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I understand and empathize with the existence of and right for a Jewish national state.
I cannot overlook the terrifyingly vast amount of anti-Semitism that exists worldwide and I recognize the Holocaust’s impact on making the establishment of a Jewish state a literal life-or-death necessity.
He fought the Nazis in Germany, receiving a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
On September 8, 1945, six days after World War II officially ended, my grandfather writes his dad a letter, wishing him a Happy New Year, telling him he attended services at the Munich opera house with two thousand other soldiers and refugees: “Yes Dad, I’ll long remember observing the high holidays in Munich, one of the centers of Hitler’s Nazism.” He also mentions the 55,000 displaced Jews still stranded in camps in Bavaria, and asks his father to send him not cash, but clothes, soap and toothpaste for those in need.
Of the dozens of rabbis I know personally and professionally, I knew Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow would have a meaningful perspective; I’ve always been inspired by his pulse on questions that concern vulnerability, authenticity and voice. This complicates and questions my authenticity and desire to speak out when I – an American Jew – am not inherently part of that space.
I explain to Avi that I recognize I’m part of a disembodied Jewish diaspora. Avi helps me realize that I keep blaming everyone else for making me silent – American Jews, right-wing Zionists, left-wing American activists.
“It’s not because of what people are telling you, it’s because of what you’re telling yourself,” he says. That’s the most important voice.” Chatting with Avi makes me want to talk to those who have consciously made the opposite decision, to be loud and as vocal as they can — people like Sara Sandmel, a Jewish educator and organizer with If Not Now, a movement working to end American Jewish support of the occupation.
I also get paychecks from organizations whose leaders are outwardly anti-occupation. Over the past six months, I formally interviewed eighteen people – American Jews, Israelis, Palestinian Americans, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, anti-occupation activists, Pro-Israel activists, Zionists, rabbis and others, in an attempt to understand this great lack of honest discourse.It could take years to explain, record, and understand all of this…However, I think that I’ve come to a general conclusion, for the present moment that is…I believe in God. While a lot has changed since that spring-break trip with my parents and siblings, I still don’t know what kind of Jew I am. I now write “G-d” without the “o” out of honor and respect. I bless my food when I eat, my hands hovering over the plate. As an internationally touring spoken word poet, activist, journalist, and educator, I have spent my life and career speaking publicly about being a rape survivor and about my decade-long eating disorder.