I know I am like many American Jews.  I am Jewish but primarily see myself as an American.  I would describe myself as secular, spiritual, with Zionist leanings. I was raised with the mantra, “never again,” and received the historical justification for it.  I had relatives that survived the concentration camps during the holocaust and as a child would see the tattoos on their arms during family congregations.  They never discussed their experience, yet they had a profound effect on me.  In my childhood I wondered how Jews could willingly be led to the camps; how their societies had changed to conduct such action, how the other citizens would bear witness without voice.  I especially wondered how Jews could bear witness without voice.  I swore I would never let that happen without drastic action. I assumed that my community of Jews both near and far had learned and felt the same.  “Never again.”  I did not come to an understanding of the elements that were in place to lead to a Jewish holocaust or the acquiescence of a Jewish people whose will was removed from them at gun point, but I was reassured that it was not as important as my certain belief of “never again.” I believed that I was in control of my destiny as were many other Jews who had learned and convinced themselves of their empowerment, regardless of how the world viewed us.  I assumed that all aware Jews were united in this belief.  Nobody would fall victim again without a fight.  In my 5 decades of life, this was never challenged. I was fortunate to be an American Jew.  I suspect that European Jews were not so insulated.  I suspect that the anti-Semitism that they were exposed to was much more raw than the nuanced anti-Semitism in the United States. My concern for my Jewish survival was more academic.  It was easy to be certain of my strength and beliefs.

In the past decade I have noticed a distinct change in how the world views Israel and us.  As importantly I have noticed that change exists in how many Americans view Israel and us.  I have come to see the quiet acceptance of this changing worldview by American Jews, and even more confusing the actual embrace of these views by many American Jews.  The views can be subtle in their persuasiveness.  Some express this as a problem with the conduct of Israel and remind us that it is a secular discussion, not actual issues with the religion of Judaism therefore don’t regard this as anti-Semitic.  There can be some truth in that.  Many Jews have varying opinions on the conduct in of Israeli policies.  We have open heated discussions, as we should.  Ultimately this highlights our own inherent Jewish racism.  Our discussions are distinctly different; we understand we are not questioning our right to exist.  Because of our embrace of different points of view on this issue, the debate has widened and intensified across all spectrums.

America struggles with balancing the rights of Muslims who can be victimized by a sect of extreme ideology that encourages the genocide of those that do not embrace those beliefs.  Israel faces the physical and emotional scars of this daily, and by association do all Jews.  For most Americans this is an academic exercise, but certainly in this environment I have noticed a conflation, a certain increase both in tone and tenor of anti-Semitism.  I have also noticed that so many of my fellow Jews do not notice this, are apathetic to this, or see this also as an academic exercise.  They think that everybody in the discussion has chips on the table and is as invested in the outcomes of what they have convinced themselves is spirited discussion.

I have begun to understand the underpinnings of the making of a holocaust.  It is insidious.  Much is based on the confusing realities that make up the world we live in.  Much play to our human compassion and trusting nature; our hope that everybody should have the rights that we Americans enjoy regardless of religion.  I see many conclude that these are discussions, devoid of personal or religious animus, and miss that some truly have ill will towards Jews above and beyond the apparent debate.  But the underpinnings march on, when they don’t meet resistance. It is facilitated as some give it credence. They view it ultimately as an academic argument; they do not see their risking their own survival.

A clear case in point of the changing American view is the conduct of the American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, who advocated for an aid package of extreme proportions to the Palestinian people. She has expressed her concern of being oppressed by Israel and by extension the Jewish people.  Her view conforms to a growing and expanding narrative as this struggle continues. The argument veers from nationalistic to racist when this money is given to a terrorist organization.  Many Jews will embrace her arguments, and therein lays my understanding of how we as a people were complicit in our own demise.  We misunderstood the intentions of others that we saw as similar to us.  We saw ourselves as citizens first and Jews second in a world where so many see it exactly opposite.  We see a powerful academic discussion and in our compassion and with our history we are empathetic to the suffering of others. We wish to make positive change as we hope others would do for us.

Make no mistake though, regardless of what we believe as secular Jews in a country like America, we are also of Israel and ultimately that is the view of those that would have us perish.  Ultimately as an American Jew, all of us need to see that reality and question whether we walk willingly or embrace our survival.  To paraphrase Leon Trotsky’s famous quote, “you may not be interested in anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism is interested in you.  Wake up, act accordingly.



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