This is what the parents of my friends told my father when we were living in the highly Jewish-populated city of Scottsdale, AZ.

People seem to take for granted the large and prosperous Jewish population in the US and assume that there is no anti-Semitism, but this is not completely accurate. True, it is not as bad as many places in Europe, including France: a friend of mine in Lyon expresses her frustration and constantly tells me about her negative experiences with anti-Semitism. They are frightening. I am happy to share more information in a private message or email if any of you lovelies are interested. Although I have never experienced what she has, and I am lucky enough to have enjoyed many Israeli and Jewish themed parties and activities on every holiday and Shabbat, I still have painful memories from growing up. They are not trivial and I feel the need to share them, especially because people always assume that they don’t exist.

Not only was I shunned in 3rd grade while living in Arizona for being “too Jewish”, but my oldest brother (the nicest and most decent guy around, ladies) was pushed around during high school for being Jewish. He, unlike his baby sister, has something called self-control; while he was bullied day after day, he maintained his composure and ignored his cruel peers … but everyone, even the nicest, calmest and strongest of individuals, has a limit. My shy and quiet brother eventually pushed back. The results? He got suspended, and the others got nothing. Mind you, this was after they egged him on for days, weeks and months. This was after they called him names and harassed him. This was after they drew swastikas on his homework assignments. Eventually, enough was enough and my family moved to Southern California (and as a going away gift, we had our house, garage and car egged). I must say, it was much more fun growing up ten minutes from Malibu, than living with the snakes and scorpions of Scottsdale.

In Los Angeles, I had many Jewish friends, and later when I discovered my Israeli-ness, I became friendly with the Israeli community. This was very different from the life I had known before, but the anti-Semitism didn’t disappear even in such a diverse, liberal, “chill” place as LA. Friends from the town just west of mine had swastikas drawn on their driveway. This in a town that seemingly has more Jews than Christians, a town considered a very safe and well-off place to live. Even under such circumstances, this type of hate crime exists.

People often make excuses: “Oh, they are just kids who don’t really know what it means.” This exact same response was given to me in Italy. I traveled there alone at age 18 and was shocked to see the swastikas and anti-Jewish, anti-Israel graffiti all over the country. People repeated word for word the same excuses that I heard in Los Angeles. While traveling in Ireland, I saw extremely discouraging, depressing and deeply insulting anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli paintings and posts. For pictures, please contact me privately.

Even at Pierce College in Los Angeles, where I started my educational adventure, a professor once said the Holocaust never happened. He made this outrageous statement in a class full of African American students. I wondered if he also believed that slavery never happened. Even if he did, he wouldn’t say it, unless he was feeling suicidal that evening.

Personally, I find it an absolute honor and privilege to be Jewish and Israeli. This pride has been growing and developing, and only strengthens as I become older, more aware, and more knowledgeable. That being said, I don’t think I am better than any non-Jew and am blessed to have friends from all backgrounds.

Good thing I currently reside in Tel Aviv, where the only people who call me “too Jewish” are the secular Jews … who make up a minute 99% of the people I know here… oh well.

Yihie Beseder!

About the author

Dr. Mishmish

MBA, MA. Have more fun. Worry less. Laugh more. Be good to yourselves & others. Grow, learn, and develop.

The greatest risk in life is not taking one.

21 Comments

  • I think the key difference is that anti-semitism is not institutionalized in the US. Though of course, and unfortunately, anti-semitism exists on a personal level, particularly among right-wing white extremist groups. And Woody Allen.

    But it's very much the same for gay people. It's OK to be gay, just don't be "too gay", because that would be a problem.

  • LOVE your article, because I TOO was called that by TOO MANY people including my own mother as a NEGATIVE.. That's why I LIVE now (thank you G-d) in Jerusalem.. here I"m secular, practically!

  • That's insane. I'm so sad to hear about the experiences you, your brother, and your friends have gone through. I'm glad your brother stood up for himself. It's scary to think that the Holocaust happened only 60 years ago and already people are forgetting the shame that citizens in countries south as Germany felt for letting something like that happen under there very noses, and even participating in it. Perhaps every school in the world needs to dedicate more time to going over the Holocaust, like they do in Germany, where they are still embarrassed and ashamed.

  • Although we can't take back the past, in the spirit of tikkun olam, we have a religious obligation to make the world a better place for those around us. It's a good idea to call out anti-Semitism and bullying in all forms, as you have eloquently done here. We can also encourage racists and bullies to educate themselves on the people they are bullying (e.g., How are the people I am bullying evil? Do they mean to harm me? What are their exact crime statistics–forget what my parents or my government tells me–what do the actual reports say? What are they like as people?), and encourage victims to speak out and stand up for themselves. Since you say you don't experience much anti-Semitism in Israel (thank God), you might look around for those who are being discriminated against and lend a helping hand when you can. Whether it's a school child being made fun of, or a refugee being attacked because of their skin color or because they contribute to overcrowding (due to the fact that Israel won't issue them exit visas so the UN can find them homes in other countries, and the fact that they aren't allowed to work so they must find under-the-table jobs for below-minimum wages and all live in the most inexpensive neighborhood in Tel Aviv, which contributes to overcrowding and negatively effects Israelis living in that area). I encourage Israelis to see past the skin color and to look under the skin–where we are all the same–creatures of God doing the best we can given our circumstances. We should remember that we have a moral obligation to help people, especially to those who are weaker than us and those who come to us for help finding permanent safety.

  • Thank you for publishing your comments, I am so sorry for the treatments your family received from others. It is wrong! How blessed that you made Aliyah to Israel. I,too, experienced anti-semitism from a distant relative, who actually cut off family history. Explanation : that was when family divided.??? Aha. Gives me reason to pray, show kindness, and do my part of Tikkun Olam. Your writing is clear, and expresses feelings, emotions well, have you considered writing for a newspaper there, or for Tourism dept? Traveled there several times, loved it, lived there 2 times. most Holy, beautiful, romantic place!

  • It’s worth mentioning that the anti-Israeli sentiment in some parts of Ireland (particularly in areas that border Northern Ireland and in Nationalist sectors of the North itself) is very, very often political and relates more to issues of Irish nationalism than it does with racial hatred. In the context of Northern Ireland, the two sides have historically drawn parallels between their respective positions and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, with the Unionists casting themselves as the Israelis and the Nationalists identifying with the Palestinians. It’s why you see (or used to see, as many of the sectarian murals have been painted over or otherwise destroyed) many sectarian murals in the north, especially in interface areas, that either express solidarity with one side or the other of the conflict in Israel or conflate images associated with that conflict (Israeli or Palestinian flags in particular) with images from the sectarian conflict in Ireland (Armalites, UVF/IRA paramilitary soldiers, hunger strikers, et cetera). Rightly or wrongly, it’s easy for those involved with the conflict to draw on perceived similarities between the six counties of Northern Ireland and the West Bank and Gaza or between the Israeli military and the British army, particularly when trying to portray the conflict in mural form. This isn’t a new development; if you look at books dedicated to preserving photographic evidence of the sectarian murals, this has been going on at least since the 1980s, probably longer. I’m not looking to excuse that kind of use of Palestinian/Israeli symbology at all so much as to give this some context; virtually all of the sectarian murals are deeply divisive at best, bigoted and/or violent at worst, and the conflict being played out on the walls of Catholic/Protestant interfaces isn’t one of Palestine versus Israel, but one of Unionist versus Loyalist.

    All of this isn’t to say that there is no anti-Semitism in Ireland (on the contrary, I’m sure there is, as there is virtually anywhere there’s bigotry) or to excuse the depictions present in those murals, but you’re just as likely to see graffiti that’s anti-Protestant, anti-immigrant or (in the North) anti-Catholic as you are to see something anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli. Moreso, I would say, based on an Irish studies degree and a lot of traveling in Ireland. Ireland does have a history of anti-Semitism, as does pretty much all of Europe, but in my travels there as a very open and proud Jew, I’ve never encountered any personally. Some degree of curiosity, on occasion, but that’s about it.

    • thanks for your comment. I want to add that while I see your point, and why I understand that people feel the need to connect and relate, there is absolutely zero connection between the two situations, in my opinion. I am not putting down the importance of relating, but people misunderstand/are misinformed/ are in denial or whatever else, about the situation and the terminology that’s being used simply doesn’t reflect the reality. I don’t really want to get into politics in my posts, but since you brought it up, I must say I don’t believe the situations are the same or even similar.

      • I’m not expecting you to believe that, necessarily, but what you think (or what I think) about the comparison is sort of moot. That is how the people involved in the Northern Ireland conflict view their own situation, whether appropriately or not. This isn’t a new development- it’s been going on for decades now; doing graduate research, I came across murals from the early to mid-eighties that utilized the Israel/Palestine conflict as a convenient shorthand for propaganda purposes. There were probably some that predated that, but it’s hard to know, since a lot of them were painted over following the Good Friday Accords.

        I’m not saying that the two situations are the same or that anyone needs to view them as being the same. I’m saying that the murals you reference have a larger context to the average Nationalist or Unionist that doesn’t really have any relation to, “We hate Jews,” or even “We hate Israel,” except perhaps in the abstract sense of Israel as somehow representative of Britain. Obviously, saying the two are the same doesn’t make them the same, but I think it misses an opportunity for understanding the bigger picture to essentially dismiss Ireland and the Irish as anti-Semitic when that’s not really what the murals are about (though I absolutely think it’s worthwhile to express shock/distress/offense at those murals, if only to emphasize to the people painting them that the rhetoric they’re using has a reach larger than some Protestant in the Shankill or wherever).

        If you were seeing swastikas spray painted on buildings and such, clearly that’s just anti-Semitism, but I’ve seen that (repeatedly) in the U.S. It’s not a uniquely European phenomenon at all. But the murals, and I’m assuming based on your post and this response that you are referring to the sectarian murals that you see around Northern Ireland in particular, have comparatively little to do with Israel or Jews- it’s all shorthand for an internal conflict. I find it somewhat disingenuous to say, “I saw all of this anti-Jewish/anti-Israeli stuff” without mentioning that, inappropriate as it is, it’s part of a larger conflict that has nothing to do with Israel at all. It paints a picture (no pun intended) of Ireland and the Irish that isn’t especially accurate, IMHO, much as it would present a misleading impression of Israel if I were to say, “Oh, I saw the most racist graffiti about Africans there,” with no additional commentary or explanation.

        • Hi, thanks for your response. Firstly, I would not say that the Irish are particularly anti-Jew or anit-Israel, so please don’t misunderstand. I am simply using it as an example because of my own personal experiences there. The paintings I saw were very clear with their messages, and it was indeed insulting, scary and full of hate. I have Irish friends who are not this way. Remember, my articles are not based off academic research..it’s just my personal experiences and views.

  • Michelle , great article! No coincidence you landed in Tel Aviv to inspire and educate all your everyone around you. Living in Israel , I would always come across a dear Israeli Brothers who would tell me..NU, Big Deal.I was born in ze Holyland 😉 Why are you here anyway?

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