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Growing Up, The Word “Hate” Wasn’t Part of My World

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: People participate in a Jewish solidarity march on January 5, 2020 in New York City. The march was held in response to a recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes in the greater New York metropolitan area. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 05: People participate in a Jewish solidarity march on January 5, 2020 in New York City. The march was held in response to a recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes in the greater New York metropolitan area. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Growing up, the word ‘hate’ wasn’t part of my world. I was just a curious kid, looking at life with wonder and no room for nastiness. But as I got older, life threw some twists, and suddenly, I was learning about hate.

Society taught me to dislike those who did terrible things, like murderers and dark-hearted people. I started disliking math tests and the sting of rejection, too. However, I never learned to hate innocent people. Even when some tried to erase my roots and culture because I was Jewish, I found strength in my community. That strength was stronger than the bad feelings.

My journey was about loving, understanding, and respecting others, all because of my Jewish identity. It became my shield, helping me rise above the ugly feeling of hate. In a world where some are taught to be mean, my upbringing made me promise to love, feel, and accept more.

But out in the world, a sad truth exists. Some children are taught to be vessels of hate from a very early age. They are raised to resent anyone different from themselves, contributing to problems like racism and sexism. This toxic teaching makes it difficult for them to accept anything that doesn’t fit their idea of normal.

In this world, some kids grow up hating my people – being told from an early age to wish for the destruction of the Jewish state and its people. Some are even trained how to use guns – not for protection but for violence. 

My education was different. I learned to appreciate my Arab neighbors, finding common ground despite our religious differences. The ongoing hatred between Gaza and Israel, as highlighted in a Time essay about how “Antisemitism Is on the Rise Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict”, underscores the deeply entrenched nature of these conflicts, where generations are often indoctrinated with animosity. Despite the pervasive bitterness, I remain committed to fostering understanding and unity, recognizing the importance of transcending the diverse narratives that perpetuate the ongoing hostility between communities. 

But here’s the tricky part—I, as a Jew, have become a target of hate. In a world where hatred is passed down like a family heirloom, I felt the sting of antisemitism in person. Wearing my Star of David necklace in Philadelphia, I heard hurtful words like, “All Israelis are terrorists; free Palestine.” This hate isn’t just about me; it is an immense dislike for sixteen million people. Recently, the prevalence of such antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments have escalated, a concept discussed in a blog post by the Anti Defamation League. The increased usage of inflammatory phrases reflects on a broader trend in the rise of hostility, highlighting the urgency of addressing and challenging these harmful narratives to foster understanding and promote tolerance in our diverse societies. This disturbing surge in hate speech stresses the need for concerted efforts to educate and raise awareness about the consequences of perpetuating stereotypes, as well as the importance of cultivating empathy to bridge divides and build an inclusive world for everyone, no matter their religion. 

So with this, I hid my star, tucking it away so people wouldn’t judge me. A wave of shame crept over me—a shame that made me keep quiet about being Jewish. Feeling that hate made me step back not just from my culture but also from myself.

But in this story, there’s a bit of hope—that even in the darkness of hate, love and understanding can win. Going through tough times made me stronger, and even though I hid my Star of David, I wasn’t defeated. I was taking a break to prepare for the next part of my journey.

Later on, I explored the unique parts of Jewish history and its culture, finding a deep well of strength that helped my people through tough times. Inspired by stories of bravery, I decided to wear my Star of David proudly, not to fight back but to show my pride.

In this rediscovery, I wanted to connect with others who saw things differently. Talking with people who had other views helped me understand more about the Gaza-Israel conflict. My commitment to love and understanding became like a light in the dark of hate.

As I went back into the world, proudly Jewish, I started talking about tolerance and understanding. My story changed from being quiet and ashamed to being strong and standing up. Once hidden because of other people’s mean thoughts, my journey became a story of how love, understanding, and our solid human spirit can overcome hate.

In addition to my experiences with hate and antisemitism, I also began to realize that being Jewish could evoke a sense of fear in my everyday life. The simple act of expressing my identity by wearing the Star of David became a potential source of anxiety. I found myself questioning whether it was safe to outwardly display my Jewishness, wondering if I might become a target for discrimination or hostility. The rise in antisemitic acts since October 7th, as reported by PBS, further intensified these concerns, highlighting the alarming escalation of prejudice that has permeated various aspects of society. This unsettling trend has not only affected my personal sense of security but also expresses the pressing need for broader awareness and concerted efforts to combat antisemitism on a societal level.

The fear wasn’t just about facing verbal abuse; it extended to concerns about physical safety. The rise in hate crimes against Jewish individuals and communities added an extra layer of apprehension to my daily existence. Synagogues and Jewish institutions had become targets for vandalism and violence, intensifying the unease that lingered in the back of my mind. This harsh reality hit even closer to home when I learned about the recent vandalization of a prominent NYC synagogue, reported in the New York Post. Such acts of vandalism not only desecrate sacred spaces but also contribute to an atmosphere of heightened vulnerability, emphasizing the urgent need for collective efforts to address and curb the alarming surge in anti-semitic incidents. 

This fear is a shared experience among almost everyone in my Jewish community. It was a reality we grapple with, knowing that our identity, heritage, and our religious symbols make us vulnerable. The need to be vigilant and cautious is an unfortunate aspect of navigating the world as a proud Jewish person.

However, despite this threat, my commitment to love, understanding, and tolerance remained unwavering. I sought to transform this fear into resilience, using it as a driving force to advocate for change and promote awareness about the challenges faced by the Jewish community. By sharing stories and engaging in conversations about the impact of hate and discrimination, I aimed to break down stereotypes and foster empathy – something that remains my main objective of writing this article as well.

As I continued to navigate the world as a proud Jew, my journey evolved into a personal triumph and a collective stand against prejudice. The fear persisted, but it became a catalyst for the activism and determination in which I contribute to the world – one where love and understanding prevail over hatred. 

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