White Hats, Black Hats
© 2014, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
This book is an updated version of a narrative I wrote over 20 years ago. I have rewritten it for my now grown children: Roni, Rinat (and my son-in-law, Yoni) and Keren.
It’s also for Lia, my granddaughter, who will be celebrating her fifth birthday within a month.
WHITE HATS, BLACK HATS: PART THREE
Just then I saw Herman on the other side of the street brandishing his knife. I went directly into my house to tell Arlene.
I understood that this knife business had put the Herman episode beyond me. This was the time to involve the grownups.
Arlene immediately called the police who said they’d be right over. She and I went out onto the porch to wait. Herman watched from across the street.
Louie showed up just as we came outside.
He’d brought along a kitchen knife to fight alongside me.
Arlene sent him home to put the knife away.
“Louie, the police are coming,” I told him excitedly and loud enough for Herman to hear.
Louie made his way home, hopping over the low front yard fences between our house and his.
He didn’t want to waste any time in getting home and then coming back to watch what would happen next.
And he wanted to keep as far away from Herman as possible.
The police arrived within five minutes.
Two tall uniformed Metropolitan Toronto police constables got out of their car and came up the walk. On the other side of the street, Herman was pushing his two‑wheeled scooter and whistling, feigning innocence.
The policemen asked Arlene what Herman’s address was. She told them and they turned and called over to Herman, “Come with us, Son.”
They took the knife from him and then went directly to his house to talk to his mother. Herman followed them, his head down.
We heard later that Herman received a beating from his father for causing the police to come to their home.
Herman never bothered me or Jerry or Louie again and that was the end of the Herman story.
Well, not exactly.
When my father arrived home that evening and heard what had happened, he was furious. He blamed Herman’s father for encouraging his son to fight with a knife and said, “I’m going to have a word with that bastard!
My father, eyes burning and fists clenched, strode over to Herman’s house. I followed along but waited on the sidewalk as he went up to ring the doorbell.
When Herman’s father came to the door my Dad spoke to him for a minute, looking very vehement and gesturing aggressively. That was the end of the incident.
Years later, when the Herman story came up in conversation, I asked Dad what he’d said to Herman’s father.
This is what he told me: “I told that sonofabitch that if he ever again set his son loose with a knife against my son I would break every bone in his body. I told him this was Canada and if he wanted to behave like a Nazi he could go back to where he came from.”
Raviv, your Zayde was no diplomat. He was a tough guy who came from a tough neighborhood and he knew how to talk tough.
Today, when I think about this story I see it as one loaded with drama and pathos. It was only a few years after the Second World War and the Jews, both those who had been in Europe and suffered through the horrors of the war years and those who had observed the Nazi anti‑Semitic brutalities from afar, had been scarred.
And here was a violent incident, involving Jews on both sides in which serious injury had been possible.
What possessed Herman’s father to teach his son violence and what perhaps turned Herman into a neighborhood bully was profound frustration.
But was that an excuse for his behavior?
And, for our part, we expected this family of survivors to play by the rules. I did and my father did.
And Arlene had sent uniformed police officers to their door.
It was little known then that many Holocaust survivors were terrified of men in uniform. That was something we discovered over the coming decade. I had a friend whose father never had a driver’s license. He wouldn’t take the driving test with a uniformed examiner in the car.
Our ignorance and naivete prevented us from being sensitive.
But was this ignorance an excuse?
I’m not blaming my father or Arlene or myself. I’m simply describing for you the times we lived in, the atmosphere in which I grew up.
In a sense, the Holocaust, with all its profound implications for life in the second half of the 20th century, was confronting us all, but we were unable to confront it. It would take another twenty to twenty‑five years until ordinary Jews—those who had been in Europe and those who had not—could face the Holocaust.
Until then, most Jews would flee from this necessary confrontation. Even in the Seventies and Eighties and Nineties we’ve continued to run away from facing the enormity of the Holocaust, all of us for our own reasons, out of our own weaknesses and fears.
Raviv, if you think about it—and I hope you will think about it, if not now, then at some time later in your life when you reread these pages—you will understand that far-off events, both historical and current, influenced our lives, impinged upon them, sometimes subtly and sometimes crudely and brutally, right there on Montrose Avenue.
In the soft years of my childhood the great big world came home to us on Montrose Avenue, bringing with it the aftermath of World War Two and the mid‑20th century flux and flotsam of millions of people set adrift by events and movements unimaginable in their magnitude, with post-Holocaust Jewish DP’s and Italian and Chinese immigrants, and immigrants from scores of other peoples, too, making their way to the Western nations, and with the inevitable socio‑psychological traumas and the unsettling culture clash and clang to which we were all heir.
Not everyone was aware of what was happening.
Certainly as a small boy I could have no conception of the significance of the era.
But I lived it and I breathed it and one day I would come to understand it, at least in part. As for back then, we were all busy just surviving.