American Jews: Come Close, We Need to Talk

The toughest thing about being an American Jew right now is other American Jews. No, wait, hear me out. Imagine being part of any minority group in the US in the 60’s and 70’s and rather than showing solidarity with one’s own minority, you’re met with large members actively working against your minority’s own self-interest. How would the gay movement have fared if a large number of gay people themselves stated “Well, you know, the straights do have a point about us.” But that didn’t happen, nor did that happen with the black community. And it didn’t happen because both communities were educated, proud and determined. They didn’t read a story about one of their own doing bad things and yell “Let’s scrap this because he is representative of us all!”

So, what’s up with us Jews? A group of people who delight in levels of self-deprecation. A group of people who can’t defend the actual definition of Zionism because our enemies have so skillfully bastardized its meaning that there are those among us who actually utter this word in hushed voices. A group of people to our credit would bend over backwards to call out the plight of any minority on the planet but when it comes to our tiny little population, at less than 0.2% of the world’s total population, we feel we need to apologize for wanting basic human rights?

I have been on Facebook posts on Israel and have been amazed at the utter lack of knowledge that American Jews have on their own homeland, their identity which I think is one of the most basic forms of human expressions. They say things like “well, both sides have responsibility” or “well, you know, the settlements are a problem.” Really? Does the government of Israel pay its citizens to murder Arabs like the PA pays its citizens to murder Jews?” Do these Jews take issue when other minorities around the world build places for their families to live too?

I have always taken issue with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being labelled as a “political” one. It never sat right with me how basic human rights for Jews was pushed into a political box but gay rights were seen accurately for what they are: human rights. And I now understand why this push to make this a political discussion was made so the conversation would become so muddied that you have American Jews lining up on this issue according to party lines. I never in my life thought that in 2020 there would be an American party that discusses the boycott of Jews like the Nazis did only 70 years before. And there are not only American Jews who this doesn’t seem to bother, there are American Jews who support this.

I have spoken to many Jews in the US who are as frustrated with this as I am. I have spoken to family members who are considering voting for Bernie Sanders even though my six year old Yorkie shows awareness of how a vote for him would be a vote against my very own identity. These feel like dark days to many of us because we cannot understand how *all* Jews don’t see this. We don’t understand how any American Jew would vote for anyone who suggests boycotting Jews is the right things to do.

I will leave this with one last thought as it nags at me a bit. As I strive to understand this, I often wonder if American Jews look at their friends and family and see us as a successful minority. “If we are successful,” they might think, “then we are good and no need to worry. Let’s focus on the less successful minorities.” To them I say one thing: we want minorities to be successful. That is our strength as Americans and that is a good thing, not a bad thing. So stop apologizing for your own personal success; we still have Jews in 2020 being murdered for simply being Jews so our struggle ain’t over by a damn sight.


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