I’m sick of responding to antisemitism. I’m burnt-out on the hashtags and the Facebook profile picture frames. And I’ve just about had it with the way that every Jewish thing I do feels calculated and performative.
Our institutions instruct us, again and again, to respond to antisemitism with theatrics; to not only continue being Jewish, but to declare it to the world. This kind of public demonstration isn’t without precedent – according to the laws of Hanukkah, it’s a mitzvah to display a lit menorah in a publicly visible place to accomplish pirsum ha’nes, or publicization of the miracle. Perhaps it makes theological sense to characterize our continued survival as another kind of enduring miracle, but that doesn’t make the post-violence theatrics feel less uncomfortable.
A week after eleven Jews were killed in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, #ShowUpForShabbat was a demonstration of communal solidarity and a refusal to conceal who we are. In response to acts of violence against visibly Jewish individuals, thousands of Jews recently shared photographs of themselves with kippahs, Magen David necklaces, and other Jewish paraphernalia on social media to declare that they were #JewishAndProud.
I can’t help but speculate as to the long term cultural and psychological consequences of associating our most fundamental Jewish traditions with pogroms and recontextualizing our identity in reaction to horrific acts of violence.
Reactive attendance at Shabbat and donning of kippahs reinforces a causal link between antisemitic violence and Jewish performativity. When we combine the theatrics of social media, the deliberate performance of Jewishness, and the very real threat of antisemitism, what do we get?
You shoot us, we #ShowUpForShabbat. You stab us, we share pictures on Twitter to show that we’re #JewishAndProud. With each act of mass violence, we create a new hashtag and cheapen another piece of our culture.
So here’s how I think you should reclaim your Jewishness in the face of antisemitism:
Don’t let your relationship with Jewishness warp because you’re afraid. Don’t stay home from Shabbat because you’re scared there may be a mass shooting, and don’t only go to Shabbat because of the last mass shooting.
Be Jewish and unafraid and do whatever it is you do as a Jew.