BY: Deborah Levine-Powell – “The Soulful Wonder Chef”
I had not planned on writing about this topic this week, but, I felt compelled that I had to say something. I had to speak up, be vocal, be angry, be sad, devastated, and heartbroken. We say “Never Forget”. Do we mean that? Who will stand with you in these times of such hatred? I made a comment on a news feed on Facebook (see below). A vile person made a comment that really stung me. I have never been called a derogatory name in regards to my religion.
As a child growing up, I was pretty sheltered. I grew up in a Jewish community in Queens. We moved to Harrison when I was seven years old. I was one of a handful of Jewish children in my elementary school. My mom always came in during the December holidays and taught the dreidel game and made latkes. My friends all were curious about my religion.
We attended religious school and Hebrew school.
I always have said I never really faced any acts of anti-Semitism. But, as I sat and reflected this weekend I thought about the multiple micro-aggressions – albeit to the person may seem harmless, but in reality, can be deemed hurtful.
A micro-aggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities (whether intentional or unintentional), that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group- as defined by Wikipedia.
I am often told, “You don’t look Jewish”. Yet, throughout history Jews have been every race and have come from many motions. Judaism for me is a religion, a culture, traditions, family, food, and language.
The Jewish people have lived throughout the Diaspora making us uniquely diverse people.
I have always been proud to say I am Jewish, and talk about all the amazing parts of our culture.
I am also questioned about my level of “religiousness”. I am a deeply religious individual yet, I am not an observant Jew. No, I don’t go to temple every Friday night but, it does not make me any less Jewish than another.
I say all this because we as a population need to come together and be on the same page. We cannot have division.
I wept as I watched the news Saturday. I felt heartbroken for the loss of life. I was shocked, yet not surprised. There has been a steady increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, rhetoric, and acts of violence.
The Amcha Initiative; a group that investigates anti-Semitism on college campuses, reported that there were 287 incidents of anti-Semitic crimes, From January to June 2018.
As I talked about the horrific killing this weekend; I shared my fear with an acquaintance; that I saw at the store. She said, “aren’t you being an alarmist, it’s not like people are going to start going around killing Jews.” I wish I had said something really profound, but, I didn’t. I could only muster up this, “I hope you never have to feel the way I do right now”. I walked away. I wanted to say more. But, I thought to myself – “I wonder what people said in Europe when the Holocaust began?” I remember hearing stories from older relatives that American Jews, and Americans as a whole, really did not realize what was going on in Europe until it was too late.
I would love to tell you maybe I am overreacting. But, as my children asked me “are we safe?”; “why do people hate Jewish people?” “maybe they won’t come for us because we are mixed”, I don’t believe I am. I became so enraged at the thought that in 2018, living in America, my children would even have to question their safety, due to religion, is so devastating.
How can I as a parent put my anger and fear aside, so that I can be there for my children and help them to deal with the emotions they must be feeling in such a confusing time?
As a parent, our initial instinct is to protect our children. But, ignoring the acts of violence, and not having these open discussions, can breed fear. The alternative is that they will learn from other sources, which we do not have any control over.
I practice what I preach to clients, so I will share some ways in which I have chosen to handle the discussions;
- Be honest if you don’t the answer to something
- Don’t stop at one discussion. Make sure they know that this is an ongoing conversation and that they can always ask you questions
- Act on your beliefs – volunteer, get to know people of different races and religions
- Listen to hear and not to respond- often time’s kids are asking us one thing but, we make assumptions. Try to help them clarify, so that you can better understand what they are asking
- Educate your children, so that they are prepared for what they may encounter
I sat here deciding on whether or not to hit the send button for publishing. I decided to do just that.
I spoke from my heart and honestly feel so devastated that this happened. I pray for the community of Pittsburgh, I pray for our nation and I pray for the people who had to bury eleven relatives today.
Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking. She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager. When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.