Rachel Wahba

Be That Super Jew

My mother's Magen David

Recently I was mocked as “that ‘superjew’.” It wasn’t meant as a compliment, and it isn’t going to get me to stop wearing my “Jewish star” or be “less of a Zionist.” 

Circumstances forced me to confront antisemitism from an early age. From Catholic missionary schools in Japan bent on demonizing Jews until we converted, to the progressive scene I was a part of in San Francisco. 

I wore my Star of David in three different San Francisco Community Mental Health clinics. What felt natural to me, was triggering to some. At a gay/lesbian clinic I was confronted with comments, “why make a point of being a Jew with that star…we are about similarity not difference.”  

The irony did not escape me. Being “out,” supporting gay people out of unhealthy closets and confronting “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality in their families and communities was what we were about.  But my Star of David and being an out Jew, a proud Zionist was “problematic”– Forty years ago, as it is today, in Progressive circles. 

My Magen David was made for my mother in Bombay by her father. She was a traumatized teenager having  survived the Farhud, a Jewish massacre in Baghdad. She gave it to me when I was ten and it remains a prized possession.  After learning of the Star as a sign of shame during the Holocaust, I loved my star even more and wear it out of choice, with pride.  

There was a time in my Catholic missionary schools I was not allowed to wear it openly. 

We know what the “new antisemitism” is today–The rot of medieval antisemitic tropes and lies have been manipulated into BDS/Israel hatred. The longest hatred is easily incorporated into Israel hatred. It’s too easy to go antiJew/Zionist, so trendy. 

Not so long ago a new friend asked if i could be “less of a Jew, less Zionist” to fit into her social circle. No.     

I grew up as a stateless Iraqi Egyptian Jew because my parents were exiled and passportless for twenty years for one reason only. We were Jews.

Our 2,500 year old Jewish communities were destroyed because a tiny country, the only Jewish country in the world, had the gall to be our Star of David. Israel’s existence, like the continuity of the Jew, was and is a terrible affront to those who want us exterminated, invisible, or under their thumbs.  

If there is one thing I know it is antisemitism. And from this I understood racism. The Jews who marched in the Civil Rights Movement understood racism. We need that same support back. 

But first, Jews need to stop dancing around antisemitism wherever and whenever we can. Wear a Star of David, interrupt antisemitic comments, call out Jewish organizations that are having a hard time waking up. Understand Zionism. 

One too many progressive Jewish organizations shuffle ambivalently around full-on support of Israel’s right to exist. Appeasing and pandering to anti-Zionists, pretending anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, is insanely dangerous.  

We are not screaming loud enough when a popular congresswoman from Minnesota openly spouts antisemitic tropes and gets away with it.  

An Islamic activist gets letters of support from Progressive Jewish organizations no matter how many times she rants “no Zionist can be a feminist.”

Universities threaten Zionist students and force them out of student body positions. 

Bari Weiss is hounded and bullied out of the NYTimes. 

Jew hating is acceptable as Israel hating. Anti-Zionism, once the domain of the far left, has progressed into the left, into what we call politically progressive. It’s “progressive” to support J Street, an organization that has flirted with making Israel a  non-Jewish state. 

Jews, represent less than 3% of the population in the United States, but ~60% of hate crimes reported in the United States are against Jews. It is hard to wrap our minds around what is happening.  

The climate is changing quicker than we could have imagined even a year ago in the United States. Antisemitism has risen, crimes against Jews are grossly underreported in our mainstream press.  Rising antisemitic incidents, Jews being bashed in the head on the streets of New York, are  invisible unless you read outside the mainstream press, our local papers, outside the NYTimes. 

I was never able to, and I will not now, deny, minimize, or forgive antisemitism/antizionism for the sake of “unity” in any struggle be it Queer, Feminism, or Black Lives. Jewish lives matter. 

I first heard the phrase “the personal is political” in the seventies. We can begin supporting each other as Jews, we can focus on our pride as Jews — our long history of remaining a People who have fought the long fight to be who we are. To remain Jews despite all the attempts to convert us religiously (the old way), and politically (anti-Zionism), the trending “new” way.    

Wear that Jewish star. Embrace our history, be openly unapologetic Jews, out Zionists supporting each other in this struggle to interrupt antisemitism.  Shine your Jew, shine it bright. All in together, Super Jews. 

About the Author
Rachel Wahba is a San Francisco Bay Area based writer, psychotherapist and the co-founder of Olivia Travel. An Egyptian-Iraqi Jew, Rachel was born in India and grew up stateless in Japan. The many dimensions of her exile and displacement are a constant theme in her professional work as well as her activism as an advisory board member for JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
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