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Steven Berkowitz

What about the day after for us?

There’s much talk about what after the war will be of Gaza, of Israel, of Hamas, of the prospect of a two-state solution. But what about the future for Jews outside of Israel?

No comparison of course can or should be made between the realities of Jews living in and outside of the Holy Land. Certainly, no future rockets will fall here (that being New York).

In time, life in Israel will go on, as it always does, as it always has. They’ve faced many wars, buried their dead before, welcomed home the weary, and tragically soon, they’ll do it all again, and the historic scar on the Jewish psyche will grow that much thicker.

Jews rebuild. We’ve been forced to learn how to do it better than anyone. It’s the very reason there even is an Israel and thriving communities all over the world. Am Y’israel Chai isn’t a hashtag, it’s a philosophy. We arrived in America with nothing and now we lack nothing. The only thing we don’t have is the one thing we never had, social acceptance.

At best, we had a false sense of comfort for a while. Success will do that. But it’s been a short timeline from the camps to the campuses. We’ve blamed so much of the current sentiment on DEI and people being woke, yet ironically, we’re the ones who have woken up.

The hatred we’re experiencing is something we only thought possible in another time in history, in black and white photos, in towns hard to pronounce, to relatives we never met. We were so sure that the new country would never be the old country. Turns out it’s the same old country.

Now that the illusion of America as a safe haven from history has been shattered, what do we do? Not only is the genie out of the bottle (and turns out he’s an insane racist), but the bottle has been smashed forever. The genie can never go back in, and we may never be able to go back either.

I don’t know how I’ll ever again trust the world around me, and I didn’t trust it that much before. We’ve seen too much over the last few months, gotten too angry (and sad) and grown so mistrustful of far too many institutions. I can already picture myself wondering what people will think when they hear my last name, or staring around a conference table or subway car playing the game, ‘Guess the Anti-Semite.’

It will take decades for the damage of taught anti-Jewish sentiment to be undone, as well as the misconceptions that an all-white Israel is the oppressor and that all Jews are Zionists guilty of white privilege. Scarily, just as the Palestinians will need to be deprogrammed in a post-Hamas world, nearly an entire generation of young people in the West will need to be deprogramed in a hopefully soon-to-be post-Claudine Gay world.

Eventually, the war will end and the protests will die down. But the feelings that many have about us, and we have about them, will still be there. Our fear and paranoia and the armed guards outside the synagogues will remain.

Most frightening of all is that we just don’t know whether the war’s end will be the height of this wave of hate, or the beginning of an even more dangerous time. So many European Jews continued to be murdered after World War II.

Shortly after 9/11, an Israeli friend said that he felt safer in Israel than he did in America. Now I know exactly what he meant.

About the Author
Steven Berkowitz lives in Riverdale, New York, writing advertising by day, and by night, sharing thoughts he hopes connect with the broader Jewish world. He hopes his next piece will be a lot funnier, and says, "Sorry about that!"
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