If anyone is questioning whether or not anti-Semitism is on the rise in America and in Europe, a quick Google search will certainly set you on the right track. Up to one third of European Jews have considered emigrating due to an increase in anti-Semitic activity–all of this so soon after the “never again” talk of Post-Holocaust Europe. American Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn are voicing their hesitation regarding simply walking down the street for fear of physical attack. I could probably spend the entire night typing a laundry list of anti-Semitic activity that has occurred around the globe only recently.
I am fairly certain that the existence of this blog alone should serve as some sort of proof that I am proud of my Judaism, and it is something that I certainly do not want to hide in any way. This is where I will get a bit personal, and let you into a darker part of my mind through my furiously typing fingers.
I wear a sterling silver Magen David necklace every day (see the picture above). The necklace is tasteful and has the Hebrew words “שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל” (Sh’ma Yisrael) adorning the center of the star. Sh’ma Yisrael translates to “Hear Israel” and is the beginning of one of the most prominent prayers in Jewish life. I wear this necklace underneath my shirts. Only when I am at Temple or in a strictly Jewish context do I mindfully take the necklace out from behind its hiding place, and allow it to fully breathe. While the necklace still has much significance while hidden close to my heart, I am conscious of the fact that I am not allowing the secular world to see it. Let me be clear, the necklace is not gaudy or over-the-top, but there is no question about what the symbol is, or what it means. It is obviously a symbol of Judaism, and is not masked by any stones, other symbols, or unique designs. Wearing it outside of my shirt would be akin to announcing “I am Jewish!”
Sometimes I think that I am being a bit paranoid when I do not wear it uncovered, especially when my clothes would do well to have a nice and meaningful necklace as a centerpiece. Whenever I ponder letting the necklace free, I think of my family, and the need to protect them from hate. I reflect upon how if I were a single man with no children, how I would take my chances. It is at about this point in the train of thought that I become a bit distraught. How sad it is that we live in a world where I have to engage in this type of internal dialogue. Why should I have to worry about people in the general public knowing that I am Jewish? I suppose there is just something about adorning a very Jewish symbol that causes me to fear the possibility of an anti-Semitic exchange.
I am sure there will be those of you who will read this and say, “Just wear it!” or “Who cares what people think!” I completely understand those thoughts, and those cognitions do not stem from the minds of the population portion that I worry about. A brick to the face of a Jewish man in Brooklyn. 11 gone in Pittsburgh. Shots in Poway. One third of European Jews contemplating emigration. The Magen David necklace is just as indicative of Judaism as payos draped down the cheek or the shtraimlech that cover the heads of many Hasidic Jewish men. I have a mezuzah on the doorway of my home, but there is something disparate from this about traveling around with an open proclamation. I am an optimist, but also a realist.
I yearn for the day when the Magen David will be free to come out of hiding, but perhaps it exists now in solidarity with the Jews in Europe who are still hiding, only a bit more than 70 years after the Shoah. Anti-Semitism remains a scourge in this world, and we need to have meaningful conversations in order to properly confront it. For now, I will likely keep the star close to my chest, and pray for the day when it can emerge from the shadows and greet the secular world without fear of violence or pain.