By Leah Snyderman
My name is Leah. That’s pronounced “lay-uh,” like Jacob’s first wife in the Book of Genesis, or the princess in “Star Wars” for those unfamiliar with the Jewish religion.
I’m not here to talk about Israel and Palestine. The history and complexity of the issue is too much to be explained adequately in this article. What can be explained is the hate me and other Jews are facing around the world.
I get you’re angry and upset about the losses of innocent lives that have occurred over the past years and the spark in the intensity in the past few weeks; I’m angry and upset too. But as a teenage girl from New Jersey, hating my religion is not going to help.
The Community Security Trust, which tracks the security of Jewish people in the United Kingdom, reported a 438% increase in antisemitic incidents in the two weeks immediately following the spiked hostilities. Four hundred and thirty-eight percent. People are attacking rabbis and Jewish people in the streets because they are Jewish — no other reason.
There is a difference between the Israeli government and Jewish people. Most Jews can’t call up Netanyahu and tell him to stop and just let Hamas fire rockets into Israel. Commenting “Free Palestine” on a TikTok of me at my brother’s bar mitzvah will not “free Palestine;” you are just attacking my religion.
Antisemitism is nothing new; it’s known as the oldest form of hatred. But just because it’s not new doesn’t mean it’s any easier to see.
It’s terrifying when Jews are being told to take down their mezzuzahs from their doors for their safety. It’s terrifying when the president of the United States’ administration tells Jews to stop wearing their yarmulkes if they want to be safe. It’s terrifying knowing that there are people out there who want you dead for no other reason than your religion. It’s absolutely terrifying seeing how close these people are to you.
The main thing that has stood out to me in this surge in antisemitism is how Jewish voices are being silenced more than ever. We’re being denied the right to say what is or isn’t antisemitic; non-Jewish people are deciding for us. Last year the American Jewish Committee did a study and found that 65% of people don’t care what Jews consider antisemitic. Seven percent disagree completely with what we say is antisemitic.
This needs to end. Nobody but me has the right to decide what should or shouldn’t hurt my feelings. And don’t tell me you didn’t mean for it to come off as antisemitic. You know exactly what you said; if you had even the slightest thought that your words could come off as hurtful, you shouldn’t have said it.
Rooted in this denial of what is or isn’t antisemitic has been the discussion over what’s antisemitism and what’s anti-Zionism. To me and many other Jewish people, there’s no significant difference. Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. About 97% of Jews are Zionists. Zionism is the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; it’s Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Denying Israel the right to exist denies Jewish people of the one place we can truly be ourselves. This has nothing to do with the Israeli government’s actions. Being a Zionist does not mean you support Netanyahu and the Israeli government. It means you support a Jewish state’s existence. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t support the Palestinian claims to land.
If you think it’s OK to single out Jewish people and reject their rights, check yourself. Your antisemitism is showing.
I’m asking you to stop and do some research before you post. I’ve seen so many infographics being reposted by teenagers with information that is completely inaccurate, yet it continues to be spread on social media. This false information is harmful to both sides of the conflict. It’s part of what is contributing to the rise in antisemitism.
I’m asking you to talk to your Jewish friends and ask about their experiences with antisemitism. The same study done by the American Jewish Committee found that one in three Jews are victims of antisemitism. If they haven’t experienced it themselves, chances are someone in their immediate family has. Take their experiences and learn from them.
I’m asking you to try and understand. Jews are 0.2% of the population. We’ve been persecuted so many times, yet we’re still standing. We just want to be able to live without fear.
Include Jews in your activism. It’s not equality if you pick and choose which minorities to fight for.
A terrified Jewish-American high school student
Leah Snyderman originally wrote this for “The Voyager,” the student news site of Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees Township, New Jersey.