I originally planned to publish a blog post about Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, but after the events in Texas on Saturday I found myself writing a very different post.
As a white-presenting Jew, I move through the world with an immense amount of privilege. Yet, because I am Jewish, I also move through the world with a certain amount of fear. That fear was magnified on Saturday.
I recently connected with another Jewish mom in Chattanooga and we had plans to attend Shabbat services together on a Friday evening. That same day, the rabbi decided to return to zoom services because of rising Covid cases. I was so disappointed (although very glad they are taking Covid seriously) because I had been wanting to attend this synagogue for years but was too shy to go on my own.
And, to be perfectly honest, part of the reason I didn’t seek out a Jewish community upon moving to Tennessee was based in fear. Fear of being a Jew in a largely conservative Christian area. Even though the same can be said of Wyoming where I grew up, since our town didn’t have a synagogue it felt less likely we would be targets of antisemitism - someone would really have to be connected to know where the Jews were congregating.
My sister recently moved to rural Georgia. She was anxious about people asking if she and her partner would be joining a church. I emphatically told her "don't tell anyone you're Jewish." The fear of being Jewish is very real, and it did not begin or end with the Holocaust.
I think about this a lot, especially now that I have a child of my own. While it is so important to me that Judaism be a part of her life, I also constantly wonder if that means I’m putting her in danger. I feel like I’m choosing to make her a target. My dad isn’t Jewish, and her dad isn’t Jewish, so why do I choose this? Unlike many other minorities who don’t have a choice, we could hide who we are and just assimilate, as so many Jews have had to do throughout history. So why do I choose this?
Those are rhetorical questions, and I'm not going to answer them because I shouldn’t have to. If you think otherwise I beg you to examine your internal biases. Jews make up only 2% of the US population but account for nearly 60% of religious-based hate crimes (it’s important to note that being Jewish is also an ethnicity and not just a religion - there are many secular and even atheist Jews who are just as at risk).
I am going to attend synagogue once services are in-person again. Jewish people have continued to exist through thousands of years of persecution, and despite inter-generational trauma and growing antisemitism, I feel it is both my job - and my joy - to be openly and proudly Jewish.
To my non-Jewish friends, please educate yourself on antisemitism and call it out when you see/hear/read it. Please check on your Jewish friends and let them know you care.