Thoughts on Forgiveness*
Nathan Lopes Cardozo
The blackboard brush didn’t hit me, but it was close and could have hurt me badly. It crashed through the large window behind me and destroyed it. I got up. There was complete silence in the classroom. No one said a word. The teacher, who taught us Latin and Greek, was dumbfounded by his own action. He had thrown the eraser at me, and it was clear from the expression on his face that he knew he was in trouble.
I left the classroom, walked right over to the adjacent building, to the Con-rector of this non-Jewish Gymnasium, and told him what had happened. He knew that I was no longer coming to school on Saturdays. In fact, he had been instrumental in allowing me to stay away on Shabbath.
Several weeks earlier I had walked to school on Saturday morning. At first, I had decided to go by bicycle but to refrain from turning on my headlight. So, I rode in complete darkness, in the early morning hours, through a small village outside Amsterdam. I was stopped by a policeman who said that if I wanted to observe the Jewish day of rest, I should walk to school and not put my own and other people’s lives in danger. So I arrived very late, sat down in my chair, opened my book and read the questions which my Dutch Literature teacher, the Con-rector, had prepared. But I did not write, for it was Shabbath. True, I had decided I’d still come to school in order to please my dear father. But writing? No way! The sympathetic teacher asked me why I didn’t pick up my pen and write. I told him. He smiled and requested that I stay after class. Once he heard my story and recognized my sincerity about Shabbath, he told me that he would convince my father to allow me to go to synagogue instead of school. And so he did.
However, now that I was missing my Saturday morning classes in Latin and Greek, only attending them during the week, my Latin teacher wished to take revenge and threw the blackboard brush at me. He didn’t like me now that I, the Shabbath observer, had dared to stay away from his lectures.
The Con-rector accompanied me to the classroom, saw the broken window and, to the delight of the entire non-Jewish class, fired the teacher in front of all of us. He handed him his briefcase and ordered him to leave.
I became an instant hero in the Gymnasium (having been instrumental in getting rid of this man whom nobody liked!) and decided then and there that I, a 15 year old kid, the child of a mixed marriage, would definitely become Jewish. And so I did. This is the only time I have ever forgiven an anti-Semite, and for good reason. He had successfully helped me to become Jewish!
Tizku LeShanim Raboth