September 11, 2001 marked a day of fear, disorientation and profound sadness for all Americans. Life as we knew it was suddenly altered. Since then, we have learned to live with its aftermath: color-coded terror alerts, heightened airport security and increased surveillance camera presence. We have become accustomed to the new post-9/11 “normal.” We may not be our pre-9/11 complacent selves but neither are we perpetually on the brink of panic. We take precautions, but we carry on.
September 11, 2014 presents similar challenges for Jews everywhere in the world. A wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel demonstrations has swept across every European country, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8. Daily reports of violence and defamation against Jews and Jewish property are impossible to ignore. The head of the Israeli-Jewish Congress, Vladimir Sloutzer, warned, “Never before since the Holocaust have we seen such a situation as today.” Such pronouncements are unnerving.
World Jewry is on edge, with good reason. This is not paranoia; to be anxious about the scope of this toxic hostility makes sense. There is a real and present danger in this anti-Semitic trend, and the relentless media coverage only increases our unease. Furthermore, there is the added complication of Israeli policies, politics and tactics with which not all Jews agree. However, disagreements with the policies of the Israeli government does not make us any more or less vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks.
How can we American Jews avoid being consumed by feelings of helplessness and victimization? How do we maintain inner calm and peace of mind in this turbulent time of vandalism and desecration?
The answers are as different as the individuals asking the questions. For some, engagement, action and protest lighten the weight. Many seek the support of community and discussion and the outlet of action. For others, turning a hopeful eye inward works.
We must find ways to cope as individuals and as a global community with this new fear, disorientation and sadness. If we let the enemy destroy our peace of mind, then they will have truly won.
This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on September 11, 2014.