A Learning Experience

A box of matzos on the grocery shelf

I have always found it quick and easy to go to my local grocery store and purchase a variety of foods along with other household items. In fact I do this with such ease and comfort, I almost never give it a second thought. However, I was reading recently in my online version of Israel HaYom (Israel Today) and The Times of Israel, that a store manager somewhere in England was forced, via fear tactics, to remove all Kosher foods from a designated shelf in his store.

Apparently a pro-Palestinian group attacked the police outside of a branch of Sainsbury’s and continued to protest him and his store, thus causing him to remove all Jewish-oriented foods. I had to read and reread the articles to be sure I saw this correctly. The headlines read like this: “Anti-Israel demonstrators in Britain attacked police and threw food products on the floor while calling on a local supermarket to stop selling Israeli goods. The protest occurred on Saturday at a Tesco supermarket in Birmingham, the newspaper Daily Telegraph reported. A day later, a London outlet of the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s removed kosher products from its shelves, allegedly to prevent similar protests. This story was also picked up by The Guardian and The Telegraph in Britain.

Is this 2014, or have I somehow logged onto a time machine and traveled back to 1943? As I read of this sad and pathetic situation in a country that one would think had democratic and fair values, I slumped into a depression of sorts upon the realization that such things are actually happening in this day and age. This is happening in England — and France and elsewhere in the “civilized world” — as we speak.

The situation in Gaza and the reactions to how Israel must respond in the wake of rocket attacks on her towns and villages is fomenting worldwide anti-Semitism, reminding me of what occurred in Germany just before Jews were taken away to the concentration camps. The difference being that the Jews now have a homeland, a place to call their own and a professional army that provides a way to respond to nearby attacks.

I am hoping and praying that the box of matzos that I enjoy buying at the local grocery stores in Peterborough and Keene will always be there on a designated shelf in the international food section where I can usually find Kosher items or Jewish food that is available during High Holy Days (Jewish New Year or Day of Atonement etc.) and also during non-holiday times. In other words, those special Kosher or Jewish food items are always there, always present on that shelf in that grocery store.

Now when I look at my box of matzos or even the Kosher Borscht (cold beet soup) I have developed additional feelings and a greater understanding of the very symbolic nature of these and other Jewish foods that my ancestors enjoyed in Hungary, Russia and Lithuania.

Those of us who live in America must be on the lookout and be ever vigilant to any changes that might occur — even in a simple place as the grocery store and a designated shelf where my beloved matzos live and dwell.

Jane Kronheim, a teacher of the visually impaired, is a folk artist and self-styled musician in Harrisville. She can be reached at jane.kronheim@gmail.com.

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