Why My Star of David Necklace Continues to Collect Dust

 

*This article was written in March 2017 publication was delayed. In light of recent national events, it is still relevant, if not more so, today.

I thought I had left behind the real-life horror story back in my undergraduate days. I thought the days were over when I couldn’t make it to class because I had to defend my religion on my undergraduate campus. I cried and yelled in anger, held up signs, and literally stood for Judaism and Israel. During the past two years at USD, I felt confident that horror story was nothing but a nightmare I had outgrown. I never felt threatened and I could finally primarily focus on school, work, family, and friends. Recently, I discovered that a new chapter had been added to the horror story of my past.

The new chapter came in the form of an email from Donald Godwin, USD Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, on February 22. A swastika had been drawn in two locations on campus. As president of the Jewish Law Students Association, I spoke to my board and we immediately organized a safe space event for anyone within the USD community to share their fears and concerns. We had someone from the Anti-Defamation League speak to us about how to address this type of behavior on campus and how to implement preventative measures. I was very pleased with the event however I was further saddened by the concerns and fears I heard from students and faculty members. Given that the event was a safe space, I am unable to disclose those concerns. I can say that students and faculty members do not feel safe on this campus because we do not know what the next action will be against Jews or any other religion or minority.

The fear for our safety increases with each act of intolerance that has occurred in other locations throughout the nation. A mere week prior to the swastika incidents at USD, USC (University of Southern California) students experienced a swastika incident of their own. A T-shirt vendor was selling “Friends of the Swastika” t-shirts with the swastika symbol on campus. The vendor was immediately escorted off the USC campus. Since January, over 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish Community Centers (JCC) and schools across the nation and in Canada. Our very own JCC in San Diego had to escort elementary school children to a nearby school each time they received the bomb threat. Some of our law professors have children who were included in the group that was evacuated to the nearby school. During this wave of bomb threats, two Jewish cemeteries were vandalized within one week of each other. The fear is real.

I have heard various theories regarding the sudden increase in anti-semitic acts. Some people blame Trump. They argue that he doesn’t like Jews and that his presidency will have a disastrous effect on the treatment of Jews and on the US-Israel relationship. Trump supporters argue that Trump is a friend to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel. After all, Ivanka and Jared practice Judaism. I disagree with both of these theories. I argue that the most probable cause is that Trump’s path to presidency and ultimately, his infamous success, has reinvigorated many individuals in America, but I disagree that Trump is anti-semitic himself. The recent increase of anti-semitic acts fail to indicate a sudden spike of anti-semitic individuals. The anti-semitism has always been there but it has remained benign because it had no host. Trump’s presidency has given it life and anti-semitism is now cancerous.

I appreciate the steps the Trump Administration has taken to confront and address these nationwide acts. Similarly, I appreciate the emails USD has sent us in condemnation of the swastika incidents. But unfortunately, neither of these administrations is meeting my expectations as an Israeli and Jewish woman, a US citizen, and a USD Law student. Facing the problem means more than distributing a statement to let us know our community condemns these acts. Quite frankly, statements such as the one that USD submitted and the one Trump made while addressing the nation, are part of their duties. But what is also part of their duties is to investigate who committed the acts and to implement preventative measures. How do I know a more extreme act of intolerance will not occur at USD? What I can count on however is receiving an email beginning with “We condemn…”

During World War II, Anne Frank lived in hiding from the Nazis for two years. She wrote in her diary for those two years until her and her family were arrested by the Gestapo and eventually killed. Her diary went on to become one of the world’s widely known books. Her diary contains one of my favorite quotes, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” I truly hope that one day I will find the courage to wipe the dust off my Star of David necklace my grandmother gave me and wear it freely again without fear.

-Sharona Silver-

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