I am Jewish. I am ethnically, culturally Jewish. As an Ashkenazi Jew I love me some latkes and matzo ball soup. I don’t believe in god. I would never worship the Jewish god anyway, have you seen what he’s done? I believe in myself and I believe in love.
I am not from Israel. I am not at all Israeli, culturally, ethnically. I am an Ashkenazi Jew, whose ancestors come from places like Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary — basically all over Eastern Europe. And yet Israel was all I learned about in Jewish day school regarding my “heritage”. I know very little about the history and traditions of Eastern European Jews, except that my great-grandmother loved borscht. I want to know how they celebrated Shabbat, what their traditions were during Bnei Mitzvot, what their favorite dances were, what art they produced. I wish I knew more, for that is my true heritage.
In fact, I wish I knew more about other Jewish cultures. I know next to nothing about European Sephardic culture, about the Jews that lived in China. There is so much I do not know just because American Jews (among others) are so obsessed with Israel. This is why I have refused to go on Birthright — I have read so many articles of young adults who have gone on Birthright and they say it is full of propaganda, which I do not need.
I understand Zionists completely and I understand seeing Israel as Jewish heritage. So many times were Jews evicted from Israel in history, and this has left many of us traumatized. We want a safe place — I want my people to thrive and flourish, not just to survive on so little. We want no persecution, and we want to be free.
But America was supposed to be that for us too. I learned of the history of my ancestors coming to America, going through Ellis Island, to the golden land of opportunity. And it was. I would not be here today if it wasn’t. And yet, we are not yet free from persecution. No one in America is, it seems. We have retaliated ourselves, and hurt others in the process.
I know there’s propaganda on all sides. However, you cannot deny the accounts of personal experience, and those I have read suffer just as my people have suffered. I will not support Israel as a Jewish state and I will not visit until those who call Israel their home are free to live in peace. And I will do my part to make the melting pot that is America safe also for everyone who calls this country their home.