As loud as the hatred has been, the silence has been even more deafening.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched acquaintances, colleagues, and friends all sit silent, or “silently” validate the terrorists by hearting a “from the river to the sea” post.
Elie Wiesel said “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I guess the vitriol, the hatred, the pure antisemitism has always been there we just haven’t looked.
Fortunately for me, I grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ, an area where Jews were plentiful and vibrant in the community. I got my first real taste of antisemitism when I was in high school and had the amazing opportunity to spend a few weeks at Westminster Choir College. (Yes, I was a total theater and choir gleek — explains a lot to people that know me, I’m sure). Students from all over the country were at this iconic institution to learn music and musicality and sing together. The second night I was there, I remember meeting a big, burly kid (not in a blue leisure suit) from Mobile, Alabama. Somehow everyone was identifying where they were from, and it came out that I was Jewish. He straight looked me up and down and said, “Well damn, where your horns at Jew boy?” I remember the total feeling of disbelief that had just happened and turning and trying to educate him that the Jews are not the devil, but that pretty much went nowhere.
That started to open my eyes, and I began to sense the undertones of antisemitism around even in the Northeast bubble I grew up in. Then I went to college in Central Pennsylvania, and it highlighted so much, as I met students from not that far away in Western Pennsylvania who had never met a Jewish person before. I can tell you that once you open your eyes, as a Jew, you always know when it’s around, you feel it, you sense it, but it’s not really ever stated out loud.
But that’s all changed in the past decade for us.
The number of reported antisemitic incidents in the US alone has increased by almost 400% in just this past year (Statista 2023) with the largest increase ever in 2022. It’s become mainstream and acceptable to make antisemitic comments and jokes. How many people really agreed with things Kanye said? There was “outrage” — but was it really? Adidas “canceled” Kanye — but did they? Not really. It was all window dressing; they went back to selling a whole line of Yeezy footwear in May 2023.
October 7, 2023, I woke up to the news of a terrorist attack mounted by monsters who raped, mutilated, killed, and took hostage 1000s of innocent men, women, and children. We wept and we continue to weep for these people. Rightful outrage from world leaders and people everywhere as the news developed quickly changed to antisemitic rhetoric rising to such a disgusting level that the hashtag #killallthejews has trended on X in the UK this past week. We’re being associated with phrases like genocide and apartheid which for those people who have actually been subjected to these types of atrocities, like the Jews have, is beyond insulting. I was living in Manhattan during the attacks on 9/11 and not once did someone rip down a poster of a person missing, but now the abducted Israeli babies’ and children’s and teens’ pictures are ripped down daily. Why do this now? Because the abducted are all Jews — and we are always deemed responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world. Just look at history.
To those of us who were blinded, or maybe were just wearing rose-colored glasses, they are off.
Our eyes have been opened to the widespread hatred.
We know who stands with us and who does not, and we are grateful to those who support us.
To those who don’t, let me remind you that we have survived since Abraham made his covenant with G_d. We have overcome slavery in Egypt. We have overcome persecution of our people throughout history and multiple attempted Genocides — the Philistines, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, Russian Programs, the Nazis, — and multiple attempts from those claiming to represent Palestinian interests.
Instead of rolling over and dying, we’ve grown, we’ve lived, we’ve loved, we’ve innovated, and we’ve flourished.
I am proud to be a Jew, and I stand with Israel.
I am not silent, and you cannot silence me.