What it Means to be Jewish in a World Filled with Hate

What it Means to be Jewish in a World Filled with Hate

It is happening daily now. Antisemitic attacks. Jewish cemeteries vandalized. JCCs threatened with bomb threats.

It is a real thing. And, although they deny it, it is coming from the top-tier of the government. It stems from fostering hatred against anyone who has been considered Other (Muslims, immigrants, people of color, trans people, gays, etc.) Historically, Jews have been the scapegoats more times than you can count. Jews have been blamed for everything that goes wrong in society. So are we surprised that it is happening under the fascist rule of the Orange Overlord?

We shouldn’t be.

Yet, many of my Jewish sisters and brothers have said things like “I’ve never felt unsafe before, but I do now.”

Would it surprise you to learn that I have felt unsafe in the past? I feel it again now, but I also feel something else. I feel the need to stand up and say, loudly and proudly, “I AM A JEW!!!!”

What does that really mean though? Here’s what it means to me:

It means that I had ancestors from Eastern Europe who fled pogroms and attacks against them and came to this country.

It means that I grew up in a Kosher household, so never really developed a taste for all things pork.

It means that when I was thirteen, I stood on the bima and sang in the language of my people, to celebrate becoming a young woman. At that moment, I felt connected with my family, including my grandparents who were only there in spirit.

It means that I never celebrated Christmas unless invited to a friend’s house, but I did take days off from school to celebrate other holidays that had meaning to me and my family. It means cherished memories of eating special Passover foods off of pink glass dishware (for milks) and special white china with a gold trim (for meats). It means being asked, every year, to talk about Channukah as if it was the most important holiday of them all–because I was often the only Jew in my class.

It means I went to Hebrew School on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to learn about my culture, my religion, and the language of my people.

It means that, when I was 10 years old, I watched The Holocaust miniseries, with my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes. Then I went to Hebrew school where we talked about it with the Rabbi, and I said, “It made me afraid to be a Jew,  but it also made me feel prouder than ever to be a Jew.” He shared my statement with the congregation at the next service.

It means I watched a woman threaten my mother on the front steps of our home because she and her family hated our family for being Jewish. It means I watched blood drip from my brother’s head after this woman’s son threw a brick at him. It means I vaguely recall my knee throbbing in pain and dripping with blood after I was pushed off my tricycle by the son named David, and his  friends. That son would later father this horrific person. The apple doesn’t grow far from the tree.

It means that I had to learn to stand up against antisemitic jokes, or friends who told me I would be going to hell, or people who blamed me for the death of Jesus.

It means that when I got married, I stood under a chuppa that was made with my grandfather’s tallis, in front of a Rabbi. When my husband stepped on the glass to break it, his foot bounced off so he had to try again. Finally the crowd yelled “Mazel Tov!”

Finally, as I have grown older and away from the practice of Judaism to some extent, it means that I have experienced hate and the feeling of never belonging, but I still can choose love.

I don’t see how any of these things are threatening to society. I will never understand why people hate difference. I celebrate the diversity of people in my life–people of all races, religions, belief systems, genders, and sexualities.

If someone can explain how my Judaism has harmed your life, I would be more than happy to understand. Otherwise, maybe it is time for you to rethink your hate.

I am Jewish and I am not going to silenced.