What they’ll say:
“What’s your opinion on Palestine?”
“You don’t look very Jewish.”
“You look too Jewish.”
“Did you know that other gentile people died in the Holocaust, too?”
What they mean:
“Are you a Good Jew or a Bad Jew?” (There’s no right answer)
“You would survive the Shoah.”
“Your people need to stop hogging the Holocaust, you greedy, greedy Jews.”
I am a Jew, and that means I have to act as if I can’t see the Nazi symbols carved into the side of your desk. Being a Jewish girl in the West is having to take a deep breath and looking to your teachers who pretend they can’t see when you get Hitler-Saluted in the halls of your high-school. Being a Jewish girl in the West means preparing yourself to see the Nazis march down your street with Tiki Torches in their hands. Being a Jewish girl in the West is constantly being prepared for the second Shoah, but this time, there’ll be an answer to the Final Solution.
A man in a uniform (whose face I could never see), comes into the classroom.
“Are there any Jewish children here?” He asks, with a solemn and studying face.
My blood runs cold, and my heart drops to my stomach. All I can think about is how I should’ve listened to my mother when she told me to keep my Jewish identity secret. I turn to see my class staring at me.
“She’s a Jew.” One of my closest friends points at me and says, with his eyes narrow and distrusting.
No. No. No. No. No. No.
He takes me away, and I wake up.
It is this dream that accompanies me when I hear about the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Hakoah Club in Australia, the Jewish Museum of Belgium, and Charlottesville.
“𝘑𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘶𝘴.” “𝘑𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘶𝘴.” “𝘑𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘶𝘴.” “𝘑𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘶𝘴.”
I am a Jew, and I have always been painfully aware of what that meant. Being Jewish meant there would be no mercy for me. Being Jewish meant that no matter my age, no matter the fact I hadn’t even learned to walk… there would always be people out there who want me dead. With that awareness comes responsibility. I learned to walk silently, without making a sound. In the corner of my bedroom, I keep a small bag filled with survival tools, just in case. I have never taken a steamy and hot shower without my blood running cold. If a subway is packed, I will find another route home. The Holocaust is a wound that never fully heals, and I am the child who consistently picks at it. Each and every day, I am reminded of the Shoah and what it had done to my family, and I cannot stop reminding myself. There are times where I can go without thinking about why my family is as small as it is, or why my mother to this day has not told a single soul about her Jewish identity. But like a scab, it can leave me still picking at it, until it opens again.
I am a Jew, and I am homeless. Would you tell me it’s Canada, whose land I’ve lived on for fifteen years and yet she does not accept me as her own? Would you tell me it is Kashmir? My other half, from where my people were expelled? Would you tell me it is Italy, the land where the remainder of my people were taken from and to the gates of Auschwitz? Or maybe it’s Argentina and Spain, where they had lived for centuries, tucking their Magen Davids under their shirts. Could you say it’s India or Pakistan? The countries who want Kashmir, but couldn’t care less for the Kashmiris? I’m asked where I’m from, and I have no clue how to respond.
I am a Jew, two generations after the Holocaust, and I am beginning to think our “Never Forget” and our “Never Again” were just myths. I speak out against the rise of antisemitism, and I’m told I’m “too Jewish” or that it’s all I talk about. I talk about my Jewishness for the people in my family who no longer can or no longer will. I talk about my Jewishness for the gentiles who will refuse to accept antisemitism continued after the Holocaust. I talk about my Jewishness because if I don’t, who will? But sometimes I worry it’s the only thing people see about me.
“Did you see that girl over there? Her family died in Auschwitz.”
I want to cry and scream and give this secondhand trauma back to the people I had inherited it from, telling them that I don’t want it anymore, it’s 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴. Knowing the Holocaust had happened would never have been enough, I want to know why it affects me as it does. Knowing other Jewish people has given me a sense of solidarity, a sense of belonging, even when deep down, I know I really don’t. I’ve come to understand what that solidarity meant to us, the Jewish people; our families have shaped our anger and pain, our loss and loneliness, and our love, to the point where the only Final Solution that’s left is each other.
Featured Artwork: ‘Auschwitz Rose’ by Mary Rae