Editor’s Disclaimer: The sentiments expressed in this piece do not represent SixDegreesOfKosherBacon’s views, especially not from what we necessarily believe is a Torah perspective. However, we do feel this site is a forum for Jews from a variety of perspectives and feel strongly about honoring that. For more context please refer to Shulchan Arukh – Yoreh De’ah 235 for the laws of mezuzah. Specifically the commentary by the Shakh for what is discussed below.
Last night, I moved our mezuzah from outside our apartment. For those of you who don’t know, a mezuzah is a prayer scroll in a small decorative box, which Jewish people affix to all their doorways. On the front door, it is a clear sign to the world that we are Jewish.
I am a young Jewish mother living with my husband and 4-year-old daughter in California. When I was little, about a year or so older than my daughter is now, my family escaped the former Soviet Union to avoid anti-semitism there. Some of my family settled in the US and some in Israel. I have chosen to write this post anonymously out of concern for my family’s safety.
With the rising wave of anti-semitism, I no longer feel safe having our front door mezuzah visible to the world. For now I have placed it in a non-traditional spot on the inside of our door. Hiding our Jewishness was how my family survived in times of persecution. It saddens me greatly that instead of benefiting from social progress, Jews feel unsafe once again and history could absolutely repeat itself.
What scares me most, is that mainstream public opinion is turning average everyday Americans against Israel and against Jewish people. What is driving the media to portray Israel as evil, I’m honestly not sure. But I do know why Jewish people are not being heard. There are only 14.7 million Jewish people in the world today, a number that has still not rebounded to the population of Jewish people before the Holocaust, which was 16.6 million. We are one of the most persecuted religions and races in the world, from Ancient Greek times to Roman times, to the mass exodus from our homeland in Israel, to pogroms, to the Holocaust, to now. In the Holocaust alone, 6 million Jews were murdered. And before that mass murder, mainstream public opinion was turned against Jewish people, making us the scapegoats of Europe’s problems.
We are being made the scapegoats once again. And if the world doesn’t pay attention, there is very little stopping this wave of anti-semitism from continuing to grow. Jewish people and Zionists are being blamed for the plight of the Palestinians. Nobody is listening to our side of the story. Nobody is stopping to consider that Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years, that we are not privileged white colonizers, but in fact one of the most persecuted races in the world and indigenous to that land just like Muslim Arab people are. There are dark skinned Israelis just like there are dark skinned Palestinians, yet somehow people are equating “Free Palestine” to “Black Lives Matter.” Nobody is hearing us when we say that Israel is not carrying out ethnic cleansing and Muslim Arabs within Israel actually have equal rights, no different than Jewish people.
The world isn’t realizing that Palestinian leadership has rejected independent statehood multiple times because they refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. That the leadership of Palestine is a terrorist organization called Hamas, whose constitution states that all Jews must be wiped off the planet, the very definition of ethnic cleansing. Nobody is hearing us when we say that Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields, that they are teaching their children to hate and murder Jews in kids cartoons. And when they are the first to send rockets into Israel, AIMING to kill innocent Israeli civilians because of a complicated real estate dispute, the world watches and says nothing. Then when Israel responds to stop Hamas as best they can, aiming at terrorist operations while warning innocent Palestinian civilians to evacuate, the world calls Israel evil. Maybe it’s easy to call one side evil just because they have the Iron Dome protecting them and suffer less casualties. But make no mistake, shooting someone in a bullet-proof vest is still attempted murder. When Israel builds a wall and checkpoints which decrease suicide bombings significantly, she is called apartheid for protecting herself. But when she sends humanitarian aid and materials for helping innocent Palestinians rebuild Gaza after each conflict, the world ignores it.
Please tell me, what would you do if your neighboring country denies your country’s right to exist, sending rockets in with the aim of killing civilians for the sole crime of being the wrong religion, the wrong ethnicity? Would you stand by and just let your citizens die? After such a horrific history of persecution?
The most recent Israel-Palestine conflict and ensuing anti-semitism have hit me harder than in the past. Maybe because I’m older, or have more to lose with a young Jewish daughter to protect. When I was a college kid and heard a speaker at Apartheid Week at UCSD say, “They didn’t want Jews in Europe, well we don’t want them in Palestine!” I cringed and walked away, shocked that anti-semitism still exists. When my own roommate echoed those thoughts by saying “They can’t share that land, they will go to war and one side will be killed. And let’s be real, the side to die will be Israel. Your father will die.” I kept my distance from her because I decided she was a bad person.
But it’s not so easy to ignore this wave, while my father and his wife in Israel run to the bomb shelter at all times of day and night, while Free Palestine cars are rolling through the center of London with loudspeakers saying “Fuck the Jews, rape their mothers, rape their daughters.” They are talking about me. They are talking about my daughter. Let that sink in for a moment. Tweets saying “Hitler was right” are stinging worse than usual, as I remember how my grandmother escaped with her mother on the last train out of Ukraine before the German invasion, before Hitler would have murdered them too. This was all not so long ago, and yet the world seems to have forgotten.
This was all not so long ago, and yet the world seems to have forgotten.
It wasn’t so long ago that my great-grandparents stopped teaching Jewish customs and Yiddish to their children. Soviet officials would go to schools and ask young children questions in Yiddish, and the children who could answer were taken out of their classrooms and placed in the worst schools. If families were caught going to synagogue, they were picked up in the middle of the night and shipped off to Siberia. These are all stories that my grandmother recounted to me with great sorrow, warning me how dangerous it can be to be Jewish.
Now, for the first time in 3 generations, I had the privilege to teach my daughter to cover her eyes with her cute little hands and recite a blessing over the Shabbat candles with me. Hearing her angelic voice speaking beautiful Hebrew words that have been spoken by so many Jewish girls and women who came before us, was proof that my great grandparents’ sacrifices were worth it. Because they hid their Jewish identity, my daughter and I are alive and able to bring our sacred Jewish traditions back to life. But as I’m watching this terrifying wave of anti-semitism rising, I know that I may once again be faced with the same difficult decisions that my great-grandparents had to make.
Since the world has turned its back on us, for now I will hide my mezuzah. I have no other choice but to protect my family the best I can. But I will pray that the world will finally hear us and step up to protect the Jewish people, so that hopefully one day, my daughter will feel safe proudly displaying her mezuzah outside her front door.