It is hard to believe that ONLY two and a half weeks ago, our world was turned upside down following the brutal attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians. As the days have passed and our eyes have been glued to all of the news coverage, social media posts, and the like, many in our community are still grieving and unsure of what to do.
Of course, the reports from all over the country and the rest of the world about the pro-Palestinian protests and gatherings are not making this situation any easier. It seems as though the non-Jewish world has been unable to comprehend that Israelis and Jews are not against the Palestinians; the feelings of anger, hostility, and animosity are actually targeted at Hamas and not Palestinians. We understand and agree that because of the actions of Hamas, innocent people are victims of this ongoing tragedy. For some reason, people feel there has to be an either “this or that” mentality, instead of a “this AND that.” And because of this lack of comprehension or willingness to accept this notion, American Jews have been targeted like it almost always happens when situations in Israel occur.
What we see happening here in the US… the protests and chants is frightening. The vitriol and anger spewed during these protests are directed toward Israel and what people view as Israel’s proxies…. Jews. This has caused many in our community to be even more fearful than they were already feeling following the rise of antisemitism and hate we have seen over the last several years.
So, not only are many of us wrestling with the guilt of being going to go about our days and dealing with an ongoing sense of helplessness of not being able to do anything for people in Israel, but we also have to decide whether they are comfortable being in a place that could be targeted for violence.
I share this because our Jewish Federation kicked off our 25th Annual Jewish Book Festival this past Sunday. And we saw a significant drop-off in the number of people who attended our first event. When asked, many said they knew people who would have attended but were afraid to participate in a Jewish event. This feeling is a direct bioproduct and example locally of how terror manifests itself.
Please know that our Jewish Federation, local community partners (i.e., synagogues), and organizations like the ADL are in constant communication with our local law enforcement. We are taking every precaution possible to keep our community members feeling as safe as possible. We do this also to make people feel more protected and comfortable to go and do Jewish activities, let alone their regular daily activities.
I know that this is a scary and uncertain time. It is important to remember that being surrounded by and engaging with the community can help ease the feelings many of us are experiencing. This is something we can do to help one another deal with the feelings and emotions we have. I encourage all of us to lean into our community and do what we can to support one another. You could say that this is our community’s SUPER POWER!