My Turn To Carry The Torch

Leora Schonbrun

I have been studying abroad in Israel for about 3 months on a program called TRY, Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim. What makes TRY what it is, is our ICC class. ICC is our Israel Core Course class, and I do not think I have ever learned as much in a class than this class. In these past 3 months we have studied the history of the Jews. We focus on the 4000 years of history of Jews in Israel. I have never once questioned the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and our right to be here, but that doesn’t mean I was actually educated on the history of the State of Israel. Now I have had the privilege of learning the history of my people. Learning about Avraham and how he was sent by God to our promised land, all the way through the declaration of the State of Israel and the Independence War of 1948 and all the good and bad to come afterwards. I can now say proudly with my new background in Jewish history that I truly believe and know the right of the Jews to not only have a Jewish state, but for that Jewish state to be Israel.

Growing up going to a Jewish private school and a Jewish sleepaway camp I was never exposed to anti-Semitism. Yes, we would go to marches, yes, I knew there were shul shootings, but it always felt so far away from me and so distant. Anti-Semitism never felt present to me. When I left to go to public school I remember having a conversation with my teachers about anti-Semitism in high school and all I could think was how overdramatic they were being and that it’s not like that anymore. I wish I could tell my 8th grade self how wrong I really was. My high school wasn’t horrible after October 7th. We had maybe one person saying something offensive, but for the most part it was honestly ignored. (That is a whole other issue I could get into, but I’m not going to go there.)

When I left America at the end of January, I was fully aware of the rise in anti-Semitism. I knew there were protests with anti-Semitic agendas behind them and I knew people were tearing down posters of kidnapped children, but yet it still didn’t feel completely real. I always try to stay away from social media because I know it won’t do me any good seeing all the propaganda that my fellow peers so easily believe. But these past couple of weeks, I’ve found my whole social media being taken over by news about the encampments on college grounds in the U.S. I would have never thought that I would feel more safe in a country that is in the middle of a war than in my own country at home. As someone who is going to college in two years and whose sister is going to college this upcoming fall, I genuinely cannot name a college where I would feel safe right now.

Judaism is and will always be one of the biggest parts of my identity and I never will allow myself to be in a place where I feel I need to hide that part of my identity in order to be safe. Coming to Israel in the middle of a war was scary but going back to a country where people don’t believe in the right of my people’s country to exist – therefore implying they don’t think I should exist – is much more terrifying. After learning extensively about the Holocaust and traveling to Poland to bear witness and see the disgusting genocide of the Holocaust, it has been incredibly disappointing and scary to see my generation buy into a cycle of anti-Semitic propaganda just like so many Germans citizens who believed the Nazi “activist” agenda. In no world will it ever be okay to call for the elimination of the Jews and to support a terrorist organization.

Despite all of this going on throughout my time in Israel, my Jewish Identity has only gotten stronger. I am making it my goal to go home and spread my knowledge about Judaism and my experiences in Israel. As scary as it is to go home with all the antisemitism present, I know that the Jews and Israel will always persevere and fight for our home and Jewish identities, and now it’s my turn to step up and carry the torch.

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