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We were lying by the village pool in southwest France—trust me, there will be a Jewish theme before we reach the digestif. As usual I was deep in the new Philip Roth. (On holiday I am invariably deep in the new Philip Roth. I am not sure if this proves how rarely I take holidays or how prolific Philip Roth is.) My five-year-old, with her unerring talent for discovering gorgeous ten-year-old boys, brought back her latest find. Pleasantries were exchanged, and a critical fact was established. He was Polish. I asked him his name. He answered. In the microsecond between question and answer passed centuries and a hope against hope that his surname would end in “stein” rather than “ski.” But those blonde curls were eloquent, and it did not. He was charming, and the children’s friendship grew. We met the parents , English mother, English-born father but with Polish parents. Whole family now living just outside Warsaw. “I couldn’t believe it,” said the mother, “when the children came back and said they’d met another Anglo -Polish family.” Do I correct her? Not Anglo-Polish; Anglo-Jewish perhaps, or PolishJewish , or Anglo-Jewish-Polish. It would take too many hyphens and make too much of an issue to try to calibrate accurately the degrees of Englishness , Polishness, and Jewishness that go to make up our identity, so I let it pass.  It Began with Pleasantries anne karpf @6GE;  We were invited for drinks and a barbecue and accepted. It went more than smoothly: it was interesting, enjoyable, with both parents actively involved in the new Poland and talking intelligently about it. Even before the first glass of Gaillac was drunk, I had to decide how much to say and when in the event, under questioning, my parents’ stories emerged naturally. The mother had visited Auschwitz and spoke of her reaction. They also had a wartime family story (which Pole does not?) involving Siberia. There were just two moments of unease. One, when their seventy-something cousin was talking about some art he had made for two London households and paused for a fraction before describing the second rich . . . family. Was it paranoia, or did I imagine the censoring out of “Jewish”? (I had just read Elinor Lipman’s hilarious novel The Inn at Lake Devine, in which the heroine is convinced that the antisemitic hotel owner refers to MassaJewsetts.) The second moment occurred when, responding to a comment by the cousin about Jews in Kraków, I said Jewish-Polish relations were complex. He thought I had said that the Poles had a complex about the Jews, and said yes, but the Jews also had a complex about the Poles. For just a moment there, we turned into Fawlty Towers’“Don’t Mention the War.” But harmony was soon restored, more Gaillac was downed, the children played happily, and soon it was time to for us to go (to a neighboring village fete to raise money for the church organ. We are catholic, you see, if not Catholic). Email addresses were exchanged. Later that night as I was putting the children to bed, my twelve-year-old told me that while she had been playing with airguns with the sixteenyear -old, she had mentioned that she was learning Hebrew and was Jewish . In return he told her that the Jews killed Jesus, the Poles suffered more in Siberia than the Jews during the war, that many Poles were killed for protecting Jews, and other unspeakable things about American Jews. “Is that antisemitism?” she asked me, never having encountered it in NorthWest London. Which left me with the question of what to do. My daughter was all for doing nothing, but then for a preteen, causing embarrassment is almost  >I 7:I= EA:6H6CIG>:H as big a sin as antisemitism. I could easily imagine what my mother’s reaction would be, a wearily cynical “My dear, what do you expect?” (And so it was, when I told her.) But I concluded that following the do-nothing route would be an expression of fatalistic resignation quite foreign to my instincts. What was more, I had a sense that this antisemitism had not been learned at home (in which case challenging it would be a hopeless task) but at school. The parents had told us that the boy, to their surprise and ambivalence, had chosen to go to a Catholic boys’ school. So...


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