"Let's celebrate our rich diversity! Bring a flag, dress up in traditional attire or wear a jersey from your favorite country," read the email from my daughter’s New York City public school about its Multicultural Day later this week.
In some schools this day is a joke - American kids stretching way into their family history to find some other culture to celebrate. But my daughter’s school is immigrant-heavy. Plenty of kids in her class are either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants.
My daughter is the latter. Both Jews, my husband was born in Israel, I in the former Soviet Union. It’s no question which country our daughter will represent for Multicultural Day.
Russia, the country that stripped Jews of their religious practices but still treated us as separate and unequal, is largely meaningless to me. Israel, with its long Jewish history and the modern promise of safety and a true home for Jews, is important to us both.
We don’t own any "traditional dress" especially as people in Israel largely dress like people in the United States. Cultural artifacts of the sports variety we have at home are more in the style of ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony’s jerseys. I settle on buying her an Israeli soccer jersey that she can wear this summer and then pass on to her brothers. "Are we Maccabi Haifa or Maccabi Tel Aviv?" I ask my husband while I scan Amazon.
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The same day as the email arrives about Multicultural Day, a Jewish man is stabbed in Midtown Manhattan. It’s the third attack on someone openly Jewish in New York in the last two weeks. On Saturday, a 52-year old man suffered a black eye and broken rib in Crown Heights as his assailant screamed that he hated Jews and wanted to kill him. Last week, a man was attacked on Eastern Parkway and had his nose and rib broken.
Where are the Jews? If any other culture or religion was experiencing a rash of attacks like this, New York Jews would already be in the streets. Synagogues would update the social justice pages on their websites. Signs would be made and children would be educated. Hand-wringing emails would be circulated.
When Donald Trump was elected president, Jews were concerned about anti-Semitism. Synagogues sent worried emails about what the election meant for Jews. Quotes about the Holocaust were repurposed to represent our current moment. After a swastika was painted in Adam Yauch park in Brooklyn, a crowd filled the park to say we wouldn’t stand for this in Brooklyn.
Yet now they are silently standing for it because the perpetrators of the recent violence likely aren’t Trump-supporters and there’s no direct hit to be made on the administration.
I’ve always referred to American Jews as the luckiest Jews in history but that luck, that security, is making us too soft. Liberal Jews are choosing liberalism over their Judaism.
They’ll march, against Donald Trump, against guns, but there’s no march because anti-Semitic incidents have gone up 60% in the last year. Why is that?
It’s convenient to tie this spike to Trump, to blame him for the rising anti-Semitism. But it’s been happening in Europe for years, without Trump, and now it’s happening here. It’s easy for liberal American Jews to oppose anti-Semitism from the political right. Much harder to take a stand otherwise and so they’re all sitting down now.
Trump can’t be blamed for Louis Farrakhan or for the leaders of the Women’s March standing with Farrakhan. Trump can’t be blamed for D.C Councilman Trayon White thinking Jews control the weather and refusing to be educated otherwise. Trump can’t be blamed for the festering and specific hatred that the left has developed for Israel.
The European example can’t be overlooked. Their casual Israel-hatred has morphed into full-blown Jew-hatred in just a few years.
The Labor Party in Britain is so afflicted under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who defends blatantly anti-Semitic art and refers to members of Hamas and Hezbollah as his "friends," that Jews post open letters about how they can no longer associate with them. Long-time Labour members have no political home because of their religion.
That American Jewish liberals don’t seem aware that a similar crossroads is coming for them, and are doing nothing to head it off, is sad to watch.
Last Wednesday, Aviv Zonabend, a Jewish deputy mayor of the French city of Toulouse called the situation of Jews in Europe "hopeless." He echoed Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany who had a few days prior urged Jews in Germany to stop wearing yarmulkes in public, saying that Jews all over Europe should stop wearing open signs of their Judaism.
If it’s over for Jews in Europe, American Jews have to worry that we aren’t far behind.
America is different, America is better, but that Jews are scared to speak up right now doesn’t bode well for us here. Jews simply aren’t standing up for themselves as they would for others, and the lack of fighting back will continue to make us a target. If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?
Turns out we’re Maccabi Tel Aviv fans. But I’ll be taking the safe route and find her an innocuous cultural object to take to school. It doesn’t feel good to hide the fact that we are Jews, in New York of all places, but I’m not taking any risks with my children.
I’m a lucky Jew, not a foolish one.
Karol Markowicz is a columnist at the New York Post and has written for Time, USA Today, The Observer, Federalist, Daily Beast and elsewhere. Twitter: @karol