In an age of rising Anti-Semitism, where both the Left and the Right seem to have reclaimed the age-old hatred against the Jewish people and brought it into the twenty-first century with harshly renewed vigor, the Jewish community is under attack. And, as throughout our history, the old adage of two Jews/three opinions continues to manifest. But at a time when it’s more important than ever for Jews to stand united and to support one another, I’m here to burst the bubble of this idiosyncrasy of our people, and to urge all of us to stop Jew-shaming each other.
What does Jew-shaming mean in an era of Anti-Semitism?
When each of us has a different way of coping with this new reality, the last thing we need is our fellow Jews telling us that we’re doing it wrong. Rather than strengthening one another, too many of us are tearing each other down for not reacting the way we ‘should.’
If someone’s response to their local synagogue being graffitied by swastikas is to proudly wear their Jewish star, get an even bigger menorah to put in their front window, and to generally walk around as an ‘out’ Jew, more power to them. The last thing they need is for their fellow Jews to give them the dreaded side-eye, and to loudly ask: Is that a good idea? Are you sure you’re being safe? Aren’t you asking for trouble?
If the response to a fellow Jew being beaten for speaking Hebrew in public is to wear a baseball hat over a kippah, or to leave the IDF t-shirt in the drawer, or to not loudly yell MAZAL TOV upon hearing good news in public, they’re responding to a real and visceral fear. The last thing they need is for their fellow Jews to admonish them for giving in to the Anti-Semites, and to be accused of being less than proud Jews.
If the reaction to the latest report of physical abuse of fellow Jews is to post messages of solidarity on Facebook, great. Responding by calling out the writer for contributing to fear-mongering, or of ignoring racial discrimination, or of creating a reality where Jews only connect through tragedy, is effectively shutting down someone’s way of processing the unfolding reality, and silencing voices. On the other hand, if someone’s post on the 8th night of Chanukah wasn’t about the attack in Monsey, and instead focused on the gifts their kids opened, or the trip the family is taking, or the latkes that were eaten, responding by judging them for not caring about the Jewish community, not raising the alarm, and keeping their heads in the sand, is also incredibly counter-productive, and makes them even less likely to want to engage in the future. And as a general comment, responding with “you should all just move to Israel” is completely counter-productive and not helpful in terms of the reality of this moment.
The Jewish community is under attack. Full stop. And we as a community may not yet know how to respond effectively. But I’m pretty confident in saying that the answer is not to kick each other when we’re down. It’s a scary time, and to wake up every day with trepidation, waiting for the news alert about the next attack and praying it’s not in your town, is something that weighs on each of us in a different way. But it’s a time to stand together, to build each other up, and not to be so enamored with our own voices that we use them to tear each other down. Our own texts tell us to be strong and of good courage, and it’s up to us to figure out what that means for each of us. We’re in it together.
Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath is a Jewish educator passionate about connecting with Jewish teens and emerging adults, talking about Israel, history, philanthropy, and food, and sharing meaningful icebreakers. Samantha works in the Washington DC Jewish community and is pursuing an EdD in Jewish Educational Leadership. Learn more about Samantha and read past articles at: https://samanthavinokormeinrath.com/