My husband, Danny, hopped into the front seat of the Uber and I got in the backseat.
I immediately noticed the smell of weed. Bobby, the driver, was tall, heavy and stoned.
Danny is a socializer. As I looked down at my phone, he asked Bobby about life as an Uber driver.
Bobby complained that people in San Diego were much friendlier than people in Los Angeles, then said how the houses in Beverly Hills were so huge — and how the Jews who live in those houses scare him, with their tiny hats.
“Why do they scare you?” Danny asked.
I shifted in my seat, feeling slightly uncomfortable. I figured Bobby might say something negative about Chasidim. I’ve heard many negative comments about them from Jews and non-Jews.
“Jews don’t eat in the same restaurants as us,” Bobby said. “They’re too good for that. And they control all the banks.”
I felt stiff, like I couldn’t move. I’d encountered anti-Semitism before, but not like this. I wasn’t surprised when a woman in back-country Florida once told me that her dad was cheap, “like a Jew.” Seeing anti-Semitic statements from online trolls doesn’t shock me. But we were in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse, liberal and Jewish places in the country.
“What do you mean?” Danny asked.
“Rabbi Finkelstein said that the Jews have all the money and that it was a lie that 6 million died in the Holocaust.”
“Oh, yeah. I went to the Museum of Tolerance, and I had to laugh. The Jews say 6 million died, but that is nothing. The Chinese — 25 million died. The Russians — 25 million died. You don’t see them crying about it. But we always have to hear about the Holocaust.”
I felt like I was going to throw up.
“The Jews, they don’t eat the same meat as us. They eat kosher,” Bobby continued. “They control the entire meat industry.”
As Bobby drove, Danny looked up “Rabbi Finkelstein” on his phone. He found a video featuring a white supremacist telling an actor with a horribly fake Yiddish accent that he hates Jews because they killed Christ and start all the wars and think non-Jews are uneducated cattle. The “rabbi” admitted that all of this was true.
“You see?” Bobby said. “The Jews are Luciferian.”
The knots in my stomach were getting tighter.
“Did you know that Hitler was Time magazine’s man of the year?” Bobby continued. “He created tons of jobs for Germans.”
“Are you saying Hitler was a good person?” Danny said.
“I’m just saying that Americans made him into some evil person, and he wasn’t.”
How could it get any worse than Hitler admiration?
And then Bobby made it worse. “Did you know that the Jews capture children, then drain their blood to make their matzo ball soup?”
I started giggling uncontrollably, out of nervousness. This was too much. Danny was cracking up, too.
When we finally reached our home, Danny and I couldn’t exit the vehicle quickly enough. We looked at each other in disbelief at what we’d heard.
Does this incident make me want to stop praying in public, eating kosher food or being a proud Jew?
I wondered: Should we report Bobby? If I did, and I got him fired, he knew where we lived. I feared for my safety. Maybe if we had encountered him in a safe, public spot, we would have tried to educate him. But we were in his car.
I’m still stunned that this could happen in L.A., that a person could feel comfortable saying these things to strangers in 2017.
We are not safe anywhere.
Does this incident make me want to stop praying in public, eating kosher food or being a proud Jew? Absolutely not.
I can’t change who I am. And why should I, just because there are lunatics out there?
All I can do is be kind to everyone, even if they are different than me. All I can do is be better than Bobby and all the other Bobbys out there, and try to understand people who are different from me rather than hating and mocking them.
Some part of me wishes I were fearless, that I would have spoken up from that backseat. But I was in shock.
Maybe next time. But let’s hope there won’t be a next time.
Kylie Ora Lobell is the founder of JewessMag.com, a website for Jewish women, and a freelance writer.