I’ve always been ever so slightly frightened of being Jewish in public. I’m not ashamed of my heritage – in fact, I’m proud of it – but even so, I’ve never felt comfortable wearing my Star of David or t-shirts with Hebrew writing on them or any sort of marker that might identify me as being anything other than Christian. I’ve been able to convince myself that it’s fair because I can never truly know someone else’s intentions, because I can’t predict the way they might react to me if they realized that I’m not like them, but it’s always struck me as sort of cowardly. Then came the events at the Chicago Dyke March, and all my fears were suddenly justified.
The Chicago Dyke March, one of many Pride events this past month, was problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least among them being that they seemed to have no interest in including actual lesbians in their festivities. But the march and its organizers earned everlasting notoriety when they and their fellows confronted three Jewish marchers, harassed them for upwards of two hours about their views on the existence of Israel, and finally ejected them from the march. The reason behind their actions? The three marchers were carrying a rainbow flag emblazoned with a Star of David.
Since the event, and the resulting outcry from Jewish communities, the march organizers have claimed that the marchers were “Zionists,” and that they were therefore correct to throw them out. Meanwhile, Jewish LGBTQ+ women are having to confront once again what most of us have already known: The left wing of American politics doesn’t accept us any more than the right does. They’re just a little better at pretending.
The fact that the organizers questioned the Jewish marchers for hours about their views on Israel speaks to the fact that Jewish people have at best a conditional acceptance on the left wing. I’ve experienced it myself. Whether or not I’m welcome in a liberal or leftist space depends on how strongly I disavow Israel – in short, my acceptance depends on whether or not liberal and leftist Gentiles see me as a Good Jew™. Leftists and liberals see no problem in demanding this purity test from me and other Jewish people, but they would never demand the same from a Muslim man or woman, despite the fact that majority-Islamic countries commit some of the worst human rights violations on the planet.
Leftists, such as the ones at the Chicago Dyke March, have an extremely narrow view of what constitutes oppression. To them, oppression is perpetrated by people with white skin against people with nonwhite skin – and that’s it. There’s no room for nuance, and there’s certainly no room for understanding that despite our skin color, white Jewish people have never been considered white by the people who want to hurt us, and often, the people who want to hurt us are not white. Leftists paint the Israel/Palestine conflict as an apartheid, a race war, when it’s in fact nothing less than the result of a war that the Arab world started – and lost – more than 70 years ago.
Leftists are similarly convinced that their actions toward Jewish people are completely justified, and will defer any accusation of anti-Semitism with the phrase “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m just anti-Zionist." The debate about whether anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism has been going on within the Jewish community for years, and it’s not for Gentiles to decide what constitutes anti-Semitism. Jewish people are often accused of crying anti-Semitism whenever something happens that they don’t like, and that makes most of us hesitant to call out anti-Semitism when we experience it. But unfortunately, anti-Semitism is like pornography. You know it when you see it, and on the left, I and other Jewish people have been seeing it for our entire lives.
All of this is academic, because what the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March did to the Jewish women they harassed is far worse: They forced them to choose which of their identities mattered most. In order to be accepted at the march, Jewish women were expected to categorically reject their Judaism. In order to be accepted, they were asked to assimilate. And when they refused, they were thrown out.
I shouldn’t have to demonstrate myself to be a Good Jew™ in order to be accepted in leftist spaces. I shouldn’t have to renounce my Judaism to participate in events that acknowledge my LGBTQ+ identity. And my identity shouldn’t make anyone feel unsafe. If people on the left are willing to double down on the idea that Jewish identities are inherently problematic, I think it’s time we acknowledge that the problem isn’t with Jewish people. It’s with everyone else.
Over this past year, I’ve been seeing anti-Semitism everywhere I turn. I see it in my supervisor at work, who made a series of anti-Semitic comments about my appearance, my behavior, and my brother’s mathematical ability after I let slip that I was Jewish. I see it in my college professors, who repeatedly traffic in anti-Semitic stereotypes and refuse to acknowledge their behavior. I see it in the student activists at my college who attempt to strip safe spaces away from their fellow Jewish students. I’m tired, and I’m scared. But I’m not going to let my fear stop me. I’m going to start wearing my Star of David and my shirts with Hebrew writing. I’m going to be proud of my identity, and I’m going to risk the consequences.
I’m still afraid. But I won’t let that stop me.