On Monday, September 29th 1941 at 8am, Shepsa and Sura Gershunovich appeared at the corner of Melnikiva and Dokterivskaya streets in Kiev Russia, as ordered by the town police.
Shepsa and Sura were decent, God-fearing Russians who worked hard, and followed the laws of Torah. They raised children, eked out a living, and believed that God would provide. They were my great grandparents.
At 9 am, along with over 30,00 other “Yids” who had gathered as ordered, they were marched to Babi Yar, a huge ravine north of the city. They were stripped of their clothes and belongings and layered like plywood into the ditch. Then they were systematically shot to death and buried beneath the rubble. By 8 pm, all the “Yids” were dead.
The people who died that day were not criminals. They had not stolen, shot or raped. They had not offended. They had not provoked. They left behind mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, family and friends. They never said goodbye, or ‘I love you” one last time. They never received final prayers. They were simply destroyed. Why? Because they were Jewish.
Antisemitism has been around for as long as there have been Jewish people. It manifests in many ways from the extremes of Nazi Germany to Jews being excluded from certain professions, schools, social clubs et al. Since the formation of Israel in 1948, being anti-Israel has become a proxy for antisemitism.
In recent years, many Israelis and American Jews face the dilemma of how to continue supporting Israel even though disagreeing with the policies of Netanyahu against Palestine. This has come to a head in the past weeks after the October 7th massacre of innocent Israeli civilians by a known terrorist group. Hamas rules Palestine, but it is not Palestine. Hamas has pledged to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth and has resisted any peace agreement which acknowledges that the Jewish people have right to exist.
But look what has happened on college campuses in America; students are protesting in support of Palestine and Hamas. Supporting Palestine is not a universal cause, but it is an understandable one. Supporting Hamas on the other hand, means supporting Jewish elimination.
Last Friday, friends of mine came out of Shabbat services to signs that said, “Kill the Jews”. There is no mistaking the sentiment of those signs. Remember that 1400 Jews had just been slaughtered and butchered on their home territory. Over one hundred Israelis are still being held hostage by Hamas. Yet Israel is now seen as the aggressor.
I, and every other Jewish person I have spoken to, do not want innocent Gazans to be treated with the same savagery as the Israelis were. We know the enemy is Hamas and not Gaza. Yet how quickly the public and media have turned against Israel because of its retaliation.
Antisemitism ignites quickly and viciously. If you are not on guard, you can lose control of it.
In a country where guns can be carried easily, and where intolerance has become more prevalent, antisemitic violence is becoming more likely. We have to make sure it does not become more acceptable.
Joan Weaving embarked on a successful business career as the first woman Product Manager for Nabisco, Inc., and a Corporate Vice President for Equitable, before starting her own consulting company in 1988, specializing in leadership development and executive coaching for major corporations. Joan has been an active OLLI participant and has played a key role in the conceptualization and execution of the annual Board of Advisor’s retreat. Joan leads our Exploring Leadership Opportunities class in the fall term.
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