A change of plans

A change of plans

Sick all week with a mighty flu, I had plenty of time to think about my column. The topic had already been made clear to me: how I dislike graduations. There were so many good reasons, all of which I had spent a lifetime honing. I had resisted my own college graduation, which I wound up attending due to my late mother-in-law’s persistence. And I since have gone to many others, but never without bemoaning the crowds, the pomp, and especially the uncomfortable seating and long walks to the bathrooms. As a matter of fact, the best graduation ever was our granddaughter Maayan’s baccalaureate from Tulane, which took place mid-pandemic on Zoom in our West Orange backyard. It was a lovely spring day. The seats were comfortable and a choice of bathrooms readily available. And we didn’t have to shlep to New Orleans! It was a perfect graduation, and Maayan, as always, made us proud.

This week is again about Maayan. She is now being awarded a degree that affirms that she is now Doctor Maayan, a full-fledged dentist, with all sorts of awards to her credit and an acceptance to continue to an advanced degree in orthodontia. We are enormously proud of this amazing, industrious, newly married young woman, who has always striven to do it all and make it look so easy!

But the graduation ceremony itself holds less allure, and that was going to be my focus in the already written column about how we two ancients were going to shlep to the netherlands of far off Connecticut. (Storrs, anyone?) Clearly the flu wreaked havoc with our plans, and we had decided, for the health of everyone concerned, not to attend.

But, in truth, this week has been marred by much more than the flu. This awful week has once again raised the specter of far more ominous events than missing a graduation or dealing with the flu. This week has seen American Jew-hatred reach a new level. It’s terrifying and without an easy promise of a solution. I fear violence may come our way, and I know that hating Jews has become increasingly epidemic. Our defenders are few in number. This is a very alarming time in our Jewish history. And for all those of us who have grown up saying, confidently, that it could never happen here, think again. Listen and think again!

I presume no review of the recent events is necessary. Even those like our grandchildren in Kathmandu for the chag know very well about the major disturbances at our colleges and universities, especially our most prominent, illustrious, Jewishly endowed and attended colleges and universities. Columbia, our own dear Columbia, was the leader in the revolt that spread like wildfire throughout the nation. You could even say, with complete and compelling confidence, that the finer the school, the more overt and hateful and despicable the demonstrations. Like it or not!

It is as if Hitler himself took the podium and raised his voice to students without any challenge whatsoever. The brutality suffered by Israelis on October 7 has been forgotten, or forgiven, or ignored. Hamas has not become an evil name or word at all. The hostages have become mere postscripts, not causes, not victims. Israel has become an apartheid state, a mass murderer, out for vengeance with no moral compass. The world sees the world through glasses colored by its own hatred, its own Jew-hatred, which is always there, sometimes more subdued than at other times.

Again I wonder, why do they who hate us with such abiding, deep-rooted disgust yet persist in marrying us? How does this strange but enduring phenomenon persist? I have no answers to that perplexing question.

But I worry incessantly these days. Is it safe to wear Judaism on our sleeves anymore? Are our synagogues able to provide protection? What about our schools and community centers? We are already following the model of contemporary Jewish houses of worship in Europe, where armed guards are omnipresent. I recall witnessing that strange sight for the first time, many years ago, feeling very complacent because that America needed no such security. But now we clearly do. Our shul has taught us what to do for lockdown and where emergency alerts are and how to react in these holy spaces, which we have built to serve our communities as secure anchors but that are now red flags indicating where we are, who we are, and how concentrated we are in these revered sanctuaries. God forbid we should fear to go to pray here in America! God forbid!

We have felt so safe in this country throughout these past decades. We have fought for the rights of others, never imagining that we might become victims ourselves. We have always stood up for underdogs, never considering that we might be considered underdogs. We somehow thought that our advanced degrees and financial acumen might protect us. Wrong again. They are, as it turns out, resented, not respected. And our love for Israel has been twisted into a swastika. We are told we have dual loyalty and that Israel is a warmonger, seeking apartheid, a perpetrator of genocide. Genocide! Israel! Crazy of course. Really insane!

Clearly, those invaders of our academic centers are not frequent visitors to Israel. Many are not even students of those universities where they launch their sit-ins. But they have succeeded in fanning flames, an easy way to share hatred in these days of mass media and mass paranoia. Might they be shocked to learn how many Arab students share the campuses of leading Israeli universities? Might they be shocked to learn how many Arab doctors and nurses provide equal care to patients from Jewish or Christian or Muslim homes? This is not apartheid. This is living peacefully together.

I admit that I do not know what to do to solve this crisis. I am fearful that it will never be peacefully solved at all. It has grown so far so fast. Can anyone offer valid solutions? Anyone?

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of six. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was! She welcomes email at rosanne.skopp@gmail.com

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