Laurel Herman
Chef Instructor, Culinary Storyteller, Ancestral Foods
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I’m getting more Jewish by the day

After a week of crying, I found myself ashamed to have thought of myself as an American first. Now my only comfort is in the company of other Jews
A Star of David gold necklace. (iStock)
A Star of David gold necklace. (iStock)

A blur of horror beyond human comprehension, two weeks and some odd days after and the shock has unveiled layer upon layer of grief. The ONLY people I care about are my people, Israel. I have my reasons. I have some thoughts. However unconnected they seem, they are, I am connecting the dots.

October 7th, the day we will never forget. I cried, non-stop for a week. felt the shock and devastation of my people like I have never felt before. I am ashamed to have thought in the past, I’m an American first. An American Jew, raised Conservative, practicing, not practicing, and practicing again, the only comfort now is in the company of other Jews. The collective grief /trauma is real. I am in love with Israel and all its people. Even in the darkest days, Israelis will come out for each other, 10 men are needed for a minyan, and 1,000 people show up. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, I have never in my life understood until now. No one can ever kill our spirit!

All my illusions are shattered. It has been a rude awakening. A lot of us American Jews these past few weeks have discovered who our friends are. I stood with my Black friends during the George Floyd murder. I became an ally, a BLM supporter. My Black friends said, “I’m not responsible for your education, white people are.” So I shut up and learned. But who is learning our history? BLM is antisemitic. What would happen if I tore a George Floyd poster down? Thank God for @BlackandJewishunity and the Instagram creators for their news reporting and getting the truth out. Because my friends fell down on the job. I can’t trust mainstream news. And forget about the politicians I once supported. Picking off the antisemites one by one. It’s getting very Jewish around here… 

Where is everybody? LGBTQ community, Someone said to me the other day, “But I haven’t seen the dead babies.” WHAT? The scary thing is that she is reading from the Hamas playbook, almost verbatim. Puerto Rican friends and even my Native American friends who I have stood behind. NOTHING. WE are indigenous to Israel. Do we get to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day too? We are collectively exhausted.

And the celebrating. I’m a chef. I have always connected food with love. I have always believed that food unites us. I was following @abrisag, an Arab creator on Instagram, until I saw the sickening photos on October 8th, handing out sweets, with the text, “How beautiful the sirens.” Her beautiful food has turned to poison. I think she lost a lot of followers that day.

And this just hit me before I pressed the Send button: The asking for “proof.” The captured being released by Hamas, the hostage shaking hand with the enemy, the most irksome thing of all is the narrative that it didn’t happen… the very thing that we hate the most. They found the right buttons to push. Denial. Making Hamas look like model citizens…. pure psychological warfare of the sickest kind.

What scares me and saddens me on an even deeper level are the kids who are happily tearing the posters off the wall, who don’t have an ounce of empathy or clue what they are doing. But it has consequences. And the folks who are the deniers… As Noa Tishby said in her speech, they have been groomed, played. There is the same script they all read. It is scary.

Sometimes, I think they are winning just by the sheer numbers of people rioting, not to mention the keyboard war. I had hope that when the footage was released, there would be an ounce of regret, retraction, something. I am fuming and yet I am in awe of Israel and how my people support each other. That is something no one can take away. This is our defining moment. And it is my defining moment as a Jew. I’m getting more Jewish by the day. We are the only people I can trust. #AmYisraelChai.

About the Author
Laurel Herman is a Chef Instructor, Culinary Storyteller, and Culinary Medicine practitioner, residing in Richmond, Virginia. A classically trained chef in the European style( Thames Valley University, London, U.K. and The Institute for Integrative Nutrition) Her style is anything but classic, its fun, and relaxed. Laurel's passion is bringing people together through food goes back to growing up in a home which welcomed everyone. She has taught at various venues throughout the Richmond area. Now retired, but never from the love of food, active on Instagram Laurel also loves doing her podcast Chai talk with Laurel on Spotify. Her books, The Blissed Out Chef was published in 2015 and the Inner Kitchen, Balboa press in 2011.
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