William Shatner opens up about facing anti-Semitism as child

“I’m shaped by a lot of battles from six years old up until now,” said Shatner, who faced a “great deal” of anti-Semitism growing up.

By Shiryn Solny

Jewish Canadian actor William Shatner opened up in a recent interview about being the target of anti-Semites during his childhood.

The 87-year-old, who is best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he experienced “a great deal” of anti-Semitism growing up in Montreal, a city that was mostly Catholic. Shatner said the discrimination that he faced for being Jewish was “very difficult” for him to deal with.

“I’m shaped by a lot of battles from six years old up until now,” he explained before revealing the kind of anti-Semitism he regularly faced. “Fights, every day, with one or more kids my size or bigger. Somebody recently showed me a high school graduation book. There I was — a nice-looking boy — and my nickname was ‘Toughie’ because I was always fighting and being attacked. Kids would all crowd around, yelling, ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’”

During his time at McGill University in Montreal the anti-Semitism continued, he told the Herald. He said, “The university I went to had a quota. How I made it through the quota, I don’t know. There was a limit to the number of Jewish kids who could go to that university, no matter how qualified they were.”

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The Emmy-winning actor also told the publication that while his parents had an “observant religious life” and went to synagogue every Shabbat, they “dragged” him along and he did not consider himself religious. He added, “I’m spiritual. I read avidly on philosophy and animals, plants and trees; how connected all of life is.”

He also talked about Judaism having a “value system” that was very focused on being generous, charitable and learning as an important aspect to  “being Jewish” and connecting with other Jewish people.