Michael Douglas is using his celebrity to speak out about an issue that hits very close to home for his family. As he revealed in a powerful op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, March 14, his son Dylan was recently the victim of an anti-Semitic tirade in Southern Europe.
The Behind the Candelabra actor, 70, was on vacation with his family last summer when Dylan, now 14, went swimming at the hotel pool. "A short time later he came running back to the room, upset," Douglas recalled. "A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him."
The father of three was initially puzzled by what could have provoked the man. But then it dawned on him. "Suddenly I had an awful realization of what might have caused the man's outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David," he wrote in the L.A. Times.
Douglas soothed his son and then sought out the offending party at the pool. "We talked. It was not a pleasant discussion," he noted. "Afterward, I sat down with my son and said: 'Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism.'"
The actor — whose father, actor Kirk Douglas, is Jewish — had his own "first taste of anti-Semitism" in high school. "Now, half a century later, I have to defend my son," he wrote. "Anti-Semitism, I've seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger."
Douglas was raised without any "formal religious upbringing" but reinvested in Judaism when Dylan — his son with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones — developed a connection through friends and started going to Hebrew school.
Because of that, he feels a special responsibility to speak up about what he describes as "Europe's new epidemic of anti-Semitism." In his op-ed, he calls upon political leaders, religious leaders, and "regular citizens" to take action against the hatred and "stop the spread of this madness."
"My son is strong," he wrote. "He is fortunate to live in a country where anti-Semitism is rare. But now he too has learned of the dangers that he as a Jew must face. It's a lesson that I wish I didn't have to teach him, a lesson I hope he will never have to teach his children."
Read Douglas' full op-ed at the Los Angeles Times' website.
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