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January 24, 2019 By Rabbi Susan Silverman

Why Anti-Semitism on the Left Hurts Me More

Someone asked me incredulously if the anti-semitism on the left really upset me more/made me feel the need for a Jewish state more than the Pittsburgh. (And then went on to describe the evils of Israel.) Oh yes, yes, the anti-semitism on the left does hurt and scare me more. Not that it’s worse. Just in terms of how I feel able to function in the world, it is much more impactful.

Trump-types’ hatred of me means there are people I do not identify with who don’t want me. But when the people who are my refuge, who I want to make a home with me (meaning a home in the world), who I long to celebrate for and with when they succeed–when these people see me, Israel, Jews (except their approved Jews, maybe, relishing this potential division from each other?) as uniquely evil and worthy of being pointed out as so, Haman-style—whether we are relevant or not to the issue at hand—I fear that I have no home in the world at large. 

I will always, I pray, hold onto my values for human rights and justice and compassion and fight for them in the U.S. and in Israel, and many of those values are shared with these same people. But I fear they don’t want flawed but trying hard me, us—and in fact see us as worthy of more hatred, less deserving of existence, as anyone else in this world. As generations have not wanted us before, have seen our sins as the whole of us and uniquely powerful and cruel.

I guess I can understand, now, the disbelief we read about when Jews’ friends, neighbors, compatriots turned against us in the past. I always thought now is different. It’s not.

Please don’t respond to this with any unkindness. Right now I just need support. I don’t claim to be the first of anyone to feel this way. Or that people of other groups, especially People of Color, have not also felt this way forever, and I hope I have lived a life of empathy and sisterhood in that regard. But right now am so very heartbroken and afraid. 

Susan Silverman is a rabbi and founding director of Second Nurture: Every Child Deserves a Family—and a Community, an organization focused on the fostering and adoption of waiting children and teens. She is a co-founder of Miklat Israel, to protect African asylum seekers from deportation and to create a sustainable solution for dignified lives in Israel. She serves on the board for Women of the Wall and for the International Council of The New Israel Fund. She is the author of a memoir, Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World.  She and her spouse, Yosef Abramowitz, have five children and live in Israel. @rabbasusan

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.


  • Bobbi Zahra

    Sadly, you’re not alone with these feelings. I see you, I hear you – I could almost be you (sans ordination!). But while I believe that many of us feel like this, the fact that we speak about it reminds us that we’re not alone – we’ve got people to lean on, even when it’s from a distance.

  • el neuman

    This is fantastic. I feel exactly this way. Grateful I am not alone.

  • Debragene

    Thank you for speaking out about this. I am feeling the same disconnect with the left.

  • Iiari

    I feel very much as you do. It feels personally hurtful that progressive politics, which has always striven to protect the marginal and the vulnerable, somehow seems to no longer view us as such, or perhaps even care if we are in perpetual danger. Worse, it makes me wonder if the long held critiques of the left, that it only cares about “their favorites” and not everyone, essentially existing as a hypocritical mirror-image of the left’s own critiques of the right, have been true all along and I just haven’t seen it or ignored it. When Hilary Clinton spoke dismissively of the “deplorables,” perhaps that population is right when they allege that the left long ago stopped caring about them in the fashion that they are now stopping about caring about the Jews. We all have a lot of mirror-gazing to do here… Hopefully we left leaning Jews can learn from this to build a better political left, and one informed by our own hurt.

  • jake morson

    in the first sentence you use “the pittsburgh”
    then, 2 sentences later you alienate half the country by using the phrases “trump types”

    this article has a message i resonate with, but it managed to lose me in less than 60 seconds

    • MaineHeeb

      “Trump types” aren’t the audience. Comprehension is hard.

  • herbcaen

    If progressive Jews are forced to chose between Bibi and Farrakhan, they will pick Farrakhan.

  • valeriekeefe

    This is a really ciscentric and tone-policey column. Is it going to be considered unkind to express incredulity at being told one can’t respond to a seeming conflation of criticizing Likudnikism with criticizing Judaism?

    One would expect feminists to have an issue with a country saying those assigned a certain sex are not legally considered as capable of being raped as others… but I keep forgetting that there are the same disingenuous and privilege-driven claims on what feminism is as there are on what Jewishness is.

    Apparently that I’m hurt by that and my sisters are hurt by that and that that’s called solidarity is something my sisters and I are expected to take a back seat to… again.

  • Abelardy

    You are right! Left-wing anti-Semitism is so very dangerous because it’s respectable in polite society, and can therefore “mainstream” into America. Leftist anti-Semites have an honored place in the Democratic party, which puts them close to the centers of power. I used to be a member of the Democratic party, but I won’t rejoin until it purges itself of its bigots and anti-Semites (usually disguised as anti-Zionists).