I am a Jew. Unfortunately, once again (or maybe since time immemorial, it has never ceased) there is a rise in antisemitic (read Jewish, as the word includes Arab) acts, rhetoric, remarks, thoughts, etc. Those fours words are a proud, defiant, courageous and a bit crazy statement to make. So why am I making it now? The immediate answer is partly, because this is an introspective time of year for Jews and as the ADL Audit found “Antisemitic Incidents in United States Reached All-Time High in 2021.”
First let me state that I am not religious. I am an atheist or more likely an agnostic (hedging my bets) who can slip into OMG or “please God” on occasion. Many other faiths are based on Judaism, the second oldest religion and the first monotheistic. Like all religions, Judaism has some beautiful traditions, and I celebrate those.
At the Passover seder I enjoy knowing that Jews are participating in the same ritual. On Yom Kippur, I fast, not because I believe my sins will be washed away, but for two reasons. I share the feeling, again knowing that Jews all over the world are also fasting. Although my age and health conditions absolve me (pekuach nefesh), I fast because this reminds me that millions of people go hungry every day.
I am proud that I come from a people who gave the world the Golden Rule.
All Jews are not innately smart or good with money. We became that way because of the conditions that were placed on us. Expelled from many countries, we couldn’t take our homes or real estate. What couldn’t be taken from us, nor was limited by how much we could carry away, was contained in our brains. Thus, education became almost a tenet. We were denied entrance into many professions and livelihoods. Trading and lending money were sanctioned. Since we were scattered all over the world, it became our wheelhouse.
I am also proud of the many Jewish accomplishments and gifts we gave the world in all endeavors. Examples include cultural (art, literature, music, entertainment), inventions, science, health, philanthropy, philosophy, etc. Tikkun olam, is a concept in Judaism, referring to various forms of action intended to repair (for example save the environment) and improve the world as well as the pursuit of social justice. Despite our small population (in the U.S. less than 3%) and globally far less than that, our contributions have been enormous. The number of outstanding Jews in these fields is also remarkable.
So why do people hate us?
I do not blame today’s Germans, except for the Holocaust deniers, just as Jews are not responsible for the death of Christ. He was born a Jew and died a Jew. Because Judaism does not allow burial on the Sabbath, he was placed in a cave until Sunday when he could be buried.
Why is anyone jealous of such a persecuted people? Have you been personally hurt, injured or otherwise suffered because of a Jew? Maybe, but you don’t turn on a whole community because of it. Do you react to the background of anyone who has caused you harm? Jews have not been a violent people. There has never been an historic war started by Jews. Rarely have terrorist acts been committed by Jews unless fighting for independence or in response to an incident against them.
Do you need a scapegoat? The word probably comes from the ritual in the Bible when a goat was sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it. That’s a much milder act. Not any goats handy? Maybe that could be a new business — RENT A GOAT.
In these crazy times, I must point out that virulent hate, derision and horrific acts are also aimed at those who are different in many aspects— race, sexual orientation, physicality, mentality, ethnicity, political or just plain dislike as in bullying. Thus uttering these four words, I am a Jew, is defiant and courageous and therefore a bit crazy. The famous quotes: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” and “If not now, when?” apply now, again for needed change, not just toward Jews.
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Read more by Ada Mark Strausberg.