Last week my eighth-grade class in Yavneh Academy interviewed three residents from the Jewish Home at Rockleigh via Skype. George Hantgan, who was interviewed by your paper as well (“And then here comes George,” March 21), was one of the residents whom we interviewed, and he answered our questions with earnestness as he told us his story. When we asked about bullying in his teenage years, Mr. Hantgan told us of his experiences in Flatbush, where he had gone to high school. At that time, there were rarely any Jews in the area, and therefore he was an obvious target for bullying. However, his attitude about it did not seem at all negative, as he told us that they were only making fun of him to try to prove that they were smarter than him. His attitude toward bullying inspired me to look at bullies from a new perspective; as them being the victims of insecurity and the others as the ones who are being dragged down. Our generation could learn a lot from his wisdom, as even at a young age he knew how to deal with bullying.
Mr. Hantgan continued telling us that there was also a large amount of anti-Semitism in this area. Nowadays, we could never imagine the things he saw – signs that said, “No Jews or dogs allowed,” put there by the government. Obviously, society has changed dramatically since then.
We also questioned him about his life during the Great Depression and how he was affected by it. At this, he started from the beginning of his life, with his father’s lamp business. Many times Mr. Hantgan would help his father out and earn 5 cents for himself as well as dinner in a restaurant, a rare treat. When the Great Depression grew worse, his father was forced to sell the factory and look for a new job, which was no easy task. Mr. Hantgan shared with us how he worked for a newspaper route, delivering papers for 5 cents a paper, and giving all his earned money to his parents.
Today, we take many things for granted, especially America’s recovering economy. Mr. Hantgan’s stories reminded us to be grateful for all the money which we have and the big houses which we own. We should always remember to especially be grateful for being born in such a peaceful time, when anti-Semitic signs such as he saw no longer exist in the U.S. Listening to how Mr. Hantgan cared for his parents was a major lesson for me and my classmates. Many of our relationships are not as caring and do not include the same amount of responsibility that Mr. Hantgan felt for his parents. Mr. Hantgan is an amazing role model for the next generation, and we should always remember the lessons the past can teach us!