Why I Will Never Wear a Jewish Star *trigger warning graphic Holocaust images

I will never wear a Jewish star around my neck. It doesn’t matter if it hangs on a glittering 14-karat-gold chain or sparkling sterling silver one. I won’t wear the one I inherited from my father’s father, the only member of his family to escape the Holocaust Nazi Germany, and I refuse to buy one for my daughter.

All I see when I see a person wearing one is the tattered woven gold fabric of a German Nazi Star of David, and the crude letters J-U-D-E. I see a brand. And I will not brand myself or make myself an easy target for hate.

Anti-Semitism has been building for years and it doesn’t seem to bother many people. The news rarely covers it. Yet anti-Semitic groups are gaining support and using social media to their advantage.

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The Boycott Divest and Sanction, BDS, movement has grown like wildfire on college campuses convincing young people Israel is an apartheid state.

Rabbis were stabbed and murdered while praying in France and the world didn’t condone it as a terrorist act against Jews. Cemeteries are vandalized and centuries old propaganda is delivered via flashy digital content and my very own Jewish Community Center has received bomb threats. It feels as if the world believes Jews are expendable.

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What makes people who never met me hate me? Is it how I pray? The day of the week I observe Shabbat? My nose? Is it my New York roots or my Eastern European ancestors? Is it my Chinese food on Christmas tradition?

I don’t hate other faiths. I believe we are all praying to the same G-d, but in different ways. I’m proud to sit side-by-side with my friends at mass, Christian weddings, and baptisms. As I traveled through Italy, Spain and even Egypt people there accepted me as one of their own until they asked, “Where are you from?”

“America,” I said.

“No what religion”

“I’m Jewish.”

When I proudly name my faith I watched their eyes shift from welcoming to distant. I imagine the Jewish brand emerging on my clothes, changing my worth to them and all the things they may have liked about me disintegrate.

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I’ve always been envious of people who wore crosses. They belonged to a larger more accepted group. They seemed to draw strength from each other and the cross. I’ve seen the delicate symbol worn on women’s décolletage and believed they felt empowered and protected by it. They showed no fear of persecution.

But when I look at a cross I see brutality. I see how a man who shared a message of love and acceptance was so feared it incited men to publicly torture and kill him to silence him.

How did the depiction of a man being nailed to a wooden cross evolve into a symbol that brings comfort? Maybe because the symbol for my faith is a target, I’m conditioned to see yours as one, too.

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I wonder what you see when you notice a Jewish star around a neck? Do you see a death sentence, too?

When I see men with tattoos of the holy cross and I think they feel safe, as if the cross protects them. I imagine they have no fear of being herded into cattle cars and murdered. No fear that their possessions will be taken and they will be made sub-human, gassed in a room with others, butchered in front of their children, stabbed at a check point, bruised with stones, and killed by bombs. I learned about the Holocaust when I was eight-years-old. I was taught from a young age to never forget.

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My Jewish heritage taught me to value human life, education, and the humanitarian spirit. Jews are the first to stand side-by-side with other people being persecuted. We were in the front lines on the Civil Rights and yet Black Lives Matters movement is anti-Israel. And still American Jews march with BLM (this article depicts BLM splitting over their views of Jews), because Jews know the value of life and how it feels to be pre-judged.

Jews contributed from two-thirds to three-quarters of the money for civil rights groups during the 1960s.The AJCongress, the AJCommittee, and the ADL worked closely with the NAACP to write legal briefs and raise money in the effort to end segregation.

Despite my fear of wearing a Jewish star I belong to a Jewish Community Center. When I go, my routine includes noticing if a police car is parked in front. I look around the parking lot on my way in to see if anything looks suspicious.

When I walk in the doors I’m greeted by friendly faces of different races and religions that choose to exercise, educate, and worship on the same campus despite our differences. How can we spread the love and eradicate the hate?

In a world where the loudest voices are angry and garner the most attention, how do we assemble the quiet voices of reason to help all of us feeling threatened feel safe?

I know Jews are not the only ones being persecuted. I know Christians are being killed in the Middle East. I know black Americans are fighting for their rights, as is the LGBTQ community. It breaks my heart that so many of us feel threatened.

I don’t want to be afraid of showing my faith and I don’t want to feel branded.

I want America to be the melting pot of people with different ethnicities, cultures, faiths, and identities I believe we are meant to be.

 

resources:

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/jews/

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/world-jewish-population.htm

http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/new-york-city-population/: The estimated population for New York City in 2016 is 8,550,405.

https://bdsmovement.net

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