The Jews are tired

After 25 hours of starving myself in the name of culture and tradition, I had just broken the fast for Yom Kippur at a local vegan take-a-away in Sydney. Exhausted, I felt like I’d rather spend the money on an Uber than take an adventurous journey home via public transport. A young white man, maybe two years younger than me in a Holden Commodore named Jared picked me up. Too tired to force conversation, Jared decided that he wanted to talk anyway and asked me how my day was. Usually, I’d make up some story. On any other day, I’d say I went to the beach, or had a lazy one at home, or even invent some ridiculous story about a distant relative’s baby shower. However, this day was not like other days – it was Yom Kippur, and I was tired so without the strength to filter, I told him the truth. I told him that I had just spent the day fasting for Yom Kippur and was coming home from services. He asked about kashrut and what I had to do for the fast and it was honestly amazing. I had no idea why I had been so worried about telling people I didn’t know well that I was Jewish. Then the conversation abruptly shifted, and in the 7pm peak hour Saturday night traffic of Sydney City, I had nowhere to escape – “So I need to ask, what’s your view on the Palestinians?” I responded in my best Australian hoping that he’d think of me as no less Aussie than he with my usual answer that hopes to shut the conversation down saying simply, “Aw yeah, nah mate I’m pretty supportive of the two state solution, aye.” He clearly wasn’t satisfied as he began talking about Gaza, and the right of return, and for the next 20 minutes I found myself exhausted and barely able to think straight, apologizing for Israel and defending my right to self determination. Finally, we arrived at my door and I thought to myself as I vengefully awarded him his one star rating – I am tired.

I am tired. Not because I fasted. I am tired because I feel like I have to constantly hide myself whenever I meet someone for the first time.

I am tired. I am tired because when I hire an Uber to go to shul, to protect myself I feel like I have to ask be dropped off at the Starbucks close by and that if they ask what my plans are for the night I have to make up some elaborate story.

I am tired. I am tired because when I ever go on a date with someone who isn’t Jewish, I feel like I can’t say I direct a Jewish nonprofit and instead have to go through the exhaustive process of inventing a nonprofit until I feel safe to do so or fall into the holes of my fabrications.

I am tired. I am tired because when somebody finds out I’m Jewish for the first time it either becomes a conversation about one of two things – “Why can’t you eat bacon?” which is honestly a conversation I’m happy to have even when they begin to ask if they’re offending me, or “How do you feel about Palestinians/ Muslims?” A question that is as accusatory as it is ignorant.

I am tired. I am tired when I feel like I have had the right taken from me to define what is anti-semitic. That I’m told in progressive circles that there is no place for me within their intersectionality as an Ashkenazi Jew due to a conflict 6,000 miles away while far more black and white and uncomplicated human rights abuses occur all around the world yet it is thought of as offensive to lock people out of progressive spaces for the actions of these other nations. Indeed, I’ll never forget being explicitly forbidden from the ethnocultural safe space of my old university for publicly complaining to the ethnocultural officer for not making a statement against a joke article made by the university newspaper about the Israel Palestinian conflict thus diminishing the humanity of both peoples and sending Jewish, Arabic, Palestinian, and Muslim students into anxiety.

I am tired. I am tired every time the holocaust is used as a comparative tool for just about every cause stripping my grandparents and their murdered friends and family of their humanity leaving them as nothing but as a means to someone else’s ends. Guns rights, vegan rights, from the far left, through the center and towards the far right that was responsible for the Holocaust in the first place, no human rights abuse is more appropriated, especially by politicians, than the Holocaust and it is tiring.

I am tired. I am tired because I sometimes feel as though I have to internalize my antisemitism. I am tired because I have to laugh at Jew jokes so I don’t offend the white people making them, even when it is about the Holocaust or tropes that Nazi Germany used to enable the Holocaust. I am tired when I feel like I am forced to tell these jokes so that it is easier for me to pass as white, because it is only when I’m passing as white that I feel as though I can rest.

I am tired. I am tired because when I returned to an old workplace to say hello I found my old colleagues in the midst of redundancy. I am not tired because of the redundancy, but because my workmates claimed that the Jewish owners treated the Jewish workers differently. They claimed that I was hired because I was Jewish, I was promoted because I was Jewish, and that had I still been working for the organisation due to the same ethnic nepotism for which I was hired and promoted, I would not have been made redundant like they were.

I am tired. I am tired because despite the above I am told that antisemitism doesn’t exist. I am told that antisemitism doesn’t exist despite the ubiquity of swastikas, despite the Jew jokes, despite accusations of ethnic nepotism, despite the constant appropriation of the Holocaust, despite being forced to argue for my human right to self-determination at the same time as apologizing for Israel, despite still being excluded from spaces because of my Jewishness, and despite marches by white people hailing Hitler, carrying Nazi flags, and shouting “Jews will not replace us.” Despite all of this I am still told antisemitism doesn’t really exist and it makes me tired.

I am tired. I am tired because not only am I unallowed to define what is and isn’t antisemitic as a Jew, I am not allowed to define my own identity. To non-Jewish anti-Israel activists I am white because that is what suits their narrative. To white supremacists I am a person of color, a usurper of whiteness because that is what suits their narrative. To others that are neither anti-Israel or a white supremacist I still cannot define myself as belonging to a nationality. To them I am only a Jew due to religion. Atheist Jews are an oxymoron and they claim that nationality is defined by country of origin being tone deaf to the irony of such ignorant arguments.

I am tired. I’m tired because my mother is not able to pass as white as easily as I am because of her accent. I am tired when her and my baby sister get death threats from her neighbors, I am tired when she gets called a “wog” (a racist slur towards people with a European accent in Australia”), I am tired when her legitimate complaints are ignored because as a refugee her English is poor and this frustrates the people she is complaining to, and I was tired when I once defended her and was told to go back to where I came from. I’m especially tired by that slur because I then have to go through the process of thinking where that is? If it’s not Australia where I was born, is it Poland where my mother’s family was massacred? Is it Romania where my Grandfather’s family was massacred? Is it the Ukraine where my Grandmother’s family was massacred? Is it Israel which apparently Jews do not have a legitimate claim? I am tired because as a Jew I don’t know where I belong.

We are tired, because as Jews we don’t belong anywhere, especially in the diaspora. This is why the Jews are tired, and I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever get to rest.

About the Author
Jake Campbell is the Assistant Director of Hillel at Towson University. He was previously the Executive Director of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Jewish Student Life Coordinator and Ezra Fellow of Hillel at Florida State University and a founding resident of Moishe House Sydney. Before making the switch to Jewish Higher Education and Nonprofits, Jake worked in a corporate higher education company as a team leader of the mentor department and previous to that was a high school English and History teacher.