We need each other’s stories

So what do you call it when you write a novel about a Jersey girl fighting anti-Semitism and then there’s a mass shooting at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey? Is that irony?

I don’t know what to call it, but every time I worry that I overdid it in the novel, real life tells me I didn’t.

I know anti-Semitism is an uncomfortable topic for some people. Being Jewish, period, is an uncomfortable topic for some people. I’ve watched eyes glaze over when I mention it, like it’s some sort of embarrassing thing not to be discussed publicly. I have a lifetime’s worth of people not knowing the first thing about any of my holidays but expecting me to know every little detail about Christmas.

Plus, you know, the pennies and the names that got thrown at me in elementary school when I was the only Jewish kid in class.

And the time in college when I attended a friend’s church service to hear him sing, and the layperson leading the service that day talked about how the Jews “know of the light, but they walk in darkness” because they haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior. (And after the service, she mistook me for my friend’s Catholic girlfriend and said, “Haven’t I seen you in church?” And it took all of me not to reply, “No, haven’t I seen you in synagogue?”)

And the time post-college when I turned a guy I knew down for a date, and later that night, as a group of us sat in a diner booth, he started telling Jew jokes. (I finally shut him up by saying I knew better Jew jokes than that, and then telling a few of them.)

People don’t want to talk about this stuff. They don’t want to talk about how anti-Semitism is just as bad as, and intertwined with, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and Islamophobia. But the uncomfortable stories are what we need to share with each other, if we’re going to understand each other. If we’re going to help each other. We don’t understand and respect each other’s differences if we’re not willing to listen.

So, I’ve told some of my stories. I’m here to hear yours.

And if you’re looking for ways to help the families of the victims in Jersey City, the Star-Ledger has the info here.


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