Writer, translator, editor
Liora Golden is a 21-year-old Jewish student from Toronto, who is currently studying at McGill University. She writes:
The progression of emotions since October 7th, as a Jewish woman, has included that of defeat and fear to pride and empowerment, and a whole lot intertwined in between. It’s been almost two months now, and of all the conclusions to make, the one I land on, based on mere observation and feelings, is as follows: Jews are the people’s punching bag for the world. Everybody needs an outlet for their negative, angry, and in this case, hateful emotions. Little kids often use their mothers, atheists often use God, and alike, social groups use Jews. But nonetheless, like a loving mother, and like religious ideas/comforts, Jews aren’t going anywhere. Perhaps it’s because of the immortality and everlasting nature of these outlets that people know they can get away with unjustifiable mistreatment without ever facing harsh consequences.
Unfortunately though, adopting a victim mentality has become somewhat normalized for my generation (students/young adults) more than focusing on resilience. Being a Jew is an inheritance and a choice. It’s a fact and a truth, but also something to embrace and something that needs to be chosen because it can’t always be seen. When there are heartbreaking amounts of hate and fear associated with choosing to be a Jew, in a fight-or-flight survivalist way, naturally people are not going to choose it or want to choose it. People choosing to not be who they are in response to the very real danger of terrorism, threats, and being ostracized from society is not a new phenomenon for the world and it is absolutely devastating. I’ve noticed how this occurs most with Jews of my generation, who have minimized, hidden, or abandoned their Jewish roots and identity out of this fear of being ostracized, and in an effort to be accepted more by their peers, society, and the world.
Whether it is conscious or unconscious, it saddens me on an existential level that people my age, the Jewish leaders and models of the future, feel like they need to repress their Jewish light! I want them to know/feel how special and beautiful and wonderful it is to lead meaningful lives, make meaningful change, and impact society and the world in the most positive ways, through engagement and the lens of being a proud, empowered Jew.
For every other social justice movement, we have rightfully worked, in the name of morality, so hard to make sure no person of any orientation and demeanour feels that way. Yet somehow that has never included Jews. Somehow, I feel that fear and hate so strongly, and I feel that I stand alone. Here we are, after witnessing the most horrific slaughter and brutality thinking for a second maybe this, THIS has to be enough to make the world stand up for the human rights and protection of Jews. But no. Even the worst betrayals of humanity are not enough.
Somehow, it has only enabled the antisemites to step out from behind their screens and media outlets and encourage physical hate crimes they know they can get away with. Somehow, it’s made Jews want to retreat back to where the terror was targeted (Israel), because despite the attacks, it’s the only place we have to go, and the only place that will protect, defend, and stand up for Jewish life unequivocally. It’s the only place where Jews are included in the activism. It’s the only place in the world right now I would embrace and where I would express my Jewish identity, my favourite part about myself, wholeheartedly. I don’t want to, and shouldn’t be petrified to embrace and choose to be who I am.
In Canada, the democratic country in which I was raised and have lived for 21 years, the human rights and lives of Jews are being threatened more and more by the day. Protecting Jews should be unconditional. It has become conditional. Never Again must be proactive. Not reactive. This isn’t and cannot replicate 1930s pre–Holocaust Europe and although Jews aren’t forced to wear a yellow star at this exact moment in history, every day the Western world continues to prove and remind us that just because the star isn’t physically visible, it will always be there and will always be seen.
The killing of innocent Palestinians is devastating and shouldn’t be happening. The killing of Jews is personal, plotted, and praised. So it’s relevant if Israel was responsible for the murder and bombing of the hospital in Gaza, but not if terrorists were? How is it possible that news sources, influencers, and human beings are forgoing condemnation of a terrorist organization that is murdering innocent Palestinians? How is it possible, that in Gaza and North America, people are putting their energy into relentlessly attacking Israel in the name of the Palestinian people and not promoting the humanitarian ways to help them. How is it possible that not many, other than Jews, have advocated for the release of innocent hostages who are still being held by Hamas? How is it possible that this has become a war of narratives where the truth doesn’t matter?
But as for the pride and empowerment, I mentioned my emotions in my opening sentence, alongside my expressed feelings of sorrow: It has been pretty impossible to not get caught up in the noise of the world, but now more than ever, Jews need to stick together and spread their light though the community. After all, that’s how we, as a people, have stood so united against terror and baseless hatred over the centuries. It definitely hasn’t been by spitting into the wind. Jews are meant to be here. We are meant to learn and live in coexistence with our neighbours. We are meant to foster, nurture, and comfort our fellow human beings in the ongoing battle against evil. As Jewish singer/songwriter Noah Kahan wrote, we cannot let the darkness fool us, because all lights turned off can always be turned on. Like my name translates, I want to spread my light, and while my words may not do much, I hope they can offer a sense of comfort, warmth and reaffirmation that while spirits are low, our fight for peace is not over. Speaking as a proud, embracive Jewish Woman, I know our greatest weapon against this evil is resilience, hope, and love, and that is something no terrorizing organization can ever take away from us.
It is so normal, as one could gather from my writings, for the deep feelings surrounding the war to fluctuate, ricochet, jumble together, and constantly shift in what feels like an unorganized, overwhelming way. That is OK, and ultimately, I believe, an inherent part of the process and experience of being a Jew.
I hope you stay well in these trying times, and that your hope stays well and undiminished.
Sending copious amounts of love,