#MeJew

There is a war going on against the Jews, and without knowing we’ve been enlisted as foot soldiers against each other, against ourselves. Neither opportunists nor apologists are safe, and Jewish light shines too brightly to keep a low profile. We need to be loud in demanding an end to anti-Semitism, from extremists on both the right and the left: visibility doesn’t invite hate — it brings existing hate into the open.

As a Jewish mother, I understand guilt, but I won’t feel guilty for decrying any group that aligns itself with white nationalists and their agendas, nor will I feel guilty for my love of Israel — and we should insist that any political party we align with respects both Judaism and Israel. Not agree with every policy of the Israeli government, but respect the right of Israel to exist and flourish. Our progressive values come from study of Torah and Judaism, from a history of fighting for others that flies in the face of aggressor and oppressor labels. Those labels shouldn’t be applied reflexively by people not interested in understanding the nuances of Israeli politics. When we claim to fight for justice, we need to understand what justice is, and what justice is not — and that shouldn’t be knee jerk or based on ‘sound bite politics’.

Bret Stephens wrote about Jews being smart, but any smarts come from learning lessons of history and survival, not IQ. Our legacy is not genetic privilege but years of persecution.

When hatred against any group is fanned, Jews are never far behind. Where there is scapegoating, anti-Semitism follows. Extremism catches fire in scapegoating, and where there are politics of division, hatred is perpetuated. As expected, the rise of anti-Semitic attack shows us where that hatred is now being pointed… again. When Jews are being attacked anywhere, we are not safe — no matter how much money, power or status we align ourselves with, no matter how willing we are to water down our own identities to fight for those who wish us dead.

Nobody is excused from the responsibility of committing hate crimes. Allowing those who are violent to walk free insures future attack. Claiming mental illness as a defense against planned hate attack is often disingenuous and, frankly, not the point. Any law used disproportionately on a group should be attacked – but not to the extent that it allows criminal behavior against other minorities to go unchecked.

Money may make people feel safe, but it can be lost or taken away. Jews supported Hitler picking fatherland over their own — and it didn’t save them. Jewish bankers supported Hitler thinking that would make them safe. It didn’t. Anyone willing to support hatred because it makes them money should remember that confiscated Jewish wealth paid for a third of the German war effort.

Invoking lessons of the Holocaust — recognizing our own vulnerability, recognizing abuse of others, citing the lessons of history again and again and again – doesn’t diminish this genocide: it memorializes it. When huge branches of family trees are hacked down, we pay attention at the first sign of anyone wielding an axe.

Watching Shtisel and Fauda can’t be the only tie we have to those more observant and to Israel. One look at the Nuremberg laws shows that attempts to define who is a Jew doesn’t look at practice but at bloodlines, and those quick to distance themselves from Zionism might do well to remember the anti-Semitism that made it necessary.

About the Author
Judi Zirin is an attorney and freelance writer in the New York area.
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