- There’s been a new wave of antisemitism in the US, sparked by comments by Ye.
- As a Jewish mom, I worry about my children, especially when they go to the synagogue.
- Recently I had to have a serious talk with my daughter before she headed to a bat mitzvah.
Being a Jewish parent in a time of open and violent antisemitism in the United States is difficult and frightening — especially after Ye recently tweeted that he would go “death con 3” on Jewish people, former President Donald Trump made antisemitic comments, and the FBI in New Jersey issued an alert about the threat of violence in synagogues.
With all this in the background, I faced the prospect of sending my daughter to a friend’s bat mitzvah. For months she’d been looking forward to the party later that night at a restaurant, after a Saturday-morning ceremony at a synagogue.
Sending her to the synagogue scared me — but I didn’t want to scare her
I was scared for my daughter even though I knew the synagogue would have armed guards — many do, as the threat of violence wherever Jews gather is ever present and growing more serious by the day. But I also felt that a handful of armed guards could do nothing to stop a determined antisemite with a semiautomatic weapon.
I asked her if she was planning on wearing her Star of David necklace, which would clearly mark her as Jewish, to the service. She said she wasn’t, and I was relieved. With her fair skin and blue eyes, she could easily pass a non-Jewish friend of the bat-mitzvah girl.
I told her that if violence broke out, she should use a tactic Jews throughout history have used to survive and pretend she was Christian. Though I want my daughter to be proud of her religious traditions and embrace her identity as a Jew, the reality is that in some circumstances this can be dangerous or even life-threatening.
Before she left, I again had “the talk” with her. There are some people who do not like you because you were born Jewish. There are some people who wish you dead for this reason alone. Sometimes those people try to kill people like us. Sometimes they succeed.
She’s dealt with antisemitism before
She stood before me in her floral dress and curled hair and stared at me. My daughter had heard this before and understands the stakes are high.
She knows she has relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust. She has already been the victim of antisemitism; one child in her elementary-school class declared they were a Nazi, and another drew swastikas where she could clearly see them. She experienced the callousness of the adults who were meant to make her feel safe and protected. Her school inexplicably decided to address these incidents on one of the holiest days of the year for Jews, Rosh Hashana, when she and most other Jewish children were absent, leaving her to feel targeted and uncomfortable at school for the rest of her time there. Whether this was the result of incompetence or indifference, it taught my daughter that antisemitism is often not taken seriously and that she can’t count on being free from it anywhere, including school or a synagogue, as it spreads and intensifies.
I wondered if the parents of non-Jewish children heading to the synagogue that morning thought to worry about the threat of violence at the ceremony. I wasn’t sure if I was glad they could send their children to the bat mitzvah blissfully unaware of rising hatred toward Jews or if my family’s experience again felt erased.
I had a lump in my throat as my daughter went to the 2 1/2-hour service. She couldn’t use her phone during the religious ceremony, and I wouldn’t have wanted to worry her with my anxiety even if she’d been able to stay in touch with me. I did, however, keep my phone nearby in case.
My daughter came home safe and sound. I gave her a huge hug and sighed with relief, accepting this as our new, very unsettling normal.