One of my old Mahopac chums, Vanessa Taback, reminded me of a follow-up to the Ms. Hart holiday concert episode.
A year or two later, a bunch of local parents petitioned Lakeview Elementary School, literally complaining about the one Chanukah song tossed our way. In one of the truly remarkable idiot moments in Mahopac, N.Y. history (and, Lord knows, there have been plenty), the protesters said that the concert included too few songs that truly celebrated the spirit and meaning of Christmas. Of course, we had NINE Christmas songs and a single Chanukah song, so, hey …
Anyhow, the local newspaper ran a story about the debate, and I actually wrote to the editor, insisting the complainers were narrow-minded dolts from Planet Zeebob (Actually, I just invented the planet right now). The paper ran my letter, and a few days later I received a lovely note from the pastor of our local church, complimenting my tone and maturity. Somewhere, in a photo album, I still have that piece of paper. It’s a cherished part of my youth.
Alas, not much in my town changed in the years I lived there. Kids still threw pennies at the Jews. My closest friend, an African-American lad, had two crosses burned in his yard. For some reason, race and religion seemed to matter—so much so that, when a black family purchased a house about 1/2 mile from mine, the residents of the street submitted a petition, asking they not move in.
And then we all gathered in the auditorium to sing about Jesus.
PS: It wasn’t until junior high that I had my first blatantly racist teacher; the one who—during a lesson—explained why blacks can’t ski or swim, and how it was sorta wacky the way Jews burned in the ovens.