“You Jews….” What?

When someone starts a sentence with the words “you Jews”, you know that this is not going to be pretty. Two weeks from making aliyah, I am on a round of dinners and lunches with friends.  My op-ed in the local weekly newspaper saying farewell to this little town has been published, the shipper is coming tomorrow, and, surprisingly, my stress level is minimal, considering. The act of aliyah is life affirming and it is surely time to go. After spending part of the winter in Jerusalem and then returning to the United States, every morning when waking I miss being there.

Since the three boys were kidnapped and murdered, I find with every new terrorist attack I become more frustrated at not being there. I wish I was there during Protective Edge. It makes no sense to feel this so viscerally other than the belief that a Jewish exodus from the diaspora to our homeland will strengthen Israel. Waiting for international approval is like waiting for the end of anti-Semitism; it’s futile. Strength comes from unity and ending the Roman forced diaspora will physically end the disunity. Yes, we bicker and argue, pray differently, dress differently, have different political beliefs. Diversity of thought strengthens a nation.

The death of a baby and a young girl, the assassination attempt of a Rabbi, and yesterday’s terror attack that killed a Druze policeman do not frighten me. That terrorists use vehicles as a weapons does not frighten me. These things anger me. Yes, I’m pissed off and maybe I’m being foolish, but what frightens me more is the that I am in a restaurant in a little town on Cape Cod and a person I have known for twenty years starts a sentence with “You Jews…” later saying that she was joking when I said “what did you say?” after she finished the list of what she believes about us, none of it nice.

My answer to her points.  Yes, Jews complain. Yes, we believe that people are out to get us and they are and always have been but we are stronger than them. There is no answer to her making baby crying noises in a mocking voice (mimicking Jews whining, along with making a crying baby face) other that to say that she was being infantile herself.  Rather than slap her or raise my voice in anger, I left telling her that she’s an anti-Semite. She said “but you’ve known me for twenty years. I was joking”.  Some joke. What was interesting to me is that she had earlier told me that although she is married to another woman, she does not like talking about it because she came from an era when lesbians were closeted. Huh? Clearly pride in who you are is a foreign concept to her.

These are the kinds of incidents that frighten me more than terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, because they often go unchallenged and are symptoms of a sickness.  It’s not the bigots that frighten me, it’s the Jews who stay silent. These are the kinds of incidents, which I have written about before, that I will leave behind. These are the kind of incidents which are treated as if they are benign, but they are not benign. Recently a young Jewish friend told me that people say things in front of her believing that she is not Jewish and that she was stunned to hear.

I have never felt like a victim but know Jews that do and they need to snap out of it. The antidote to that feeling is Israel, a nation that always has been a homeland for our people. That others hate the idea of Israel, or hate us, does not change that reality and surely does not make us victims unless we let it do so. Israel does not exist because of the Shoah, does not exist because people are bigots, does not exist as a safe haven; Israel exists because it is a predestined homeland for our people, our nation.

In reality, I do not care about someone who believes mocking Jews is just joking. It’s more of the same. What I care about is that there are Jews who will tolerate this behavior. That will accept it as just one of those things that happens in life and not challenge those who perpetrate the insult. This, to me, is frightening. And it also angers me.

The terrorists who are using their vehicles as weapons to kill Israelis, throwing firebombs and stones at cars and who attack soldiers are frightening. A baby has died, a young woman student has died, a Druze cop died today, a rabbi fights for his life in a hospital, and soldiers are attacked by a terrorist driver late today; yes, this is frightening.  But what is also frightening is silence, whether about small incidents like this one, in a restaurant in the United States or Jewish students being harassed on campuses in the United States and Europe or the administration of the United States abandoning Israel when terror attacks occur.

It is unreasonable for me to believe that all Jews will pack up and make aliyah. What is not unreasonable is a desire that all Jews challenge incidents small and large, support Israel, acknowledge that there is a Jewish homeland whether they want to live there or not,  and put pressure on their governments to remember that Israel is the front line on the war on terror. Frightened of terrorists, not really. Frightened of ambivalence, you bet.


About the Author
Irene Rabinowitz made aliyah in 2014 and lives in Jerusalem. Prior to making aliyah, she lived in a small odd town at the tip of Cape Cod for 28 years. She lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult (or old child), but is a Rhode Islander by birth. Irene has served as a local elected official and retired from a long career in non-profit management at the end of 2013, after serving as the Executive Director of Helping Our Women for 18 years. She has worked at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance and retired in 2020 from her position as the Resource Development Manager at the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center. She recently retired from her position as a Consultant at Landman Strategic Fundraising. Pro cycling fan. T1D.