To our Zioness activists, our partners and allies, and our family and friends:
This week has been the most vulnerable that I have ever felt as a white-presenting American Jew. I know it is an incredible privilege, to have felt so safe and accepted in America, both because of the history and reality of Jewish persecution and because so many others in America have never had that luxury.
I also know that relative Jewish safety in the diaspora is a phenomenon unique to the last 73 years, a blip in the timeline of Jewish existence. Jews have largely assimilated into the mainstream in this country, have been represented in civic, social and political settings by strong and varied Jewish communal institutions, and have, perhaps naively, come to believe that Jewish existential vulnerability was in the rearview mirror.
There is one reason we have been able to do this. That reason is the existence of the State of Israel, which is a miracle by any definition of justice: the manifestation of a 4,000 year old dream and the emancipation of the world’s most enduring oppressed minority community. Our parents and grandparents built a modern state only 3 years after our attempted extermination, leaving the gas chambers of Europe and the violent pogroms of the Arab world and the religious persecution of the Soviet Union and Ethiopia behind. Zionism––our extraordinary, and successful, movement of liberation and self-determination––gave the Jewish people the strength, the resilience, the endurance and the hope to be the change we wished––we needed––to see in the world. Israel’s existence makes Jews all over the world safe, for the first and only time in Jewish history.
It began as a matter of Jewish survival. This week, our community has been reminded that it has always been, and will always be, a matter of Jewish survival.
I am in New York, which has the largest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel. I am physically safe; there are no missiles here. But every time I open my social media, I am bombarded with painful lies and distortions that reduce my lived experience, erase the history of my people, equate our collective Jewish existence with white supremacy, oppression, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. There is perverse irony in that the Jewish people have been victims of each of these depravities in living memory. Accounts with millions of followers are openly and unashamedly demonizing Jews in ways I have never witnessed in my lifetime.
The layers of gaslighting that Jews are experiencing right now are impossible to disentangle, and the people I love, Jews and allies alike, cannot find the words––or the courage––to respond. The vitriol we face when we simply acknowledge the humanity of our people is overwhelming. The compounding trauma and fear have been paralyzing. For many of us, the most painful part is that the cruelty and ignorance is coming from people we have always considered to be our friends and allies, the people we have always fought alongside for social justice in America.
Affirming the inalienable human rights of Palestinians is urgent. The majority of Jews in the world regularly do. Generations of Palestinians have been robbed both by Israeli government policies and by their own repressive governments of too many opportunities to live free and full and prosperous lives. Their oppression is an existential threat to our people, and it is a fight from which we simply cannot look away. But calling for the liquidation of the Jewish state is antisemitic. It puts Jewish lives in danger. And it will not help the Palestinian people in their legitimate fight for freedom. All it will do is trigger the intergenerational trauma of individual Jews.
Jewish Americans make up 2% of the population of our country. The Jewish people make up less than .2%––yes, one fifth of one percent––of the population of the world. This week, as our family members, friends, and loved ones in Israel have faced a barrage of more than 2,000 rockets from a genocidal terrorist organization committed to murdering Jews, it feels as if the whole world has turned its back on us. We have profound gratitude for our non-Jewish allies, who have stood with us, recognized our humanity, declared their commitment to fighting for both Israelis and Palestinians, and proven their dedication to addressing the extreme rise in antisemitism that has terrified our community. My heart breaks that being an ally to Jewish Americans in this moment requires Herculean courage, and makes me self-conscious to even ask for support. The amount of appreciation I feel for those who stand alongside our community in this moment cannot ever be expressed.
The world needs to understand that more than 90% of Jews in the diaspora are Zionists. Our Zionism is intrinsic to our Jewish identities. Zionism means we support a Jewish, democratic state in the birthplace of the Jewish people, the land of Israel. It means we support the right of our people to live in safety, with sovereignty, and in peace. We are proud to be Zionists, today and always, and we thank you all for standing with us.
73 years ago on this very day, May 14th, David Ben Gurion signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and the Jewish state was reborn. May it exist in perpetuity, and may we never, ever, take it for granted.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Shabbat Shalom, with profound prayers for peace,