I recently posted this across my social media channels with a couple of selfies:
These days, with rising antisemitism and hate crimes, morning decisions include “Can I wear a v-neck t-shirt today?” “Do I need to zip up my jacket to cover my necklace?”
Last week at my Jewish Employee Resource Group meeting at work, a colleague asked me if I cover my chai and Magen David in public. The answer is sometimes. It depends on where I’m going, whether I think about it. I wear it daily but considered taking it off this morning.
I have another chai en route from Israel.
Fellow Jews, I pass the question to you: Are you hiding your Jewish symbols?
A comment I received on Instagram said (unedited),
“Curious but with so many Palestinans being murdered including women and children, why are you centering yourself? There are humans who are actually suffering.”
Reading the words “There are humans who are actually suffering” many days later still bothers me. How can one person claim that another is not suffering??
My reflexive response was brief, showed empathy, and condemned violence.
More words came to me throughout the day. After dinner, I opened a blank Google Doc and started writing what I thought would be a couple of paragraphs at most. In the end, I had to split it into two comments.
When I subsequently posted that comment on LinkedIn, I published two screenshots that had typos. Days later, I remembered that this website exists and it’s a place where I can post long-form content that I can link to even if no one finds this site directly. I hadn’t updated this website in over a year and a half.
My long response
How’s this for an explanation?
We are all suffering. The world is suffering. Some of us more than others, but it is suffering.
Now and always, Jews experience intergenerational trauma like you wouldn’t believe. Our ancestors – those who share our DNA – were cast out of their countries or forced to flee because they were Jewish. My Russian and Polish great-grandparents came to Canada because it was safer than where they were. If they hadn’t, I might not exist. Both sides of my family changed their names. Every Jew reading and commenting here likely has a similar story. Then, the Holocaust happened. Every Jew of my generation and those before me has met a survivor of that tragedy. Many people I know have parents and/or grandparents who survived when they could have been gassed.
The barrage of reports of hate crimes against a group I belong to, knowing I could be beaten because people don’t like Jews, is a continuation of people hating Jews. Bomb threats on synagogues have been a constant for years. The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 was not an isolated incident.
We have security guards stationed inside synagogues “just in case”. A guard at one of my synagogues also works at the Jewish high school that has been evacuated several times due to threats in the past few months, and he wakes up panicking in the middle of the night.
We discuss whether or not to wear our Jewish symbols, affix a mezuzah (a little case that holds a tiny scroll inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah) to our doorframe or put our chanukah menorah in the window.
Why am I centring myself? I’m centring all Jews because we are still here, but our existence is regularly threatened. We’re tired of it, and we’re tired of the assumptions made by people who are not directly affected or have never read a book about Israel. We’re now answering for decades of history, becoming advocates and educators, and it’s exhausting.
If you don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating, consider the rise of antisemitism and hate crimes that I mentioned in my post and my comment. Don’t tell me that I’m not suffering when I cry almost daily for the Jews and Palestinians who have lost their lives through the turf wars over the years. Since its inception, Hamas, a terrorist group, has oppressed Palestinians and made their lives hell. Are you not upset that Hamas kidnapped Israelis of all ages, raped women and cut off their body parts, beheaded babies in the name of “resistance”? Is that the sort of retaliation you want to see? Who wouldn’t suffer knowing all of that?
Don’t assume that I’m disregarding Palestinian or Muslim pain because I’m not discussing it in the same paragraphs as I talk about my Jewish experience. I do not know a single Jew who wants Palestinian civilians dead. We all want an end to terror and a peaceful solution to a longstanding problem. We criticize the Israeli government and military, too, and point out where they messed up. We can’t change history – including the actions of the original Israeli armies – but maybe we can find a way forward.