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Walking my grandmother to the synagogue


Awareness of anti-Semitism in early childhood
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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But getting back to my childhood, let's see, what shall I talk about first of all? It's odd but as I think of my childhood I think of good times and the bad times. The bad times- mind you, 1926 is when I was born so 1932 I was six years old and what are my early memories there? Well, I remember five years later when I was 11, I remember my brother coming home one morning and saying that he couldn't play with his friend Jamie any more because his mother told Jamie that- no, you can't play with a Jew boy. And so much before that even I was experiencing the anti-Semitism of that time. At the time there was a Catholic priest by the name of Father Coughlin who, every Sunday, would broadcast an hour speech which was broadcast over 435 radio stations and all of it total anti-Semitism. So, on the radio as well as my life I could experience that sort of thing. One of my memories along that line- I used to go to Hebrew School and in order to get there the shortest way I had to cross railway tracks and I remember crossing these railway tracks- You were supposed to walk over a pedestrian bridge but I took the shortcut and it was already dark and as I crossed the railway tracks a man came up from the darkness and flashed his badge and asked me what I was. That meant well, are you Irish or are you Jewish. And I said- well, I'm Jewish. And he said- well, you know you're not supposed to cross these tracks, this is private property. And I'm not going to arrest you now but sometime in the next week or two I'll come to your home and meet your parents. Well, that scared me, not enough so that I didn't continue to cross the tracks but enough to remind me in an official way this time that anti-Semitism was going to be part of my life.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Sara Maysles Tamara Tracz Rebekah Maysles

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Tags: childhood, family, anti-Semitism, Catholic, Jewish

Duration: 3 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008