It is amazing to me that I took out the time to be afraid.
I looked around at my friends and neighbors after the October 7th massacre in Israel and, silly me ... just because I was born Jewish (I am not religious, and I consider myself first and foremost to be a human being, and then an American), I took it personally.
I mean, when crowds of savages take to the streets waving Palestinian flags in Brooklyn, Chicago, New York City, Sidney, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and London, shouting “Gas the Jews. Kill the Jews,” and do the same on elite college campuses including Harvard, Binghamton University, Columbia, George Washington University, and so on ... it is time to step up to the plate.
Way past time.
As an American, the first question I have to ask myself is “What the hell is wrong with us?” We pride ourselves on being a compassionate country. I mean, who doesn’t cry at Christmas when James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” contemplates jumping off a bridge? Who hasn’t been shocked and horrified when reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” that, in the end, she dies in a concentration camp? Who hasn’t cheered after watching “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” when Sidney Poitier earns the respect of a belligerent bigot?
And yet. Here we are.
Let’s get down to basics. This incitement to kill, destroy, and annihilate is not directed at vague, amorphous, theoretical human beings. It is aimed at specific individuals who, believing in a religion or not, are considered to be Jewish because of their birth.
But ... Surprise! Surprise! Judaism is not a race.
Sammy Davis Junior was Jewish; Yaphet Kotto was Jewish; Walter Mosley is Jewish; Lisa Bonet is Jewish. My niece, whose mother is Filipino, is Jewish. If Anti-Semites had their way, they all would have died or would not have been allowed to exist: For starters, this eliminates Albert Einstein (theory of relativity); Jonas Salk (inventor of the Polio vaccine); Admiral Hyman Rickover (Father of the Nuclear Navy); Superman (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster); Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy respectively); cinema’s Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe); our beloved and wildly funny Nanny (Fran Fine and/or Fran Drescher); and most important of all, because we really need her now, D.C. Comics’ and Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman(actress and former combat fitness instructor for the Israeli army, Gal Gadot).
As far as I’m concerned, if – like lapsed Catholics or Baptists – someone Jewish doesn’t want to be Jewish – they don’t have to. But the reality is that, regardless of their philosophies and preferences, they are not permitted to define themselves according to their personal beliefs. Over the ages, demented individuals have always needed scapegoats to blame for their failures, and the only one on which they can all agree - from Black Lives Matter, to Neo-Nazis, to LGBTQ, to cute little Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, to the Klu Klux Klan - is ... guess who?
Never mind that, though.
What’s scarier is that Nazism – call it being Pro-Palestinian or Anti-Israeli ... they’re all the same – is back, pretty much everywhere and most notably (Crocodile Dundee. Where are you when we need you?) in Australia. And it is becoming as common and as acceptable as cell phones.
Quoting from the National Holocaust Museum’s Website: “According to the Reich Citizenship Law ... only people of ‘German or kindred blood’ could be citizens of Germany. A supplementary decree ... defined who was and was not a Jew. The Nazis rejected the traditional view of Jews as members of a religious or cultural community. They claimed instead that Jews were a race defined by birth and by blood.”
Okay. So this is what WE, and by that I mean all of us, have to do.
But first, I want to introduce you to the oft-repeated sentiment that Jewish people are the canary in the coal mine. Quoting from the Newsweek article “Jews Must Not Be Sacrificial Canaries in the Battle against Anti-Semitism” dated July 10, 2020: “The canary in the coal mine is a practice that dates back to the early 1900s. British miners utilized the sensitive and vulnerable canary to detect high levels of carbon monoxide and toxic fumes. If the canary, helplessly locked in a cage, fell dead, the workers knew they were in danger and would flee the mine. In short, the canary was a dispensable sacrifice for the benefit of everyone except for the canary itself.”
From that same article: “Jews throughout America experience hate and violence daily from radical movements – the far Left, the far Right and radical Islam. It's important to demonstrate to all Americans that these movements not only aim to harm Jews, but also threaten to destroy our Judeo-Christian principles and our American way of life.”
So when I say “WE,” I really do mean us all. As John Donne wrote in his poem “No Man is an Island” (and no. He wasn’t Jewish):
“Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
In response to death threats against Jewish students at Cornell University, New York Governor Kathy Honshu stated, “This cruelty by New Yorkers against New Yorkers must stop ... Every single New Yorker has a right to feel safe and to be safe as they go about their daily lives and we must accept nothing less.”
Substitute the word “Americans” for “New Yorkers,” and it should be clear that we have an irrefutable obligation to defend our fellow countrymen (because the bell is tolling for all of us!) regardless of their race, religion, the color of their eyes, or the amount of freckles on their nose.
In order to protect our culture, our values, and our constitutional way of governance, I have a few suggestions on how we can accomplish this:
· Don’t be afraid. Shoulders back. Chin up. Have courage. BE BRAVE.
· Bring back political cartoons. Make fun of the bullies. Laugh at them. Mock them. Humiliate them. They do not deserve our respect, and if we do it right, ridicule can eliminate our fears.
· Support the 2nd Amendment. (Israel’s strict gun control laws left most of its citizens defenseless at the time Hamas began its October 7th rampage).
· Bring back mental hospitals so that we can protect ourselves against lunatics with firearms that murder children, students, shoppers, and happy souls who just want to go bowling.
· Build a lot of mental hospitals. Although lately, I think the old-fashioned term “insane asylums” might be more appropriate.
· Build them to last. And pay the staff whatever it takes to make it work.
· Legislate involuntary institutionalization of those who present a threat to themselves or others. Particularly to others.
· Deport all who support Pro-Palestinian (or any other kind of) terrorism. Arrest the rest.
· If you belong to a group that can do ANYTHING to support your Jewish friends or the State of Israel, do it now. Do you belong to the Rotary? Kiwanis Club? National Rifle Association? Masons? Knights of Columbus? Veterans of Foreign Wars? Girl Scouts of America? Are you a high school principal? A congressman or woman? An events coordinator for local synagogues or churches? Sponsor an event. Maybe one that celebrates Jewish composers like Irving Berlin, who wrote “White Christmas” and “Easter Parade.” Invite a lecturer (or write a lecture yourself) about Jewish War heroes in World War II. Remind people that Jesus was Jewish.
Rules for Surviving This Crises: (1) Don’t let the bastards intimidate us. (2) Remember that WE ARE ALL AMERICANS and we have each other’s back. (3) If we begin to falter (we won’t!), boost our mutual resolve by reminding ourselves what a dreary world it would be without Paul Simon, Billy Joel, George Gershwin, David Copperfield (maybe he can make Islamist terrorists disappear?), Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Bagels and Lox, and Matzo Ball soup.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2023. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon award