June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

For the first time in my life, Simchat Torah was not a joyous holiday. Fondly, I remember the days of dancing with the Torah and singing of peace. However, instead of engaging in celebratory prayer, I stood shell-shocked, staring at the blaring headlines. Unable to understand the horrors, I spent the rest of the day in a trance-like state—simply going through the motions. I could not, did not, comprehend that terrorists had attacked Israel, that war was upon the country so beloved by so many. With a keen eye, I watched the response of the world, my community, and my friends. The deafening silence from so many people taught me the importance of standing up for myself and staying true to who I am.

Silence is not neutrality, though some people seem to think that. Only three of my school friends and one of my teachers spoke up, expressing their sympathy. Other friends expect me to act as if nothing happened, as if my sister and her family aren’t confined to a bomb shelter, as if the IDF has not called my brother-in-law to fight. Perhaps it was then that I realized just how alone I am in this secular world. Even people who loudly denounced the horrors of the Holocaust and recoiled upon hearing of Nazi treatment have remained silent. Somehow, they do not see this Holocaust; they do not see that this many Jewish people have not died on a single day since Hitler’s reign. They do not understand how the Jewish people are one, and how we grieve and ache for the fallen members of our community. As proved by the Holocaust and illuminated through its survivors, silence allows for the annihilation of the Jewish people to continue.

I have found that antisemitism often stems from ignorance. While the internet is riddled with misinformation and disinformation, there is an undeniable truth to be found: Hamas is a terrorist organization using the same tactics as ISIS, attacking innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike. Condemning the cruelty of Hamas and calling it an inevitable uprising of a misunderstood people is not just. The truth is often more painful than the cool shadows of ignorance; thus, society’s attention shines on what people most want to hear. Despite how much easier it would be to stay blissful and ignorant, I will stare directly into the blazing sun if that is what it takes to see the truth.

If there is one thing I know to be absolute, it is that I would give everything for Israel. I am divinely and inextricably intertwined with Israel. My soul finds solace in the beauty and sanctity of Jerusalem. I find reason in the salt of the Dead Sea and hope in the sunrise I witnessed atop Masada; I feel like a weary traveler returning home every time I visit.

On Passover, it is customary to sit at the seder table and sing “Vehi Sheamda,” a song that voices how, in every generation, someone rises to annihilate the Jewish people, the people of Israel, and how God delivers us from their clutches. The Seder concludes with singing “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which allows for the reflection of the past and the contemplation of the future. I find myself thinking of each of these now, for I do not know what the future holds. I do not know what will happen to Israel; I can only focus on each moment as it happens. However, amidst terror and destruction, hope arises in the form of acts of kindness and activism, shining a light upon these dreadful dark days. As written in Israel’s national anthem, we must have hope, Hatikvah, and we must not remain silent. For I am proudly Jewish, and I will not be silenced.

Kate D. Andron

New Jersey high school student

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