Devorah Titunik
Devorah Titunik

Depression and Antisemitism

In the last decade or so, there has been more awareness of mental health issues. Thanks to the pandemic as well as some athletes stepping away from competition to take care of their mental health, there is a growing understanding about these issues in our society, and about time.

For too long people who struggle with these issues were viewed as weak and flawed and too often expected to just “pull themselves together”. It is much like telling a person with cancer to just make it go away themselves instead of seeking medical care or telling someone with a broken leg to just “run it off”.

As someone who has struggled with depression since childhood, I have been glad this awareness is happening. But I’ve noticed that while addition, bipolar, and even seasonal depression are getting a lot of attention, long-term major depressive disorder and other types of depression are still very misunderstood. It isn’t just a matter of being “sad” and can be just as debilitating as any other health disorder.

For many Jews who suffer from depression seeing constant demonization of Jews and Israel can make an already difficult struggle with mental illness debilitating.

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about since the recent increase of antisemitism that sprung out during the last Israel/Gaza war. But ironically, I’ve been too depressed to write more than the following:

It’s barely 9 AM and already I am feeling I can’t stand living in this world anymore. My social media is filled with ugliness, attacking Israel for doing this to protect its civilian population and rewarding Hamas for doing the opposite. Watching the media blame all the problems on Israel.

I see many people I know, some all my life, falling deeper and deeper into this campaign of misinformation that has been growing since the late 1970s. Even my children are falling into this trap, and that hurts more than anything.

Ever since the latest “conflict” between Israel and Hamas, the amount of hate I see posted has quadrupled and it was already bad.

Protestors around the world shouting “Death to Jews” are ignored by the media. It took days for the media to cover antisemitic attacks on Jews, and when they finally did, acted as is if just started now and was only a reaction to “Israel’s actions” almost implying that it is Israel at fault for this and not the people beating up Jews.

In the past 5 plus years, antisemitism has grown at an alarming rate in the US and around the world. Since at least 2018 Jews have been randomly attacked on city streets and the media has ignored it.

So to finally continue:

Like many, I watched in horror as, once again, Hamas sends thousands of rockets to kill civilians in Israel and Israel dared to fight back. We Jews had to endure constant anti-Israel propaganda and hate. No one wants to have a discussion. No one wants to hear that there is right and wrong on both sides. No, they want to blame Israel and unleash even more antisemitism on Jews worldwide. Many still claim the media is biased toward Israel, despite the facts. I’ve been struggling against this well-oiled disinformation machine for decades and I am exhausted.

In Anti-Israel protests throughout America and Europe had people shouting, “Death to Jews” “Hitler was right” and even suggested raping Jewish women and children and no one was outraged. The major media outlets barely covered it.

For so long many of my non-Jewish friends on social media post misinformation and flat-out lies about Israel and Jews then attack me if I dare to bring in any facts. Even my children are turning a deaf ear. During times of conflict between Israel and Palestinians, it increases tenfold or more.

For those already struggling with depression and other mental health disorders, this ugliness can be debilitating and even deadly. I found myself sinking into a deeper depression and less able to push away suicidal thoughts. But I was not alone. I noticed many of my Jewish friends struggling with deepening depression and thoughts of suicide.  On Jewish social media pages, many sought out help and need to be talked off the ledge.

When non-Jews express their understanding of our struggles it means more to us than they can begin to imagine. Because we are feeling isolated and hated on both sides of the political spectrum.

When people like Ilhan Omar can go on television and accuse her Jewish colleagues of saying Islamophobic tropes (without giving a single example) and accuse them of not being “partners in justice” and is not challenged on either, silence sounds like agreement.

When the Urban definition of Zionist states “It’s an Insult sometimes used against people who are not Zionists usually Jews or apostates of a Muslim background to a lesser extent. It describes a person who believes in the right of a religious group to create an ethno-religious-state with the only realistic way to do it being kick people out of their homes and continuously deny them the right to return.

He speaks against Islam because he’s a Zionist

Of course we won’t do something like that we aren’t Zionists. It’s amazing how much the Zionist law and the American segregation laws are similar one supports the coming of white people and gives them advantages over other races and the other supports the coming of Jews and gives them advantages over non-Jews

Denying the original definition of Jewish self-determination in our historical homeland. It further pushes the idea on the far-left that Jews are not just white Europeans, but more so than actual white Europeans. The fact that Jews were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement and that our record of standing up for other marginalized groups has caused the far-right anti-Semites to accuse us of being non-whites determined to destroy white culture.

With this sort of thing commonly taught at universities around the world, and now moving into public schools, I believe it is causing an increase in mental health struggles among Jews.

Too many of our young people have been brainwashed by this sort of propaganda and how can that not lead them to self-hate and the need to prove themselves “good Jews” by furthering these messages. I’ve also found many who don’t believe the propaganda but feel that speaking out against it is wrong because it is too “self-serving”.

In these more enlightened times, how many other minorities are constantly bombarded with this kind of ugliness, and how many feel they should suffer it in silence?

We, as a Jewish community, need to find a way to deal with not only the antisemitism we are seeing but with the mental health issues that grow out of it.

About the Author
Devorah Titunik is a graphic artist and poet, and a mother of three grown children. Social justice has always been important to me. For the past several decades I have been concerned with the growing antisemitism I'm seeing from both the right and the left. I hope communication and art can help bring understanding.
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