Our whole lives, our Jewish identity has been fully on display. Beyond our undeniably Jewish names– Nechama and Yaakov– the two of us have immersed ourselves in our synagogue communities, Jewish advocacy, and Israel groups, taking on Jewish leadership roles in our undergraduate colleges.
Our Jewishness is often embraced by non-Jewish friends during a Chanukah party or when drinking wine at a Passover Seder. Yet, this embrace became clearly conditional to us on October 7, 2023, when Hamas brutally attacked Israel.
Why is it that when we actually need support – during some of the darkest days in our lives – our ‘friends’ move towards justifying the massacre of our people? Devastatingly, it has unsurprisingly become even more apparent that the activism towards Jews is highly conditional and performative. A friend reaching out to check in on the well-being of our family in Israel is more of a surprise than if they had stayed silent. This overwhelming silence is a reminder that we’ve hardly advanced past the same indifference that society showed while their Jewish neighbors were murdered during the Shoah.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty of the Jew in a time of suffering is this external isolation.
In the wake of one of the deadliest days in modern Jewish history, there is not only silence but support. At universities like Yale and Harvard, students blame Israel for the rape and slaughter of its own citizens – including babies and the elderly – celebrating the “success of the resistance.” How can our peers define this as “success” or “resistance”?
Across the world, people celebrate profound Jewish grief. In the first 18 hours of Hamas’ violence, antisemitism increased by 488%, a number that will certainly continue to increase. In the streets of Sydney, Australians rang out the chants, “Gas the Jews.” New Yorkers proudly display Nazi symbols and videos of murdered Israelis in Times Square. Londoners deface Jewish schools and businesses. Despite social media and protests being important vessels of social justice in the progressive community, the social justice machine seems to pause when Jews are the target of desecration, rape, and slaughter.
Yet again, far-left “progressives” – self-identifying defenders of the anti-fascist agenda – support the same cause as white supremacists: harming and blaming Jews. A report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) bluntly writes that the extremists on both sides of the aisle “discuss hopes of similar future violence against Jews in America”. These are the same types of extremists who murdered Wadea al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American, just because of his identity.
The horrors unfolding in Israel feel as if something is physically weighing on our chests; the feeling is magnified as life goes on around us. As our fellow Jews are held at the mercy of terrorists, people enjoy their outdoor brunch and ride the New York City subway like normal, laughing with indifference. While we don’t expect the average person to understand our fear, it still feels painful that life goes on as Jews continue to be demonized.
But perhaps the greatest comfort of a Jew in a time of suffering is an impermeable community, unwavering amidst pain.
For all the carnage seen and despair felt in the last few days, there is still notable internal unity, an enveloping of the community from all over. For all the antisemitism at our academic institutions—and institutions everywhere—there have also been community gatherings, vigils, and circles of prayer. Community, too, manifests in smaller moments we’ve been experiencing: the mutual acknowledgment of hardship with a kippah-wearing stranger or the condolences expressed between Hebrew speakers at a coffee shop.
Among the American Jewish community, seemingly never devoid of internal strife, the collective unity within has been beautiful. Such unity is a well-needed reminder that even when others threaten our pride, we exist as an extension of the Jewish values that our ancestors have fought to keep alive. Today, we fight for this same Jewish preservation and pray for peace for all Israelis and Palestinians.
Am Yisrael Chai. Believe it.
Yaakov and Nechama Huba are twins. Yaakov graduated from Yale University in 2023. He was the former President of Yale Friends of Israel. He currently researches the intersection of religion and politics. Yaakov is currently pursuing a master’s degree in political science.