Dear Linda: an open letter to Linda Sarsour

Dear Linda:

There’s a popular maxim in psychology which states that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” The amalgam of words and actions and their patterns, give us ideas about who people are, how we feel about them, and helps us predict what they’ll do. As shocking and draining as it’s been to have lived through the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency for example, are we really as surprised anymore regarding his and his administration’s antics? Nah. It’s all become predictable- predictably chaotic. So, despite my objections to his behavior, I know better than to let my guard down. Where Trump is concerned, I feel pretty confident as to where he, and I, stand.

You however, are a different case in my eyes, because I don’t know where you stand. If on one hand I feel sure that your fund raising for the desecration of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, is meant to reflect genuine care for Jews as a people, as a people worldwide, I get a clearer picture of where you stand. Likewise, if based on your response, I’m left to believe that it was either a hollow gesture, committed solely to advance your political career, with the added bonus of deepening the divide between Israeli and diaspora Jews en route to your support for revoking our self determination, and replacing Israel with one binational state, I know where you stand. Regardless of the stark differences, in either scenario, I can at least ease into one position.

I can’t though, because I can’t relax into trust when someone’s words and deeds don’t match. While I cannot and will not fail to acknowledge the beautiful and kind gestures of all the Muslims who donated to your Go Fund Me account, I cannot reconcile this fund raising with your past condemnations of Muslims and Jews who work together, with your tweet glorifying violence as legitimate resistance using the photo of a little Palestinian boy holding a rock behind his back, with your stated devotion to BDS whose aim it is to dismantle Israel, with your stated support for terrorists, with your condemnation of normalization with Israelis, with your endorsement of conspiracy theory pitting the US government against Muslims. How can I?

And don’t you feel the same way Linda? Didn’t you, at last year’s American Muslims for Palestine conference, make it clear that you wanted only the friendship of those who unequivocally support the Palestinian cause? Didn’t you express worry that your detractors know where your community is divided and the possibility that they would use that knowledge to exploit and enhance division and weakness in your community? Didn’t you cheer in support of unity for your community? You did. And so you understand very well then, how I feel.

And yet, you did it. You crossed the divide on some level. You made an initial normalizing move, and thousands of kind and wonderful people joined you in a chorus of support. This is cause for hope, and my greatest hope is that you, and they, cannot go backwards.

As a Jew who’s lost family in the Holocaust and suffered the effects of antisemitism throughout her life; as a Jew who connects with Israel as the well spring of her identity, I can tell you what I really, really want to believe Linda, but you already know what that is. What I very much want however, isn’t something I’m willing to accept without proof of its existence. After all, that is the adult way. What I want then, is the full and clear answer as to where you stand on the freedoms, rights and self determination of Jews- world wide. I can only speak for myself here, but in so doing, I can easily say that I may very well need this truth from you more than the St. Louis cemetery needs that money.

Linda, this letter is a plea for your help, and it’s asking you for something which is probably more difficult than opening a Go Fund Me account for reparations as the result of an antisemetic hate crime. In addition to enjoying the adulation you’ve received from parts of the Jewish community, I will ask you to please forgive the deeply hurting, angry and understandably cynical other parts of the Jewish community- the deeply hurting, angry and cynical parts of me. I am asking you to clarify your positions regarding Israel, BDS, violent resistance and Jewish self determination. I’m asking you for relief, so that we can at least ease into one position. I’m asking you to find the courage and compassion to tell me; to tell all of us, in it’s full complexity- the truth.

About the Author
Laura Ellen is a Jewish American psychologist, who received her doctorate from Yeshiva University in 1996. She works in private practice in South Florida as a clinical psychologist. Her specialties include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety and depression, Collaborative Problem Solving with adolescents, family therapy, and school consultation.
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