Chaya Block

Reflections from Variety’s Hollywood & Antisemitism Summit

Chaya together with Claudia Oshry, "Girl with No Job," a speaker at the summit

On my plane ride back from the Variety Hollywood & Antisemitism Summit there was a Hasidic man sitting behind me, and he was visibly praying, tefillin and all.

Not something I would usually do, but given the current times, I felt compelled to tell him that he inspired me. In these crazy times, when it would only seem natural to shy away from being Jewish, he was openly praying. His wife then turned to me and said, “Well, I think he’s crazy!

It was a funny encounter and I totally understood his wife’s apprehension. It’s scary to show your Jewishness now.

I asked him if he could share something he recently learned; he went on to share the daf yomi (daily study of gemara), and what it said about genealogy. The learning shifted to conversation and he asked me what I was doing in LA. I excitedly told him about Variety’s summit and shared some moving lessons I walked away with.

Understandably, there was a lot of talk about anti-Semitism and the hate that has enveloped our time—but more importantly, there was a focus on who we are as a people. How important it is to have conversations about being Jewish, to celebrate the traditions and love of our past and future—and to share our experiences with others, not as victims, but with visible pride in who we are. That’s our gift.

In moments of darkness, we fight with light, and we fight with love.

Millions of Jews were mercilessly murdered during the Holocaust and those who survived were left utterly broken and crushed– many of them losing their entire families in some of the most inhumane ways. However, rebuilding is ingrained in our DNA; courage flows through our veins as thousands of Jews went on to build beautiful homes and families. And so many of them returned to Israel in search of a reminder of our ancestors and of our inherent right to exist.

October 7th was a call of the Holocaust.

In the same homeland where Jews turned to for safety, children were brutally murdered in their beds, with nothing but their Jewishness to show for their crime.

But resilience is in our bones; so hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world immediately sprung to action, doing more good and then mourning the lives of their brothers and sisters back home, because we are one nation, one soul and one heart.

To our enemies, our seemingly large differences are irrelevant, and when we stand together, we stand as a force. There is no us and them. There are those who celebrate the brutal murder of babies while being cradled in the arms of their mothers, and there are those who celebrate life.

So while it may only seem natural to tuck our Jewishness under the covers, we fight with light, we pray on a plane from Los Angeles to New York, surrounded by strangers who do not know who we are and what the leather boxes may mean. In moments of darkness, we bring more light.

We fight with the hope for the safe return of the hostages, the safety of our brothers and sisters around the world, and the prayer that the souls of the heroes who fought for our right to survive be blessed and elevated on high!

About the Author
Chaya is 30-years-old and originally from Melbourne, Australia. She is currently living in New York City with her husband who is completing his Cardiology Fellowship at Cornell and their 2 beautiful boys. She holds a Bachelor's in Behavioral Science and a Masters in Special Education. For over 7 years, she has been working for the Aleph Institute, a non-profit that provides all encompassing support to those in their loneliest environments, namely those incarcerated and their shattered families left behind. She is particularly passionate about criminal justice reform and helping to break the vicious cycle of addiction, incarceration, and mental illness among youth.
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