I’m Totally Sick Of The Rhetoric


That’s the word that comes to mind when I open my Facebook feed. The phrase that follows is, “I hate everything and everyone.” The problem with following all these news sources and political causes that I actually agree with is that they are always exposing what the other side is doing wrong, and since the other side is pretty much everyone in the world, the view from this side of the monitor is depressing.

I get it. A Jew gets murdered and nobody gives a crap. Why are they still asking why? Isn’t it obvious why? Isn’t it obvious that pretty much everyone in the world except for a few Zionists wants Jews to die? Isn’t it obvious that they want it from a deep, primal place? Isn’t it obvious that they want Jews to die the same way that in every generation since time started, they wanted Jews to die? Why are we still asking why?

Name a point is history when the rest of the world didn’t want Jews to die. You can’t name one, can you? During times when there were not big pogroms and big inquisitions and big crusades etc., they still found ways to kill Jews. It’s like people on both sides cannot bring themselves to admit that the world wants Jews to die. Like nobody can admit that evil actually exists. Like nobody can admit that we all as humans have the will to kill others, and some of us are evil so we do. I’m not talking about self-defense. I’m talking about killing out of passion, beliefs, or because one is following orders. It gets complicated during wartime, and war does not end in peace. It ends in further conflict.

I grew up in a bucolic suburb with a pretty good sized Jewish population, and even there the undercurrent of “I want you to die” was always present. Somebody, twice actually, spray-painted a swastika on the metal fence that divided the upper school from the lower school buildings of my elementary school.  I remember not wanting to tell my parents about it because I didn’t want them to make a stink, but at the same time knowing that it had been spray-painted there for me, so that I could see it before school, after school, and at recess. “You should know that I want to kill you,” somebody felt compelled to say to the Jewish kids at my elementary school. “So I’m gonna spray-paint this here swastika on this here fence.”

A couple years ago, my husband was walking across a street here in Brooklyn and a Black lady tried to ram him with her car while yelling, “Heil hitler.” You can’t make this stuff up. (Lady, you heard the story about hitler and Jesse Owens, right? You know how hitler felt about Africans, right?) A couple nights ago we were walking down our street and some non-Jew kept yelling at us, “Hey, rabbi. Hey, rabbi.” I was on the train a while ago and this East-African dude stares right at me and lectures the whole train (I was the only Jew on the train car) about how he’s gonna kill the Zionist enemy. I spent the train ride staring right back at him and envisioning at what exact angle I would kick him in the balls if he came toward me.

I’m sick of hearing people I agree with ask why. You know why. You know why Sweden, and England, and France, and “the academy”, and the whole universe wants us to die. They want us to die because they hate us. They hate us from the same place that Esau and Ishmael and the Hellenists and the Babylonians and the Romans and the Poles and the Russians hated us. They could say it is because of military actions of Israel, but there is always a reason. So today the reason is that they don’t approve of the military actions of Israel. 4000 years ago, there was a “different reason”. And 400 years ago there was a “different reason”. And 40 years ago there was a “different reason” and there will always be a new reason to hate Jews. It doesn’t even matter what the reason is. It’s just a code word for, “I want to kill you.”

I work for a Jewish educational organization and we get death threats sent to our catchall email account pretty regularly. I moderate comments on this organization’s YouTube channel, and we get a lot of comments from people who either want to kill all Jews, or kill all religious Jews, or convert all of us to Islam or Christianity. “Flag as abuse.” “Flag as abuse.” “Delete and ban.”

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There is nothing new under the sun, especially on the Internet.

Interacting with people in real life is always a reminder that there is actual good and light in the world.  I turned off my computer yesterday to go to a Bat Mitzvah of one of the more lovely 12-year-old girls I’ve met. I had been trying to finish writing this essay and had been failing to come to any kind of resolution. The Bat Mitzvah proved to be the best possible place for me find the resolution.

If you have never been to a Lubavitch Bat Mitzvah, high tail it to your local simcha hall because it’s something to be witnessed indeed. It was awesome. 200 or so women and girls ate steaming plates of pasta while heimish music played in the background. I sat with a bunch of funny Jewish ladies who alternated talking about the Mittler Rebbe and Mashiach with self-deprecating jokes about gluten-intolerance. The friends and classmates of the Bat Mitzvah girl looked like girls. Not like little women, not like budding teenagers, but like young girls. They seemed genuinely happy for their friend and at a certain point they all moved over to a long table, donned plastic aprons over their party dresses, and painted Shabbos candlesticks.

The mom got up on a microphone and said, “My daughter chose the theme of this party: ‘Every chosid is a lamplighter.'” That’s why there were lanterns on the tables, she said. Then the dad, who has been battling the big “C” for many years and has proved wrong every doctor who told him to go to hospice as he keeps on living and I’ve never seen anyone, except for Ahava Emunah, who has such a will to live, anyway he got up on the mic and read a letter from the Rebbe and gave his daughter a heartfelt blessing. Then the Bat Mitzvah girl made the most embodied, smart, confident speech about the month of Kislev, and how its all of our jobs to go out and talk to people and reveal light in the world.

I wanted to give her a standing ovation. I mean, we all applauded and said “Amen” and “Lchaim”, but I was really moved. I’ve never seen a 12-year-old girl speak like that. She made this testament to the power of light, the power of G-d, the power of innocence, the power of knowing who you are as a Jew and doing good things. Here she was coming of age, taking on responsibility for doing mitzvoth, and she was like, “Hooo yeah I’m into it!” (That’s my phrasing, not hers.)

When I was walking home from the simcha hall, I ran into a friend of mine and we stopped to talk about our favorite moments of witnessing our babies grow. It was one of those moments when I remember why I came here — why I became religious — one of those times when I realize that there are very few societies in which two women will spontaneously stop on the street to talk about the actual miracles that G-d makes every day in the context of appreciating them as miracles of G-d.

I think that the trope, the one that feels worn out sometimes, the trope that everyone hates us but we keep reproducing and having weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and the only thing we can really do is keep on keeping on is more than just a trope. In moments of real life, I see the light in simchas. I see the light in other people who share their own light. I see that the will to live is a very Jewish thing indeed.

I mean, I still looked over my shoulder as I walked home in the dark. But you have to understand: The resolution has very little to do with ousting the Foreign Minister of Sweden. It is something a lot more eternal. I’m not saying not to fight, not to lobby, not to bear arms, not to make a stink — we do have a responsibility to minimize damage. But bear in mind that if they couldn’t kill us all before, they won’t be able to do it now.