I'm Jewish And I’m Not Scared, Even If I Should Be

Tags: Antisemitism, Jewish Identity, Jewish Unity, Diaspora

By Becca Altschul

This is what has been going on in my brain since the Pittsburgh massacre of 11 Jews during Shabbat prayers on October 27, 2018.

When I was 5, I went to kindergarten after going to pre-k in my temple from ages 2-5. I was a minority for the first time in my life. I wasn't scared, I was proud to be Jewish.

When I was 8, all the other kids were taking communion in my school and I got asked when mine was. I politely said I don't do that because I'm Jewish. I got told that was "weird." I wasn't mad, I was proud to be Jewish.

When I was in the 5th grade, my class had just begun to learn about WWII and the Holocaust, something I had already begun to learn about in Hebrew school a year or two prior. As I was sitting at my desk in an English class, two boys kept walking behind me and whispering "Hitler, Hitler, Hitler" in my ear. I didn't cry, I didn't yell, I walked up to the teacher (who was also Jewish) and they got sent down to the principal's office. I was mad, and even more proud to be Jewish.

When I was 16 years old, I was taking a biology test when a boy 4 rows over from me dropped coins on the floor and as he was picking them up stated "look, I'm a Jew!" I stood up in the middle of my test and screamed at him as loud as I could as the teacher tried to send me out of the room. When I filed the report, 5 people were called down as witnesses. Only 1 stood up for me. I know the other 4 heard it. He was suspended for 3 days.

That same year, I performed a play with my drama class adapted by my very own Rabbi's wife. It was a play about a concentration camp and I had to wear a yellow star as a part of my costume. I was proud to be Jewish, but I was terrified all the same.

When I was 19, I was walking through my college campus late at night when I saw antisemitic hate speech written all over the chalkboards in the middle of campus. I reported it, I shared it, it was taken care of. I wasn't scared, my campus is actually a good place to be Jewish.

My temple used to be my happy place for so many years until I went to college and even still, it feels like home when I walk through those doors. It's crazy to me that I could potentially walk into the place I basically grew up in and not feel safe.

As a society, we have so much work to do. We need to learn how to say something when we see something. We need to learn how to love each other.

Even in all of those moments, even when I was screaming by myself, at least I was making a little bit of noise and I will continue to scream until something better is done for not just myself, but for everyone who needs a voice and all of the people who are hurting in this country because of who they are, what they look like, who they love, or what religion they practice.

When is enough enough?

I'm still proud to be Jewish, and I won't ever stop. I wasn't scared when I became the minority, when I was called weird, when boys were whispering Hitler in my ear, when I stood up and almost failed Biology, when I performed in front of the whole school wearing a star, when I saw the terrible graffiti on the chalkboards, and I'm not scared now even if I should be.

I send love and I sing mi shebeirach (the healing prayer) to all those who have been affected by this senseless tragedy. We'll do better for you.

About the Author

Becca Altschul
Becca Altschul is a current senior at Towson University in Towson, Maryland graduating this December with a Bachelor of Science in Family and Human Services. She is originally from Cedar Grove, New Jersey and has been a member of Temple Sholom of West Essex her whole life. Becca is incredibly passionate about human services and helping people and has aspirations to become a high school guidance counselor.

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Tags: Antisemitism, Jewish Identity, Jewish Unity, Diaspora