Dear fellow American Jews,
The writing is on the wall. And on the ceiling. And on the floor.
Growing up, my family was neither religious nor Zionist. My parents are proud Jews and always supportive of Israel but Aliyah was certainly not a topic of conversation. What was a frequent topic of conversation was the Holocaust, primarily because my father was a voracious reader of world history with a seeming insatiable interest in World War II. To that end, as a young child, my father took my mother, sister and I to see a concentration camp in Germany as part of family Europe trip. I didn’t know history at that age but I could feel the stainless steel chill that permeated the atmosphere. The gray skies and enveloping damp cold didn’t help. To be sure, I loved every other country we visited – France, Switzerland, Holland – but my nine year old self couldn’t wait to get out of Germany.
My father and mother both grew up in small town, midwest America after WWII. My father is from Watertown, South Dakota and my mother is from Sioux City, Iowa. They describe life at that time in America as nearly idyllic – post war prosperity, a rapidly expanding economy, safety, freedom, and expansiveness. Sure there was antisemitism, but the immigrant Jewish community was rebuilding itself in America and was succeeding steadily and surely. Americans were proud. Values were solid. The country was booming. It was truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. Even for Jews.
After my father completed medical school, my parents moved to Minnesota, a state influenced by its predominantly Scandinavian and German population. The culture was polite, egalitarian, hard working and hardy (think 30 degrees below zero in January). That being said, I attended a public high school that was 10% Jewish, a very high percentage for a midwest public school. Between the ‘live and let live’ attitude of Minnesotans and the high Jewish population, I never experienced antisemitism.
Then I went to college in the Northeast. For the first time in my life I experienced antisemitism and heard anti-Israel rhetoric. At one point, my non-Jewish boyfriend at the time had a friend who admonished him for dating a “dirty Jew”. Unfortunately for that friend, he was soon looking up at the sky with a broken nose. Somewhere along the way, I started to learn about Jewish history. I literally consumed Paul Johnson’s book “History of the Jews” and started to feel a very strong kinship to the land of Israel as the home of the Jewish people. I began writing columns in my college and local papers refuting anti-Israel propaganda and trying to set the historical record straight. At the same time, I started having conversations with my father about history repeating itself in America.
I argued that every country we’ve ever been comfortable in has either murdered us or expelled us. So why should America be any different? My father, maybe based on his idyllic upbringing, maybe wanting to soothe my anxiety, argued that America was set up governmentally so the Holocaust cannot happen again. He acknowledged that individuals in the U.S. may be antisemitic, but the culture and structure of American society would never allow for mass extermination of the Jews. I wasn’t the most erudite student of history but every fiber in my being was saying that doesn’t make sense. I was sure America would one day also not be safe for Jews and I told him so.
I also argued that whether it was Germany, Spain, Greece, Rome, Iran or any of the other countries that destroyed their comfortable Jewish populations none of our resources saved us. Not our money. Not our high positions in business or government. Not neighbors who we thought were friends. The only thing that saved us was God’s promise and the lucky ones who got the hell out when they saw the writing on the wall.
Folks, the writing is on the wall. And on the ceiling and on the floor.
Today is the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” the date the Nazi regime coordinated a wave of antisemitic violence and destruction. November 9,1938 was not the onset of a swelling wave of antisemitism. Rather, it was a graphic and frightening expression of what was already a pervasive societal disease. It was when the broader Jewish community should have realized that the tumor of Jewish hate had now spread throughout the global body, and it was time to go. October 7th and what has transpired globally in the month since the Hamas massacre is our Kristallnacht. It is our warning that we are heading down an all-too familiar road.
Today in America we are seeing Jewish and anti-Israel hate rising up from the ground like a swarming mob of zombies. We are again witnessing a voracious and malignant appetite for support of our enemies and those pledging openly to destroy us. Our schools, universities, legal and legislative bodies are being overrun by vocal, vituperative antisemites who are ripping down pictures of Jewish hostages, screaming for Israel’s destruction, and pledging to drain Jewish blood whenever and however they can.
I don’t say this because I tend towards panic. As people close to me know, I am not prone to hyperbole. They would more likely say I am realistic and grounded and that I don’t tend to swing hard in any direction. I like the middle road. But America is sliding down a hill of insanity. It is increasingly godless and unhinged. And that will not be good for Jews.
As a fellow American Jew, I fully understand that there are legitimate reasons for being in America – children, older parents, livelihood, even medical care. But it’s time to have a plan for going home to Israel. It doesn’t mean you have to move tomorrow. But it does mean knowing what you’ll do and how you’ll do it when the need arises. The Jews in 1938 didn’t know where they were going and didn’t have a plan. But they knew what they were leaving.
My dear American Jews, it’s time for us to go home.