I experienced my first taste of anti-Semitism through online poker, and I’m not even Jewish.

Self acknowledged gamer and geek Eisa Melendez wrote a piece for Slate on the challenges of being a female gamer in today’s world, including the horrific levels of sexual harassment that they routinely receive from male gamers.

I was an online gamer for a long time (and occasionally dip back in from time to time, and though I was admittedly a griefer (and proud of it), I never witnessed this kind of harassment first hand.

I have, however, experienced similar harassment while playing online poker, though not even close to the levels that some of these female gamers have suffered. Though I am not Jewish, my wife is, and several years ago, she placed a dreidel in my Christmas stocking. I quickly learned to play the game, only to discover that I was the only person in my wife’s immediate family who knew how to play or even wanted to play. Stymied by their disinterest in the game, I wondered what to do with the dreidel.

Then it occurred to me:

The dreidel would make an excellent card protector while I was playing poker. Lightweight, unique and perfectly sized, it was the ideal object to place atop my hole cards. In addition, when faced with a 50/50 decision, I could spin the dreidel and allow it to make the tough decision for me.


I’ve been using it ever since.

When it came time to register for online play, I was asked to provide a username, and I chose Dreidel Man. I wouldn’t be using my dreidel in the digital world, but I thought my username could pay homage to it.

Almost immediately, online players began mistaking me for Jewish because of the name and attacking me with anti-Semitic slurs. While this was an exceptionally small percentage of players, I found the attacks shocking and infuriating. While I am well aware that anti–Semitism still exists in this world, I was stunned that players would be so willing to affix this hateful sentiment to themselves in such a public way. Of course, the use of usernames affords a degree of anonymity that the real world does not, and anonymity has always been the shield of cowards, but still, these usernames were attached to players who would sit at digital tables and play alongside other, most of whom presumably found these attacks as disgusting as me.

As a white American male, it’s difficult to single out a single time in my life when I was discriminated against based upon my race, religion or sex. In fact, it could be argued that my sex has assisted me in the workplace. As a male in the predominantly female dominated field of elementary education, it’s difficult to imagine that my sex didn’t assist me in finding a job,

But this experience online gave me a glimpse into an ugly world that I had thus far managed to avoid. And yes, I realize that this experience certainly didn’t give me a true sense of what it’s like to be Jewish. I could always turn off the player-to-player chat function, and none of the harassment impacted my life in any real way. It all occurred online within the confines of the game. It was rude, ugly and disconcerting,  but it did give me a peek into a form of discrimination that I had not experienced firsthand before.

Imagine what might have happened had I used the name Dreidel Girl.

It could make for an interesting experiment at some point in the future.