By Jordan Darling
October 27, 2018. Tree of Life Synagogue. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people killed in a mass shooting during Shabbat services.
April 28, 2019.Congregation Chabad. Poway, San Diego County. One killed and three wounded by gunfire during Shabbat services on the last day of Passover.
These are the stories that made national news.
For most, they are just another tragedy in a line of horrific events presented on our screens. Another statistic added to the crime rate.
For some, it is a constant reminder that Anti-Semitism never faded into history and is alive and thriving even in a country that boasts religious freedom.
Peter Levi, regional director of the Orange County/Long Beach chapter of the Anti-Defamation League told the Los Angeles Daily News on April 30 that California has seen a 27% increase in anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish people and Jewish institutions in the year 2018.
Statistics are just a number. We rarely think about the people behind the statistic. We don’t think of the fear that is instilled in a community by senseless violence.
My dad deployed to the Middle East when I was an infant. My mom begged him to change his dog tags; war didn’t scare her, the Star of David on his dog tags did.
But anti-Semitism has many faces and many voices, some louder than others.
At age 12, a boy that went to my middle school used to run by me in the hall and yell “Jew” before running away. That’s when I started wearing a Star of David every day. I was not ashamed. I was proud.
At 14, I knew every Holocaust joke. “How many Jews can you fit in a minivan?” “Two in the front, five in the back, and 10,000 in the ashtray.” “What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza?” “A Jew doesn’t scream when you put it in the oven.” The people around me would laugh, they weren’t being insensitive or racist but ironic; it’s a novelty to tell a Jew joke. Isn’t it such great fun to be in on the joke?
At 23, I have seen it, heard it, and lived it. But I have never felt afraid to be Jewish, I have never felt the need to whisper it so no one would overhear me.
My baby sister is 11. Jami is brilliant and kind and so full of wonder and hope.
And now my wonderful, kind, little sister is afraid of her heritage.
The world has given her something to fear. Concepts of intolerance and hate that were supposed to be left in the past have come to light right before her eyes.
Poway was a tragedy that was far removed for some. For an 11-year-old Jewish girl, it was a couple of miles away from her big brother and his wife and infant daughters. It isn’t removed for her.
Jewish history is not an easy one.
My great-grandparents fled the Russian pogroms, government-sanctioned attacks on Jewish communities. Throughout history, the Jewish people have been chased from home to home, cast out for religious beliefs.
We celebrate Yom Hashoah each year to remember the millions who were lost during the Holocaust. And there are still those who deny it. Or make light of a tragedy that the community is still recovering from.
How do you explain hate to an 11-year-old? You don’t, you teach them to love and you teach them tolerance. You teach them and hope that they will teach those around them.
Each new generation is a sign of hope that tolerance and love can be taught and learned. I hope one day my little sister won’t have a reason to be afraid of her history. I hope my infant nieces and my nephews will grow up being proud of who they are.
No amount of shootings or acts of hatred and intolerance, large or small, can break the spirits or the will of those who believe in something bigger than themselves.
Many have tried over 2,000 years, but we have persevered and our story will continue.