The worst thing about this war is how helpless it’s making some of us feel. Violence and terrorism against Israel and its people have been a constant for the country’s entire existence. But for many American Jews, the ongoing violence has become mostly background noise. We know that these attacks are an ongoing part of life for most Israelis, and we always devote more attention during the periodic flare ups. But it’s been several decades since most of us felt that Israel’s essential survival was at stake.
For the first time in half a century, we understand that Israel faces threats to its very existence. And we’re not exactly sure what we’re supposed to do. So we’ve been flailing—watching the news updates, praying for the hostages and waiting for the overwhelming counterattack that we’ve been expecting since the day after Simchat Torah.
The danger seems closer here at home too. We trade stories and share outrages of the nascent ant-Zionism and antisemitism that we’ve taught ourselves to either minimalize or downright ignore. The friendships we thought we’d built on the political left have been disappearing, no match for the intersectionality that somehow links Palestinians to minority communities and other U.S.-based progressives. There are even fissures in our evangelical-fueled backers on the right, as the toxic combination of America First nationalism and outright prejudice are luring away small but growing numbers of conservatives.
We were just as unprepared for the isolation we are now facing in this country as we were for Hamas’s attack on innocent Israelis. Which is why a seemingly small victory at Los Angeles City Hall last week should serve as a reminder that we are not nearly as helpless or as friendless as we have been feeling.
Like most of you, I had never heard of Josh Androsky, a second-level Southland political consultant and city council staffer, until his recent online outburst. Androsky, who had been employed by Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez and is Jewish himself, unleashed a screed of hateful antisemitic and misogynistic online vitriol against actress Amy Schumer, whose only apparent offense was to post a cartoon criticizing pro-Hamas protestors on her Twitter account.
Androsky was harshly and widely vilified for his bigotry and misogyny, and quickly resigned his position. Mayor Karen Bass deserves special credit for her condemnation of Androsky, especially as it comes on the heels of her equally commendable statements in the wake of other recent anti-Semitic activity. But even Soto-Martinez, a member in good standing of the Democratic Socialists of America organization that has been a leader in the anti-Israel protests across the country over the last few weeks, referred to his former employee’s messages as “disgusting.”
As a political centrist, I do not share a great deal in common with Soto-Martinez in terms of ideology or public policy. But he deserves our thanks and gratitude, too. Bass has consistently stood with the Jewish community throughout her career. In their own elections, both also relied on the support of voters who vilify Israel with ugly and hateful zeal. But neither of them hid. Neither equivocated. Neither sought refuge in false moral equivalence. They simply did the right thing.
This is an admittedly small win. Eradicating one foolish and hate-filled voice from city government will not make our existential threats disappear. But Androsky’s departure reminds us that we are not powerless. Each of us has the agency and the influence to help make change happen in our own communities, our own neighborhoods, our own workplaces and social circles. None of those win a war, either this fight against Hamas or the eternal battle against anti-Semitism and prejudice. But each one makes a difference.
The late Steve Jobs once talked about “putting a dent in the universe.” If each of us picks up a crowbar and leaves one small impression, then consider the collective impact of all those individual dents. Just because none of us can do everything doesn’t mean that none of us can do anything. Each of us can play a part in our own defense—and each of us must.
Originally published by The Jewish Journal.