I have been asked this question repeatedly. Those who haven’t asked want to know, but don’t want to ask, and that’s fair. It’s a bleak and daunting chapter, which many including Jews, wish to simply put behind us.
It’s not because I’m Israeli, and it’s not because I’m the granddaughter of survivors. And it’s not because I can’t find more sprightly, sassy, self-deprecating and humorous topics. Just read my blog – it is filled with entertaining anecdotes about marriage, botox and girlfriends. I live a full life like the rest of you. I’m a mom, a wife, a writer. I carpool, shop, exercise, get my nails done and laugh a lot. But at my core, I am a Jewish woman in every fiber of my being.
Last week I saw a comment on one of my posts: “Erris says what we all are thinking, wondering, questioning.” It was meant as a compliment, and I did my best to take it as such, but it got me thinking. Am I really saying what I’m thinking?
What I’m really thinking is that we are not doing enough to never forget. I want to know as much as I can to honor the memory of six million lives. I feel I owe them that much. Never again, we say. And I agree – I’m not living in fear of a duplicate Holocaust, but I do live in fear of an astronomical rise in antisemitism, and an astounding apathy. I find it hard to comprehend that I did not see more than a few commemorative posts or videos on Jewish friends’ pages on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Surely, on that one day, all Jews would post something other than photos of food and the latest BuzzFeed survey results?
And last week I started to question myself as well. Am I harping on dark fears instead of living la vida loca? I could only quantify my feeling as a vague fear that antisemitism is not something we should just forget about and move on. Escalating incidents around the world confirm that my fears are not vague. Even in “Jewish” New York City, demonstrations and hatred have reared their ugly heads. I worry about sending my senior off to college. How will he react to an inevitable BDS demonstration or to a professor spewing hate? Still, I tried to understand why I seem more anxious than others, and I began to draft this article. Writing helps me sort out my feelings.
And as I worked on my first draft, hatred hit my house. Up close and personal.
Distractedly, I hit “save,” as I answered a call from the Middle School Principal. An eighth grader reported that another child called mine a “spoiled, rich Jew.” The child was questioned and admitted to having said it. The school administration did all the right things: They supported and comforted my daughter, they followed the district’s protocol for addressing hate speech, and notified all appropriate parties. They took disciplinary action against the child discreetly, and didn’t share that information with me, out of respect for the offender’s privacy. My daughter’s friends called and texted their support all afternoon and evening, and we were overwhelmed by the kindness and warmth in the aftermath of this vile incident.
Procedurally, everything went smoothly, but my daughter and I were shell-shocked. How could a child conjure this hideous stereotype and utter such venom vocally in front of others? I suspect that it stems from her home environment. Children aren’t born hating — it is a learned behavior. And through the outpour of support we received from other parents, we learned that my suspicions were unfortunately likely correct.
“She could have called me anything else, and it wouldn’t have mattered,” my daughter told me. “But she had to add in ‘Jew.'”
I know, my sweet girl. I know.
I don’t think another Holocaust in duplicate form is waiting for us just around the corner. But I do think that there is an alarming rise in antisemitism, that is steadily permeating our everyday lives. And I fear that we are closing our eyes. Are we too comfortable to stand up, speak out and rock the boat? Sound familiar? Hashtags like ‘Never Again’ are meaningless slogans, if all we mean is — that exact same thing can’t happen again. What about everything else that has been and is happening again and again. Is anybody out there listening?