Joanne Palmer
Joanne Palmer

Thank you for your courage

Courage does not come easily to most of us. It’s easier to look away, to walk away, to say it doesn’t matter, you don’t care, no one else cares, let’s just move on and forget it.

It’s easy to tell our kids to be brave, but it’s not so easy to model it.

Here are some people (all of them, strikingly, young women) who did.

Larry Yudelson tells the story of Emily Binstein of Metuchen, a Jewish college student who refused to accept anti-Israel bias, even when it was hidden in the overwrought language of political holier-than-thou-ness that is co-opting such important, true and proud causes as feminism and resistance to homophobia by dividing it from Zionism and even Judaism and instead yoking it to knee-jerk Israel bashing.

In December, he told the story of Talia Schabes of Englewood, another Jewish college student who went public with the anti-Semitic ravings of three of her professors, again at Rutgers. One of them published accusations not only that the Holocaust was a hoax, but that Jews were responsible for the Armenian genocide.

In June, he told the story of another Jewish college student, Benny Koval of Fair Lawn, who was disturbed by the anti-Semitic, thoroughly deranged rantings of a sociology professor at her school, William Paterson University.

Last year, I told the story of Ariela Rivkin of Teaneck, who took on the student council at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, displaying huge personal courage over the course of an entire year.

All four of these young women fought back, and all met with at least some success.

It’s really hard to do that.

It’s hard to take on teachers, with their built-in authority, or a student council, with its size and spending power. You can become a social pariah, seen as someone who fights unbecomingly hard for not-chic causes. You can become obsessed, giving up sleep, other activities, friends, the whole rest of your life. You can be worn down by the vitriol inevitably thrown at you, or it can make you bitter.

Or you can be invigorated by the knowledge that you are doing the right thing, that you are modeling courage for everyone else, and that the world will be a better place when you’ve finished than it had been before.

These young women, and others like them, are brave and admirable and deserve our gratitude.

They certainly have mine.

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)