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Kosher Salt

Race & Ethnicity

Kosher Salt

Radix Admin

By Augie Burg '17

As the only Jewish kid in my small private preschool, my mom and dad would come in every Hannukah to teach my class about the holiday. They brought latkes and applesauce, and read us a children’s book. It doesn’t even matter that Hannukah isn’t an important holiday; it’s just the easiest one to commercialize because it’s during Christmas time.

In the first grade, I came home crying because another student had told me that “everyone has to go to CCD” (Continuing Catholic Development, a parish education program). That same year, I missed my first popsicle social because it was scheduled on Rosh Hashanah.

I was in second grade, and finally met the only other Jewish kid in my elementary school. They had us do a morning PSA about Hannukah. When she moved to another town in fourth grade, I started to realize how isolated I was.  

In both the third and fifth grade, I was Anne Frank for my biography dress-up projects. The ingraining of cultural trauma started early. I started wondering which of my friends would hide my family and me.

I was a fifth grader when someone in my class refused to eat the latkes my mom brought in, for the last time, to teach my class about Hannuakah. He thought that they would turn him Jewish. I made a point to never speak to him again, if I could help it.

In the seventh grade, I got a kid suspended when I overheard him saying to one of his friends, “I’d hate to be a dirty Jew, then I’d have to live in a box.” That day, other kids in my grade learned just how Jewish I was.

I was in eighth grade, and my ex-friend’s shitty boyfriend asked, “If I threw change on the ground in front of you, would you pick it up?” I punched him in the back as he walked away laughing. That friend abandoned me pretty soon after.

Freshman year of high school, and someone at my group table in biology class was halfway through calling one of his friends a “stupid Jew”. Then he remembered I was there, saw my Magen David glinting around my neck, and profusely apologized. He said it was from South Park. I learned that day to hate South Park.

I stopped going to the High Holy Days my junior year of high school because it was too disruptive to miss school work, and I was so desperate to get good enough grades to leave my tiny conservative Catholic town. I wanted to find a community, or at least a better place to be Jewish.

I’m a senior in college. Donald Trump was just elected president, on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht. White goyim are shaking their heads, wondering how this could happen. The thing is, Jews know how this happened. We’ve seen this happen before. Swastikas are being painted on buildings, on buses, on the mountainside ten minutes from Mount Holyoke. And very few news sources were reporting it for what it actually is: antisemitism.

71% of American Jews voted for Clinton, and while my brain hurts just thinking about the 24% who voted for Trump—a candidate riding on and welcoming the support of unabashed white supremacists, who see Jews as race polluters hell-bent on destroying The Whites, or at best as “parasites"—this is such an important statistic to note. American Jews are disgusted and terrified by the thought of a Trump presidency.

I know it’s very edgy and en vogue to dismiss Jewish concerns as “hyperbolic” or “exaggerated,” because pervasive, latent antisemitism in most countries—INCLUDING VERY MUCH our own United States—tells people that Jews are, by nature, “people who whine too much.” And therefore it is easy to dismiss any claim of antisemitism or any worries Jews have. Antisemitism is self-perpetuating in this way. If you believe that Jews are, by default, dishonest or exaggerating claims of antisemitism, then you are antisemitic. It’s as simple as that.

The way Jewish people and issues are being shut out of anti-Trump solidarity is very, very bad. Do you know how dispiriting and terrifying it is to feel that there is no significant support for your community on either side? The KKK hates us. Neo-Nazis hate us. And the left ignores us because they’ve all bought into the white, Christian, conservative lie that we’re the true power brokers and that we’re pulling all the strings in the economy.

And let’s not forget how supposed leftist news sources are normalizing and giving spotlights to antisemitism. TIME Magazine just named Donald Trump “Person of the Year.’ Hitler was named “Person of the Year” in 1939. Huffington post’s sub-headline for the story is “It’s difficult to deny his incredible impact on the news this year―for better or worse.” To that, I say fuck you, this isn’t about “better or worse”; it’s about giving free airtime to a literal fascist and his white supremacist cronies. Not to mention that CNN is allowing Neo-Nazis to have a platform by running stories about their founder questioning whether or not Jews are people.  I can’t make this shit up. I’m so fucking furious that Jewish suffering is used as a comparison point for this election, but then excluded from the narrative when it comes to Jewish suffering as a result from a Trump presidency.

Please try to apply the same principles of human decency and historical hindsight to us. When Jews are afraid, we are afraid of what might happen to us and also of how antisemitism functions as a kind of ‘gateway drug’ to so many other kinds of racism and xenophobia. Where there is antisemitism, there are always other problems. When antisemitism and the concerns of Jews do not get taken seriously, you end up with persistent, rampant xenophobia and persecution that can bubble back up over and over no matter how many Kumbayas are sung and how many people pat themselves on the backs for having a neighbor who is different from them. I am afraid, as a Jew (besides being queer and trans), because Trump’s election validates and mainstreams what Americans like to think of as “fringe” antisemitism on the right.

And this isn’t just something I’ve noticed on my own. In the wake of the election, a small group of us had Shabbat at a friend’s apartment and formed a group chat together (shoutout to my #mishpocha), because few of our goy friends had checked up on us to see how we were faring. We felt that we were unwanted in all other anti-Trump discussions, so we had to create our own space to feel listened to and validated. We spent three hours eating and grieving over our shared cultural trauma. It felt like I was sitting shiva.

Emma Podolsky--part of the mishpocha and a very dear friend of mine--posted this after our Shabbat, and I think they say it best:

“To every one of you sharing photos of swastikas without mentioning antisemitism-- I see you. To those who claim to be "protecting" vulnerable religious minorities without including jews-- I see you. To all who somehow see nothing happening to jewish populations across america-- I see you. When you selectively leave us out of your activism, you make your intentions abundantly clear. I am exhausted of having to justify Jewish suffering without so-called allies doing the labor of it for me. I am tired of being told by goys that the Holocaust is something white people "can empathize with" when white people have no empathy for us. I am generationally worn to the bone, and currently furious with the lack of support that seems to be repeating itself over and over again. Show up for us as we show up for you. Your antisemitism is showing.”

This is dangerous for Jews, and therefore it is dangerous to anyone who isn’t the right kind of straight white Christian. So stop telling women and people of color and queer people and anyone who isn’t Christian to just “put aside your differences” and “learn to tolerate different opinions” and “work together” with a Trump presidency, and “don’t worry, he won’t really be able to do all that stuff.” Because my people are the canaries in this coal mine; we have been for so long, and for once, you need to take our advanced warnings seriously.