Since a resolution in favor of divesting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine passed at Evergreen last year, tensions have run high. I understand it may be difficult for those who disagree to speak up. I have been in many positions where my opinion is unpopular, and it is hard to speak up. But in those situations, I ask myself: If I feel uncomfortable, is it because I am scared of feeling alone or is it because others are actually a threat to my safety? In almost every situation, it is the former.
My past is deeply rooted in Jewish traditions and values. One of those values is never remaining silent when I see someone being oppressed, even if that person is not Jewish. The history of my people has taught me that the consequences of not challenging the status quo are fatal and atrocious.
Facing resistance from one’s own community is one of the hardest parts of challenging the status quo. During the civil rights movement my grandfather, Israel Weisberg, would get calls from Jews who did not support equal rights for African-Americans, who would insult him and try their best to disgrace him and his work. It wasn’t easy being a white person standing up for black people; it is not easy being a Jew standing up for Palestinians.
In a recent letter (“Letter to the enemy,” Dec. 24) it was suggested that I am denying my Jewish identity by criticizing Israel. There is no one way to be Jewish, no right or wrong way to embody and express Jewish values. If you can’t see that, then you are missing part of the beauty of Judaism. Being Jewish, to me, means understanding persecution, what it means to be singled out, and the importance of family. It means knowing the difference between the insignificant and the meaningful, it means compassion and empathy and sharing food and stories and homes. Being Jewish, to me, means the freedom to choose what is important, and what is worth fighting for.
It is with these values that I speak up in support of Palestinians, in support of conscientious Israelis, and Jews.