Throughout history, leaders have attempted to both oppress and often entirely exterminate the population of Jewish people in their given area. This is not limited to the Holocaust. It includes The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Purim, slavery in Egypt, just to name a select few instances. As seen in this video from this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, antisemitism is very much alive and well in France. Recently, teenagers took control of a loudspeaker on a Belgian train and announced the following in French, ““Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.” What’s worse is that this isn’t even the first time it’s happened. (Tabletmag)
There was the infamous incident with an Urban Outfitters product that evoked concerns from many people because it looked similar to attire from the Holocaust. Although after the fact, the manufacturer and Urban Outfitters both apologized saying that it was never their intention and wasn’t anything they had noticed before it was brought to their attention. Recently, I have seen the Star of David primarily appropriated into Asian clothing brands. After discussing this with others, we concluded that Judaism is something that is not prevalent in that area of the world so many of the people designing and wearing those products don’t even know the religious implications of the symbol. It’s situations like these that remind me that Jews are such a small portion of the world’s population.
There were times I suggested going on vacation to certain countries and my dad told me that it wasn’t safe for us to travel there as Jewish people. No, those places were not limited to the middle east. Although I grew up in an area where I wasn’t treated poorly for my religion, it was always clear to me that I was lucky to live in an area that was an exception.
For a while I minimized a lot of issues that Jewish people face because of the strong force for recognition of race issues, almost forgetting that anti-semitism is something that is unfortunately rather prominent today. These conversations about race and privilege have encouraged me to think differently about what it means to be Jewish and the challenges that come with that identity today. It’s a confusing thing for me to be white but also have people all over the world consistently trying to kill my group of people off.
I have friends who have gone to school with classmates who wore blinged-out crosses around their necks, but were discouraged to wear, for example, their great grandmother’s heirloom Star of David necklace out of fear. Although Jews come from all over the world, people still believe you can “spot” one just by looking at them. These apparently Jewish traits are very much anti-semitic in roots. These identifiers are what Hitler and his troops used to pick out Jews during the time of the Holocaust. The fact is, Jewish people don’t look very much the same. Due to all of the anti-semitism in the world, Jews live all over. We look like every country. Being Jewish is not just a religion, it has become a cultural background of a peoples who are forced to flee around the world.
Although I’ve been socialized to only let my Judaism show when I feel safe, I have recently seen the Star of David being appropriated onto clothing. Other religious symbols have been printed on fabric today but wearing things with a cross pattern has incredibly different implications from that of a Star of David. When I see people wearing these clothing items, I think about how the last time Jews wore a Star on their clothes, they didn’t have a choice. I think about how my grandmother didn’t choose to wear a Star on her clothes nor did she choose to leave her family and go to 4 work/death camps including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Wearing a Star of David on your clothes is not a fashion statement. It’s a privilege to have that option without the fear that comes along with it and it’s appalling that people take advantage of it without even considering the implications.
While I do acknowledge my white privilege, I think it’s important for Jews not discount our history of ongoing persecution.