Every Friday I call my grandmother to wish her a good shabbas. After the sun sets - for 24 hours - she won't answer the phone, or turn on a light, or ride in a car. I'm not nearly as observant of a Jewish person as her, but I admire her adherence to the rituals and enjoy getting to take part in them, if only in some small way. However, today, I procrastinated making that call. My grandma is a Holocaust survivor, and my heart has broken a little more for her each day since Charlottesville. The fact that the dehumanizing hatred - which once drove her family out of their Warsaw home with only the clothes on their back - is still alive and well in her lifetime, is maddening. As a child in the south, where Judaism wasn't as prevalent as New York City where my parents are from, I got made fun of for my big nose and "funny sounding" last name. As an adult, I've had several Neo-Nazis physically threaten me. And of course there are the racist grandmas of boyfriends past who whispered at dinner tables or outright called me racial slurs to my face. But my experiences don't hold a candle to what my grandparents endured.
It wasn't until I was about 12 that I learned - in a casual conversation - that my maternal grandpa had a sister I didn’t know about. The reason I'd never heard of her before is that she'd been shot point blank during the war after it was discovered she'd been concealing her Judaism under her golden locks and sky blue eyes. My maternal grandparents didn't arrive to the United States until after the war was over. On my father's side though, my grandparents were already here. My grandmother worked in a defense plant and my grandfather chose to join the American military out of a sense of duty. His platoon even liberated a concentration camp. I can only imagine the fury he would be feeling if he were alive today to see this despicable resurgence he fought so hard to extinguish. It graces my heart to no end though, seeing so many people standing up to it, and saying, "NO! This will not be tolerated." If you are among them, thank you, and please continue. If you are not, what's keeping you?
People of color know what it means to be profiled and brutalized just for existing. I suppose this is something not many Caucasian Americans can relate to. However, one should not have to experience something firsthand to understand it is unacceptable. I have read that initially Hitler was not taken seriously, and the majority of Americans now agree (as inferred via his current approval rating) that Trump’s threat was not adequately addressed in the last presidential election. We can not let history repeat itself. I knew that Neo-Nazis still existed before last weekend, but seeing so many of them unabashedly organize in public last weekend - and the fact that an innocent life was taken in the process - was heart breaking and terrifying. While the numbers of people in hate groups might be greater than many of us were aware - there are more of us - and we need to let our love be louder than their hate. Please keep taking to the streets, and having those hard conversations, and looking out for one another, and giving money to just causes. It's okay to be afraid, but we can't let it stop us from doing the right things.