Kayleigh Thesenvitz

I wrestled with how to cover the ninth episode of The Waltons, titled “The Ceremony,” for days.

The story touches on so many themes that are relevant today. The treatment of immigrants, how we treat people of different backgrounds and faiths than our own, hate crimes and persecution.

But for all of those things, the theme that stuck out like a sore thumb in the closing of 2018 was Anti-Semitism.

If the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in October was any indication, Anti-Semitism is alive an well in the US.

The New York Times reported, “Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti have been cropping up on synagogues and Jewish homes around the country. Jews online are subjected to vicious slurs and threats. Many synagogues and Jewish day schools have been amping up security measures.”

”The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to the previous year — including bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature found on college campuses,” the article continued.

For all this hatred to still exist in the world, bubbling just below the surface, it is sickening. We must learn from the past. And one of the ways we can do that, is through The Waltons.

“The Ceremony” centers on a Jewish family who fled Germany to escape religious persecution, and ended up in Walton’s Mountain, Virgina.

Professor Mann is stern and brief when John Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen and Ben first meet the family outside Ike Godsey’s General Store. The son, Paul, is friendly enough, but the father seems uneasy telling the kids any information about where they are staying or how long.

We learn from Ike that Professor, Mrs., and Paul Mann traveled from Berlin, where the Professor worked at the university, before they unexpectedly immigrated to the U.S. and moved into the summer cottage of a doctor in Richmond.

I did some research, but there is no apparent relation to the world-famous Mann brothers who both fled Germany before the start of World War II and who also eventually moved to America.

Contextually, this episode takes place after Hitler came to power, but before World War II began in Europe. Ike reports hearing evidence of social unrest over the radio.

As the Manns gets settled into their new home, the professor has an admonishment for his eager wife and son.

“We will be polite, we will speak when spoken to, but we will not encourage conversation with these people,” he says. “It is the best way, believe me.”

Around the Walton dinner table, the kids talk about the new German family.

Speaking about Paul, John Boy says, “He must have been a couple years younger than Jason, but there was something odd about him … when I looked at him, at his eyes, I got the feeling he was older than I am.”

Kayleigh Thesenvitz is a reporter with the Claremore Daily Progress.