Think About It: Do unto others

She was raised in what she described as a “secular Jewish” household. She took to heart the teachings of the faith she was taught in classes she attended every Saturday. She lived in a neighborhood in which there were no other Jewish families and attended a school that celebrated Christmas and never mentioned Hanukkah.

She was well liked and had close friends. She only recalls one incident of being harassed in her young life; she was walking outside of school when a boy called her a “kike.”

It was not until she moved to Sequim about 20 years ago that she experienced open and repeated harassment during the first two years of her life here because she is a Jew.

So why tell this story?

The woman, who I’ll refer to as JW — as much as she wants the column, she does not want her identity revealed — approached me about writing a column about her experience then, a more recent incident and the growing expressions of anti-Semitic sentiments that caused her to hide her identity as a Jew.

JW, who knows me as a writer and one who typically does not write about faith practices, says she is very clear that her experience of harassment is not anywhere near the level of that experienced by people of color. She says that, unlike her, people of color cannot hide their identity.

JW explained her story and her reasons for wanting it known: Certain evangelical Christian groups believe they must convert Jewish people to Christianity in preparation for the “coming.” What she wants to convey is the damage that Christian people can do in their unrelenting mission to convert her and other Jews to their religion.

She said she hopes to inspire an empathy that causes them to examine their assertive actions against something so basic to her identity.

JW’s hiding is also influenced by the growth of volatile expressions of anti-Semitism that could result in actual harm to her and other Jews. She said she holds little hope that her story would make a difference to the rising neo-Nazis groups who call for nothing less than the elimination of Jewish people.

I am taken by her sincerity, self-examination and humble but thoughtful motivations in wanting her story more public, and decided to give the column a go.


JW never hid her identity as a Jew until she came to Sequim. She describes her experience growing up in a Christian neighborhood as one of the few Jews as more of a challenge accommodating the tenets of her faith in a Christian environment.

Christmas celebrations in the neighborhood public school were a particular challenge when she was a child. JW loved to sing, but she mouthed the words to religious Christmas carols; she believed that to sing the words was disloyal to God.

Most likely, mouthing carols was one of her first experiences in hiding her identity yet not an experience that traumatized. Life held very few compromises from then on. She felt accepted and free to say she was Jewish, which she did when conversations started to veer in an anti-Semitic direction.

JW says she had no reason to tell others she was Jewish when she moved to the Sequim neighborhood. She never made a point of it, but happened to tell a neighbor she was Jewish.

Up until then, she had growing good relationships with neighbors having invited them to an open house when she finished repairs on her new home. However, she began to be questioned about any activity that went on in her home. She was reported to the neighborhood association for advertising for a tenant to occupy space in the basement of her home.

JW says she was reported to the county for not following code when she had a journeyman in to revise a part of her kitchen.

One neighbor frequently yelled anti-Semitic and other offensive things from the sidewalk near her home. It caused her tenant to become fearful and move out. Others refused to be in the same car with her because she was a “Jew.”

Neither of the two reports were valid and ultimately were dismissed by the association and county, JW says. Those and other incidents took two years to quell, and then only when she responded to a letter from an attorney threatening to sue her for defamation when she called out the discrimination she was experiencing.

JW wrote back and informed the attorney she was applying for a no-contact order and provided all the reasons she could claim for protection. She never heard from the attorney and neighbors again.

Denial of self

As time passed, JW regained her comfort and established her life in Sequim, part of which was to become part of the volunteers that so often come here and offer their skills to those in need.

All was well until recently, when JW received a book from Amazon — and not one she ordered. The book was sent anonymously. The book was about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jews, which frightened her — especially when an Evangelical friend nonchalantly described the book as a book about loving Jews.

The book and anonymous sender caused JW to have a panic attack and send her back to the two-year period of harassment. Evangelical fervor mixed with blatant anti-Semitism and the emergence of a call for Christian nationalism that holds that “the United States was founded by God to be a Christian nation and to complete God’s vision of the world” (Eric McDaniel, The Conversation, Nov. 2, 2022) fueled her anxiety.

JW is unsettled, anxious and fearful. Who now is out to destroy her identity and erase her Jewish faith? Must she always hide her identity for her own safety?

JW beseeches people who seek to convert Jews to Christianity to listen thoughtfully and examine their actions, assess how welcome it is and realize they can leave a person living in fear.

Ask: Is this what Jesus would do?

Writing this column is a humbling task. The closest I have gotten to harassment personally are hate letters about my columns, a grain of sand event in the history of oppressed people.

When younger, I was horrified when I learned about the Holocaust — the photos of children and starving people, naked people pushed into the “showers.”

JW must carry those images in her cells where they reside and are easily awakened by the arrogant, the self-righteous and the power hungry. What must it be like to have a the deep knowing that others can be convinced to harm or kill you.

JW’s empathy is enhanced by the teachings of her faith and her experiences. As much as I wish the environment would respond in kind, I do not think empathy can survive the arrogant, self-righteous and power hungry.

Note: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft launched a $25 million “Stand up to Hate” campaign on March 27 to combat rising anti-Jewish bigotry across the country. Kraft told CBS News in an interview … that he has “never seen” such levels of “hatred, and bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at