Daniel Kravitz, the owner of a secondhand furniture shop in Denver, was taken aback by the customer who entered his store. The young man was dressed like a hoodlum, with a shaved head that clearly marked him as a neo-Nazi. His bare arms were covered with tattoos with the venomous message, “Kill Jews!” Fortunately, Daniel’s yarmulke was concealed beneath a cap.
Daniel spent the next hour assisting his customer. He took the man on a tour of the shop, helped him select a decent array of furniture, granted him a generous discount, and helped the young neo-Nazi load his purchases into a waiting pickup truck. Then, after looking the man over carefully to make sure he was not carrying any weapons, Daniel began to speak.
“Tell me,” he said cautiously, “Do you really feel what all those tattoos say?”
“You bet I do,” the man replied.
“Have you ever hurt anyone?” Daniel pressed.
Daniel paused, then asked, “What do you have against the Jews?”
“They are thieves and liars” the customer launched into a tirade, spewing out every imaginable anti-Semitic stereotype.
Daniel listened patiently until the man had finished speaking. Then he removed his cap to reveal his yarmulke and said, “Are you aware that you have just spent an hour with a Jew? Haven’t I been honest, kind, and generous this whole time?”
The neo-Nazi gaped in disbelief. “No way, No you’re not, man!”
Daniel motioned to the mezuzah on the door, then showed the man a siddur on his desk.
“You can see very clearly that I am Jewish, and I’m not at all like the image you have of Jews. You have been brainwashed. I can’t believe that your parents raised you with this kind of hate. You must be estranged from them,” Daniel surmised. The neo-Nazi grimly confirmed his suspicions, he hadn’t spoken to his parents in ten years. Just then another costumer came in and Daniel wished the neo-Nazi a good day and turned to assist the other customer.
Six months later, the man returned to the store, this time with a full head of hair, decent clothes, and long sleeves to conceal his tattoos. To Daniel’s surprise, the man embraced him warmly. “I need to apologize to you and thank you,” he said tearfully. “You really made me reassess all of the ideas I had believed. Thanks to you, I now know what a Jew is, and I’ve decided to turn my life around. I’ve even reconnected with my parents.”
We can make a difference. We cannot give up. We can bring light to the deep darkness.
This story was shared by Daniel Kravitz to Rabbi Shraga Freedman author of Living Kiddush Hashem and sefer Mekadshei Shemecha. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free download of sefer Mekadshei Shemecha and other resources.