(This was posted June 2020) It is being reposted here today, because it is still relevant)
I grew up very lucky. I had a wonderful family, a nice home, and a good education. I had a beautiful community-the Jewish community where I felt loved and included and important and special. I wasn’t immune to the outright antisemitism I faced on the regular, but I tried not to let it rule me. I’ve spoken many times about the teacher who called me Little Miss Holocaust in front of the class. I may have even spoken about the teacher who punished me for an entire year because I took off for the Jewish holidays and that upset her lesson plans. I know I’ve mentioned the swastikas painted on the lockers belonging to the handful of Jews that attended my high school back in the day.
What I haven’t spoken about is how this all affected me. There is a cognitive dissonance when you are told horrible things about your people and you see how others treat the rest of the world. You are never part of the world-not really. Not when you have to choose between fitting in and being your true authentic self. Jews are called so many things. I won’t commit those to paper here, because enough oxygen has been given to those ideas, already. But I will tell you that you never let yourself feel safe or unguarded in those situations. You keep yourself separate.
That loneliness becomes greater as the world turns and Jews get blamed for more things in mainstream life-churches preach that we are evil/satan and that we killed Jesus-which some people still believe, to this day. People call us cheap and say that we intend to take over the world. This is not an exaggeration. But you watch and you see the outcry for some marginalized groups. You see the publishing community reaching out to them to lift them up and hold their heads above the water, and the thing is I am right there with them, giving those people my shoulders to step on, because they need me and because hate speech and hate have no place in this world. And when it’s my turn-when people attack my people and accuse us of all sorts of crazy things-that’s when you realize that those same people you helped are not willing to help you. And it hurts.
More than that, the same institutions that supported others in their fight for equality and protection are silent when it comes to our plight. They are afraid to stand up for us. Jews are not liked and that could hurt sales, profits, etc. You never see a statement from a publishing house or a college calling for equal treatment and safe spaces for Jews. We are told we are white privileged-nope. We are Jews. Never part of any other group. Try again. We are told we are not marginalized-welp-what do you call it when we are only 2% of the population in the United States and over 50% of hate crimes are directed toward us? I’m waiting.
You can’t defend that position because it is literally indefensible.
I just attended a conference by the Association of Jewish Libraries or AJL and for the first time in YEARS I could breathe. I allowed myself to join in. I felt safe. I was surrounded by like-minded people. People who understood me and mine. People who were willing to question. People who were willing to grow and confront the unfortunate things about our own selves. And that feeling of being safe and loved lasted for an entire week. Until I found out that some people are blaming us for George Floyd’s death. That a group of protesters in NYC called out “From the river to the sea,” with impunity. And no one stood up for us. That is Jewish erasure. Literally.
I’ll tell you one thing-when someone threatens my actual existence-my right to be here, I take issue with it. I am taking issue with this. Why aren’t you?
I’m looking at you, publishing. And I’m looking at you, my alma maters. And I have three of them-none of which has stood up in my defense. Not one. Add to that I’ve put three kids through other Universities. Still no messages of support from any of those. Also, I teach at a local state college. Guess what? No call outs for support for my people from them either.
I have received some lovely private messages from people who support me and I am grateful for the love and kindness. But I wish these same people (and more) would support me publicly. As I support them. Not out of some kind of shrewd agenda, but because I simply believe in the good of people more than the bad and the rights of all people to feel safe and supported and lifted up. Who will stand up for me?
Asking for a friend who is about to give up