OpinionU.S. News

The Jewish American awakening

The Axis of Antisemitism wants to push American Jews into a new ghetto, but they appear determined never to allow that to happen.

The estimated 300,000 attendees at the “March for Israel” rally in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Elishama Marmon.
The estimated 300,000 attendees at the “March for Israel” rally in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Elishama Marmon.
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

A few days ago, I went to a local store to return an item. The clerk who helped me was wearing a massive Star of David necklace, placed very prominently outside his shirt. Opportunistically, I told him I lived in Israel. He gave me a fist bump and said, “We gotta stay proud.” I nodded and replied, “We gotta stick together.” “Right on,” he said. As I walked out of the store, he almost shouted, “Am Yisrael Chai!”

As the cliché goes, this exchange made my day. In the very progressive East Coast city where my family lives, the atmosphere is not comfortable for Israelis, so it was a huge relief to hear such a response. But what really moved me was that I knew something like this would never have happened on Oct. 6.

Over the past two months, it has become very clear to me, because I have seen it with my own eyes, that a Jewish American awakening is underway. I doubt very much that the clerk I spoke with had ever worn a Star of David so large and so prominently before. I have heard expressions of pride even from those who I know for a fact had never given their Jewish identity any thought at all. I know several people who traveled for more than eight hours to join the 300,000 demonstrators who recently took to the National Mall to proclaim themselves and their determination to fight for Israel and against antisemitism. I know an even larger number of people who could not go but supported the March for Israel with everything they had. And, because I grew up in the United States, I know that this is very, very new.

It is all the more extraordinary because it came after perhaps the worst outbreak of antisemitism in American history. Almost within seconds of the Oct. 7 massacre, well-organized and well-financed mobs of racists took to the streets of major cities bathing in the blood of the victims and calling for another Holocaust. For a brief moment, American Jews were stunned and terrified. I feared that the entire community was about to crack.

It didn’t happen. American Jews picked themselves back up and realized that, instead of being intimidated, they were hopping mad, and they let the world know it. The day after the March for Israel, I saw the “We Stand With Israel” signs back in store windows. The posters of the hostages that the racists had torn down went back up. In the Jewish areas of town, even the body language of the people in the street had changed. It was stronger and straighter, with a distinct sense of determination. When I spoke about it with my father, he simply said, “They poked the lion.”

It is impossible to know if this remarkable defiance and unity will last. We simply do not know. But I will take it for what it is because for years, I was certain it would never happen. I remembered the deracinated, highly assimilated Jews of my youth and knew in my heart of hearts that, when the moment came, as I knew it would, they would run and hide rather than attack the ambush. I was utterly and completely wrong, and I am grateful for it. The awakening I would not allow myself to hope for has happened.

It is awful, of course, that it required such a horrendous event for this awakening to occur, but unfortunately, that is often the case. The fiends had to take to the streets to declare themselves for genocide before the thing became real to American Jews. American Jews had to lose friends, see the media demonize their martyrs, and watch Jews become targets for intimidation and assault on college campuses and in the streets. This might have been what was required to wake them up, but it doesn’t matter. We thought American Jews would never wake up, no matter what. But they have. That should be enough for us.

This awakening is all the more important because the Axis of Antisemitism composed of the dictatorship of the professoriate, radical Muslim American organizations, and the progressive activist industry does not want to destroy only Israel. Beset by antisemitic fantasies of omnipotent Jewish power, the Axis believes that a Jewish conspiracy is the only reason America supports Israel at all. Therefore, its members believe, to break Israel, they must also break American Jews.

We have now seen that they are more than willing, more than ecstatic to make the attempt, whatever the cost to themselves as human beings. Even if, in the process, they must violate every one of the values they claim to hold dear. They intend to use the foulest means—including outright murder—because they know they cannot win by fair ones.

What this means is that a movement that is not large in raw numbers but is disproportionately powerful due to its control over academia, the media and the activist industry is now hellbent on placing American Jews under a de facto apartheid regime, a new ghetto in which the Jews are politically, socially and culturally powerless. This must never be allowed to happen. It now appears that the American Jewish community is determined to ensure it does not. For this, we should be nothing other than immensely grateful.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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