Not in America ?


Thousands of New Yorkers of all backgrounds convened at the ‘No Hate. No Fear’ solidarity march against anti-Semitism in January 2020. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images, via JTA)

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.

Soviet POWs covering a mass grave after the Babi Yar massacre, October 1, 1941.

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.

Protests of war and general violence in the region have popped up causing a shift in rhetoric globally. Photo: Palestinian News & Information Agency, Wikimedia

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.

No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People, July 11, 2021, Washington, DC USA Featuring Elisha Wiesel, Arizona House Representative Alma Hernandez, Noa Tishby, Ysabella Hazan, Joshua Washington, Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, Blake Flayton, Meghan McCain Complete speaker list and additional information – Photo: Ted Eytan

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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11 Replies to “Not in America ?”

  1. I agree with all that you’ve said. The world is a place right now where it’s accepted to be rude, intolerant and prejudiced. Hate is often the byword for protest. Jews have always faced an insidious threat of anti-semitism…..sometimes overt, many times broiling just under the surface.
    I abhor the violence being perpetrated against the Palestinian population and believe that Isreal is in a no-win situation, however, we, as a people, need to act and react to the inhumanity of Hamas. It’s an existential problem that all people must grapple with.
    Thanks, Joan, for your insight and comments.

  2. Joan, I echo the other comments: this is such a thoughtful piece, well-written and offering illuminating perspectives.
    I also had family in Babi Yar, (though their names are lost to the ages) which made your piece even more significant for me.
    Your delineation of distinctions between Gaza and Hamas is especially crucial.
    Thank you again for this insightful essay.

  3. I am deeply saddened by your friends’ personal experience with the ugly face of anti-semitism
    in this country. I never thought this type of thing would surface here after the horrors of the
    Holocaust. I am also amazed by the lack of knowledge here ( universities?) and world-wide
    of the history and origin of the state of Israel.
    Thank you, Joan, for your comments. I share the outrage.

  4. Joan, bravo for standing up for what you believe in.
    As far as shooting defenseless victims in the head, this was a well-known Stalin/Soviet method used against many ethnic groups! Are you familiar with KATYN, a forest in Russia? In April and May of 1940, a year before the Kiev events, 22,000 Polish intelligentsia were slaughtered in the same way at the edges of enormous ditches!

  5. Dear Joan,
    Thank you so much for your careful and well-articulated article about Israel and the Gazans. There is no simple solution and no totally bad guys or good guys. We need to do what we can to support persecuted people.

    1. Anne, In the battle between Hamas and Israel I agree that there is blame on both sides. But in the battle to prevent anti-semitism from igniting into violence in
      America, there can only be good guys and bad guys. There is no middle ground when the enemy wants you extinguished.

  6. A constant reminder is needed, and stories need to be told by those who have seen or experienced through friends and family, what antisemitism looks and feels like, in all its ugly and brutal ways. Joan has such a gift with words and recreating the past and talking about the present of our world. All should take heed and be truly afraid.

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