Je suis Juif. I am Jewish. I wrote this on my Facebook page in solidarity with the Jewish people of France. IF you’d asked me a few months ago if I’d ever make this declaration, I would have said, “No, why should I? I am American, first and foremost. Judaism is my religion, not my identity.” All true, as well, but sometimes you have to stand up and be counted.
We used to say, “Never forget,” about the Holocaust. But then we began to say, “It’s a new millennium. We are ‘Free To Be You and Me’. It could never happen again. ” We thought for a moment we didn’t need to be vigilant. But we were wrong. It’s a global world and there is an enemy out there who not only wants to annihilate the Jews, but the Western way of life for everyone.
“When it was Hitler and the Nazis,” my daughter said this morning, “at least you could identify the enemy. Now, who can find the head of the snake?” A New York Times article today verifies her statement:
PARIS — Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen formally claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the deadly assault a week ago at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people, saying that the target was chosen by the Qaeda leadership and referring to the attackers as “two heroes of Islam.”
If the claim of direct responsibility holds up, it would make the attacks in France the most deadly strike planned and financed by Al Qaeda on Western soil since the transit bombings in London in 2005 that killed 52 people. And it would serve as a reminder of the continued danger from the group at a time when much of the attention of Europe and the United States has shifted to the Islamic State, the militant organization that controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for beheading hostages.
It is a clever enemy we are facing. Did we realize in April, 2013 that the Boston Marathon attack was part of a larger battle? Or were we saying it was an isolated act? If we ever had that thought, we can give it up now. In November when worshippers were knifed or shot in a Jerusalem synagogue, did we register that these were our brothers, and that this was part of a coordinated attack on all people who love freedom? Or were we a little too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving?
Being Jewish, I’ve been the target of prejudice all my life. One day in second grade, classmates surrounded me on the playground, singing an anti-Jewish chant. I was sick with fear as they tightened the circle, pointing their fingers at me and shouting, “Jew”.
Many of my friends from every religion and race also knew first hand about stereotypes and prejudice. We learned to take people for who they were, not for the race or religion they were born into. That’s why so many of us were activists in the Civil Rights Movement. All our lives we’ve been determined to be decent human beings who wish goodwill to all.
But I’m afraid our reactions have become knee jerk rather than thoughtful. We have been naïve. There are people in the world who have no interest in letting freedom ring—just the opposite. As much as I don’t want to, I need to take off my rose colored glasses to be able to read the fine print in what is presented as fact. Often, it is propaganda. It’s time to see the real world and be a part of it.