavas Yisroel there is here and understand so much more why we have not been zoche to welcome Moshiach to date. My children will grow up in the beautiful spirituality that is Eretz Yisroel, and maybe they will forget the sad and degrading experience they went through in your country. Although I forgive whoever turned away from me, I will have a much harder time forgetting.
Your story is indeed a testament to how much work still has to be done in order for us to merit the coming of Moshiach and the Geula we so ardently pray for. I am sorry for your pain and poor treatment while you were guests here. There are no words to rectify the injustices you were made to suffer at the hands of ignorant and shallow people. I am well aware that some people are uncomfortable with what they do not understand or see as different from themselves. Sadly, we find this indifference and intolerance among those who dress differently because of chassidish or litvishe practices when, in fact, we are all the same spiritually! I truly believe that if all the Gedolei Hador and heads of kehillos would stand together on this issue, greater strides could be made toward the goal of achdus and ahavas Yisroel.
You did a wonderful service in sharing your painful experience with us, and making us aware that what makes many of us different from each other is not often of our own choosing. We have no right to diminish any of G-d’s creations, much less our brethren who may appear different from ourselves. Just the opposite. We should double our efforts to welcome all those who come into our midst and make them feel warmth and friendship. Prejudices have no place in our lives and are the antithesis of everything in our Torah.
Have a safe trip home to Beit Shemesh and Eretz Hakodesh. May your heart heal and your memory of the ugliness you experienced here disappear with time. Most of us would never have put you through such a painful episode, however, with education, the ignorant few who feel threatened by what they do not understand can and will be enlightened.
May you and your family never have to go through such heartache again and may we all merit the coming of Moshiach in our lifetime.