If There is a Question of It Being Safe to Be Jewish In New York, then What Does That Mean for Being Jewish in South Florida and in America. Opinion from a Child of Holocaust Survivors

American JewsSince the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, there has been public discussion as to whether the shooting was really against being religious.  It seems to this Jewish woman that those who even brought up the discussion, after the shooter was so clear and direct, could never be the child of Holocaust survivors.  I know. I am a child of Holocaust survivors brought to America as a baby.

We children of Holocaust survivors are different.  We have learned to pay attention to anti-Semitic words and, especially, anti-Semitic actions that back up those words.  I, as an American child of Holocaust survivors, explored options for hiding, leaving and fighting, long before I heard the first anti-Semitic remarks directed to me personally in 1968, fifty years ago, in rural Pennsylvania.

I did not wait until 2018 when I heard about the words from an American murderer, “I want all Jews to die,” before considering, as a Jew, that one day I might have to leave the country that is part of my soul, the only home of this person born a stateless person who lived her early life in a displaced persons camp.

I just voted in the Florida midterm elections, early, of course.  I think I am what is called “a super, super voter.” I get a lump in my throat every time I am able to exercise my rights and responsibilities as an American.  I love America.  I am grateful that I am an American, loyal and true to the Constitution of the United States.  I spent much of my adult life and career protecting that Constitution, and my entire life knowing that was how I wanted to say, “thank you” to America for allowing my parents to bring me here as a baby and allowing me the life I have led in America, and for allowing the life all of the generations of our American family is leading. Make no mistake. We all worked hard and work hard as Americans and work hard to be faithful to America.

Being different as the child of Holocaust survivors, the pain of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is visceral. I can feel my chest constrict and it being difficult for me to take full breathes.  It surprises even me, the twenty year yogi.  I go to sleep thinking of my grandchildren, and, fortunately for me, I have recovered from the nightmares of the diabolical ways the Nazis might have killed them or tortured me or their parents to watch as they tortured them to death, from memories shared by my Holocaust parents when I was too young to hear them.  So, I think only of the last Face Time with the youngest grandson, now almost eight months old, he smiling as he crawls toward my smiling face on the I Phone on the floor across the room. I picture his smiling face up close to the phone and then his hand reaching to grab the phone.  Fortunately, for me, Face Time is almost nightly.  I often wonder if his mother knows how much I need this affirmation that the Nazis did not succeed in murdering all the Jews.  Especially now, I need the joyful baby, the American Jewish baby, a third generation Holocaust survivor.

Two November 4, 2018 news opinion pieces cause this child of Holocaust survivors such consternation.

I hate the title of this first article, “American Jews Always Believed the U.S. was Exceptional.  We Were Wrong.”

I hate the first hook sentence of this Washington Post, November 4, 2018, opinion piece “[t]the narrative of endless progress was always flawed, well before Pittsburgh.”

I do not want to believe the author, Lila Corwin Berman, who has impressive credentials as professor of history and director of the Feinstin Center for American Jewish History at Temple University.

I do not want to be wrong that we Jews have the same opportunity as everyone else in America, what my Father told me when I was ten years old when I said I wanted to be a judge in America.

I do not want to be right that we Jews are wrong about America, that it joins the civilizations over the history of the Jewish people where the country first becomes openly hostile, and then repeatedly and frequently deadly, and we Jews have to flee again.

The second article, “Is it Safe to be Jewish in New York,” by Ginia Bellafante, taking up half the back page of the first section of the New York Times, November 4, 2018, hit me almost immediately thereafter.

When my father was mugged in New York City in the late 1960’s, he immediately decided to move to South Florida.  Now this Grandma, who lives in Florida for forty five years, finds herself ironically the grandma in Florida, that was the reality of all of the New Yorkers who relocated to South Florida in my father’s generation.  Although Grandpa and I love living in South Florida, none of our adult children or grandchildren live here.

So,

If There is a Question of It Being Safe to Be Jewish In New York, then What Does That Mean for Being Jewish in South Florida?

I first tried to get some statistics about the numbers of Jews in South Florida compared to New York.  My research led me to the 2013 Pew Survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” It is comprehensive as you can see for yourself by scrolling down the study to the section, “About the Study.”  This is what I was looking for:

“Jews are heavily concentrated in certain geographic regions: 43% live in the Northeast, compared with 18% of the public as a whole. Roughly a quarter of Jews reside in the South (23%) and in the West (23%), while 11% live in the Midwest. Half of Jews (49%) reside in urban areas and a similar number (47%) reside in the suburbs; just 4% of Jews reside in rural areas.”

The second article about safety as a Jew in New York mentions New York statistics of hate crimes against Jews, their barometer of anti-Semitism. Jews of South Florida (at least as of 2013) were half of Jews in the Northeast.  How do hate crimes against Jews in South Florida compare?

In an Anti Defamation League press release, August 9, 2018, “ ADL Unveils First-Of-Its-Kind Interactive Map Pinpointing Extremism And Hate Across U.S.,” one can get statistics from the entire United States.  I was concerned with South Florida. I learned that

Florida between 2017-18: “153 incidents are listed as having occurred in Florida. Those include: 2 extremist murders, 3 terror plots, 1 extremist/police shootout, 5 white supremacist events, 45 white supremacist propaganda events, and 98 anti-Semitic incidents.”

New York City 2018: 142 incidents, half of all hate crimes in New York are against Jews. [according to the New York Times article on Jews in New York).

The last paragraph of the article about Jews in New York tells it all:

“The Anti-Defamation League maintains its own statistics, and last year it reported that nine of the 12 physical assaults against Jews categorized as hate crimes in New York State were committed in Brooklyn [a borough of New York City] and involved victims who were easily marked as members of traditionally Orthodox communities.  Outside that world they were hardly noticed at all.”

Take notice.  “I want all Jews to die,” is now out in the open and has gone from words to successful anti-Semitic action, given an open title to beat, “worst in America.” There is always a learning curve, and it gets easier to act if someone has opened the door for you.

This child of Holocaust survivors says the door is wide open by this titled worst anti-Semitic murder in America. What is worse than this worst so far?  How can the next anti-Semitic murderer top this to make history as the worst murderer of Jews in America?

If we, American Jew, look like an Orthodox Jew, or practice Judaism formally in a house of worship, or attend a Jewish Community Center (which all learned after the shooting there that one does not need to be Jewish to frequent or join such a center), or are somehow identifiable as Jewish, then we are now open target practice in America.

According to CNN, October 31, 2018, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter allegedly made anti-Semitic statements even after his arrest:

“While in custody and receiving medical treatment, Bowers told a SWAT officer he wanted all Jews to die and also that “they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people,” according to the police criminal complaint.”

I cannot bear to give you the link to the shooter’s profile on the CNN website.

Yes, I am going to be more vigilant than I already am.  Yes, I am looking for ways to act to be more protective of us as American Jews.*

When I was ten years old, my Father said that we American Jews are safer here in America, a land of diversity, where everyone looks different and differences are accepted.  Was he wrong then?  Would he be wrong now?

So, my adult children and grandchildren, please live where you are among those more likely than not to be accepting of diversity, where the population is diverse so you do not stand out.  Be careful at all times.  As a Jew, one must always be ready to hide, ready to run, ready to fight.  Even in America.

 

With Little Joy,

 

Mema

 

*See post and action to be taken:

“We American Jews Must Now Not Only Be Vigilant As We Have Joined the Vulnerable Ranks of Our Worldwide Brethren Past and Present. We, and American Non Jews, Must Also Fight For Federal Laws That Make Anti-Semitic Talk And Action Illegal”

**Here is a link to previous posts I have written as a child of Holocaust survivors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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