“30 Years Ago I Did a Really Bad Thing to a Very Good Person”

A post by reader Elyssa Frank

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It’s an uncomfortable feeling when I see a globally recognized American newspaper I grew up with post a cartoon of a “kippah’d” POTUS, blind, being led on a leash by a collared Prime Minister of Israel with a Jewish star around his neck (for clarity’s sake). Not to mention the blatant antisemitism.

We all know this cartoon well by now.

It actually brings me back to my junior high school graduation when I gave my yearbook to a very good friend to sign who had moved from Australia. He was super popular with movie-star looks . . .



He never returned it back to me.

Instead, my yearbook was found days later, with a known antisemitic student made to look like Hitler, black mustache and all, with a leash drawn to my photo & I was drawn to look like a dog, with a collar around my neck, Jewish star (for clarity’s sake)!

And in very big, black letters . . . “F U JEW”
ONLY IT WAS LITERALLY WRITTEN OUT across the spread of two pages.

I was 15, it still hurts & still makes no sense to me.
But do I understand hate . .  . yes, I do.

***

After writing this above as a Facebook post – I realized it was the very first time I ever spoke about it.

Except for a few years ago when the infamous yearbook “artist’s” name popped up asking to be my “friend” on Facebook. And a message that read,

Mys, Elyssa, I’ll call you what I remember. It’s such a long time ago, like what happened to me, a distant memory, but a memory none the ĺess. You’re amazing, you’ll always be the same person, the truly beautiful girl who disappeared from sight all of a sudden. It may have occurred while I was busily trying to cope with my new reality after my ĺife changed because of a devastating car accident, but at least I’m alive ànd living to a higher potential than I ever imagined

Yes, if you are confused so was I.

Understandably, becoming a paraplegic is earth-shattering & for sure takes over your 15-year-old memories.

I truly felt for him and his tragic accident, I had heard about it from friends years before. I knew he came from a super supportive & famous family & if anyone was going to make the best of things it would have been this guy.

But his tragic accident didn’t erase the pain & humiliation that he had caused me and my family.

It was devastating, that such an evil, hateful crime could happen in our quiet affluent town. Had it been today it would have been on every news station & the next big viral hate story.

Instead, he pretty much received a slap on the wrist and was forced to apologize and I was left with a hole in my heart.

A hole I never even knew existed.

Until that NY TIMES Cartoon appeared, glaring at me  . . .

that horrible anti-Semitic piece of garbage.

It literally took me back to my 15-year-old self.

I never continued our Facebook discussion where he apologized for his terrible act. I had no desire and could not bear conversing with him. So, our conversation ceased months ago. And beings ‘friends” on Facebook just didn’t seem too comfortable no matter how petty that sounds.

But, that cartoon. Yes, a weird word, “cartoon”. It seems like it would refer to something funny, something to make you feel good. But for me, I could not sleep. I stayed up that night and cried; tears of that 15-year-old self who never made sense of why my good friend thought I was a dog. And that being a Jew was a bad thing.

My only response was to send him the cartoon with a message,

Sure reminds me of a picture you once drew!

he responded immediately.

Oh Elyssa, I do wish you well, you’re a beautiful girl – you’ve always been, and will forever be. much love

I didn’t think much of it, until hours later, I was wide awake.

And I realized, now was the time to change things in both our heads and that this was a lesson to learn for both of us. It was truly a moment of redemption.

For me, I can still see that drawing in my yearbook vividly, like it was yesterday.

For him, he remembers just trying to fit in. I find that reason lame as he was one of the most popular guys & all loved being around him. But, nonetheless, 15 is a weird age & who knows what one is thinking at that age.

I know that at 15, he and all the other perpetrators, threw me spinning in shame & disbelief.  It completely depleted my self-confidence for sure.

Time heals all, so why did I find myself crying tears of my 15-year-old self more than 30 years later?

So, at 3AM that very same night I asked him if he would help me lessen the pain

I asked if he would write the story from his perspective, as he already knew mine.

This “artist” went on to actually become a professional painter, and this was his response to my offer to do a “mitzvah”,

Elyssa, I’m about to go to my studio – it’s no good, to have this in your head – but it’s in there now, so I’ll go and do a beautiful painting, with you in mind….

30 years ago I did a really bad thing to a very good person

It reads:

And it should be really obvious who this is about
We’ve spoken about this for years – apologies almost seem
to the time that has passed
on a feeling of (almost questioning) after all
between us. Yet there is
still magic that still
exists, others may
never understand it
Hell, I’m not that
good, in that you’ll
turn around to a
whole new image
of yesterday so
you’ll be able
to see life
as the truly
magical experience
it is

It’s a funny thing Facebook . . . had it not been for him contacting me. Had it not been for this incredibly easy access to communicate with another with him sitting in Australia & me in Israel,  I would have never been this lucky to find closure and him, redemption. Because doing “t’shuva” (forgiveness) is a Jewish value and part of my soul.

Now, I can replace that hateful, horrible image in my head with a new one.

I can finally hug & forgive my 15-year-old self for ever thinking I did anything wrong & I forgive you too Jamie.

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