news

"I'm tired of being scared to tell friends I'm Jewish."

It’s just three months into 2015, and already we’ve experienced: the tragedy of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the murder of four customers at a Jewish grocery store in Paris, the shooting of a security guard outside a synagogue in Copenhagen.

People are starting to take notice — partially, at least. Two days after the events in France, the #JeSuisCharlie campaign was used more than 3.4 million times and saw its associated hashtag become one of the most popular in twitter history. In Sydney, in response to our own tragedy the ‘#IllRideWithYou campaign’ received widespread support, going viral with over half a million tweets worldwide.

While these are wonderful examples of community harmony and unity in the face of violence and racism, what about the many incidents relating to Jewish people on that list?

Where are the campaigns and hash tags for them?

Tribute To Victims Killed During Attack At Satirical Magazine
Tribute to victims killed during the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Whilst we can’t compare one tragedy to another, there has been an obvious difference in response to these events.

On Q&A last week, I asked why there isn’t the same showing of solidarity when the victims of these attacks are targeted for being Jewish.

It’s become a growing concern: who would ride with us, the Australian Jews?

Erin Gordon appeared on Q&A two weeks ago and asked the panel about racism toward Jewish people in Australia. (Screenshot taken from ABC)

The answers I received that night were vague and left me wanting more. What is it about Judaism or Jewish people that causes this indifference?

We see the incidents happening across Europe. But we consider that Europeans have always been a more anti-Semitic people, right? We never think it could happen in Australia. We’re a multicultural nation, constituted on the principle of mate-ship and equality.

Right?

Related: “You don’t look Jewish…”

Actually, a 2014 report by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry showed that physical attacks against Jews rose 200% since the previous year, threatening emails 180% and property damage 66%.

Just this week at Sydney University, a lecture on military tactics by retired British colonel Richard Kemp was ambushed by at least a dozen students. They were seen fighting with other students and using intimidation tactics to traumatise the largely Jewish audience.

ADVERTISEMENT

Professor Jake Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict studies at the university, was photographed throwing money into the face of a Jewish student.

Students were heard shouting accusations at Colonel Kemp that “You can’t hide. You support genocide”.

antijewishprotests sydney uni
Anti-Israel protesters ambushed Richard Kemp’s lecture at University of Sydney this week.  (Photo: YouTube)

The evident anti-Semitism shown at Sydney University continues to highlight the reality and very real threat of anti-semitism in Australia. The fact a professor, someone with the responsibility of educating the next generation is promoting such blatant anti-semitism is a serious concern.

Anti-Semitism has been occurring throughout history long before the creation of the state of Israel. Thus, the idea that we can blame Israel for all anti Jewish sentiment is invalid and unjust.

Jewish
For Jewish Australians, “the fear is still very real.” (Photo: iStock)
ADVERTISEMENT

It brings me to why I found actress Miriam Margolyes’ answer to my question so disappointing.

Miriam’s desire to blame modern anti-Semitism on the state of Israel was something of a contradiction to her assurances that anti-Semitism was unacceptable.

While she maintained that she did not think, Australian Jews should be blamed for the actions of Israel, she nonetheless admonished the Australian Jewish community for its deep connection to the Jewish state.

Actess and comedian Miriam Margolye linked modern anti-Semitism to the state of Israel when she appeared on Q&A.

More than that though, should Jews really be required to denounce any connection they have to Israel, as Miriam does, to be exempt from targeting? Would it even matter if we do?

A Jewish person with no connection to Israel, could still be shopping at a kosher supermarket in Paris, standing outside a Synagogue in Copenhagen, or sending their child to school on a bus in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.

So I ask where are the undoubtedly kind-hearted people who stood up to Islamaphobic backlash after the Sydney siege, when Jews are being threatened and ambushed in our own backyard?

Related: Saying “we remember” isn’t enough to prevent another Auschwitz.

At its core, racism and religious bigotry are the products of fear of difference. It comes from a mindset that craves simplicity. However, life is a complex web of cultures, lifestyles and ideas and some people are inadequately able to cope with that.

This is very rarely done with a sense of cognitive purpose, but rather is based upon the emotional and subconscious dealings of an individual, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

While Australia may not be as scary a place to be Jewish as Europe right now, the fear is still very real. Many don’t intend to be anti-Semitic, but there is a learned and subconscious ideology towards Jews that is reoccurring. Subtle comments such as ‘you must be rich’ or ‘’stop being so cheap’ make me apprehensive about telling people I am Jewish at university.

I have friends that are unwilling to acknowledge their Jewish identity at all, out of fear of highlighting their differences. That’s a great shame.

I’m tired of being wary, of being scared to tell friends I am Jewish.

I’m proud of that fact. It’s an important part of my identity and who I am.

‘Australia is such an incredible country built on the principles of multiculturalism and a fair go for all.’

The best experience of my university orientation week was sharing a stall with the Sikh society, telling stories and sharing experiences about our culture and getting an insight into theirs.

Australia is such an incredible country built on the principles of multiculturalism and a fair go for all.

Anti-Semitism, like all racism, is a threat to the spirit of our nation and it’s going to take action for us to dispel it from our mindsets.

We don’t need a hashtag or a twitter campaign. Just an open mind and a commitment to fight anti-Semitism they same way we would any other form of discriminatory and intolerable hatred.

Erin is a journalism student at the University of New South Wales focusing on culture, entertainment and fashion.  Born and raised in Sydney she is an active member in the north shore Jewish community.

00:00 / ???