I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. I am the product of generational trauma. I know the pain of silence and the power of speech. I have friends and family in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Holon and Beit Shean. I was raised on the values:
All in the house of Israel are brothers and sisters
Check in on Israel, on Israelis, make connections and maintain them
We are responsible to take care of each other
The tragedy of terrorism in Israel collapses the distance between Jews in Israel and around the world. Brutal terrorism in Israel results in armed guards at my son’s Jewish daycare and my synagogue in New Haven. I understand that this is both about the realities in Israel and the reverberation of the threat of annihilation by terrorist groups like Hamas striking fear in Berlin, in New York, in Buenos Aires and anywhere Jews may become the scapegoats for Hamas’ sympathizers.
In my professional life, this is not understood. I came to New Haven in 2007 for medical school, and I learned quickly not to be the wrong kind of Jew. Not to be the kind that speaks openly of family in Israel, of fond memories of experiences in Israel. I learned to stand with my classmates and colleagues in solidarity with their grief and to expect utter silence in the face of my grief.
And now in 2023 in the face of unthinkable brutality against murdered civilians, my brothers and sisters, my grief is stolen, politicized, dressed in caveats and smothered with fear of repercussion from the broader Yale New Haven community. Will my grief out me as the wrong kind of Jew?
I have heard from my students and colleagues who share similar fears. They fear ostracism and lack of empathy. They ask is it OK to gather as a community at Yale? Maybe someone will be offended by our grief. Maybe someone will be provoked to hate speech or violence.
In the face of a communal tragedy the powerful message echoes: Be a good quiet Jew. Mourn out of sight in Jewish spaces with an armed guard at the door. I am more closeted as a Jew with strong ties to Israel than I am as a queer person in New Haven.
There are many kinds of Jews and part of healing will be to realize that diversity, equity and inclusion embraces Jewish voices and lived experience, that our grief is the grief of human beings devastated by terrorism.
Jessica Bod MD works in New Haven.