How do I write a story about a fight that I had when I was a young student? I was insulted and attacked in front of my entire class by a... I’ll reserve the name-calling for someone else. I took that personal attack as a challenge which I accepted.
In life, there are times that we must accept a challenge and fight for a cause that is just. The Bible is filled with such fighting and battles, and the men who fought them were the heroes of that time. Our young children, to this day, know the names of those heroes.
I am far removed from the likes of a hero, but I had good reason to defend myself and even have nekama for what was done to me. My story depicts precisely what happened and is 100 percent true!
When I came home that day and told my parents about the fight, the immediate response from my mother was: “Why are you fighting!” It was like she heard nothing of what I said, but my father waited until we were alone in the next room where he looked at me smiling without saying a word and shook my hand vigorously and hugged me... And now for the story:
We had just moved to Connecticut because my father’s new job was there. I was about 16 years old, and I was in my new school for about a week. Everything was unfamiliar and different for me, much different than my high school in Brooklyn. The teachers, the subjects, my new classmates and even their accent was different, but especially an encounter which was about to happen.
My first subject in the morning was algebra and I sat in the end row near the door in the third seat back. It was the first time I ever remember being seated so close to the front of the class. I was 6 feet tall, which is why I was always given a seat in the back so as not to block anyone’s view.
The class was almost over and the teacher had instructed us to read some pages in the text for our homework assignment, when he saw someone he knew at the door and went outside to talk to her. I wasn’t sure of the last page that he told us to read, so I gently tapped the shoulder of the person in front of me and asked him politely, “What was that last page he told us to read?” He slowly turned around, sneering at me, and said, “What do you wanna know for, JEW BOY?” My immediate reaction was to stand up from my seat. I didn’t know how to respond to this, nor did I want the trouble that this could bring. The teacher was right outside the door and heard nothing. My thoughts were, “I just began this new semester a week ago, and now I have this.” While I stood there contemplating, he suddenly slapped me across the face. I was stunned. I took the slap holding back my active response, and with eyes on fire I said to him, “I’ll meet you at 3 o’clock at the statue in front of the school; you be there or I’ll come and get you!”
Everyone in the class saw and heard everything except the teacher; he was still talking outside. No one ever accosted me or tried to bully me. My demeanor was always one of strength and confidence. This guy was either blind or stupid!
I went to my next class and a fellow named Santo, who was friendly because he and I were in some of the same classes together, said to me that he knew him and that he was on the football team and didn’t hesitate pushing people around. He said, “Be careful, he’s tricky! I hope you win!”
I couldn’t concentrate in my next class so I asked to go to the men’s room, where I just stood gathering my thoughts. I was determined to get even with him for that slap in the face and to show him what a “Jew Boy” can do.
I had absolutely no fear of him in my mind. He was shorter than me and stocky and he acted as if he was super strong, and now I know he’s tricky, whatever that means. I kept excusing myself in all my classes and going to the men’s room.
I proved who I was in my gym class in Brooklyn and I knew my strength, but there was one thing that I feared and kept thinking over and over the whole time, and that was that I might kill him when I hit him, and I didn’t want to do that. My reasoning finally made me understand that this sort of thinking will lose me this fight, so I psyched myself into knowing that I will not kill him no matter how hard I hit him in the jaw.
The day seemed extra long, and when 3 o’clock finally rolled around I was in the hallway opening my locker. The school had metal lockers with combination locks all along the walls on both sides. I had just finished putting my books away and was about to turn to go downstairs when I glanced to my left and saw a mob of people coming toward me. It seemed like the entire school was there to see the fight.
He was in front, facing me, and right behind him were his personal friends, five of them. One was shouting, “Get that New York sponge boy!” To this day I don’t know exactly what that means.
My thoughts were that these five bullies might all jump me at the same time. So I walked up to all five of them starting from the left, and looked each one in the eyes and said with conviction, “This fight is between him and me, and if anyone butts into this, I’ll get you alone!”
At that point I turned facing “him,” our backs were to the lockers; it looked like he wanted to do this in the hall and not outside, which was just fine with me. He looked at me with that smirk on his face and I thought about what Santo said. He then raised his right hand quickly so I brought my hands up to protect myself. What he did was scratch his head with that hand and laugh because he made me raise my guard. He then turned, keeping his right hand all the way in back, which I was watching in my peripheral vision, and while laughing to his friends, he suddenly brought his right hand up from that back position to hit me with all that he had in a “round-house” swing! I backed up and his blow glanced off my left shoulder, leaving his body twisted and off balance with his head right in front of me. I hit him with a right so hard, that I felt the solid impact go up my forearm to my shoulder. The force threw him across the hall to the lockers where he bounced off of the lockers and fell face down on the floor in front of me. I grabbed him by the shirt and he said, “Don’t KICK me!” “I won’t kick you,” I said (thinking that’s probably what he would have done to me) as I pulled him up and hit him with another hard right, sending him across the hall, but this time into a door, splitting the door and breaking the glass from the impact. It was over, and he was bleeding from the mouth, and now his friends were helping him to the staircase and down the stairs. He didn’t show up in school for about a week. I guess he had to see the dentist.
The day after the fight I was summoned to the dean’s office. He said that I was one week into the term and I was in a fight and broke a door, and did I have anything to say before he suspends me. I told him exactly what happened, and how he slapped me across the face, and that I would do it again to any other anti-Semite in this school. I asked him what he would have done in that same circumstance. He realized that I was telling the truth, and his contemplative answer was that he probably would have done the same thing. He actually apologized to me for what happened, and he said that my school record will not have this on it.
I figured that keeping a clean record about this was probably for the benefit of the school also. He shook my hand and said that he was sorry this happened.
A different person sat in front of me in algebra class from that day on.
I asked my pa if he could bring home a piece of thick aluminum alloy, which I then cut out into a Star of David and filed the edges smooth and drilled a hole in the top. I wore it around my neck with pride for all to see. Everyone knew my name, and girls would smile and say “Hi,” but I remained aloof with them and just nodded to keep things at an even keel. I wasn’t looking for any more confrontations.
When people saw me walking in the halls I could hear them whispering, “Hey, that’s the guy that beat ________. I forgot that bully’s name, he really wasn’t that important anyway, but I’ll never forget what happened, and I’m sure he won’t forget what happened either!
By David S. Weinstein