I donate to dozens of charities every year, mentor young people, pay my taxes, hold the door open for strangers and, on a good day, I might even let someone merge into my lane of traffic. And every morning I wake up with the certain knowledge that 8,000 people would be happy to kill me.
I don’t know any of them, I hope, and I hope they don’t know me, but it makes no difference. I am a Jew and there is nothing I can do in life to annul their decree. I live in a state of grace, not the grace of a benevolent God but of a murderous horde.
If only a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of the world’s population would do the deed…and that’s not tough to imagine after watching all the pro-Hamas protestors flooding the streets over the past six weeks, my would-be assassins are legion.
What if I’m exaggerating, though? What if it’s only a tenth of a tenth of that number or a tenth of a tenth of a tenth? What is the right number of people who should be willing to kill you?
Reality is different for the Chosen People. We’re the smallest of minorities, but responsible for all the world’s ills. We’re capitalists and communists, rich and vermin, white supremacists who really aren’t white at all. We provide a rare source of agreement for both far left and far right, following very different paths to only one conclusion. We are the shmoo of bogeymen, used by the powerful to shift blame from themselves for more than 2,000 years.
Humans are tribal, defining our identities both in terms of shared traits and shared enemies. And when it comes to enemies, Jews are the perfect foil. We live everywhere, except for a number of Muslim countries where infidels are prohibited, and we are always a small minority. We’re only in the majority in Israel and—what a coincidence!!—millions of people demand not merely that Israel change its policies, but that it cease to exist.
(This is where I have to respond to the whatabouts I’m certain to receive. I am very concerned about Gaza civilians who had nothing to do with the attacks, even though I am aware that many of them would like Israel eradicated. That’s because it is morally consistent to value all human life, even the lives of people who disagree with you. This should not require saying, but...)
I know people who say they are anti-Zionist, not anti-Israel, but that façade drops off after about 15 seconds of conversation. Like the folks who start sentences with, “I’m not a racist, but…” the reality leaps out pretty quickly. We believe all women, unless they were raped by Hamas. We demand freedom for political prisoners, except those kidnapped by Hamas. We support gay rights, except when trampled by Hamas. We never blame the victim, unless they're victimized by Hamas. You get the idea. All over Chicago’s progressive neighborhoods, people have lawn signs that say, “Hate Has No Home Here,” but they need an asterisk: *Unless you're a Jew.
Antisemitism is part of the background noise for all Jews, sometimes a hum so quiet that it doesn’t even disturb the silence. More recently, it’s grown from static to signal and the message has been received. The aftermath of October 7, much more than the terrorism itself, is driving a new assessment of our roles and relationships.
What happens next? In terms of world opinion, nothing willl change. Whether the IDF provides guided tours of Hamas tunnels or all the hostages are returned or Israel vacates the premises again, almost everyone will believe what they believed on October 6.
In terms of world progress, though, the outlook has deteriorated. Jews have been consistent catalysts for minority rights, tolerance, and education, joining in and supporting the battles of non-Jews in a religiously and culturally driven mission to heal the universe. We’ve known what it means to be The Other and we’ve tended to support other Others in struggles that aren’t ours.
That support has included public statements, political coalitions, personal engagement and funding, and all of it is certain to decline as we absorb the antagonism of our supposed friends. We won’t be marching against anyone or calling for wanton slaughter, but the change is occurring already.
The arc bends toward justice, but it’s going to be bending more slowly now.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.