Let’s talk about #JewishPrivilege
[Editor‘s note: The following is a compilation of a series of Tweets by the author. Published with permission as a single essay.]
By Arynne Wexler
#JewishPrivilege is living hyper-aware of the inherited stereotypes and ancient prejudices the world holds for you.
It is the massacres of 1066 in Granada and the subsequent killings in London. It is the word ‘ghetto,’ whose origin is scarcely known today. That was the privilege of the government forcing Italian Jews into small quarters in a section of Venice in the early 1500s. It was emperors and official decrees across Europe restricting their Jews to the same segregation for centuries.
It is showing fierce loyalty to new countries and experiencing brief periods of safety, only to ultimately fall victim to persecution and expulsion, time and time again. It is contracts prohibiting the sale of homes. It is being banned from schools and professions and then being vilified for your work in the few industries in which you are allowed.
It is reading famous passages with your classmates from Shakespeare and Chaucer and paying no mind to their characters of the blood thirsty, child-killing Jew. It is the ever-present, ever-accepted blood libel.
It is reading tropes of Jewish stereotypes in classical Roman text that could be mistaken for something on Reddit now. Or perhaps found on a famous football player’s Twitter account.
It is being blamed for the Black Death in the 14th century. It is being blamed for a pandemic in 2020.
It is being held as hostages during a plane hijacking because you are Jews. It is the modern world watching as an Olympic team is slaughtered. It is a young journalist being captured and murdered on video, with his final words: ‘My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.’
It is seeing paintings that once hung on the walls of a Jewish home forcibly taken, now hanging in a museum. It is reading the plaque on the painting’s ‘history,’ only to see that story erased.
It is vandalism and intimidation. It is men covering their kippahs with baseball caps and women tucking in their necklaces with Jewish stars when they walk out onto the streets of Europe today. It is watching your kids have pennies thrown at them during school sporting events.
It is being a part of the world’s oldest hatred that is always in vogue.
It was my parents pouring over topographical maps in their youth, listening to war reports and wondering if Israel would still exist when they woke up.
It is not knowing your extended medical history. It is having what would have been your large family reduced to a memorial stone in the middle of a forest. It is not being able to identify the face of anyone in a photograph because every last person they ever knew was wiped out.
It is being told that ‘you don’t look Jewish’ and being expected to take it as a compliment. It is watching in horror as supermarkets, synagogues, cemeteries, schools, and community centers are attacked around the world. It is being told to be quiet in the face of every diminishing, dangerous comment and targeted attack.
It is the world thinking that the Holocaust was a rare tragedy entangled in a global war, when it was the culmination of centuries of persecution, scapegoating, violence, and murders launched against your community.
It is the privilege of almost never getting anything back that was taken, but starting new and rebuilding, yet again.
#JewishPrivilege is the erasure of our hard history and the shaming of our strength and perseverance.
It is gratitude for our righteous allies, who have refused to bow in the overwhelming face of pressure and are owed an equal measure for our continued existence.
It is the world thinking that you are not a minority, that your people have not been ostracized, oppressed, and demonized for thousands of years. That you have always been ‘powerful’ and ‘rich.’ That you control the media, which in the greatest of ironies, rarely if ever seems to defend you.
It is being tortured and converted under the Spanish Inquisition. It is the series of pogroms in Eastern Europe, the Farhud in Baghdad, the killing of black Jews in Ethiopia, the refuseniks being sent to the gulags in the Soviet Union. It is the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Yemen today.
It is every single generation of Jewish parents working to give their children everything they can. For so much of our history, that could only be knowledge, faith, and hope.
It is always upholding our community’s millennia-long tradition of Tzedaka (charity) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), regardless of our circumstance.
It is that against so many odds, through harsh stories far too numerous to share here, that I am free to be a Jew. To be almost free of fear.
So, do you think I feel privileged? You can bet I feel privileged.
That, my friends, is our #JewishPrivilege
Arynne Wexler is the Director of Strategic Markets at a Tel Aviv based tech company. She is a Birthright Excel 2013 Fellow and a Strength to Strength Young Executive.