Laura Goodman

A New Life Balance: Being Jewish after October 7th

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Since October 7th, my heart and mind changed. Technically, my life hasn’t changed, but that just goes to show that life is not determined only by the actions one takes in a day. How can it not have changed when the mental and emotional landscapes that enable me to thrive have been altered, and when the world around which my thoughts often revolve has been so dramatically devastated. This is the reality of a Jew in the diaspora.

I speak often with a friend who has lived in Israel for a long time. She gives me her perspective on how life has changed there and I give her mine about how the relative ease of being a Jew in the US has changed. Even if I haven’t been directly impacted—what does “directly” even mean when you see people screaming for the killing of you, your relatives, and your people?—reading about and watching what is happening in far too many places, and realizing what is happening—and could happen—has a cumulative effect.

When I go to Israel in April, I will get a better understanding of how reality has changed for Israelis, and, I expect, I will be changed even more.

But this is not to say that this has weakened me, this hate from those murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and incinerators of lives, and their vile supporters who, unfathomably, support them and their acts by their actions and inactions, their spoken and unspoken words. No. As Israelis have come together to fight the genocidal intentions of its enemies, we, no, I am reordering my be-ing with anger, fear, and disgust, but more significantly with pride and determination, re-establishing my mindset. Who are they to, once again, determine the future for me and my people. Not only is Never Again a rallying cry, so is Enough Already!

The other day I heard a psychologist say that there is no basis to the idea of generational trauma. I don’t know, to me it seems that this is another layer being added to our stack of Jewish experiences that joins us—forging generational strength, resilience, and determination—and through the trauma that is passed down in stories, creating the ways we participate in the world.

Ahad Ha’am (a Hebrew essayist and thinker, 1856–1927) said: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Another part of that keeping seems to be antisemitism, since it keeps pushing us together, forcing us to focus on the Jewish part of our identity foremost, since that is all we are to others. But not as self-hating Jews who may refute their identity, but as proud matzoh-holders who refuse to see themselves through their haters’ eyes.

We had – thought / hoped / prayed / worked toward / educated about / committed to / built toward – a world in which there would be no more violence against us because we are Jews.

But we were wrong.

Once again there are actions against us and the world looks away, or, worse, stands by, tacitly supporting: not having the compassion to care and the clarity to condemn. It has been a harsh awakening.

Now I understand my ex-father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor who moved to Israel right after the war, who didn’t trust anyone outside of the family and especially not outside of the Jewish Israeli family. I get it. I wish I didn’t.

Living here in the States, the shock of seeing the physical attacks on October 7th, their vileness and then the depravity of how the hostages have been treated and ignored, downplayed and blamed, has been tough.

Add to that the trauma of seeing how we are not seen and that our pain is minimized at the very same moment that we are held accountable for anything bad that happens, seemingly anywhere.

Clearly, antisemitism is evidence of the world’s insanity. It should be their problem, this irrational, evil nonsense, and theirs to deal with. It is their addiction. Their warped way of making them feel, somehow, that they are better than they are, more than they are, and that we are less than we are.

While we would like to not have to deal with their problems, we must. What addictive need do we answer? The need to hate, the need to be better than, the need to not look inside, the need to not deal with their own lives, the need to ignore the consequences of what has come before and what they have or have not done?

This latest attack in the stack has forced us to recognize that this generation is not, alas, different from previous ones: we have not escaped unscathed the deadly impact of antisemitism. Terrorists, we see you. Another selfish, rampaging horde that shows its dark side more than it says anything about Jews.

And we (even if forced to cower in fear) are standing within our identity. We will not succumb to the perversity of the situation or of grotesque accusations. We will continue to be who we are destined to be. Light and love and compassion will not be defeated. As so many of us are finding ways to be strengthened within our Jewish identity, so are we hoping, still!, that we are not alone. Not just because it’s hard to be abandoned, but because we know that we shouldn’t be—that the world can’t be that dark and bitter and hypocritical. And if it is, it bodes ill for all of us—and we must push against that, together.

About the Author
Laura Goodman grew up in NYC. After college, she went to Israel for six months—which became 18 years. When she and her family relocated to Virginia, she got an MS in Conflict Studies, which she used as an English teacher and a mother. After retiring, she moved to Florida to help her mother, and then to Oregon to be near her daughter, and a break from the heat and humidity. As a dedicated volunteer, she writes for Israeli non-profits and translates Holocaust survivor testimonies from Hebrew to English. Laura writes about being Jewish, Israel, and the work of being a mother, a daughter, a friend, and retirement.
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