Judith Dolgin

Dad, You Were Right

Picture of a cousin's sister's bathroom room in Kibbutz Kerem Shalom on October 7, 2023.

Dad, You Were Right

Growing up, my father spoke constantly of the prevalence of Antisemitism in many insipid forms. I heard him, but mostly I rolled my eyes. I lived in a safe suburb outside of Boston, went to a Jewish day school, and thought that he was exaggerating, letting the atrocity of the Holocaust, and the centuries of Antisemitism before it, color his perceptions of a world that just wasn’t so dangerous anymore. A law professor at a very liberal institution, he assumed the role of defending Israel and the few students who supported it against the many who deplored it. He was a Democrat, but warned me of Antisemitism on the Left. 

I registered as a Democrat as soon as I turned 18, and eagerly voted for Al Gore in the swing state of NH. I was devastated when he lost (and still am – imagine if we had a climate president in 2000!) As I developed into adulthood, I retained a strong Jewish identity, and increasingly considered being a Democrat a critical component of my identity. After all, the Democrats stood for making our country and the world a better place, as did I.

I developed an indiscriminate allegiance to Blue America after Trump’s election. Once I emerged from a state of fear, horror and dismay in the week or so after November 2016, I sprang into action. I rallied at Logan airport over the injustice of the Muslim travel ban, along with, I should add, many kippot-wearing Jews. I wept for the families separated at the border, and the emotional trauma of the children held by the US government. I donated to organizations that were fighting against the damage that his administration was doing. I donated directly to campaigns and to umbrella campaign organizations like Swing Left (Act Blue was a favorite in my internet browser). I canvassed, I phone banked.  And I phone banked some more. Before the 2018 midterms, the 2020 Presidential election and the 2022 midterms, I devoted all of my spare minutes to helping to elect Blue candidates, regardless of whether or not they were centrist or progressive, regardless of whether or not they supported Israel, and regardless of whether or not the new religion of Intersectionality included Jews (spoiler alert, it didn’t). To me, Trump was evil, and surely, people who said that families belong together really meant it. Contrary to the warnings of my father, I feared Antisemitism on the Right more than Antisemitism on the Left.  

And, until October 7, I went on like that. And then Hamas savagely murdered1400 innocent civilians. Babies, children, disabled people. And yet, those murdered were luckier than the hundreds taken as hostages into Gaza. The babies, the children, the women raped and paraded unconscious through the streets. The families. To my dismay, the majority of the Left wasted no time in blaming Israel, and condoning the savage murder of innocents. At best, it called for “restraint” before Israel had even begun to discover its dead (shout out to my Senator, Ed Markey, for whom I voted in every election). In my beloved Cambridge, people took to the streets to shout “From the river to the sea,” a call for the annihilation of the Jewish nation state. Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, was hit by rockets, and the Left was silent. The Islamic Jihad fired a missile at a hospital in Gaza, and the Left… blamed Israel.

Israel has stolen land, the logic goes. Israel is powerful, the logic goes. Israel shouldn’t defend itself against those who seek to destroy it because… Well, because why? Because it’s okay for Jews to die? Because if you rid the world of Jewish globalists, justice will be restored? Because if militant Islamists take over the land, oppression will end?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long, and it is complicated. As President Biden, Secretary Blinken, my Governor Maura Healey and my Congressman Jake Auchincloss have shown, calling out evil should not be (thank you). Nor should recognizing that now, more than ever, Jews need a safe place.

So, farewell Left. You left me (or, as it turns out, you were never actually with me), and my Dad was right. I’ll go watch the Fox News coverage of Israel and cry. But first, I’ll lie to my Jewish kids and tell them that they’re safe in America.

Author’s Note: I wrote this post before the New York Times got the scoop in its excellent article, “On Israel, Progressive Jews Feel Abandoned by Their Left-Wing Allies,” published on October 20, 2023. Clearly, I’m not alone.

About the Author
Judith Dolgin is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Penn Law. She is a lawyer, mother and wife working and living in Boston, Massachusetts, US.
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