December 6, 2023

There’s a purpose so many Jews can’t cease shaking proper now. The idea of intergenerational trauma doesn’t start to explain the darkish place into which this month’s assault plunged Jewish communities all over the world.

On Oct. 7, a Jewish vacation, Hamas terrorists went home to accommodate in southern Israel murdering and abducting kids and grandparents, pulling them from their beds, displaying victims’ useless our bodies on-line, in a bloodbath of not less than 1,400 folks. In not less than one occasion, terrorists have been reported to have uploaded a video of the homicide of 1 sufferer to her personal social media account for her household to find.

The sensation of deep dread that these atrocities stirred in Jews was horribly acquainted. That is what Jewish historical past has all too usually seemed like: not civilians tragically killed in warfare however civilians publicly focused, tortured and murdered, with the crimes placed on public show. Accounts of previous crowd-pleasing killings are folded into Jewish custom; each Yom Kippur, we recount the general public torture and execution of rabbis by their Roman oppressors in a packed second-century stadium. These historic tales are per the experiences of the extra quick ancestors of almost each Jew alive right now.

I’m not even speaking in regards to the Holocaust, which a number of of final week’s oldest escapees and victims additionally endured. (Way more Jews have been killed on Oct. 7 than on Kristallnacht.) No, I’m considering of the Farhud pogrom in 1941 Baghdad, a two-day rampage wherein a whole lot of Jews have been raped, tortured and murdered. I’m considering of the pogroms of 1918 to 1921 in Ukraine, wherein an estimated 100,000 Jews have been slaughtered in organized massacres, harking back to this month’s assault.

I’m considering of the lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia in 1915, after which the delighted crowd’s snapshots of Frank’s physique have been made into postcards mailed across the nation and items of his clothes have been bought as souvenirs. I’m considering of how many of the earliest books off Europe’s first printing presses have been in regards to the executions of Jews accused of blood libel and of a Tenth-century massacre of hundreds of Jews within the Spanish caliphate inspired by a poem calling for Jewish blood and of the paintings and illuminated manuscripts exhibiting Jews who have been burned alive by the Spanish Inquisition and in the course of the Black Dying — all crowd-pleasing occasions celebrated in fashionable media and artwork.

Even historic Romans celebrated their destruction of Judea by issuing commemorative cash that includes a sure Jewish lady and inscribed with the phrases “Judaea capta.” The humiliation and homicide of Jews have all the time made an incredible meme.

Many American Jews, like Jews all over the world, are descendants of those that survived. Our ancestors, in a technique or one other, have been those who both made fortunate selections or barely made it out alive from Lodz and Kyiv and Aleppo and Tehran.

For diaspora Jews, the current assaults weren’t distant abroad occasions. As was true in historic instances, the ties between world Jewish communities and Israel are concrete, particular, intimate and private. My New Jersey Jewish Federation has institutional ties with the southern Israeli city of Ofakim and its surrounding communities, sharing annual residence stays with a spot whose death toll from the assaults already exceeds that of the infamous Kishinev pogrom of 1903, wherein 49 Jews have been murdered. Thousands and thousands of American Jews, to not point out Jews in Britain, France, Australia and elsewhere, have mates and kinfolk in Israel. Even when Hamas hadn’t made it clear that they see all Jews as targets, our connection is private and all too actual.

We spent days desperately scrolling to study who amongst our acquaintances was useless, maimed or captive, connecting American hostages’ households with State Division contacts, attending panic-stricken on-line briefings and pooling sources and provides for victims — all whereas combating obtuse official statements from our personal cities, colleges, corporations and universities that refused to say the phrases “Israel” or “Jews” in referring to the biggest single-day bloodbath of Jews for the reason that Holocaust, lest some antisemite take offense on the existence of both.

Now we have tried to get our kids off social media, shielding them from photographs of the violence. We’ve held mass fasts, recited psalms and sung historic prayers for the rescue of captives. And as we collect by the hundreds regardless of our many contradictory opinions and regardless of the additional safety required for our gatherings even right here, now we have returned to the phrases of our ancestors which have carried us via hundreds of years: Be robust and brave. Select life.

Many people have been bodily carrying these phrases in the course of the weekend of the assault, celebrating Simchat Torah, a joyous vacation when congregations dance with Torah scrolls, learn the Torah’s closing phrases after which scroll again to the start to begin the e book once more.

As a baby, I discovered this baffling. Why learn the identical story time and again, after we already know what occurs? As an grownup, I do know that whereas the story doesn’t change, we do. What defines Jewish life just isn’t historical past’s litany of horror however the Jewish folks’s inventive resilience within the face of it. Within the wake of many catastrophes over millenniums, now we have wrestled with God and each other, reinvented our traditions, revived our language, rebuilt our communities and located new meanings in our previous tales of freedom and accountability, every story animated by the inconceivable and unwavering perception that individuals can change.

Proper now many people really feel trapped on this previous, previous story, doom-scrolling via photographs with horrible outcomes. However in our grief, I remind myself that every yr as we end the studying of the Torah, we instantly, at that very second — and in the mean time of this latest, oldest horror — scroll again to the story of creation and the invention of common human dignity. We recall, as soon as once more, that each human is made within the divine picture.

The story continues; we start once more.

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