I was at the gym this morning in Chicago when I started crying on the elliptical machine.

It came on me very suddenly, as if someone had smacked me in the chest with a crowbar and momentarily winded me. A deep intake of breath, and tears. The culprit, as it is every year on this day, was CNN and its annual trip down to Ground Zero, complete with memorial ceremonies, grieving relatives, rerun footage of towers burning, smoking and falling and people screaming, crying and dying.

In those days after 9/11/01, New Yorkers only talked about one thing. Not Osama Bin Laden or whether their neighbors were morons or pussies or about creepy neighbors making actual or veiled threats or women looking for dates or shakshouka or tznius clothing or whether Conservative conversions create real Jews or whether 1/60 of shrimp in the coating of a fish stick renders the product treyf…

In those days, it was everyone asking each other how they were now, and where they were then, and did they know anyone who, and what was going to be tomorrow. Movements and denominations and religions and synagogues and churches and supermarkets and doormen and movie theater patrons and rabbis and priests and community centers ceased to argue over the mundane, and ambled through the City in a hushed, subdued, inertia-driven fog, moving forward because they had to, even though they lacked the enthusiasm and drive of but a few days before. Crossing party lines, people touched each other on the shoulders, embraced near strangers, and expressed their love to those they held dear. We reached out because the equilibrium had been disrupted, and no one was sure what tomorrow would bring, or if tomorrow would arrive at all.

Four years on, we’re back to “normal.” Sniping at each other, calling each other names, once again absorbed within our own circumstances and self-obsessed as we ever were.

Today, in a midwest city, I remembered the fallen, mourned the loss of life and landmarks, and as I read Jewlicious, I somehow found myself longing for the unity of those first days, when tomorrow was such an uncertainty that kindness was the natural instinct, the one positive outgrowth of a world rocked by violence and suffering. In our grief, we united. And to my great grief, we have since fragmented, resulting in the unfortunate fracture of a considerate, if painful peace, in favor of war abroad as well as at home.

I have no solutions to propose, no great thoughts to relay or plans that will rescue us. I have no quotes from the famous or the infamous to offer. I simply remember. And write. And hope.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.


  • Oh, how nice of Kelsey to play nice.

    Esther, you were in NYC and I wasn’t. In my city, far away from NYC, within a couple of days of 9/11, the main public radio station held interviews with local Muslim leaders who blamed the attack on US policies, Israel and American support for Israel. They also mentioned the power of Jews in America and Washington, DC. Of course, they also denounced the attacks, but the point was clear.

    In other words, not everyone was as you describe your fellow New Yorkers in the aftermath of 9/11. There were plenty who saw it as an opportunity to introduce their political leanings and push them upon others.

    We haven’t been through a 9/11 on this site and our camaraderie is born of a sense of interest in Jewish topics and Israel.

    I don’t think that educated people who come to Jewlicious and express essentially antisemitic ideas should get a pass. I believe this is especially true if they are Jewish and claiming that this gives them additional insight into whatever conspiracy they are blaming on us.

    One could have a civil debate with these individuals. Or one could simply denounce them for what they are. I, personally, don’t believe that there is room for debate on made up antisemitic topics. There are numerous legitimate issues that can be debated and we discuss and debate them often. Usually, those discussions are respectful on all sides and I treat those with opposing views carefully and well.

    However, treating every issue equally simply encourages the concept that all ideas are equal in value regardless of their content. It encourages the notion that when somebody posits an idea, regardless of its absurdity or the putrid hatred which it presents, it should be treated respectfully and discussed as all other legitimate topics.


    The meritless, hateful idea should be treated as if it has no merit, and the presenter of the idea should be treated with the same disrespect with which he treats the group he attacks. In this case, it happens to be Jews but I would do the same to somebody who posts hateful crap about other minorities.

    Deborah Lipstadt avoids and ignores Holocaust deniers. She refuses to engage them in conversation or debate. We don’t exactly have that luxury here because once the content is posted and somebody addresses it seriously, it has become fodder for conversation. That is not acceptable to me. If somebody wants to discuss some antisemitic canard that is found on hate sites, let them go to those hate sites. On this site, in my opinion, they deserve to be treated like garbage.

    Didn’t ck found Jewlicious precisely because he was tired of seeing the ugly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish stuff he was reading on another blog (where, surprise, surprise, the target of my invective is a contributing poster)?

    I am one of a number of posters here and I respect the opinions of my fellow posters. If the others disagree with my position on this issue, I will take that into consideration and evaluate how I wish to approach this type of situation in the future.

    Either way, Esther, you know I have great fondness for you and hope that I have not caused you too much stress.

  • Whats good? Damn,after 4 years i knew where i was at. At school, not believing there was actually attacks in america…Lets just remember the fallen souls….Also, i can feel tensions in here…Lets call for truce…Like there is war in here!! lol

  • Uh… am I supposed to say something now? Yeah we should all strive to be nice and all that. 9/11 was an attack against what America stands for. Part of that, one of the the things I love about the US, is freedom of speech. Consequently Kelsey ought to be able to say whatever he likes. TM ought also be free to take him to task for statements he finds offensive or moronic. In most cases, I usually agree with Esther, but in this case I decidedly disagree. If we in fact STOP calling each other names, then the terrorists will have won.

  • I’m not objecting to the dissent, just to the sniping and mean-spiritedness that makes my Jewish soul cry, you scruffy-looking nerfherders…

    And by the way, your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

  • what did this kelsey say that was so offensive? someone enlighten me, please. also i tend to agree with themiddle, extreme as his views might be in my personal opinion. the goal of this forum is clear, and to post so-called antisemtically themed statements here would be not only abominable, but also intentionally incendiary and truly obnoxious.

  • do not despair. the human race is not reknowned for its long memory but if there are a few more people such as you who think humanity is more important than titles or religions or denominations then maybe there is hope.