I moved from Paris to New York a little over a year ago. After an initial time of adaptation, one of the things that continued to surprise me is how okay it feels to be openly Jewish here. There is a giant menorah in the park during Hanukkah, little huts appear during Sukkot. Orthodox men almost heckle you in the street to get you to pray with them. It all feels very innocent here, but any of those scenes are completely unimaginable in Paris. So, this summer, pondering the fact of life that in New York being Jewish could be simple, I bought a Magen David necklace that I’ve been wearing almost every day ever since. I decided it was okay to be visible here.

This past week, incredible darkness fell upon America. Last Sunday, the Trump administration announced their intent to “define transgender out of existence” by linking gender to sex assigned at birth at the federal level, and the queer community reeled.We gathered in Washington Square Park on short notice, listened to each other’s words of resilience and resistance. We chanted: “When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” I left freezing cold, but feeling reenergized, happy to have seen people congregate.

Three days later, bombs were being intercepted at the homes of various Democratic Party figures all over the country and a man was shooting up a grocery store in Kentucky and killing two black people, because of the color of their skin. My friends and I sent each other text messages. “Have you seen what’s happening? What is up with this country?” We reminded each other to vote, and to be there for each other.

Two days ago, a white man, fueled by hatred and his belief in conspiracy theories echoed by the President of the United States, entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh screaming “all Jews must die!” and murdered 11 people – the worst anti-Semitic massacre in the USA’s history. After this, I did not have the strength to rally. Though there were vigils, I did not go outside. I grieved what it had meant to me to be Jewish in America, compared to what it had meant in France. I grieved feeling relatively safe with a Magen David around my neck, when my brother takes his off before he enters the locker room of his soccer club. I talked to my friends, tried to explain how badly I had wanted to take my necklace off when I read the news on Saturday, like when I told my mother not to worry, I wouldn’t wear my yellow star, when I was 5 years old and had just been read my first children’s book about the Holocaust. Not knowing then it wouldn’t really make a difference in the end.

Weeks like the one we've had really weigh on our hearts and minds. It feels like every morning, we wake up having to fight for our right to exist once more, when we’re already running on empty. While we were still trying to catch our breath and recuperate from the shooting, news broke that Jair Bolsonaro, the openly misogynistic, racist and homophobic far-right Brazilian presidential candidate had won the race.

This month has been so mentally exhausting, for women, for queer people, for Black people, for Jewish people. I find myself wondering where we go to recharge. I reflect on the importance of communities where we engage with each other about the impact of trauma and the effects of political events. I appreciate that in spite of our shared exhaustion, there are spaces where we still come together to discuss how we can one day stop killing each other. I urge everyone to dare talk about these events, to ask your friends how they feel, how you can help, how you can get involved. I urge you to keep fighting.

Julia LeschiComment