Janna Tusa
The Inconsolable New Yorker

Walk the Talk: Never Again Is Now – Reflections from Two Jewish American Women

“We saw a catalog of the most extreme and inhumane forms of torture and other horrors,” – Pramila Patten, UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

Five months after the October 7th attacks, the UN’s recognition of evidence that the victims suffered rape, torture, and “other horrors” is hardly a victory. The proof suggests that the hostages held in the Gaza Strip are being subjected to sexual assault and other forms of torture which leaves a painful pit in my stomach and a forceful fire in my soul to seek vindication on their behalf and to continue to fight for their release.

It has been almost a month since Pramila Patten released the 24-page SRSG Report, yet there has been no acknowledgment or apology from those who previously rejected its conclusions. Supporters of the #MeToo movement have not shown the same level of concern and passion for the 14 female hostages still in Gaza nor are stepping up to support the victims of October 7th to provide access to international healing, solidarity, and empowerment through the powerful bond of human connection. Although we lack specific details, it is evident that these women have endured unimaginable acts of abuse and continue to on a daily basis. Five women, ages 18-19, were serving in the military when they were abducted and have not been part of the discussions regarding their release. International Women’s Day passed without much fanfare from women across the globe, who sought recognition and tribute for the Israeli victims of October 7th.

Protesters supporting women’s rights wear red as they form a human chain to mark International Women’s Day and call for the immediate release of the Israeli women still held captive by Hamas in Gaza, in Tel Aviv on March 8, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The impact of division, fueled by misleading media narratives, deliberate propaganda, and profound ignorance, has prompted many individuals to see through the illusions and unveil the realities within their social circles. The truth beyond our perception has deeply affected us, leading to a newfound self-discovery and sense of purpose. From keyboard warriors expressing disapproval of Israel on social media, to acquaintances questioning support for Israel at social gatherings, and those who remain silent or disengaged from discussions, various roles contribute to a lack of empathy and desensitization to global conflicts. This breakdown of human connections creates a detrimental cycle, fostering increased negativity, cynicism, and a decline in trust. Instead, the events of October 7th should serve as an opportunity to focus on supporting and strengthening bonds within the Israeli and Jewish communities as well as promoting education and deeper connections. As mothers, teaching our daughters to support women regardless of differences is crucial, especially in cases of sexual abuse. How can we make a difference in helping these women rebuild their lives? How can we, as a global community, support these families as they navigate a new normal? While some are saddened by the protests against Israel, others are motivated to counter ignorance, educate, and foster human connections.

I am one of those people.

As an American based in New York, I draw inspiration by dedicating myself to initiatives that support pro-Israel sentiments on college campuses. Additionally, I aim to use my platform to aid and uplift impacted individuals in Israel by engaging directly with local communities to understand their specific needs and determine how our affiliated organizations can offer assistance. Promoting mutual education and public awareness is crucial in countering anti-Semitism and reinforcing the idea that “never again” is a current reality. However, this endeavor cannot be achieved by a few individuals alone. Overcoming fear and resisting the harsh desires to eliminate one’s existence is a challenging task, but we must consider the consequences of inaction. While it is comfortable for me to write from behind my keyboard in New York, I understand that merely evoking emotions in a few individuals is not enough. Pairing my words with practical, hands-on experiences has been instrumental in shaping who I am today. By putting educational theories into practice, we can contribute to changing the narrative of propaganda and enlighten others about the realities the people of Israel had to endure the past seventy-six years.

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I had the opportunity to connect with women in my local community who, like me, find the lack of support for Israel and the absence of recognition for the October 7th attacks disheartening and saddening, especially as mothers with daughters. These women, who are part of the Jewish community, shared their poignant experiences regarding the responses of family, friends, and the local community to the attacks and ongoing conflict. They discussed how these events have either strengthened their human connections or left them feeling vulnerable and fearful. These women hold a special place in my heart, and I appreciate their involvement.

The mother of my youngest daughter’s friend passed on a poignant message from her Rabbi following the attacks “Death has fallen on all the houses of Israel, and since I feel deeply connected to the Jewish homeland, then I too have been affected”. Wendy is a proud Jewish American who is actively engaged in her community synagogue. I have had the honor of getting to know Wendy and her family for the past four years, and as I learned more about her, she became an integral part of my close circle. Wendy is a trusted individual with a warm heart and a strong commitment to truth and justice. Among the questions I posed to all the women I interviewed, one of the key inquiries was: How did the October 7th attacks and resulting backlash against Israel affect you personally? Did it change the way you view society, your identity as a New Yorker or American? The responses were emotional to say the least. For Wendy, she started off by telling me that she was raised with the mantra “never again” and that as a result of the Holocaust she never imagined such crimes happening again. Moreso, she can’t believe the lack of support from the world and how so many have chosen to remain silent in backing Israel. She says, “It’s a rhetorical question, but why are Jews hated so much? Why can’t we have a tiny piece of land nestled between Arab countries?” As a supportive friend and an advocate against anti-Semitism, my heart aches for Wendy and her family. There is simply no justification for hating the Jewish community, and Israel should always be a secure haven for them, despite being a place of open-mindedness and spiritual enlightenment for various faiths. Personally, I found a sense of belonging in Israel unlike anywhere else.

During our conversation, I inquired with Wendy about her thoughts on addressing the ongoing conflict. As anticipated, like many others, she expressed apprehension due to the increasing anti-Semitic acts and the expected backlash. As her friend and as someone who will stand up in the face of anti-Semitism for her and her family, my heart breaks because there is no reason to hate the Jewish people and there is no reason why Israel shouldn’t be a safe place for the Jewish people to call home; even though it is a place of willing acceptance and spiritual awakening for many religions. Personally, I felt more at home in Israel than I have ever felt anywhere in my life. I went on to ask Wendy how she felt about speaking out in the community about the war. As anticipated, like many, there is an element of fear with the rise in anti-Semitic crime as well as the mass amount of backlash that is expected as a result. “I try to carefully re-post things that I feel have credibility and try not to offend others. I still can’t see how there is another “side” because if you go against Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people, you are then siding with Hamas! …But I also feel I am treading lightly on this subject because I do fear the potential backlash. I am careful of what I say, but I shouldn’t have to among people who may have different ideologies than me.” As an empath, this statement halted me in my path. The Jewish community is filled with fear when it comes to advocating for justice and righteousness for the Jewish people, due to potential backlash. Backlash for merely being Jewish. Backlash for speaking out against terrorism, war crimes, brutality, extremism, and defamation.

There should be no fear of backlash. Trumpets should sound, the earth should shake, and applause should be heard from miles away when we stand tall against what transpired on October 7th. Not fear of backlash.

The mother of my oldest daughter’s closest friend confided in me about feeling upset due to the backlash against Israel. This woman, who has faced many challenges, typically maintains a positive outlook. She is energetic and enthusiastic about embarking on adventures together, even amidst demanding workdays and tiring sports schedules. Witnessing anger in my dear friend Heather was unfamiliar, given her usually light-hearted nature. This shift in emotion was meaningful to me. She stated “Starting from a young age I was discriminated against because of my religion, but I never felt unsafe. It was verbal abuse, not physical. I currently work in an area that causes me to feel unsafe. I have to hide my identity from the world around me.” It’s always disheartening to hear such words from someone I deeply care about. When considering trauma and abuse, should we categorize anti-Semitism in the same context? Limited research and clinical studies have been conducted on treating survivors of extremism. Even in Heather’s statement, she inadvertently minimizes the abuse to verbal. She endured abuse simply for being who she is. No textbook can fully address this issue. Establishing bonds of human connection and embracing empowerment through acceptance are crucial steps towards healing. Furthermore, Heather shared a very interesting perspective on why it feels taboo to defend Israeli woman and demand action against the sexual crimes committed on October 7th. This is another trigger question I often ask in deep debate and healthy discussions. She said, “sexual violence has been used in many periods of war, as a tactic to intimidate and punish innocent civilians, as a tool of genocide and ethnic cleansing, aimed at destroying communities. Conflict related sexual violence is acknowledged as a war crime under international law but accountability and justice for survivors under the law remains difficult to enforce. We need to condemn those crimes and help document the gender-based violence, collect evidence and treat victims. The silence is astounding. Women are women. Jewish women are no different. We must speak up now.”

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Contemplating the extensive education and outreach needed for global change can be overwhelming. Yet, by focusing on making a positive impact on individuals like Wendy, Heather, and loved ones in America and Israel as well as their daughters, a sense of fulfillment emerges. This reinforces human connections, highlighting the importance of their presence and energizing the ongoing support for Israeli and the Jewish community. With much work ahead, meeting new people, forming connections, and aiding in healing processes become paramount. Reflecting on my journey to Israel 28 years ago as a 16-year-old with a mission to immerse in the culture, religion, and people, I realize that Israel embraced me and became a part of my essence. I hope others can have the same eye-opening experience I had and adjust their perspectives.

Immediate steps must be taken to ensure the safe return of our girls and to ensure that every Israeli woman, child, and hostage remains in the spotlight until they are brought home. Our news feeds are filled with images of Gaza and anti-Israel opinions that overlook the heinous crimes committed or unfairly place Israel on trial. This not only lacks fairness but is also offensive and misleading. The media does not showcase the images of the young women who have been robbed of their innocence and light by those who embrace evil without regret.

Hostages and Missing families Forum and Bring Them Home Now campaign supporters hold portraits of missing and kidnapped Israeli girls and women during a demonstration outside the South African parliament in Cape Town on March 8, 2024, to mark International Women’s day and demanding the release of female hostages taken by Hamas terrorists on the October 7, 2023 attacks. (Photo by AFP)

Women worldwide, empower yourselves by embracing the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone. A single voice can ignite transformation. In times of peril to humanity and justice, it is vital for us to unite as a community and offer each other unwavering support. Let’s demonstrate our unity to the world by standing strong and undivided, rising above hardships with resilience and unwavering resolve. Together, we can safeguard the safety and welfare of all women and girls, upholding their rights and amplifying their voices.

Am Yisrael Chai!


“To my daughters, I urge you to stand tall against hate and support your fellow women. To the remaining hostages, know that you are cherished and remembered every day. We will persist in our efforts to bring you back and never give up. To the survivors of October 7th, you will always have support in your recovery. You are cherished, and justice will prevail. To every Jewish woman, do not fear; you are essential in this world. Your perspective shows us that even the mighty can suffer silently. To Wendy, Heather, Stephanie, Melissa, Lindsay, Jenna, and my loved ones in the resilient city of New York – I appreciate your friendship and love. Rest assured that I will always stand in front of you to shield your heart from hatred.”

Edited by: S. Brooke Berkowitz

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About the Author
I am a native New Yorker that experienced the deep connection to Israel at the young age of 16. I always believe that Israel chose me when I was selected to represent America and immerse myself into the amazing culture. I am now forty-three and my unparalleled love remains the same if not stronger as we stand tall against the dehumanization of all Israeli's. I studied the Holocaust while battling theologians on the theory if God was responsible in my early 20's, attained my degrees in social work to help children of trauma, moved on to become a financial executive, a mother to three awesome children, a semi-professional opera singer, currently a sales and operations executive for a national private education company, and still here working for my purpose.