Surrounded, memoir by Michael Natt at



written by: Michael Natt


You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. – (Psalm 32:7)

I grew up in a predominantly Jewish area of the Bronx, near 170th Street and the Grand Concourse in the 1950’s. As our friends moved out of the area, my family moved to a different neighborhood when I was 11-years-old. This area was more ethnically diverse, with the Irish and Italians collectively outnumbering the Jews.

Most Bronx boys in that era had one thing in common – we loved to play sports! Since there weren’t many public parks in city, we usually played in the school yard. My school yard was P.S. 88, and my sport of choice was stickball. It was the early 1960’s, life was good, and everything felt safe.

There was a group of kids who attended a parochial school in the neighborhood, and they also played in the school yard. Everything was fine between us; we all minded our own business, and got along well. I attended public school, and when I wasn’t playing in the school yard, I was in Hebrew school reading Bible stories, learning the Hebrew language, and praying.

I don’t know what was in the air on that particular day in 1964, but out of nowhere, a group of about 10 kids from the parochial school surrounded me, and the smallest of them, a redhead kid, started pushing me around and calling me “a dirty Jew,” “a Christ killer,” and other expletives. I didn’t say a word, nor did I (dare to) fight back, and after a few minutes it ended.

I came to know and love the same Jesus who was taught and worshipped in that parochial school some years later. I don’t know what motivated these kids to conduct a childhood “pogrom” against me, but I lost my sense of safety and a little of my innocence that day. I completed my bar mitzvah a year later, but I became a man that day in the school yard.

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