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racism and antisemitism

I was going to post about my response to ibarw (International Blog Against Racism Week; visit the comm for links and discussion), and kept putting it off, because I get the sense that people's feelings are still rather raw, and goodness knows we don't need another round of "those Italians/Hungarians/Russians/Protestants/whatevers beat up my grandparents!" I think that IBARW is a good and useful thing, irrespective of how it makes me feel.

Now I'm in the situation where I think I ought to speak up about that. This is in response to a chain of posts which have something to do with that thing about bands playing gay on stage which (a) I do not know anything about and (b) I do not care anything about. As far as I'm concerned, what I'm talking about starts here, with a comment which I am going to come out and say is anti-semitic. chopchica, who I do not know at all, responds here. And finally technosage examined her own discomfort with discussions of antisemitism here.


One of the weirder things about being a member of what we call an invisible minority is the sense that you really are invisible: that honestly, the world would be a simpler and happier place if you simply didn't exist to mess up other people's world view, and that, if you insist on your existence, you're doing something rude. I didn't post this during ibarw because I didn't want to be rude. A lot of people I like and respect are involved in ibarw, and I think it is a good and important thing, and I didn't want to mess it up by insisting on imposing my perspective on it. But I feel silenced by IBARW, not because I don't usually talk about racism in my off-line life, but because I do; but when I talk about racism in these contexts, my experiences and understanding of antisemitism are considered relevant to the discussion, whereas in IBARW I'm not sure they would be welcome.

I think there are a couple reasons for this. The biggest, probably, is that a lot of the IBARW discussions are about white privilege, and American Jews are usually able to take advantage of this. I don't mean to belittle the importance of this: it's a very significant advantage. I would point out that being white and being Christian are not the same things; I don't think I can pass for Christian, although I've never tried. I don't know how relevant that is to most IBARW discussions, honestly, so I understand why the issue gets sidelined; being Jewish -- which includes not being Christian -- is pretty central to my own identity.

The second, and more insidious reason, is that I don't think antisemitism lives in the same places as other forms of racism (or, "as racism," if you want to draw a distinction between the two), which is to say that in my experience you never really know who's going to come out with an anti-semitic comment, and it often seems to me that antisemitism is a bit more acceptable on the left wing than the right wing, at least in the countries I've lived in. The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we." I sometimes get the sense that there is a certain amount of denial about this on the left.

I rather feel like I have taken my life into my hands writing that last bit.

And honestly, right now I also want to add that I am not going to discuss Israel in the comments to this post.

I should also make the point that the urge to pass is a strong one: why draw attention to your differences from the majority if you don't have to? And the answer is right there: because eventually, the majority will point them out to you anyway.

We used to joke about a family friend who thought there was an anti-semite hiding under every bed; more and more, the joke seems to be that there usually is.

I'm not sure where else to take this, except that I don't think that it's right that I feel silenced on this issue. And therefore, I am speaking. And that is probably why I will not lock this post.

My perspective may be a little odd. I grew up in San Francisco, which is not a very Jewish city, but which is a pretty tolerant place, and I went to an Ivy League college which was probably 20% Jewish, if not more. Most of my experiences with antisemitism have come while I lived outside the US, either in the UK or in Canada; some of it is just "Oh, aren't you exotic," some of it is the more disturbing habit of taking stereotype for fact. I usually blame anti-semitic comments made to my face on ignorance rather than ill-will. One of the reasons I would like to move back to the US is that Jewishness feeds into my feeling of being alien in both Canada and the UK; visiting New York this summer, a city I have lived in for about ten months total, was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders. I have a lot of issues about Judaism, and my Jewish identity, but they're my issues: my identity isn't going anywhere, while I work them out.

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The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we." I sometimes get the sense that there is a certain amount of denial about this on the left.

That's a very good point. But could you unpack the bit about there being more anti-semitism on the left than the right?

I've had relatively little exposure to blatant anti-semitism, other than a bizarre conversation with a boyfriend of a roommate--he was astonished that I was Catholic, because, he said, "But Jesus was a Jew!". (@@ -- I'm still not sure he got the fundamental logical fallacy there, as Christianity is in many ways responsible for anti-semitism to begin with.)

Anyway, I thank you for this post. I think Chopchica's post was spot-on, and I think it's vital to remind people that to be Jewish is both a religious and a cultural/racial identity, which omg complicates things immensely.
But could you unpack the bit about there being more anti-semitism on the left than the right?

I think that sometimes support for the Palestinians on the left may create an atmosphere in which people feel that it's acceptable to make anti-semitic comments. I think that this may be more prevalent outside the US than inside it, although I have heard anecdotal evidence for Jews feeling excluded from e.g. anti-war events in the US.

And thanks.
Thank you for posting your crunchy thoughts on this.

I'm sort of swimming inside my own head right now, after reading your words and the words of those to whom you linked; there they were, a lot of my own thoughts, written by others with a reluctant hand, and I keep thinking "YES, yes, that's it exactly."

Marrying a Christian (by both upbringing and surname) and working for the nuns has pushed me back into my "passing" behavior far further than I'd even realized. I used to have to do it growing up -- I was routinely beaten on the school yard every Easter, and charmingly renamed "Christ Killer" throughout -- being part of such a small minority there made "passing" a necessary evil whenever possible.

When I moved to the Chicago area, it was like coming to a home I never knew I had. I was of course terribly lonely, having no history here, but the sheer number of Jews and the prevalence of Jewish culture in certain parts of the metro area, and the ability to actually earn money by singing in a synagogue -- these were all awakening experiences for me, and I pulled myself out of that old behavior and felt comfortable for the first time in my life just being myself.

My husband isn't a religious person, and my in-laws are nothing but sweet, and the nuns don't mind that I'm a heathen, but I've found myself burying my Jewishness in an effort to both fit in and move ahead. Because when I was a little "too" Jewish, the boss would constantly make a point of mentioning it in groups, as if to indicate how very welcome and included I was.

I spent seven months looking for a content guy for our website, and when I finally found just the right person, he turned out to be Jewish. Like, New York, worked for the national synagogue organization Jewish. And let me tell you, I was PARANOID. Paranoid that all my colleagues would mutter behind my back about how we only hire our own kind, and how I was trying to subvert the Catholic mission or whatever, despite the fact that my boss had met with at least a dozen prior candidates and agreed that they weren't suitable. I'm still paranoid about it. And when this guy is openly, unabashedly, proudly Jewish, it shames the living hell out of me.

Truly, I don't know how to behave anymore. I stay quiet, and I swallow my annoyance at MONTHS of enforced Christmas and Easter everywhere I go, and I am forced to listen ad nauseam to right-wing lunatics who manage to get on the public airwaves and complain that my mere trickle of a minority is attempting to DESTROY CHRISTIANITY through our powerful media empire and by trying to outlaw Christmas, and I get dizzy and lost in all of it.

I don't like Secret Santa, but I do it if everybody else is, and I don't complain about it. I don't want to listen to Christmas carols, thanks. Sang a ton of them in school, and I'm good, really. But they play and I deal with it. When Bush was inaugurated in 2001, he was sworn in after a blessing "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," and BOOM, I was completely and utterly disenfranchised from my own government. Christian Dominionism is growing, and it scares the living shit out of me.

Gah. I have no idea how to think about this. But thank you for bringing it up. I too felt like I had nothing useful to contribute to IBARW, but felt concern about anti-semitism (particularly online, which is both common and horrifyingly blunt) poking at the inside of my brain.

I've been pondering a new fic series featuring an openly Jewish protagonist, but I've been resisting; partly because I was afraid of the cries of "Mary Sue!", but also because i know how crazy fandom can get about religion. I still want to write it, but I think I have to immunize myself against the lunacy before I try. I suppose it helps that I'm utterly obscure and nobody will read it anyway. ;-)



This is definitely a kick in the tuches that I needed. Thank you for bringing up the subject, and thank you for the very thought-provoking links.
I've been pondering a new fic series featuring an openly Jewish protagonist, but I've been resisting; partly because I was afraid of the cries of "Mary Sue!", but also because i know how crazy fandom can get about religion.

I have been thinking of this as well, but am of two minds for the same reason. And of course, I've been writing pretty slowly anyway these days.

My husband isn't a religious person, and my in-laws are nothing but sweet, and the nuns don't mind that I'm a heathen, but I've found myself burying my Jewishness in an effort to both fit in and move ahead. Because when I was a little "too" Jewish, the boss would constantly make a point of mentioning it in groups, as if to indicate how very welcome and included I was.

Ugh. My in-laws, too, are extremely sweet, but sometimes it feels like being a bug on a slide. I know they're only trying to make sure they don't accidentally offend me, but still. And yet at the same time I'm just as suspicious of other Jews, who I'm sure are secretly judging me for my bacon-eating and marrying-out. Most of the time I don't know what I think.

I'm doing a lot of flailing around here myself.
It's not like you to post on such a volatile/sensitive/personal topic, but I'm so glad you did. The post and links make for fascinating reading. I'm embarrassed to say how utterly oblivious I often am (as a non-Jew) to possible Jewish perspectives, until someone comes out and articulates them (although the original anti-semitic comment you link to is bad enough to make any decent person wince). The IBARW is a case in point. Did the issue of anti-semitism even cross my mind in that context? No. I also remember running into you in Oxford one December and you making a passing remark on how much more insensitive the UK is than the US when it comes to assuming the universality of Christmas. I had never noticed it before, but since you mentioned it, it's been so glaringly obvious to me every year that I don't know how I ever failed to notice it in the first place.

The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we."

If so, then it's a "we" that NEEDS to be fractured.



Well, I think we all have things we're oblivious to -- until someone else comes along to point them out, and then we feel embarrassed. I think one of the useful things IBARW does is perform that function for a lot of people in fandom, myself included. And I understand why the kinds of conversations people can have are limited, there, but I still find it oppressive.

And thank you for commenting.
I had a hard-copy post (i.e., something I was scribbling in a notebook in the wee hours, when I could bear to think about it) back during the first IBARW about this. Primarily about how 'being able to pass' feels at times like I'm being...it's more than being 'ignored,' it's being 'deliberately not thought about.' Because there IS the sense of 'don't you dare protest; it's not the same! Go away now, you who have nothing to truly complain about' that comes from all sides. Sometimes I honestly do think I'd rather be obviously Not The Same, because it's also about how it twists something hard inside me every time someone assumes that I am some form of Christian -- something that's happened a gazillion times in a gazillion ways, without any thought at all that it might be otherwise, and makes me feel like I simply don't exist. And about how that twist turns into nausea when it's something said without thought by someone who damn well knows that I am not. It doesn't matter that more often than not, it's not done with deliberate intent to harm; what matters is that it's completely unconscious on their part, and that I don't feel like I am allowed to say, "Wait. Don't do that."

I grew up in possibly the most Jewish town on the East Coast outside of NYC, a town that gave us the first day of each High Holiday off from school because there would be that many students missing if they didn't. I grew up in a Reform temple, and am at the point where I consider my Judaism to be more cultural than religious. I've never had anyone call me a name outright. The only time/place I had people tell me Jew-jokes or make "oh yeah, well, he's a JEW" type comments to me (knowing that I'm Jewish) was while living in and around DC. I spend much of my LJ energy in December gritting my teeth and staying quiet, because I feel like it's a place that I SHOULD feel comfortable speaking up about how extremely uncomfortable I am, and yet I actually feel like I'd be glared at and waved off faster than I have been when I've attempted to speak up offline. I...have too many other thoughts, and I've only ducked online to check my e-mail, and what little time I have was so not meant to be spent on this, but screw it. I'm tired of being silent on just about everything that matters to me, so, yeah. It's not the same. But it's not nothing, either.
I'm tired of being silent on just about everything that matters to me, so, yeah. It's not the same. But it's not nothing, either.

Yes, I was getting tired of being silent -- and feeling silenced -- about this issue, and that post was what I needed to get me to not be silent. I grit my teeth through IBARW, and then decided it wasn't worth making a fuss about, but it turns out that it was.

...because it's also about how it twists something hard inside me every time someone assumes that I am some form of Christian -- something that's happened a gazillion times in a gazillion ways, without any thought at all that it might be otherwise, and makes me feel like I simply don't exist.

This bothers me more at some times than it does at others; especially living outside the US you just have to kind of accept the fact that everyone thinks everyone else is Christian, and that the people who aren't should just shut up about it. But I do reserve the right to wish people a Happy Hanukkah when they wish me a Marry Christmas, because I like to see their expressions.
The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we." I sometimes get the sense that there is a certain amount of denial about this on the left.

I'm running back out the door, but earlier today some friends and I were saying exactly the same thing while discussing the posts you linked, and I am totally in agreement with you on this point... And I think what you say is partly why I feel like the antisemitism discussion might have the potential to get uglier than the discussions about race, but I'm still extremely glad you posted and I relate to a lot of this, so, thank you!
And I think what you say is partly why I feel like the antisemitism discussion might have the potential to get uglier than the discussions about race...

Yeah, that fear is what has kept me quiet on some of these issues, and because a lot of it is stuff I do not want to discuss with people on the internet -- so I'm glad that the post made sense to you.
Regarding the comment When Bush was inaugurated in 2001, he was sworn in after a blessing "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christian Dominionism is growing, and it scares the living shit out of me. can I just say that it scares the living hell out of me too and I'm neither American nor jewish. By the time "The West Wing" was over I was furious with it for how much the "good guys" screwed the minorities over with their behaviour and how NOBODY called them on it (except once or twice in the early episodes). It put me off the democrats completely. Normally I don't read the fandoms to know if/how much it was noted there.

I can understand the urge to pass as what ever the majority is. IMO That is not so much about race or religion as a desire to fit in and be like everyone else. Of course there is also the desire not to have to explain the fact that you ARE different every time you open your front door too.

In (http://technosage.livejournal.com/200493.html?thread=4050477#t4050477) one commenter states "One thing that frustrates me in discussions about race and power and the things that attend is that so many privileged white people in fandom (and really, in, you know, the world) are reluctant to really engage because they somehow feel that their privilege precludes their opinions." And I would agree. But for completely other reasons from their next sentence. I feel like because I am white my opinion doesn't count. I didn't even feel entitled to go reading ibarw. If I agree, it is of no importance and if I disagree, it is just more proof that white people are bigots, especially me. I read the links but left no comments despite wanting to on several occasions.

I am all for ending discrimination. But I want to stop putting labels on it - Antisemitic, racism, sectarianism, homophobia etc. To me, labeling is a way of reinforcing the differences. I've never met anyone who fit into one of the boxes that could be used to identify them. Discrimination is discrimination. People have died for every difference under the sun. Should we not stop arguing about whether it was one kind of discrimination or another?

Discrimination needs to be flagged when we see it - but do we have to put it in a box and label it as a specific kind?

I know it must have been hard to write this entry and I want to thank you for having the nerve. In the past I have phrased myself badly and ended up saying things I didn't mean or meaning things I didn't say or.. So I hope I have expressed this clearly and not given offence. None is intended- I'm trying to understand and learn.
didn't even feel entitled to go reading ibarw. If I agree, it is of no importance and if I disagree, it is just more proof that white people are bigots, especially me. I read the links but left no comments despite wanting to on several occasions.

I think that's a real pity. But I agree with you that lots of white people feel that way. When I taught literature at a big, very ethnically diverse American university, several of my colleagues (white lefty liberal types) told me that race was one topic they deliberately avoided discussing in their classes, especially among lower-level students, because it was such a can of worms and they felt it wasn't worth taking the risk of offending anyone. I heartily disagreed. Even if I am a privileged white person, I think it is better to talk about race and run the risk of putting my foot in my mouth rather than not confront the issue at all. I believe that holding conversations (ideally, anyway) is how people learn things.

I'm not sure why you thought I wouldn't agree. This is an excellent and provocative post.

I agree wholeheartedly that there's as much anti-Semitism on the left as the right, though I don't think I'd say more. I support Palestinians, I'm not a Zionist, but I also support Israelis and Israel so long as we're not talking about the current policies of the state.

I actually think that a lot of anti-Semitism on the left comes from within, and that there's a lot of people like me who mean what I mean when they say they're not Zionists but end up saying or getting sucked into saying things like "the entire idea of Israel is racist" blah. I'm not sure I'm making my point effectively, but I mean to agree.

I also agree that Anti-Semitism thrives in an entirely different space as racism against POCs. Pretty much everyone knows it's just not okay to call someone a "nigger", but "he's such a Jew" doesn't even register. It's not considered racism or even anti-Semitism by people who I generally consider right-thinking people. Because the stereotypes are still accepted as true, because in many cases perhaps they are true, because oh what can it possibly hurt they have all the money and power anyway, ad nauseam.

It's just...people aren't trained to think about it the same way. The issues aren't the same. And, it's difficult to talk about anti-Semitism in race-related discussions because... *sigh*

Do you have any idea how hard it is to say "my mother forced me to go to the country club which I loathed because it was the only one in the city that let Jews in and the only one where my father who was chief of surgery and a pro-am tournament golfer could get a tee time without having someone else book it for him" in the midst of a conversation about water fountains, public utilities, and getting loans? It really isn't the same thing at all on the one hand, but on the other, hi, I need to tell you that "you'll go because they're the only ones who don't hate you" is still a really fucking painful way to learn what it means to be Other.

By you, I don't mean you of course, because I strongly suspect you DO know and know precisely what I'm saying. But I think that you idea that the spaces of anti-Semitism are different is bang on. It happens in board rooms and country clubs and business meetings and polite dinners and left liberal fundraising events and in different ways in right fundamentalist gatherings. It happens in churches, it happens every time a Mormon likes me because I'm one of the Lost, it happens every time the only Jew on a show is a small dweeby smart guy with a momma complex and a martyr streak...

Some of the spaces overlap, but they're not the same.

/spooge

Sorry. I hope that's responsive. =/
It's not considered racism or even anti-Semitism by people who I generally consider right-thinking people. Because the stereotypes are still accepted as true, because in many cases perhaps they are true, because oh what can it possibly hurt they have all the money and power anyway, ad nauseam.

This is one of the things that I hate the most, the way people can go straight from Jews to money, in about two seconds flat, and not even realize how offensive they're being. They smile at you like they've said something nice, like you should be pleased with them. And yes to the way these stereotypes are all over.

...and that there's a lot of people like me who mean what I mean when they say they're not Zionists but end up saying or getting sucked into saying things like "the entire idea of Israel is racist" blah...

I think you're giving people more credit than I do, here, although I'm sure you're right that some people end up saying things that they wouldn't mean if they thought about them -- but then, it bothers me that they can say these things without thinking about them, and often without being called on it.

I agree that it's hard to insert your (our) own experience into discussions of racism, especially of racism in the US, and that it isn't appropriate in every context, but... You know, sometimes it does have to be said, just to keep from being overwhelmed in the discussion.
Thank you for posting this.

I've got nothing in the way of response, really - I'm still parsing things out - but I wanted to thank you.
Thank you for listening, and for commenting.
I'm sorry--I hate to hear that you're feeling silenced on this issue. I'm glad you posted. Thank you.
Well, as Vee always says, you're only as oppressed on the internet as you make yourself. A lot of this is to do with my issues, and also not wanting to rock the boat re IBARW, which a lot of people I respect care deeply about.
I grew up with white Protestant American parents and I am horrified to say that the expression "to jew someone down" was an everyday element of our vocabulary. So much so that I honestly thought it just meant "to try to get a seller to lower their price" without even reflecting that "jew down" had any relation to Jew. It wasn't until I got to university and used the expression in front of my now-husband and watched him turn pale and go, "WHAT did you say?" that the anti-semitic origins of the phrase dawned on me. Needless to say the words haven't crossed my lips since.

I'm not defending myself or your guy. I just think it's unlikely he was trying to be witty. More likely, he was using a phrase he complacently assumed to be a neutral one. I hope he realized why you walked out of the mall, but sorry to say, I doubt he did. Never underestimate people's stupidity.
Thank you very much for this post.

and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we."

I feel very similarly about IBARW, and similarly silent/silenced. I never know how to talk about race as just another white privileged person, because I'm not coming from just that place. I'm also coming from a disabled person place. So it's nice to feel not alone on that.

and it often seems to me that antisemitism is a bit more acceptable on the left wing than the right wing, at least in the countries I've lived in.

I had often wondered if this was a feeling some people had-- it's interesting to hear I'm not crazy for thinking it.



I imagine that it must be incredibly difficult for you not to talk about disability, because it's also something which people see right away when they meet you, and it determines how they act toward you to what I imaine must be a shocking extent.

Perhaps we should have an "International Blog about all the things we don't talk about during IBARW Week" right after IBARW!

I had often wondered if this was a feeling some people had-- it's interesting to hear I'm not crazy for thinking it.

Well, in some countries,if you're onthe left you must automatically oppose the US and also Israel, and it is unfortunate that that sometimes creates an atmosphere in which people feel free to make anti-semitic and anti-American comments.
I... completely skipped the bandom crap. Sorry.

I do think, though, that privilege of all stripes deserves its showcase/ritual stomping upon, and I can see the wafflitude over whether IBARW is the right place for a privilege that is not overtly or visibly or exclusively (or at all, depending on whom you ask) racial. Anti-Semitism deserves to be stomped on somewhere, though.

One of the things I noticed in this year's IBARW round was that it's explicitly not (only) about the US and its persistent black/white binary -- both that binary and the US focus are being exploded, intentionally. So if IBARW was not originally started with anti-Semitism in mind, that doesn't mean it can't become part of the whole megilla. (So to speak.) Actually, this year, one of the few posts-by-strangers that stuck in my head was one very depressing post by a fan in Poland, who described how she felt a zillion miles away from the "there's no racism here" crowd, because she still heard racist (in which category she included shocking anti-Semitic stuff, I mean especially considering this is Poland, hello to the recent history lesson) language all the time, in pop culture and ordinary speech, and didn't know where to start.

Short version: bandom crap: thumbs down. Vanzetti: thumbs up. Open discussion of issues despite the likeliness of their becoming shirty in the wrong hands: thumbs up.
I do not even understand the bandom thing. Seriously. My attitude to it is, whatever, let me know what you all decide.

So if IBARW was not originally started with anti-Semitism in mind, that doesn't mean it can't become part of the whole megilla.

Maybe; I think there is a sense in some circles that it is a subset of white people's issues, and thus doesn't have a place. I agree that it was great that there was less of a strict focus on the US this year, but I also recall there being a certain amount of misunderstanding going on.

So far there has been very little shirtiness, for which I am grateful.
I guess that one of the tenets of IBARW has to do with ensuring that a discussion of x isn't derailed into a discussion of y--the co-opting thing--lest x lose conversational validity. I can see that, but it's not as though related concerns are 100% differently merely because they don't turn primarily upon color.... For that reason, amongst others, thanks for posting this.
I guess that one of the tenets of IBARW has to do with ensuring that a discussion of x isn't derailed into a discussion of y--the co-opting thing--lest x lose conversational validity.

I do understand that, and don't think it's invalid, but I think it may have some unfortunate effects.
I don't know you either, but I love you so much right now. I wish I could go and respond to every single point you made and all of the amazing comments you've gotten, but all I can say is yes, yes, yes, I feel the exact same way and I silenced myself for so long for the exact same reasons, and I *hate* that we have to feel like that.

I'm so glad you didn't lock. I'm so glad about all of the posts I've seen today.
I don't think I would ever have gathered the nerve to make this post if I hadn't seen yours and technosage's first, so I really should be thanking you for that. And I've been really overwhelmed by the response here, and the responses I've seen in your post and elsewhere.

So thank you for posting, and for not locking it either.
I don't have much in the way of reply other than to say "thank you"... I appreciate reading your thoughts on the subject, and I'm glad you took the time to post them.
Thank you for listening (or readings -- whatever!) and for commenting to let me know. That really does mean a lot to me.
I don't know you either, but chopchica told me to come by, and I'm so glad I did.

I've made a few posts on this subject myself, one or two for IBARW, and it's so so lovely to see other people out there, talking about it. We'll all just fumble our way through together, shall we?

Nice to meet you. :)
Hi! Nice to meet you as well! And I certainly feel like I'm fumbling my way along here. I have enough issues about my identity, and how I relate to Judaism, that it's very scary to be doing any of this in public.

Is someone making a list of posts coming out of this discussion? I've seen yours, and the ones I've linked to above, but that's it, and I get the sense that there are more.
One of the reasons I would like to move back to the US is that Jewishness feeds into my feeling of being alien in both Canada and the UK; visiting New York this summer, a city I have lived in for about ten months total, was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders.

- yes, I totally get that. My mom has this ingrained fear of wearing t-shirts or carrying bags with Hebrew on them whenever we're not in Israel. I met a few tourists from New York here last year, buying "Super Jew" t-shirt souvenirs. I asked them if they were going to wear them out in public, and they didn't even understand the question, because it was obvious that yes.

I should also make the point that the urge to pass is a strong one: why draw attention to your differences from the majority if you don't have to? And the answer is right there: because eventually, the majority will point them out to you anyway.

...and that is so, so right. I'm glad you didn't lock this post too.
My mom has this ingrained fear of wearing t-shirts or carrying bags with Hebrew on them whenever we're not in Israel. I met a few tourists from New York here last year, buying "Super Jew" t-shirt souvenirs. I asked them if they were going to wear them out in public, and they didn't even understand the question, because it was obvious that yes.

Isn't it funny how we have this ingrained fear? And it can be so difficult to explain it to people who didn't grow up learning that kind of response. What I love about New York is just standing on the street and thinking people like me made this what it is. I mean, obviously, so did lots of other different types of people, but we were right there with them. It's so different from living in the UK, or where I live now in Canada, where you feel like you're there on suffereance. (That feeling is the reason that, whatever the political situation and my opinion about it, I will always identify as a Zionist.)
Just stumbled by from friendsfriends. I've had a hard time articulating what made me uncomfortable about IBARW, why it made me feel silenced, and you've articulated it better than I could have. I appreciate that you and chopchica and others are discussing this, and seeing it is empowering and uplifting even as it reminds me of everything that we all still need to work on. So: thank you for posting this.
Thank you so much for commenting.

I don't want to disparage ibarw. I think it's important and does good work, and I know that I'm only as silenced as I let myself feel. But I think that there are a lot of issues which make me reluctant to talk about anti-semitism, and that it's important to at least start the discussion.
I'm very glad you posted this. Other than smacking down anti-Semitism when we see it, is there anything else non-Jews can do to make the internet community a more comfortable place for people to discuss/explore/celebrate Jewish issues? Because Judaism is awesome; it has so much to offer -- morally, spiritually, philosophically, however you want to put it. And while many Americans have a basic acquaintance with some of the outward manifestations (Hanukkah, keeping kosher, etc.), they kind of assume that what goes on inside is just "Christianity-lite", as it were.

Judaism isn't on my LJ interests list and it's not something that I bring up in potentially relevant discussions, because I'm not entirely sure that it's my place to do so and I don't want to offend actual members of the faith. Compare it with Buddhism, for example: enough prominent Buddhist leaders have made it clear that they're happy for Westerners to engage with Buddhist philosophy in whatever way and to whatever extent makes sense to them, that I have no problem sharing my dilettante opinions on the subject (even though there are probably thousands of monks across Asia gritting their teeth and thinking "OMG stop encouraging the poseurs!" every time Thich Naht Hanh publishes another book). But I'm not sure that there's a role for that kind of isolated dabbling in Judaism, because so much of the faith is relational, grounded in one's commitments to God [hmm, would not spelling the word out be respectful, or would it make me look like a poseur?] and to the community of Jewish people. It's not clear to me where an appreciative non-Jew ought to fit in that framework.

And one last anecdote about anti-Semitism: it is the only form of prejudice that my grandmother ever lectured me against. Not that I personally needed this lecture (every guy I ever dated was Jewish, until Andy), but she was very determined that no descendant of hers was ever going to support or allow anything like the events of the Holocaust again. She was just in high school during WWII -- it's not like she could have personally done anything to help the two Jewish families in her village when they were arrested and deported, but to her dying day she felt like it was a huge moral failure on her part that she didn't question it or object or protest or *something*. I think many of her friends had a similar evolution in their thinking, which is why they were all similarly shocked when they went back to Latvia after the Soviet travel restrictions eased up, and found that their friends and relatives in the old country hadn't progressed *nearly* so far.
I am going to have o think about some of the things you say and questions you ask here, because I'm not sure what I think about them. I mean, I hate for you to feel like you can't express an interest in Judaism, but at the same time I think that there's something... I don't know, distasteful... about the kind of multiculturalism where people pick and choose elements from religions like Buddhism, often without making the effort to see the whole picture. Which I'm sure is not what you would be doing, but is an unsettling phenomenon sometimes, at least from my perspective.

I do want to just say thank you, though, for sharing that anecdote about your grandmother, which is one the one hand so sad, that there was nothing she could do, nothing she knew how to do, but also so heartening that she took that loss and tried to pass it on to you as something to build with, something constructive. I may not be saying this well, but I think it's an amazing story.
Thank you for posting this. Like you, this is something I thought about a lot during IBARW, but didn't feel comfortable bringing up.

I was born in the Soviet Union, back when there was one. My birth certificate lists my ethnicity as Jewish. Kids in school sang anti-semitic jingles at me and a large number of parents in my apartment building forbade their children to play with me. My mother and her female friends reminisce about going to job interviews and being asked if their maiden name was "any better" -- meaning, less obviously Jewish -- than their married name, because the interviewer wanted to hire them, but didn't want to get into trouble for hiring a Jew when non-Jewish candidates were available. People were -- and still are, in today's Russia -- beaten up in the streets for "looking Jewish."

After all that, it almost seems churlish to live in a country that's given me so much acceptance and opportunity and to bitch about the naming of holiday fic exchanges or the people who insist on wishing me a Merry Christmas when I'd really rather they didn't. But these things are part of a larger pattern that can be really hurtful and marginalizing.

When I was an undergrad in NYC, my college's alternative paper -- well known for its progressive liberal views -- reviewed an exhibit of paintings by a little-known Russian-Jewish artist at the Jewish Museum. The reviewer loved the paintings, but spent very little space discussing them. Most of the review was devoted to complaining about how tragic it was that such an excellent artist was being exhibited at the Jewish Museum rather than the Met or the MOMA or one of the other "general" museums where anybody (rather than mostly Jews) could come and see him. It just went to show, the reviewer wrote, how Jews considered themselves superior and insisted on keeping themselves apart.

The arts editor of the paper was sincerely confused by my complaint about that review. Just... total blank incomprehension. The best he could manage after my lengthy tirade on why it was offensive was "Oh, that's not anti-semitic, that's just stupid."

I wish I felt more comfortable talking about this, as well as about my experience being a Soviet immigrant in the US at the height of the Cold War, when "Commies" were viewed much the way terrorists are viewed now. But I kind of feel like there's no place for such discussion in fandom. Even if I did it outside of IBARW and separately from the other discussions about race, there's this sense that it would be viewed as either appropriation or as an attempt to divert discussion away from the "real" problem. And... I really wish it wasn't like that.

People were -- and still are, in today's Russia -- beaten up in the streets for "looking Jewish."

If it's not too personal a question, what do you think of the idea that there Russian immigrant neo-Nazis in ISRAEL? Is it the cultural ingraining of anti-Semitism in Russia that's at work here?

Apropos: when we were in Russia a few years ago, a very nice lady spent quite a lot of time trying to convince my husband that his name (first name) was Greek, not Jewish, even though it is the name of one of the ancient Hebrew kings, and hello, NOT GREEK AT ALL!
I'm glad you posted this, and I'm glad you left it open for public viewing, and I'm so sorry you felt silenced. {{hugs}}
Thank you so much for reading it, and for commenting. ::hugs you back::
I'm glad you posted; thank you!

The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we."

I think what I believe here is along the lines of Audre Lorde talking about feminism and feminists can never tear down patriarchy by using patriarchy's tools of racism and classism. That is to say, I do not think we can build an anti-racist space on a foundation of anti-Semitism (or, well, we do, but we shouldn't).

And part of me understands the feeling of fragility with anti-racism; I'm terrified to talk about anti-black racism among my Chinese community. And much of it is because I've seen how quickly it becomes a weapon to dismantle anti-racism. But. I also think the argument of "You shouldn't talk about [this issue] now because we are talking about [other issue]!" has been used multiple times to suppress discussion of [this issue] (be it race in feminist discussions or anti-Semitism in anti-racist discussions).

And I don't think racism (or feminism or classism for that matter) is The Real Problem; they are all real problems but not to the exclusion of each other.

Anyway, I ramble and hijack your post. What I really wanted to say was thanks for speaking out, and I am glad to see more people speaking out about this, partly because it reminds me that there is still (always) more work to be done (to be self-absorbed) and because from your post and technosage's and chopchica's it sounds like it was helpful (?) to say it (i'm sorry! I'm trying to phrase this so it isn't "pat pat oh good job here's a cookie" condescending because I think speaking out is hugely important but I also don't want to make people feel obligated to speak out. So, thank you.)
That is to say, I do not think we can build an anti-racist space on a foundation of anti-Semitism (or, well, we do, but we shouldn't).

Thank you, first of all, for commenting -- and I don't think your comment hijacks anything!

It means a lot to me that you say this. I think there's more and more a sense among a lot of Jews that they're excluded from a lot of work on the left, even though they still feel committed to it, because of a sense that antisemitism is tolerated in many of those contexts.

And yes, I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to disturb the anti-racist alliances we've formed, even while at the same time we're aware of racism within our own communities -- the sense that the next thing, someone says, "Well, black people are racist too," as if that's enough to make racism everywhere else disappear -- while at the same time not wanting to minimize the racism we find there.

I think it's good that people are talking about these issues as well.
I don't think antisemitism lives in the same places as other forms of racism (or, "as racism," if you want to draw a distinction between the two), which is to say that in my experience you never really know who's going to come out with an anti-semitic comment....

This is really true, and -- interesting isn't the word I'm looking for, but maybe thought-provoking. For me, I'm thinking that this makes antisemitism feel more random and sporadic, whereas I'm much more used to thinking of "classic" racism as systemic and pervasive. And now I'm wondering if that's led me to downplay antisemitism as though it were a fringe phenomenon.

And yes to antisemitism's acceptability on the left -- it's really twisted -- and somewhat bizarre, since it's hard for me to imagine the American left over the last several decades without the contributions, support, and intellectual and political leadership of so many American Jews.

Thanks for this excellent post!
I think antisemitism actually is systemic and pervasive, just in different ways than racism is; it's less about state institutions, although certainly they can play into it. I'm not sure how much to say about this, here, really.

And yes to antisemitism's acceptability on the left -- it's really twisted -- and somewhat bizarre, since it's hard for me to imagine the American left over the last several decades without the contributions, support, and intellectual and political leadership of so many American Jews.

Yes. I find this really sad and ironic, and it's harmful, too, as Jews start to feel more and more estranged from progressive causes, in non-Jewish contexts.

Thank you for commenting!
I was also pretty shocked by the level of blatant racism amongst the educated "liberal" class in Canada when I first moved there. I'd never heard anyone conflate Israel with Judaism in the way people do outside of the US and was pretty stunned that the baseline assumption was: Jews hate Palestinians, and American Jews are the same as Israelis. Even in a place considered Jew-friendly like Montreal, this is the prevailing belief. I really have no further commentary than: wtf!
Yeah, I've noticed this too. And don't know that I'll say much more, because we all know what happens when certain countries get criticized in public by people who live there. ::rolls eyes::

Obviously, from my perspective, some of it is moving from a place like San Francisco to pretty much anywhere, but American academics just don't say the same kind of thing, no matter where they are. In my experience, at least.
I sometimes get the sense that there is a certain amount of denial about this on the left.

Oh, yes, there is.

I am glad you posted this and sorry to be catching up so late.
Yeah, I'm not sure what to say about that.

Thank you for commenting -- I think of you, on this day, and your friends.
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