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Ariella Cohen

Some Things Are Still Black and White

How many times have you (almost) missed a stop sign because it was blocked by a tree or hard to see in the dark?

Do you doubt the sun’s existence even if it is temporarily hiding behind the clouds?

Were your glasses really there the whole time even if they were “lost” for five minutes before finding them on your head?

In the eloquent words of Pasek and Paul from Dear Evan Hansen, when you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?

Must something be visible/audible to exist or be true?

I was walking outside and noticed a very loud party in the park right behind my house. I didn’t hear the party when I was inside. However, I know that it was still happening right in my backyard, even if I didn’t hear the music.

Sometimes things are hiding in plain sight. Or not in plain sight. Just regular hiding. And things can be true even if we are not made to be aware of them. The party was in action. The stop sign is there even when we don’t see it. The sun will never cease to exist. The glasses were always on your head. Objectively. It’s black and white.

In a similar vein, a Jew is a Jew even if they are not identifiable as a Jew by a particular marker. Jews that don’t look Jewish are still Jewish. Even Jews who don’t know they are Jewish or don’t like the fact that they are Jewish are still Jewish.

Do the throngs of people parading for Jewish genocide know any Jews? If they live in a large city, they probably do. If they live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, maybe not. Do they realize that their words may imply that they want their colleagues and neighbors dead? Based on the fact that these protests seem to be happening in large cities and on elite college campuses, both of which have many Jews, the protesters probably know some Jews.

The thing is, they may not know who is a Jew. They may think Jews are people who have a certain look or name or dress a certain way. But that is not the reality. They probably don’t realize that some of their favorite actors and pop stars are Jewish. They probably don’t realize that the really nice cashier that they just bonded with over their mutual love for puppies could easily have been Jewish. Because Jews come in all shapes and sizes and colors. It’s not black and white. Literally or figuratively.

There are certain facts that exist. Not opinions or individual people’s thoughts, but facts. Historical facts about the land of Israel and current facts about what is happening in our country right now in response to October 7th. There are truths. People may choose to bend the truth or to not educate themselves, but the truth is the truth. Just because someone chooses to ignore it, it is still true. Nothing will ever change that. Just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just because you don’t take the time to research history, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

People are crazy enough to claim that the Holocaust never happened. As its survivors still walk this earth. (One of which is a cousin of mine who recently brought his wife and ~100 descendants back to Auschwitz in honor of his 90th birthday.) The Holocaust happened. It was and always will be black and white. And then we were massacred again just two short months ago. You don’t even have to be pro-Jews to realize that killing us all will not free Palestine. Whatever that even means. You just have to not be ignorant. Seemingly easier said than done though.

Would those chanting their desire to rid the world of Jews actually, in reality, kill a Jew if they passed one on the street? Obviously, I am not suggesting that anyone should kill Jews. But how can one make such a statement if there is no intention of following through? Are words that empty? The problem is that we can’t just brush it off even if we know that the majority of these people are not going to shoot every Jew they see. Because some of them might. And we don’t know when or where or who. And that is fear-inducing. Especially with the current intensity of antisemitism all over the world. Because any Jew at any given time in any location (even more so outside of Israel in my personal opinion) is in danger of being a target. Especially if they are visibly Jewish. Anyone can snap at any time.

So I ask again. If words mean nothing then why spend so much time and energy screaming them for the world to hear? If words are meaningless, why waste breath? It’s all or nothing. It’s not like we can claim that certain words matter and certain ones don’t. Shouting hateful rhetoric is dangerous. Both for the speaker themselves and for anyone who may hear what the individual or group is saying and then decide to join the group. Because strength comes in numbers. Which means that the more haters we have, the more extreme damage is possible. And the stronger we need to become as Jews to combat our enemies’ strength. Physical and emotional.

The protesters on college campuses (and possibly those in big city marches- I don’t know the statistics) are mostly kids who don’t actually know anything about what is currently going on in Israel or what has ever happened here. I really don’t know why these kids are protesting. I understand protesting for something positive and supportive (like Israel’s right to exist) without any background knowledge, but supporting destruction of a people you know nothing about? That can’t be justified.

Maybe it’s fun for them. Maybe this makes them feel like they have a purpose. Maybe their friends are doing it. (Is peer pressure really that strong?) Maybe they think it’s woke. (It’s not.) And maybe a lot of other reasons. I don’t know. What I do know is that people are chanting detrimental and hateful words without actually knowing what they are talking about. In places where we used to feel safe. Hate breeds more hate, and these people can come to do really bad things out of hate even though they don’t even know what they are hating for. Even the presidents of some of these universities have shown the world (in a very non-eloquent manner) that such behavior is not condemned on their campuses which only serves to exacerbate the already explosive problem. 

Since many of the protesters don’t know Jews (or think that they don’t,) it’s very easy for them to blame us. It’s a lot easier to believe a rumor that some random stranger committed a crime than it is to believe the same about your best friend. Or your brother. Or even your friend’s relative. If people are telling these ignoramuses over and over again that Jews are the devil and need to be destroyed, it makes sense that they would start believing it if they don’t know any better. We are experiencing mob mentality at its finest. But it’s not fine.

It’s also very easy to convince oneself that something is true. If there has been no prior reason to believe otherwise, why not join the bandwagon of those spreading propaganda and claiming that all Jews should be murdered? Unless people know Jews personally that don’t fit the description, why shouldn’t they believe the lies they are hearing about us?

Sure, they should fact check such radical information before going to extreme measures to perpetrate it. But they don’t because why should they? Who’s making them? Certainly not the university presidents. These days it seems to be okay and even acceptable for people to not take responsibility for their actions in this crazy world we live in. It’s easier to make excuses than to own up to stupid choices and to make smart decisions. And it’s unfortunately too common to take the easy way out. Even in serious situations.

But how about we all think for ourselves? And take responsibility for our own actions. The world would be a much better place. Not everything is someone else’s fault. Our actions matter. Even if we think we can blame them on someone else. Words matter. Even if it feels like they don’t because they are so easy to spew. A Jew is a Jew. Even if it may not look like it. Even in our twisted world, whose moral compass has been shattered to such tiny pieces that there’s no knowing if it will ever be able to properly be put back together, some things are still black and white.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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